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.
As a Christian parent, you’ve probably heard the story of the Good Samaritan. He was actually in a parable told by Jesus. A man was walking along a road when he was beaten, robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite walked right by the injured man. Although the most likely candidates to help someone, they were filled with excuses and kept going. Then a Samaritan, who culturally should have hated the injured man, stopped and provided a great deal of assistance.
The point of the parable, you may wonder? Jesus wanted it to be clear that hearts and actions are more important than words. One would think Christians and even those exposed to the story would be automatic helpers in a crisis, but a study found that only 7% of people even stopped to check on a biker who was “injured”.
How do you raise your kids to be the Good Samaritan and not the religious people who didn’t stop to help? How can you help your kids be in that 7% of people who helped?
There are six key traits of children who live their lives, making serving others a priority.
Loving Empathy. We tend to think these are two separate character traits, but you must have empathy to truly love someone. The priest and the Levite couldn’t put themselves in the place of the injured man. They couldn’t imagine themselves being in a similar situation. Their love for the man wasn’t evident, because they felt no connection to him.
Sense of Purpose. One could argue the priest and Levite thought they knew their purpose in serving God, but they missed the point of the Law. Yes, God wanted them to take care of the Temple and teach the Law, but God’s main purpose was for them to love Him with all their heart, soul and mind and love their neighbor as themselves. Had they known and embraced their full purpose in serving God, they would have realized helping the injured man was more important than where they were going. Your kids need to fully understand and embrace from a young age that their purpose in God’s Kingdom includes serving others and sharing their faith.
Godly Priorities. Life is about choices. Your kids need to have a great understanding of God’s priorities for their life and match their priorities to His. The priest and Levite misunderstood God’s priorities and replaced the important with the urgent. They focused on chores rather than service and ministry.
Time Management Skills. We don’t know much about the priest and the Levite. One has to wonder, though. If they had stopped and helped the injured man, would they really have missed doing what they were going to do? Maybe if they had gotten up a few minutes earlier or been better organized, they could have easily done both things. In the study mentioned earlier, the majority of the 93% who didn’t help the injured biker cited lack of time as their reason. If your kids learn how to trim wasted time and manage their time in an organized fashion, they will accomplish more of the good works God has planned for them to do.
Generosity. The parable doesn’t address the priest and Levite’s financial concerns, if any, but it does tell us the Good Samaritan spent money on the care of the injured man. There’s no indication he expected it to be paid back or wanted anything in return for his generosity. The Samaritan recognized money was needed to care for the man and he was more than willing to share what he had to make sure those caring for the man had enough money to do so. Your kids need to learn to be generous with their time and money to truly be Good Samaritans.
Skills. We don’t know what skills or talents God had gifted to the Good Samaritan. Maybe he was a doctor. Maybe he knew first aid. Good Samaritans don’t always need to use a skill to help someone, but if they do it’s important to be ready. Your kids need to discover and be developing their gifts from God so when they need them to serve Him, they will be ready.
Courage. The parable doesn’t mention whether or not the Good Samaritan had any fear in the moment he decided to help. He would have been justified if he had been afraid though. Those robbers could still be lurking nearby and attack him. The man was a Jew and he was a Samaritan. The hatred between the two groups was huge. People would walk miles out of their way to avoid touching the very land where Samaritans lived. There could have been repercussions for touching a Jew, much less helping one. Whether he was courageous by nature or had to summon the courage to help, the Good Samaritan showed courage by stopping and helping. Your kids need to understand God may ask them to help others in ways that feel scary to them. They will need to learn to trust in God and be brave to do those good works God has planned for them.
Good Samaritans are lovingly created by parents teaching and molding their children to be who God created them to be…someone who willingly serves others. Taking the time to develop these traits in your kids will make it more likely they will be life long Good Samaritans.
I’m old enough to remember how upsetting it was to have a favorite television show cancelled mid-season. For some reason, the networks cared more about ratings than my personal preferences! Fast forward and today a person is more likely to be “cancelled” than any entertainment vehicle. Your kids are immersed in a culture that seeks to “cancel” or destroy the reputation and often livelihood of anyone who doesn’t meet their standards. Who “they” are is a bit fuzzy, but with enough social media traction, “they” have the power to destroy a person’s life in less than a week.
Cancel culture can be tricky to explain to kids. We should want to encourage each other to be more godly and discourage others from disobeying God. There are also a few people in this world who are so toxic that being around them for long periods of time can encourage your kids to disobey and even reject God. Yet is cancel culture really biblical? What do you need to teach your kids about “cancelling” other people?
