Hosting a Service Sleepover

If you have school aged children, you are familiar with sleep overs. Many parents don’t like hosting them because behavior can get out of control with the combination of lack of sleep, junk food and too much unstructured free time. With a little extra effort, you can host a sleepover that’s still lots of fun, but helps others and teaches the kids or teens attending about serving.

First, you need a theme for your party of service. Does your church support service efforts in your community or mission efforts in other countries? Contact someone you believe the young people attending the party would be interested in serving and find out if there is something your group can do to serve them. Local service has the advantage of a possible field excursion to serve or deliver needed items. Service projects for the mission field make it fun to carry the theme throughout the evening with food, music and games from the country you are serving.

Once you have identified the group you are serving, you will need to gather the items you need for the project. If the group does not have a suggestion, our ministry website has dozens and dozens of service project ideas. Our family has hosted parties where the girls made fancy hair ornaments for girls in a homeless shelter and decorated onesies for children served by a Christian foster care agency. Your party can plan a collection, making posters and fliers to distribute or physically go somewhere and execute a project. (Some organizations have minimum age limits, so call before going.)

Have fun with it. Older children and teens may want to plan the entire party. The more ownership they have of the service project you complete, the more they will enjoy participating. If possible, have party goers interact with the people they are serving – either during the party or at a later date. It will make the entire experience more meaningful for them. Done well, you may be hosting many more service sleepovers in the future!

Top Tips for Raising Bible Readers

Your children are going to have a tough time living the life God wants for them if they don’t know what’s in the Bible. Even if they attend church and Bible class every Sunday until adulthood, they will only be exposed to a small fraction of scripture. The Apostle John wrote that if they had written down everything Jesus said and did while on Earth, it would fill volumes. It would seem then that the scripture we have is what God felt was important for us to know. Think of it as a complete spiritual education in one book.

Reading scripture daily does more than just give your children instructions for living the Christian life. It can provide comfort and wisdom. It gives them the history they need to make sense of the world. It tells them how to communicate with God and how to get help from Him. The Bible has everything they need to know to lead a rich, full, godly life. In fact, if all the books in the world, except the Bible, suddenly disappeared, your kids would be okay.

Even if your family has been great about having family devotionals and spiritual conversations, you aren’t going to be with your children every moment of every day for the rest of their lives. They have to know what is in scripture and how to find in it what they need. The best way to insure your children turn to scripture as the source of wisdom in their lives is to help them develop the habit of daily Bible reading.

Often, adults make some key mistakes when attempting to help children develop the habit of independent Bible reading and study. These mistakes can cause children to believe the Bible is an extremely difficult and boring book to read. Thankfully, a few simple changes can teach them to enjoy and value daily time in scripture.

So what do you need to know to raise independent Bible readers? Here are some of our favorite tips.

