Answering the Spiritual Questions Your Kids Aren’t Asking

Depending upon the source, only 3-10% of children being raised in Christian homes have a faith foundation strong enough to ensure they will be faithful Christians as adults. Yet, I imagine if we were to poll Christian parents, the vast majority would say their children fell into that 3-10% of spiritually grounded young people. It’s human nature to think we and those we love are the positive exceptions to the rule. It’s one of the reasons why people continue to do things they know are bad for their health – they will be in that small minority that comes out unscathed from their bad choices.

Part of the problem is that as parents we tend to freeze frame our children at various points in their lives. Your view of the strength of your children’s faith may very well be based on something they said when they were in preschool about how they love Jesus. Or maybe your confidence is based on the fact that your children chose to be baptized and devote their lives to Christ. While that is an important step on any faith journey, it doesn’t guarantee your children won’t rebel against God later in life.

We tend to think rejection of God begins when someone becomes enamored of and then enmeshed in sin. The truth is that for many young people being raised in Christian homes, the first step away from God is much more subtle and insidious. In fact, it’s a little replay of how Satan worked in the Garden of Eden. Satan lured Adam and Eve into sin by getting them to question and then doubt God’s truth – if they ate the fruit of that tree, they would die.

Satan works the same way today. First come the questions. What I’ve always wondered is why Adam and Eve didn’t discuss what Satan said with God before they ate the fruit. It wasn’t like they were starving. Or that they didn’t have regular access to God who actually walked and talked with them. They just chose not to go to the source of truth with their questions. Adam and Eve accepted Satan’s lie as the answer to the question he had posed and acted accordingly.

Your kids are going to have lots of questions about spiritual things. It’s how they process and learn. To you, some of these questions may sound like doubts more than questions and in some cases, they may be. These questions and doubts can feel very scary as parents. What if we don’t know the answer? What if we give the wrong answer? Or perhaps we give the right answer, but word it in such a way that it pushes are children even farther away from God?

Interestingly, studies have shown that it’s not these questions and doubts that in and of themselves cause young people to reject God. It’s when they go unanswered by Christian adults. Because, just like in Eden, Satan will make sure they will get his answer. And Satan’s answers are always designed to encourage us to walk away from God and live life our way.

Don’t be fooled into thinking your kids are set because they don’t ask these questions. They may not have voiced them to you or know how to articulate them, but they have them. If you shut them down whenever they ask a spiritual question, they will stop asking them and that puts your kids’ faith at even greater risk. Make your home a place where it is safe to ask any question about God, the Bible, Christianity or anything else of a spiritual nature. Be honest if you don’t know the answer and look for answers together. (Note: Any answer should ultimately point your kids to scripture, not another human – unless that human is used to encourage your kids to read and study scripture.)

Your children have spiritual questions. Encourage them to ask them all and help them find biblical answers. Don’t let Satan have free reign over your children’s thoughts and beliefs.

Fun Family Activity Exploring Scarcity & Abundance Mindsets

If the devil is truly the father of lies as Jesus taught (John 8:44), one of his favorites is the scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset is a belief that every possible resource – including things like love – is limited and therefore when some of a resource is given to someone else, there is less for you. As with all of Satan’s lies, there is a bit of truth to hook us. If you have one apple pie and give someone a slice, there is definitely less of that pie for everyone else to eat.

What the scarcity mindset ignores is that there are often infinite resources we just can’t see at the moment. There are other apple pies that can be baked or purchased. A mother’s love is infinite and can expand to love dozens of children equally. Unfortunately, a scarcity mindset leads to selfishness, jealousy, envy, stress, short term versus long term thinking and problem solving, power struggles, cheating, lying, theft and a host of other problems and sins. As we learn from Cain and Abel, in its extreme a scarcity mindset can even lead to murder (and war).

There is a fun family devotional you can do with your children to begin shifting them from a scarcity to an abundance mindset. Start by sharing the story of Elisha feeding the hundred in 2 Kings 4:38-44. You may have never heard or forgotten about this story yourself. Note the similarities to Jesus feeding the 5000 and 4000 later in time. Introduce the idea of a scarcity mindset…. that 20 loaves are not enough to feed a 100 men or 5 loaves and two fish enough to feed 5000. Yet, with God anything is possible. Ask your children what would have happened if any of the people involved in the stories had possessed a scarcity mindset. Would they have shared the little food they had? Why not? What might have happened if they didn’t share their food?

Now your children might point out that in those cases God created a miracle so there was an abundance of food. How can they be sure that when they share or have an abundance mindset, that there will be enough for them? For a fun activity, re-enact the story of Stone Soup. This can be a really fun activity for several families to do together or you can set up each member of your family to be an entity in the story.

The gist of the story is that during a famine each family in the village just had one item left in their home to eat and it wasn’t enough. One potato, one carrot, etc. Someone had the idea that if they pooled all of their items and added lots of water they would have a soup that would feed them all for several meals (the actual story involved tricking everyone so it isn’t necessary to actually tell the story, just reenact the sharing and pooling of resources aspect). Without sharing and pooling their resources they wouldn’t have enough for even one meal for their family. You can do it with soup, but it can also work with any recipe where each family or person just has one ingredient and can’t make the desired finished product without the help of everyone else.