God wants your kids to love their neighbors as themselves and treat others as they would like to be treated. Would they want those who disagree with them about something to not only avoid them, but encourage others to avoid them and destroy their reputations and (eventually) careers? Cancel culture seeks to hurt those who disagree with “their” standards. There is no love for those being canceled.
God believes in forgiveness and commands Christians to forgive others. Ultimately, cancel culture is about punishment and revenge. While God will mete out justice in the end, He makes room for people to learn and grow from their mistakes. When they repent, God forgives them and expects us to do so, too. Cancel culture rarely forgives those who offend it in some way.
God believes in redemption. Christianity is based in part on the idea that humans are capable of making drastic positive changes in their lives with God’s help. Cancel culture assumes everyone who does something “wrong” by their standards – even many years ago – is unredeemable.
Vengeance is for God, not people to use. Romans 12:19 is abundantly clear on the topic and it’s not the only verse addressing it. God doesn’t want Christians to avenge themselves – ever. Cancel culture is all about vengeance against people who have violated its standards.
Right and wrong is determined by God, not by those who can manipulate social media the best. Cancel culture by definition has a variable moral compass, because it is based on the current culture and not God’s unchanging truths. The ironic thing about those who practice cancel culture is that they themselves would have been cancelled in the past and may very well be cancelled in the future when they disagree with someone more media savvy than themselves.
God should always be the Lord of our lives, not our emotions or thoughts. Cancel culture has an underlying assumption that the person doing the cancelling is perfect. Their emotions and thoughts are always correct. They are not only smarter than everyone else, they are smarter than God.
Christians need to be careful to share the Gospel and serve everyone, but choose close friends who help them be more godly – not encourage them to sin. There is always a tendency to do the polar opposite of something that is wrong, like cancel culture. The problem is that your kids are too young and their faith too weak to accept people into their inner circle who will encourage them to sin. They shouldn’t cancel the people who don’t meet the standard of friends who will help them be more godly, however. They should still treat them with love and kindness, while serving them and sharing their faith. That is what will help people become who God wants them to be….not cancelling.
The great irony of cancel culture is that those who practice it will often speak of how they were scarred by churches who were “too rigid” and “judgmental”, yet they have become the very thing they are supposedly protesting. Teach your kids how to help people change by loving and teaching them – not treating them like a societal reject.
Have you ever met parents who seemed totally clueless of how their child behaved out in the world? Sadly, it’s more common than you think. Too many parents think their kids are doing just “fine” and have “great” friends when that isn’t even close to their child’s reality. If you already have a great relationship with your kids – the type where they freely tell you anything and everything about their lives – good, bad and ugly – you probably don’t need to worry. On the other hand, if you know very little about your child’s life outside of your home and even less about his or her friends, you may be missing out on crucial information to help you parent more effectively.
For Christian parents, knowing if your child lives differently outside of your home can be crucial as it may reveal serious issues with the heart. Hearts that are beginning to view lying and hiding things as acceptable are generally not headed in a very godly direction. Spying on your kids by invading their privacy is rarely the best choice. There are more honest, fun ways of seeing your kids in their daily environments that give you opportunities to see how they are living while also giving you opportunities to get to know their friends and peers better, too.
Volunteer. You would be surprised how much the “catsup” mom learns about all of the kids in school – her own included! Most schools and extracurricular activities need volunteers to do various tasks. Look for ones that give you opportunities to interact with your children and their peers while volunteering. Instead of talking with other volunteers, observe the kids and interact with them in ways that are considered appropriate. Most kids desperately need someone to listen to them, so you will be ministering to them as well.
Sponsor or lead. Some activities need adults to lead them. This requires a bigger investment of time, but also gives you more long term access and involvement in the activity lives of your kids and their peers. Once again, many parents find this is also a great opportunity to minister to young people who need mentoring.
Host their friends. Whether it’s a play date, sleep over or Friday night pizza and game night, having your kids’ friends in your home is the best way to really get to know them. If you entertain enough, you may even find yourself with a few extra members in your family after a time. It’s important to remember that opening your home and leaving them to their own devices is very different from being accessible and available. You don’t have to hover, but popping in with cookies or a question periodically is a great way to remind them you are available and that you are aware of what is happening.
Treat to ice cream or coffee. Kids and teens love special time with adults. Whether it’s just your child or your kid and a friend, taking them out for ice cream, “coffee” or some other special treat gives you relaxed time to have deeper conversations with them. Sometimes framing questions with “I heard/read kids/teens your age ———-, do you think that is accurate?” can often yield a wealth of insight into their world.
