Is There Flexibility In Christian Parenting?

As I write this, I’m on a month long ministry trip to Ukraine. Outside of my window, I can see small children playing on equipment you rarely see in the U.S. any more because some lawyers decided it wasn’t acceptable. The other day, it was chilly here. Some children had on t-shirts and jeans, while others had on winter hats and heavy jackets.

We know there’s a fairly wide range of healthy parenting, but what about Christian parenting? The Bible tells us multiple times God never changes – His Words are for yesterday, today and tomorrow. Does that mean all Christian parents should parent exactly the same?

The short answer is “yes” and “no”. Since God’s Words never change, we don’t have the flexibility to pick and choose which ones we teach our kids to follow and obey. Deuteronomy 6:7 and 11:19 tell us how we need to teach our kids about God and His commands – constantly. In those sorts of things, we should all have parenting styles that are alike.

Within God’s never changing boundaries though, there is a lot of flexibility. The methods you use to teach your kids what God wants from them and for them can vary. The consequences you give for disobedience may even vary slightly from child to child in your own family.

So what’s the difference between an effective Christian parent and one who isn’t as successful?

  • A constant focus on teaching their children about God and His commands. Effective Christian parents know their kids can’t learn everything God wants them to know at church on Sundays. They make those verses in Deuteronomy their standard and talk with their kids about God daily. The different ways they accomplish that though can vary from family to family and at times even child to child.
  • They keep their priorities straight. They understand if they allow secular activities to consume all of their children’s free time, there will be no time left for who is the most important – God. What your family chooses to place in priorities after God can vary. Maybe your family loves spending time outdoors exercising while another family likes to carve out time to work on their hobbies. As long as God is first, there is some flexibility with the rest.
  • They learn from other Christian parents. Show me a group of parents whose kids all grew up to be faithful, productive Christians and I can almost promise you they did a lot of the same things. We like to pretend that isn’t true to spare the feelings of other parents, but there are certain things effective Christian parents do that are often not done by other Christian parents. Learning from those who have been effective is the easiest way to be more effective with your own children. On those things your experienced parents did differently, you will probably find those are the little places where the style is not as important as the substance.

Although the list seems short, there are lots of big and little things within those three major tips. It’s not easy to be an effective Christian parent. It takes a lot more time, effort and intentionality than one would hope. It will be worth it though to spend eternity with your kids in Heaven.

Fun Service Project for Families

There are so many great lessons for young people in the stories of the life of Joseph. It’s a story of God making good things come from bad, of listening to and trusting God, of God’s perfect timing, of change and repentance, of forgiveness and redemption.

Why not do a service project that also gives you the opportunity to share these great lessons and the stories of the life of Joseph? You will need your Bible, your favorite bread recipe (you can find one recipe here) and the ingredients to make it.

Gather your kids and think of people you could serve with fresh homemade bread. The possibilities are endless. Have your kids help make bread. As they are working or while you let it rise, tell them the stories found in Genesis 42-50. Talk about the lessons God wants us to learn from those stories. Ask them which application principles they need to work on to be more godly. Brainstorm ways to help them remember to make the changes they want to make.

After the bread has cooled a bit, deliver it to those you have decided to serve. Your kids may also want to design cheerful notes and cards to give with the bread.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Avoiding Peer Pressure

One of the hardest things for any child to become comfortable with is being different than their peers. Yet as Christian, they will make many choices that are different than those made by most of their peers in order to obey God. Some kids fold under the pressure and disobey God – more to fit in with everyone else than because they actually want to participate in the sin.

This activity can be a fun way to talk about strategies to avoid following the crowd when they know it means doing something God wouldn’t want them to do.

Read from Daniel chapter 1 the story introducing Daniel and his friends. Point out that Daniel and his friends were of royal blood. They had been brought to Babylon the Bible says, because they were also good looking and intelligent. They were already well educated because of their royal birth. The Babylonians wanted them to have three more years of education in their languages, customs, etc.

As part of the training they were to receive, they were to be fed the same way as the royals of Babylon were fed. This diet had several problems, that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention, but we can assume from what we know of both diets.

First the Babylonians ate some foods God had forbidden the Jews to eat or weren’t prepared the way God told them to prepare their food.  There was also a very good chance the food and drinks they were given had been sacrificed to idols before they were given to the captives. Daniel and his friends probably thought it was at the very least disrespectful to God to eat food sacrificed to false gods. Finally, the royal Babylonian diet was very heavy in meats, fats and oils. Those foods aren’t healthy to eat in the amounts the royal Babylonians evidently ate them. (Archaeologists have found ancient Babylonian recipes. Almost all of them were for meat dishes where the meat was also soaked in quite a bit of oil.)

Daniel and his friends made a special request. They wanted to eat a vegetarian diet and drink water. They suggested a test to prove this diet would make them healthier than the original diet they had been offered. While the Bible does not require us to eat a vegetarian diet, studies have shown it is a very healthy way to eat. God allows us to eat meat and in small portions, meat can provide things our bodies need like iron and protein.