While you are eating, ask your children how a scarcity mindset would have meant their project failed while an abundance mindset made it successful. Ask them to think of other real life examples. Then discuss examples of things we believe are in short supply – like love and friendship – but which can actually expand and give many people more than enough. For older children and teens, you may also want to explore the idea of sacrificial giving – sharing something even though it may mean you actually do have less for yourself – and how God feels about that.

If you want to extend the activity, find things your family can share with an abundance mindset. This is one of those discussions you want to continue having over the years to encourage generosity in your children.

10 Fun Ways to Reconnect As A Family Over the Holidays (Or Anytime)

Your family has been running in circles for months. You may have spent time in the house or car together, but were you really connected emotionally to one another? Did you have any meaningful conversations – especially spiritual ones? The more disconnected families become, the weaker the supportive relationships within the family are. As your relationships with your kids grow weaker, your opportunities to coach, teach and nurture them lessen as well. If you’re on a bit of a downhill in your family relationships, it’s not too late to turn things around over the next few weeks.

It’s not just about spending more time together, but more time together when you are actively engaged with one another. Fair warning. If your family normally spends time together on individual devices, your children will roll their eyes at you when you suggest doing something together device free. Those who are extreme.y addicted to their devices might even get angry that you want to do something with them (and without devices). That’s okay. Part of the trick to detoxing from devices is finding things in the world that are more engaging than screens. (You will need to put your devices away, too.)

So then what? Here are some great activities to get your family having fun together and talking to one another again.

  • Games. Indoor board games are often best for encouraging conversation, but outdoor games like croquet or corn hole can work as well. Our town even has an outdoor area where anyone can come play boules/bocci, corn hole and other activities using their equipment.
  • Walks, hikes and holiday lights drives. Walks and hikes are healthiest, but spending time together in the car without devices and looking at interesting things that can spark conversations can work as well. Remember no devices other than perhaps Christmas music on the car radio.
  • Hot cocoa. Gather round the table or by the fire and drink hot chocolate together. Have fun adding marshmallows, using chocolate spoons or cocoa “bombs” or mug toppers. Just let your kids talk about anything and everything as you enjoy the process and the result.
  • Off the beaten path. If you live near a city or even some small towns try searching online for “off the beaten path” or “unusual things to do” plus the name of your city or town. Chances are good that one of the lists will have some things to do in your area that are unusual, fun, inexpensive and about which you had no idea. (Fair warning that some of these lists are more focused on bars than activities, so when looking online with children, it’s a good time to talk about the very best ways to spend free time.)
  • Baking and decorating cookies. A favorite for many decades, baking sugar cookies and decorating them is guaranteed to get everyone involved. You only need a couple of cookie cutters, a sugar cookie recipe or premade dough, confectioners sugar, food coloring, sprinkles and/or colored sugar to have lots of fun. You may even want to share some of your creations with others to spread a little holiday joy. The families on our street would make goodies and take them around to each house during the holidays every year for many years, making our street closer, too.
  • Service projects. There are so many ways to serve others and many of them are family friendly. Our website has tons of great ideas to get you started. Just click on the service project tab for a complete list.
  • “Best of” challenge. Have a family adventure working together to find the best … whatever. For several years, our family went in search of the best key lime pie. We ordered a piece to share at restaurants and tried various recipes. If you eat out a lot anyway, compare and contrast restaurants or foods. Or try a category of recipes. Or find the best holiday light display or best Christmas music. The topic doesn’t matter as much as the conversations you have as you compare and contrast.
  • Jigsaw puzzles. Every holiday season we set up a card table and work together on a Christmas puzzle. We have several now, so if we finish one we can start another. It’s a nice relaxing activity to work on together as a family.
  • Conversation starters. If your family rarely talks to each other anymore, conversations can be awkward. Try conversation starter questions. You can find lots online for free. Look for ones that will provide unusual information about everyone or lead to story telling. The cards are also great for family gatherings when your children are around relatives they barely know – especially if the relatives aren’t good at having conversations with children.
  • Read aloud. When I was little, our city’s local paper had a serial story every Christmas. Every issue had a new section of the story printed in it and families would read them aloud together. I believe that is how Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published. No one to my knowledge publishes holiday serial stories now, but you can do the same with any book. Choose a holiday classic or one of the C.S. Lewis books. You can even have a night of reading picture books from your local library. It’s not an English lit class, so have fun with it. Ask what your kids think will happen the next night in the story, if it’s one they don’t know or talk about the characters, action or dialogue as points of interest instead of a literature lesson.

This list is by no means complete. Design or choose your own activities. Just make sure they provide plenty of opportunities for fun and talking with one another. Sometimes reconnecting physically by cuddling under a blanket and watching a Charlie Brown Christmas is the reconnecting your kids need the most. Don’t let your family drift farther apart during the holidays. Find ways to reconnect and become closer. It’s crucial for the future well being and spiritual health of your children.