Learn something new together that they choose. This is a great way to learn about your kids’ gifts and passions. If they’ve always wanted to learn how to weave a basket or play the ukulele, taking a class together can be fun. Even if it’s not your gift or passion, it gives you a better understanding of what they love and why they love it.
Taking extra time to join your kids in their worlds is a great way to make sure your kids are doing as well as you hope they are. If you discover issues, it also gives you time to parent them before things get too serious. It’s worth taking some extra time and effort.
Have you ever thought about how many Bible stories involve food? Whether it’s Abigail preparing food to take to David in an attempt to avoid disaster or the Last Supper, food plays a role in numerous Bible stories and scriptures outside of the context of a story.
The dining traditions and even many of the foods in these scriptures may be unknown to your kids. As a result, when they hear or read about those things in the Bible they have little understanding of what is being said. This can confuse them or even convince them the Bible is too hard to read. The good news is you can have fun, teach them some important food related customs and words and improve their Bible reading comprehension at the same time.
The set up for your “Bible” meal can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. If you have older kids or teens, you can have them do some research to help. The basics would involve creating a table space on the floor with fabric or a tabletop flat on the floor (card tables and banquet tables with the legs folded work great for this). Throw pillows on the floor next to the table for you and your kids to lounge against as you eat. People generally ate with their hands from communal serving dishes, but individual plates and bowls did exist and I’m sure were used depending upon the situation.
The menu can be as simple as rustic bread, dates, figs, grapes, olives, fish (some suggest sardines), lamb, quail (ask your butcher), etc. If you want your kids more involved in preparing the foods, try a lentil soup recipe (spoons did exist then!) or making unleavened bread. You can find lists of every food mentioned in the Bible and authentic recipes with a quick search online.
Want to really teach your kids some important lessons? Have a basin of warm water and wash their feet before they sit at your table. Share with them some of the stories from the Bible involving food. Talk about the things that were discussed at the Last Supper. Marvel at the miracles of Jesus feeding the 5000 and then the 4000. (Fun fact. It is believed the 12 baskets of leftovers at the feeding of the 5000 represented the 12 tribes of Israel. The 7 baskets of leftovers at the feeding of the 4000 is thought to have represented all of the Gentiles who were referred to as the 7 nations at the time.)
Have fun with it. There are so many Bible stories involving food, you can do this more than once, changing the menu to match the story. It’s a fun way to teach your kids some important lessons from the Bible while helping them better understand what they are reading in it.
There’s a well known book that was written for educators called, One Thing I Wish My Teacher Knew. The premise is that often teachers could be more effective in educating any particular student if they knew what that “one thing” was. It’s an interesting premise and the author has a valid point. Often adults struggle to reach a young person, not realizing that child or teen holds the answer to the issue.
I believe that same principle can apply to Christian parenting. Often kids know and can easily articulate the issue that they have with the way they are being parented. Their “one thing” may be that they can’t hear what you want them to know when you are yelling at them. Or maybe it’s that they are really tired after school and they can’t handle the deep conversations you always seem to want to have when they first get home. Or maybe their “one thing” is actually a question they have about God that is a stumbling block for their faith.
Your kids’ “one thing” may actually be several things. Each of your kids may have a different “one thing” from their siblings. The problem is that without knowing their “one thing”, you are parenting by trial and error against a wall that has an unknown building material. You may get lucky and guess the “one thing” that is getting in the way of your Christian parenting efforts with your child. Most likely though, you won’t. At least, not without your kids’ help.
Fair warning though. Your kids may not believe you truly want to know their “one thing”. You will have to make them feel safe enough to reveal it to you. If you immediately get angry when you hear it, that will probably be the last time your kids will open up that much to you. And that’s unfortunate, because their “one thing” will probably change over time. You will need to have them share periodically their current “one thing” with you.
You may be thinking, “What if their “one thing” is something outrageous, like wanting to never be corrected?” If that were to happen, ask some follow up questions. Explain that correction is in your job description as a parent, but can they think of a way you can correct them that will be more effective in helping them make crucial changes? Agree to try it their way for a period of time and see if it works better. If not, talk again and come up with a new strategy.
Asking your kids to share their “one thing” with you can be scary. If you can listen calmly to your children’s “one thing” and make needed adjustments, however, you may find your Christian parenting makes great strides in its effectiveness with relative ease.