It was a hot August day when I took my granddaughter Brittney to do some last-minute school clothes shopping. Once inside the door of her favorite department store, she headed straight for the makeup counter. One display in particular caught her eye—and mine. It was designed for young teens, and the entire line was called “It’s About Me.”

I was stunned. Could the world’s message of self-centered living be any more blatant? How were we, as Christians, to counteract that message with our young people?

Though I managed to steer Brittney away from the “It’s About Me” products, its siren song still woos her, as it does each of us, regardless of age. That realization spurred me to begin some “beyond me” thinking of my own, as well as some “beyond me” research with various ministry groups. The results were more than a bit disheartening.

I wasn’t surprised to discover that our youth—yes, even our Christian youth—are deeply affected by “it’s about me” thinking, but I was dismayed to discover how many of us so-called “mature” believers were caught up in the same vanity. How can we lead our young people down the path of true discipleship and selfless living if we ourselves are obsessed with obtaining the latest toys and trying the newest wrinkle remover cream and liposuction techniques? How can we expect to have any credibility with our children when we preach a “better way” but walk the same path as the rest of the world?

Doubtless we all want to be good caretakers and role models for our children, and Americans are right up there at the top of the list when it comes to providing quality care for their offspring. We do our best to plan and prepare healthy meals so our little ones will grow up with good eating habits. We take them for regular doctor and dentist appointments and even borrow money for braces to make sure their teeth are straight. We attend parent-teacher conferences and monitor our children’s involvement in school, making sure their homework is completed and their grades as high as possible. We try to give them a balanced smattering of music/dance lessons and sports activities, and we monitor their TV, movie, and Internet viewing. And well we should, as these are all important in their development and preparation for adulthood.

But what are we doing about their spiritual development? Is taking them to church and Sunday school enough? Are we successful parents if, by the time our children reach their teens, they have personally accepted Jesus as their Savior and now attend youth group regularly? Again, all these things are admirable and desirable, and they certainly help give us the assurance that our progeny are on the right path. And yet…

What happens after they walk through that graduation line and receive their high school or college diploma, when they leave home and go out on their own, out into a world that bombards them with “all about me” thinking? Have we equipped them to resist that siren song, to stand strong against the overwhelming tide of worldly influence that declares the “all about me” message at every turn? If we have, will it be enough to sustain a “beyond me” attitude when they’re out from under our protective watch? What practical steps can we take to ensure that a selfless attitude is established in them from childhood—and sustained into adulthood?

First, does your church have an outreach ministry to the homeless? Maybe your entire family could commit one day a month to going to the park and handing out sandwiches and blankets or ladling out soup to those less fortunate. This is an especially meaningful way to spend Thanksgiving, and countless ministries in nearly every city welcome volunteers for such occasions.

Second, does your church sponsor or participate in a short-term mission project, such as going to another country (or a poverty-stricken area in our own country) to help build homes or offer medical or educational assistance? Though this is the type of ministry we often send our young people to do, how much more effective might it be if we went with them so our children could see us actively involved in giving ourselves away to others?