Encouraging parents in their efforts to raise their children to be enthusiastic servants of the Lord.
Author: Thereasa Winnett
Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking. Their daughter Katrina, who has been an integral part of their service adventures, attends Pepperdine University.
We rarely think about teaching kids how to love. When they are little, most children give lots of hugs and tell people they love them. The world, however, begins to slowly chip away at that pure, innocent love.
Depending on their circumstances and environment, at fairly young ages some children have already lost a lot of that original love for others. Because we live in a fallen world, even children raised in loving, Christian homes can have their love for others weakened.
When teaching your kids about the Fruit of the Spirit that is love, it’s important to help them understand the way God calls us to love others is very different from what the world usually calls love.
In the world, love is romantic or a word used casually to describe our favorite things. Love is often considered something that must be earned or is conditional.
The love God calls His people to live is a purer, higher, agape love that is unconditional. It is a love that can love our enemies and cause us to actually treat them well. It’s the love that’s described in 1 Corinthians 13.It’s a love that is all too rare in our world.
So what are some fun ways to help your kids begin to understand and consistently practice agape love? Here are a few of our favorite ideas.
Love the invisible. There are a lot of people in our world who are unseen by others. It may be because they are somehow different from others in their community or because they have jobs that are less valued. It may be because they are poor or struggling with a problem like substance abuse. It may be because they have special needs or are socially awkward. Talk with your children about seeing and loving the unseen people in their worlds. Maybe it’s the kid no one will sit with or is teased. How can you show love to them? Start with people in your community and show them love as a family. Then encourage your kids to act in similar ways at school. Kids can be cruel, so talk about what your kids should do if they are teased or harassed for showing love to the unseen people in their school.
Love our family. It seems no one can upset us as easily as our family. They live with us and know our weaknesses. Sometimes we take our frustration at the world out on family members – intentionally or unintentionally. Talk about the ways you aren’t currently being very loving to one another. What bad habits do you need to break? Challenge each other to try and do as many loving things for everyone in the family as they can over the course of a week. You can set any boundaries you want. At the end of the week, come back and talk about the things others did for you. How did they make you feel? How did it change the moods of family members or the atmosphere around your house? How long can you continue to act this way towards one another?
Love our neighbors. Kids love surprises. Why not spend time thinking of nice surprises you can do for your neighbors? Make them secret if you can. How much love can you spread in your neighborhood before you are caught? Is there some little kindness your family can regularly do for your neighbors to show them love all year?
Love your enemies. Whether it’s the “mean” teacher at school, the tough coach or the kid who is always mean to them, your kids may not call them enemies, but they have people in their lives that make it difficult to be loving. Who are these people? How does God want us to treat them? Why does He want us to be loving to people who seem so mean? How can your family show love to them? Can you shower them with so much love, you break down their defenses and see a more loving version of them? This may be the most challenging, but if your kids can master this, they are well on their way to being truly loving.
Be creative. Who else can your family love? What are some ways you can be more loving to everyone you meet every day? Make being loving to others a constant family goal.
The Fruit of the Spirit has an interesting role in Christian parenting. If you look at the list…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)…they are qualities even atheists would probably say they want their children to have. Yet the definitions and the ways we teach them to our children can be very different.
To Christian parents, the Fruit of the Spirit are the evidences that a Christian has the Holy Spirit living in him or her. It’s not that other people can not have these qualities. It’s more that Christians should display these qualities more consistently, perhaps more fully as not just evidence of the Holy Spirit, but to draw others to want to learn more about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Your kids may be too young to make an informed decision to be baptized to become a Christian and receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet just like secular parents, you can begin working with your children on these characteristics. While the Holy Spirit helps all Christians have these qualities, it is perhaps easier for Christians who already had these characteristics to have them in ways that draw others to God than for new Christians who must work to break bad habits.
Over the next few weeks, we will look at each Fruit of the Spirit. What does it look like if your child possesses that character trait? How is a Christian manifestation perhaps different from the way someone who is not a Christian might see that trait and live it in their lives? How does your child’s heart impact each fruit even before they are old enough to become a Christian?
You will also find lots of fun things to do with your kids that will help them practice that fruit. Teaching them from the earliest ages how to be the person God created them to be. Ways you can teach your kids an important passage from scripture, what it means and how to live it in their lives as also a way of serving others and sharing their faith.
As we begin this series, you may want to pull out a Bible and read the scripture with your kids. Then have them create some scripture art of the verses you can display around your house as reminders. Check back regularly as we post fun ways to teach your kids about each fruit.
“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.” Psalm 78:4 ESV
Have you ever given much thought to your spiritual legacy? Psychologist Erik Erikson noted that as people grow older, they are either generative or stagnant. They work towards leaving a meaningful legacy for those who come after them, or they fail to work towards much of anything at all.
The choices you make now about how you point your kids towards God will impact their spiritual choices in the future. But your legacy will possibly continue long after you are gone. Those choices you made that influenced the spiritual choices your kids make, will in turn impact the spiritual decisions of their own children.
Legacies can change over time, but starting your family with a legacy of strong spiritual foundations gives future generations of your family a better possible beginning. How can you help your kids develop those strong spiritual foundations and grow to their godly potential?