  • Get your children an NIrV Bible. There are a lot of different reasons to choose various versions of the Bible and everyone has a favorite. For children and teens, the NIrV (Note the “r” is critical in buying the correct version.) is the easiest to read. Written on a third grade level, the actual process of reading the Bible will be easy – even for struggling readers. To the best of my knowledge, the other versions are anywhere from two to ten reading grade levels higher. Those versions make reading the Bible a frustration text for many young people. Which means the process of reading is so frustrating, the don’t want to even attempt to read it anymore – even when their reading level progresses to that point.
  • Buy them paper Bibles. Absolutely, encourage those with phones to put the Bible app on them. Those who want can choose various reading plans in their preferred versions. Educators have found though that what people read from a paper book is remembered better than would the same material if read in ebook form. The NIrV was initially only sold in covers for children, but now you can find it in a variety of adult covers as well.
  • Teach them to think of the Bible, not as one huge, overwhelming book, but as a library of books. This will not only make reading the Bible seem less intimidating, but it gives them the opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment every time they finish reading a book of the Bible.
  • Don’t force them to read the Bible sequentially. If they start in Genesis and attempt to read the Bible straight through, most will get bogged down and quit somewhere in Leviticus or Numbers. Instead, encourage them to skip around – focusing on story heavy books at first, like the Gospels, Acts, Ruth, Esther, Kings, Judges, Genesis, etc. Older children and teens often prefer the practicality of books like Proverbs or James. If they are having a tough time emotionally, Psalms can be a great book to read. As they become more comfortable reading and studying scripture independently, you can encourage them to read all of the books they missed.
  • Talk about what they read (and what you are reading) in the Bible. This gives you an opportunity to check for comprehension and correct any misunderstandings they may have. This is especially important for young readers who are still concrete thinkers. It also gives you an opportunity to discuss with them how to apply what they have read to their daily lives.
  • Consider a chronological Bible (for those with enough experience) who want to read through the entire Bible. You may have noticed some stories in the Bible are repeated with different details or from a different person’s point of view. The books of prophecy aren’t next to the stories of the kings to whom the prophecy was given. A chronological Bible can help young readers because it takes everything from the Bible from one time period and places it all together. There is a little guess work involved for books like Job, but in general, it makes the overarching story of the Bible clearer.
  • Encourage them to switch up the amount they read each day occasionally. For children trying to start a new habit of daily Bible reading, a verse or a chapter a day is often the easiest to maintain. In fact remind them regularly, that reading even a verse of scripture a day is better than none at all. Over time though, encourage them to read a book of the Bible the way they might a regular book. Some of the shorter books can be read in one sitting. You can purchase various books of the Bible in book format now, with the chapter and verse numbers missing, so they read more like a regular book. Or help them find a Bible reading plan that is built around a theme of interest to them. Just make sure the daily readings required aren’t too ambitious to be maintained by them.
  • Provide study helps and teach them how to use them. Whether you purchase a study Bible, study aids like concordances or show them online resources, it is good for them to know ways they can get help understanding some of the more confusing passages in the Bible. By teaching them about resources you trust, you also minimize the chance they stumble across false teachings in a Google search and believe they are valid.
  • Set a good example. I knew if I woke up early at my grandparents’ house, I would catch them reading the Bible. That made an impression on me as a child. Your children will be more likely to develop a habit you have yourself. If you struggle, be honest. Find ways to encourage each other in reading scripture every day.

Giving your children the gift of independent Bible reading will make it easier for them to grow and remain healthy spiritually. It is worth taking the time and effort to help them develop those great habits while they are still young.

Creating a Structured Summer of Boredom for Your Kids

Summer is just around the corner and you have probably noticed a few parenting experts who are promoting allowing your children to be bored this summer. You understand it’s in their best interest, but it sounds like a formula for disaster. Isn’t it ultimately in their best interest to keep them in structured activities to keep them out of trouble?

Boredom gives children and teens room to rest, to be creative, to process everything they have been learning, to think about big ideas like God and Christianity, to discover their gifts and passions, to read, to study scripture, to pray and more. Your kids need a break from being over scheduled. Their lives will not be ruined by taking off one summer from structured activities. Thankfully, you can add just a bit of structure to their summer of boredom to keep them engaged in positive activities and out of trouble.

Here are some guidelines for your summer of boredom. (Note: If you and your spouse work full time, you can give these instructions to an in-home care giver or do these things at night, on weekends or on your vacation.)