Ask your kids what the other young men in captivity might have said or done when Daniel and his friends rejected the royal diet they were offered. What sort of peer pressure, do they think Daniel and his friends might have had to endure – not just from other captives, but from the Babylonians as well? Why do they think Daniel and his friends were able to stay focused on what they thought God wanted them to do in spite of what others said or did to them?

We don’t know for sure what they did to remain strong, but you and your kids might want to look at the stories of Daniel and the Lions’ Den and Shadrach and Friends and the Fiery Furnace that happen later in Daniel. It seems they had a pattern of doing what God wanted even when the pressure to disobey God might mean their death.

Ask your kids to brainstorm ways they can stand up to peer pressure when others are trying to get them to do things they know would mean disobeying God. You may even want to act out a few scenarios to help them practice some strategies. Peer pressure is never fun, but giving your kids some tools to stand up to it, can make the experience a little easier for them.

Are You Radiant?

You may have seen the new Christian movie in theaters, Overcomer. As part of the promotion for the movie, several authors were asked to write books that addressed a similar theme – seeing ourselves as God sees us.

Radiant is the book written for “teen girls and young women” by Priscilla Shirer. Shirer is a popular Christian speaker and author. You may also remember her from the movie War Room a couple of years ago. (Shirer also stars in Overcomer.)

I had actually participated in a couple of Bible studies using Shirer’s earlier pre War Room books. I was hopeful this new book would be as good as those earlier studies.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to see the movie, for the book to make sense. In fact, she only brings up the movie once in a rather brief reference.

Radiant is divided into four major sections, each contains several chapters. The book reads smoothly though. If I hadn’t noticed the table of contents, I’m not sure I would have realized the book was subdivided into sections.

Shirer’s style is effective, because it’s conversational. She weaves scripture with personal stories and the concepts she wants young women to understand about God wants them to see themselves.

Although many young women will be drawn to the sections helping them rid themselves of negative thoughts of their appearance and for some their very worth, I hope ultimately they pay closer attention to the later chapters.

I love how Shirer uses David to discuss the concept that God may indeed have large special good works planned for our future. She points young women though, to focusing on developing and sharing their gifts by serving others now, by being faithful in the every day chances God sends your way. Focus on being faithful now and God will eventually show you His will for the future.

I only have one disappointment with the book and unfortunately it is major. Shirer spends several pages attempting to encourage young women to become Christians if they aren’t already. Which would normally be great – except she gives them misinformation and never clearly tells them what the Bible teaches.

If we are following the example of Jesus, we will be baptized. If we follow the examples found in Acts, we will be baptized by immersion. Acts 2:38 is about as clear as any scripture can be : “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Also note all examples of conversions in the book of Acts and scriptures like Romans 6:3-5. Baptism does not exclude faith, it is the outward expression of faith that God requires of His people.)

Yet Shirer suggests the sinner’s prayer – not mentioned in the Bible, not even invented until a couple of hundred years ago. It makes me so sad that someone as gifted by God as Shirer is not giving young women the instructions God gave them for how to become a Christian. Not only that, but by not being baptized, they aren’t receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit – the very gift that could make it easier for them to see themselves as God sees them.

Other than that very unfortunate section though, the book has a lot to offer young women who are perhaps struggling with their self image and their place in God’s Kingdom. It’s up to readers to decide whether or not that section limits the usefulness of giving the book to the young women they know.

This is book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Fun Activity to Help Kids Understand Humble Service

Serving others can seem to come naturally to very young children. As they get older, however, selfishness can begin creeping into their hearts. Suddenly, humbling serving someone else can seem not so great. Yet, that’s one of the things God calls His people to do on a regular basis.

There’s a fun activity you can do with your kids to help them understand the realities of the humble service of people like Rebekah in the Bible. You will need your Bible and a sealed gallon water jug (or two) for each of your children.

Read or tell your children the story found in Genesis 24. Point out to your kids the time when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac. Explain Rebekah most likely had a clay jug or jar which could hold three gallons of water. Have your kids attempt to lift two or three gallon jugs of water at the same time (This activity is best done outdoors – just in case!).

Place a “camel” several yards away from where your kids are standing. Give each child one or two (depending upon age and strength) gallon jugs filled with water. Make sure the tops are sealed. You can do this as a relay effort or make each child water “a camel” on his or her own. Each child should carry the jug(s) of water to the “camel” touch the camel and carry the jug(s) back to the starting point (To be really authentic, you can have a pretend “well” at the starting point.)

Stop when each child has carried the equivalent of 25 gallons of water. Stop and explain each of them has now watered ONE camel. The servant most likely had four or more camels. You can continue until they have each watered four camels or until they are tired. Discuss how much hard work it was for Rebekah to water the camels. What might it have shown about her character that she was willing to do that for a stranger? Why might that be important to God and to the servant that she was that willing to serve others?

Discuss how she humbly watered the camels without complaining or expecting the servant to help her. Ask them how hard that must have been for her. What ways might God want them to serve others that are difficult? How can they remember to have an attitude of humble service – even though they are tired by the difficult task?