Fun Family Devotional On Fruitfulness

One of the more odd stories from the time Jesus spent on Earth is found in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-25. It seems strange, doesn’t it, that Jesus would destroy a tree for not bearing fruit when it wasn’t even the correct season for it! Yet when you connect the story to what happened immediately after it in the text, it becomes a little more clear. Jesus and God expect those serving them to bear fruit and there will be consequences for failing to produce any. It’s a similar lesson to that found in the Parables of the Talents and Minas and in other scriptures in the New Testament.

So what does it mean to bear fruit and why is it important that your children understand the importance of bearing fruit as Christians? There’s a fun family devotional you can have to start the conversation. Before the devotional, purchase some fruit at the grocery store. Pick one or two that are favorites and then perhaps one or two that are new to your children.

Read your children the two parables. Explain that often the first four books, the Gospels, tell the same or very similar stories – either from a different point of view to reach a different audience of readers – or perhaps because Jesus did or said similar things more than once during his ministry. Ask your children why they believe Jesus destroyed the fig tree. Explain that when stories like this are in the Bible, God wants us to learn something from them. What do they think they are supposed to learn from these parables?

Point out that right after the parable in Mark, Jesus cleansed the Temple. What might be the connection? Jesus was angry at the Priests for taking advantage of the people and trying to make a lot of money, rather than ministering to the people which was supposed to be the fruit they were bearing. The fig tree was to teach the apostles an important lesson that could help them better understand – and later teach – what was about to happen at the Temple.

Read Matthew 28:18-20. Explain that some Christians are confused. They think that being a Christian is only about avoiding sin. In reality, it is also about producing fruit in the Kingdom. Ask them what clues these verses give us about the types of fruit we are supposed to bear. Read Galatians 5:22-23. Explain that these are more types of fruit Christians should bear. These particular ones let others know we have the Holy Spirit within us (Note: You may need to explain this concept to your children. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is given to us when we become Christians during our immersion in baptism. It does not feel scary to have the Holy Spirit in us, but rather the Holy Spirit is a helper God gives Christians to help them make good choices.)

Ask your children why they think Jesus got so angry when the tree and the priests didn’t produce fruit. Explain that God will also be angry with Christians when they don’t produce any of the fruit that you have studied in the verses you read. Sitting in church or even calling yourself a Christian means little if we don’t produce fruit. Works don’t help us earn our way to Heaven, but is rather the expectation of God from people He has already saved and a fulfillment of our faith. Read James 2:17-26 and ask your children to explain what it means in their own words.

Bring out the fruits you purchased. As you are eating them, Google to find out how they are grown and what happens to the fruit trees that don’t produce fruit after interventions. Orchards can’t afford for space to be taken up by unproductive trees. If a tree has no hope of producing fruit again, it will be destroyed and a new tree planted in its place. End your time by explaining God has much He wants Christians to do on Earth. He needs us to be productive so the work can all be done. Brainstorm some ways your family can produce fruit for God now.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Delayed Gratification

One of the root causes of sin is when the desire to have something we want clouds our judgment. We want what we want, when we want it – which is usually now. When that doesn’t happen, sinful attitudes and behaviors often result. The ability to accept delayed gratification can help your children overcome many of the temptations to sin in life. Of course the ultimate delayed gratification – an eternity spent with God in Heaven for remaining faithful to God – is the very underpinning of Christianity.

There’s a fun devotional you can do to help your children begin to understand the importance of accepting delayed gratification in living the Christian life. Before calling your children together, take a few moments and think of examples in today’s world when waiting for something has better results or conversely, demanding what we want now can have negative consequences in the future. A simple example would be eating a seed instead of planting it and waiting for it to provide entire pieces of fruit or lots of vegetables to eat. Having this list prepared will make the activity easier for you to lead.

Call your children together and tell them the story of Jacob working for Rachel found in Genesis 29:14-30. Point out that Jacob loved Rachel so much he was willing to wait seven years to marry her and work for Laban for seven additional years as a result of marrying Rachel right after Leah. Point out where it said the seven years seemed to him like only a few days. Ask your children why that might be true. Point out that if Jacob had not been willing to work for Laban for fourteen years, he would not have been able to marry Rachel – the love of his life. To Jacob delayed gratification was worth it.

On the other hand, point out that in the story of Jacob, Esau and the lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34), Esau was not willing to wait to eat stew. His unwillingness to endure delayed gratification meant he lost his birthright to Jacob.

Give your children one of the examples you thought of earlier. What are the rewards for waiting and/or the consequences for failing to wait? Make a game of it using more of the examples own your list. See if your children can think of other examples. Mix up silly ones – like eating uncooked food – with more serious ones that can lead to sinning. Have fun with it, but throughout the game, emphasize the importance of taking the time to think about what might happen if they waited to get what they wanted a little longer. Would waiting actually be better in the end?