  • Severely limit phone and screen time. This will be the hardest part if they are addicted. It will take two weeks of possibly miserable detox until they accept it. Phones should be used for no more than an hour a day. (If parents also detox it works better.) Admit it will be tough, but that it is in their best interest.
  • Set parameters. Do you want them to stay on your property? Do they need to go to bed by a certain time? What types of things to they need to ask your permission to do?
  • Make a family bucket list for the summer. What are some things you want to do as a family this summer? Aim for at least one ”adventure” a week. These can be free, but should be done as a family. (Don’t forget things like “pj day” “breakfast for supper” and other classics!)
  • Record a list of all of the fun things your kids can do. Don’t get too specific. For example, write down “art” rather than a very specific art project. If they really struggle, you can print off lists of art project or other ideas that contain numerous ideas from which they can choose.
  • Provide needed items. Your kids aren’t going to read if they don’t have access to interesting books or do art if they can’t find the supplies around your house. You don’t have to spend a ton of money (the public library has tons of books), but boredom summers often fail because the kids don’t have access to what they need to do something more productive.
  • Be available and engaged. Creativity means they may need questions answered or advice. Encourage them to problem solve by asking questions to guide them rather than merely telling them what to do. If you don’t get aggravated every time they want to engage with you, you may also find your relationship is strengthened.
  • Encourage daily or weekly service to others. This can be done individually and/or as a family. Our website has dozens of great service project ideas.
  • Encourage Bible study and prayer. Once again, this can be done independently or as a family. If you expect them to study on their own, help them choose a prepared study for their age group to help.
  • Encourage learning a new skill. Maybe they want you to teach them to cook their favorite dishes. Or you need to teach them how to do laundry or change a tire. Lots of craft and hobby stores have short term lessons for kids and teens.
  • Allow naps and occasional movie watching. Your kids are probably sleep deprived. Even if they won’t nap, on an extremely hot or rainy afternoon a movie online can force them to rest a bit. (Try to limit movies to no more than once every week or so.)
  • Encourage time outdoors exercising. Some kids are indoor kids and would never go outside and exercise if they could. Their moods and health will be better if they spend a lot of time outdoors and play or even walk or swim. They can even take their books and activities outside if it’s possible in your neighborhood.
  • Allow day dreaming. Staring at the clouds or stars has a purpose. It provides peace and quiet for processing, thinking, dreaming. Give your kids that gift.
  • Encourage them to entertain friends. Hospitality is a key element of families who raise active, productive Christians. Help them plan the activities they will do with their friends when they come over. Don’t forget old classics like board games when it gets super hot or rainy.
  • Make a chore jar. Experienced moms know that nothing cures boredom like a chore. If they whine or break the parameters or rules, allow them the privilege of choosing a job from the jar. These tasks should be above and beyond their normal chores and just annoying enough to encourage them to do something other than whine so they won’t have to choose from the chore jar!

Give your kids the gift of boredom this summer. Just structure it a bit so it makes this your best summer ever!

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Wisdom

The word “wisdom” appears in the Bible over 200 times. God makes it very clear that He expects his people to be wise. Unfortunately, your children will confuse knowledge for wisdom. Experts even write that tech savvy is a replacement for wisdom in the minds of many people today – especially to the young. Those who believe knowledge (or the ability to quickly access knowledge) is wisdom are doomed to a lifetime of unnecessary mistakes – often producing negative consequences for themselves and others.

There are some fun things you can do to help your children understand the difference between knowledge and wisdom, as well as how to use wisdom to make better choices.

Tell or read your children passages about Solomon’s wisdom – 1 Kings 3:1-24, 4:29-34, 10:1-13. Ask them to tell the stories in their own words. Point out that even though Solomon asked for wisdom, he also sought knowledge. Knowledge and wisdom are related, but not always synonymous. Explain that it is believed Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs – a book of wisdom. Yet, Solomon did not always use the wisdom God had given him. He made some very unwise choices during his lifetime which created negative consequences for himself, his children and his kingdom.

Have your children look up the definitions of knowledge and wisdom. Can they explain the difference? Point out that while knowledge is a building block of wisdom, it is not wisdom itself – in fact some knowledge would be very unwise to use. Wisdom is using the knowledge we have access to in order to make the best possible choices. For example, in the story of the women arguing over the baby, Solomon knew how to make a decision. He knew how to give the baby to one of the women. Solomon’s wisdom was in saying something that would help him to know which woman was the real mother. He had no intention of hurting the baby, but threatening to do so revealed which woman’s baby it was.