Erikson found that in late adulthood, people reflect on their lives. Those who had worked towards leaving a meaningful legacy – contributing something positive to the world – spent their later years with a sense of integrity and wisdom. Those who had neglected to make the world a better place were usually filled with regret and despair.
Remember the 12 spies in Numbers 13? When giving their recommendation, Joshua and Caleb’s faith in God became part of their spiritual legacy not only to their children, but to all of the Israelites. Thousands of years later, we still learn from the spiritual legacy they left of their words and their faith in God. The spiritual legacy of the other ten spies is at best a cautionary tale of what happens when our faith in God is weak.
What will your spiritual legacy be? Helping others – especially your children – grow spiritually is the best legacy any of us can leave behind. What can you do now to begin creating that legacy? Don’t wait. Your legacy is based on the choices you make each day – make ones that really matter.
Ready for Valentine’s Day? We are big celebrators in our family. Any excuse for adding a bit of fun, joy and love to our days and we are there! Valentine’s Day may have been founded to celebrate romantic love, but why not use it to teach your kids about agape love and have some family fun.
Agape love is the type of love God has for us and we are to have for those around us. It’s a higher love not based on attraction, romance or even friendship. It’s loving others just because they are human beings whom God created and loves.
There are a lot of fun things your family can do to spread some Agape love on Valentine’s Day. You should still have time to accomplish one or more of these before the holiday is over. (Because Valentine’s Day is on a Friday night this year, restaurants are “celebrating” on Saturday and Sunday, too. Let’s do the same!)
Shower widows, widowers and single people with love. There’s nothing like Valentine’s Day to remind you that you are single. No matter how happy someone single may be normally, everyone celebrating love can leave one feeling lonely and alone – even unloveable. Have your kids make cards, cookies or little baggies of those heart chocolates. Allow a few minutes to stay and visit. If necessary prepare your kids ahead of time about some things they can say to help the conversation.
Love on friends and “frenemies”. Every child has someone at school or in their activities who is less than kind to them. They may have even been treated by another child as an “enemy”. What a better way to teach your kids about loving their enemies than helping them prepare a Valentine surprise for their friends, but especially for those “not so nice kids”. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Having some discussions on the subject though can help your kids feel more loving as they give a card or treat to someone they may normally avoid.
See the “invisible” people. People with special needs, people who are socially awkward or “unattractive”, people who are poor…our world has lots of people that are unseen by others, because they don’t fit the mold of someone who makes a good friend or even acquaintance. Consider having some of the “invisible” people your family knows over for a meal or dessert. Or give them a Valentine’s treat and have a real conversation with them. Find out the things they enjoy doing. Get to really know them as “real” people with real stories. Make them visible to your family.
Thank the unappreciated. How many bus drivers, crossing guards, or maintenance people are ever thanked, much less receive Valentine’s treats? Even teachers can be forgotten. What about the mail carrier, the garbage collectors and the counter person at the dry cleaners? How many unappreciated people can your family make feel appreciated over the next few days?
Serve those who help others. Ministries and non-profits usually have ongoing needs for items or volunteer hours. Can your family find a way to give a ministry or non-profit some extra help?
Surprise your family members. Let’s be honest. The people in our family know how to get on our “last nerve”. Living in the same house can create conflicts and hurt feelings. We can say the worst things to the people who love us the most. Why not change that dynamic? Encourage everyone in your family to find ways to surprise, encourage and love everyone in your family. Make it fun and focus on all of those little things that would make life more pleasant for the people in your family.
Make Valentine’s Day a day when your family has a tradition of loving everyone they can. Encourage your kids to pour out love generously. Who knows, your family may enjoy it so much it becomes a habit every day of the year!
Scripture memorization is a great way to help your kids keep God’s words on their hearts and in their minds. Your church may not encourage your kids to memorize scripture. If you want your kids to know what God would want them to do without having to take the time to research, look up and read scriptures, memorization is key.
With so many possible passages, which ones should you help your kids memorize? Below is a list of some of the scriptures that can help your kids be who God wants them to be.
Some of the passages are only one or two verses. You will need to review these regularly in order for them to transfer to your children’s long term memories. Longer passages should do that automatically because of the number of repetitions they take to memorize.
Make sure your kids understand what they are memorizing. Explain to them how those verses can help them if they memorize them. Since memorization assignments at home are rare for non-homeschoolers, you may want to have ways to celebrate whenever they memorize passages.
The scriptures have been divided into categories to help you organize your memorization project.
1 Corinthians 13
Scriptures to Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Scriptures About Courage
2 Timothy 1:7
1 Peter 5:7
Scriptures About Behavior
1 John 1:8
1 Timothy 4:12
Scriptures About Our Heart
1 Peter 5:5
Scriptures About Family
1 Timothy 5:8
Scriptures About Friends (and Enemies)
1 Corinthians 15:33
1 John 4:7
1 Thessalonians 5:11
1 Peter 4:8-10
Don’t know these scriptures yourself? What a better family activity than memorizing them together? Having God’s words on the hearts and minds of your family will help all of you.