Ask your children to think of examples today of times when people confuse knowledge and wisdom. This is a great time to point out that although they may eventually have more “book” knowledge than you, you will always possess wisdom from life experience that they will not have yet. (Granted, not all older people are wise, but life experience does often gift one with additional wisdom.)

Point out that asking God and other people to share their wisdom with them is important. Any supposed wisdom given by people should be compared to scripture, as God is the source of all wisdom. Ask your children why people often refuse to seek or heed wisdom. What consequences do they suffer? How often do your children find themselves relying on their own knowledge rather than seeking to learn from the wisdom of others? How often do they refuse to heed the advice of wise, godly people… or even God himself? What consequences have they suffered as a result? Be prepared to give examples from your own life – especially if your kids are in denial.

It is important to continue the discussion periodically by doing fun activities to help your children understand the importance of knowledge and wisdom. Here are some fun ideas to get you started.

  • Reading mystery stories for children. (One Minute Mysteries are quick reads.) As your children attempt to solve them, ask them the roles knowledge and wisdom play in solving a crime. Point out that the detective needed knowledge to understand the various clues, but wisdom in applying that knowledge to solve the mystery.
  • Challenge your kids to learn how to do something new. Make sure it is difficult enough that they will struggle without advice from someone with wisdom in that area. Have them try to do it without instructions first and then with the help of other resources like books or YouTube.
  • Have your children find a daily news story that would have been very different if the people involved had sought and heeded wise advice.
  • Encourage your children to create scripture art that reminds them to seek and heed God’s wisdom.
  • Read a chapter or Proverbs every day for a month. Have your children each choose a verse from the daily chapter that they will use to make them wiser.
  • Have your children interview senior adults at church about wisdom. What wisdom was contained in the answers the seniors gave? How might their lives be different if they did or did not heed the wisdom of these older adults?
  • Have your children practice finding and vetting answers to their questions online. How can they make sure they are eliminating sites where the knowledge and wisdom are false? Teach them various techniques to vet online answers before accepting them as true and/or wise.

Have fun with it, but help your children see how important it is to humbly seek God’s wisdom for their lives and heed it. It could make all of your lives better.

Teaching Your Children About Promises

In the movie Mary Poppins, there is a scene when one of the characters makes a promise that Mary knows won’t be kept. She calls it a “pie crust promise” – easily made and easily broken. Sadly many of us are guilty of making pie crust promises and it undermines our trustworthiness. If your children get in the habit of making promises and not keeping them, their lives will have little integrity.

There is an interesting verse in the Bible – Matthew 5:37. At the heart of this verse is that Christians should be so honest and trustworthy, that if they merely say “yes” or “no”, everyone will believe they are telling the truth and that they will follow through on promises if they are involved.

Unfortunately, parents are often the worst at making pie crust promises. It seems easier to say “maybe next week” instead of “no”. We want to avoid the potential conflict, whining or acting out the word “no” may inspire in oir kids. So we lie, in hopes that when the promised time comes, they will have forgotten. But children are smart. Eventually they figure out our stalling techniques are actually lies. That in turn can undermine their trust in us and encourage them to make their own pie crust promises.

Have regular conversations with your children about honesty, integrity and promise keeping. Point out that the promises we make to God when we become a Christian and the promises we say at weddings are extremely important to keep. With older children and teens, talk about those promises and the damage that is done when they are broken. Encourage your children to notice what happens in their hearts and minds when someone breaks a promise to them. Caution them to never make a promise they know they won’t keep and to apologize and atone when circumstances prevent them from keeping a promise.

As time goes on, point out to your children the promises God makes to us. Note that since God hates lies, He will always keep His promises. You may want to point out various prophecies and their fulfillment. Let them make scripture art of some of God’s promises that encourage them.

If you want to raise children who are honest and trustworthy, teaching them to keep promises is an important part of that training. If they learn that lesson, it can even make your job parenting them easier!