Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #17

Although next week is the official start of Fall, many of your families are already in a routine of school and whatever activities are still happening. Need some ideas or encouragement to navigate the “new normal” of this Fall? Here are this week’s social media challenges.

Monday: Want to start your day off great? Say a prayer and read the Bible verse for the day from the Bible app on your phone before you even get out of bed. Want to lower your stress during the day? Meditate on that verse all day. Pray in the moment or while you are waiting in the carpool lane. You may just find spending a bit more time with God each day can make a huge positive difference.

Tuesday: Have you ever craved something? This sandwich from my college years has me running to this cheese shop whenever I’m in town. Just thinking about it makes me want one so badly! That craving is what you want your kids to develop for reading God’s Word…the Bible. It starts with being excited about reading it yourself, reading it to them with excitement and explaining to them how exciting it will be to be able to read it independently as they grow older. Being in scripture daily will make it a lot easier for them to stay connected and obedient to God, so help them crave it.

Wednesday: Just because something is labeled “Bible” or “Christian” doesn’t mean it’s accurate. The maker of this Noah’s Ark toy probably had no ill intent, but either through ignorance or “practicality” created a replica of Noah’s ark that is inaccurate. It’s not necessarily a huge deal with a toy, but many times inaccuracies cause problems. Teaching your kids to check everything by the actual Bible will prevent them from being swayed by a lot of inaccurate information that could negatively impact their faith.

Thursday: Did you know the supposedly ideal tithing amount for Christians is not in the Bible? Why? Because God wants us to be generous with our money, helping others and sharing our faith with it. Generosity often starts in childhood. Watching how parents hoard or share. Whether they give willingly and generously…or not. It also begins with teaching them good stewardship skills like budgeting and staying out of debt. Even teaching the difference between needs and wants can help your kids grow to be the generous Christians God wants them to be.

Friday: Want to let your kids know how much you love them and are proud of them? Need to have a delicate conversation? Find those types of conversations are often interrupted with protests from your kids? Write them notes and leave them on their pillows to find. Even kids who don’t like “mushy” stuff will read and often save those notes to read again later.

Teaching Your Kids Godly Time Management Skills

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15) is one of many verses in the scripture that counsel us to use our time wisely. Unfortunately, many of us were not taught how to really use our time the way God would want us to use this precious gift.

As a result, many of us have developed if not bad habits, then surely habits that don’t reflect our appreciation or understanding of what a precious gift from God our time is. Which means we aren’t setting the best examples for our kids or actively teaching them how to make the best use of their time in God’s eyes.

So how can you teach your kids to use their time, not just wisely, but prioritizing the things God would prioritize? It’s actually a process more than an absolute list, because their life circumstances can change parts of their schedule.

  • Pull out a calendar where each day is broken down by the hour. Depending upon the age of your kids, you may want to start with a day, a week or a month.
  • Have them block out time for non-negotiables, like sleep, meals, bathing and school. Don’t add part time jobs, extracurricular activities or even Church yet.
  • Ask your kids to list some specific things God wants them to do regularly. This list should include worship services, Bible classes, independent Bible study and prayer. For things like worship services and Bible classes with set times, but them in those slots on the calendar. For things like independent Bible study and prayer, discuss with them when would be a natural time to put that in their schedule. If you can connect it to a daily event, it will be easier to remember. For example, if they sit down for a few minutes after school and have a snack, that might be a natural time to read the Bible independently. (Make it even easier by having them set their open Bible where they normally eat their snack.)
  • Ask your kids to list some other things God may want them to do, but not necessarily every day. This is the heart of your discussion. Would God want them developing a gift He gave them that they can use to serve Him? Would He want them trying some new things to see if they are gifted by Him in those areas? Would He want them reading some Christian books for encouragement or learning? Would He want them involved in periodic larger scale opportunities to serve others and share their faith? Where do those daily acts of service, encouragement and faith sharing go on their schedules, here or in the earlier daily area of their schedule? This is where the time management piece can get tricky. If the scheduled time to read a good Christian book or work on a project developing their gift from God is the night before a big test, that could be problematic. Talk about how to differentiate between what they need to do, what they want to do, what God thinks is crucial that they do and what is flexible. Experiment with calendaring in these things. Once a week look back and encourage them to see what things happened and which ones didn’t. Can they switch somethings around so more things are accomplished well?
  • Godly rest. This is quality Sabbath type rest….not playing video games or zoned out watching a movie. This would include exercise, being in nature, reflection on scripture and life, creating something, surrounding themselves with things from Philippians 4:8. These rest times can be fun times, too. Exercise can be playing games. Developing their gifts often means working on a favorite hobby. (Note: Playing video games is not developing a gift. Taking video game coding lessons, however, might reveal a gift God can use at some point.)
  • Extracurricular activities. These should be added sparingly. They should fit into the schedule already created. So, for example, a sports team that requires regularly missing worship and Bible class won’t make the cut. This is where time management gets hard, really hard for some. God’s priorities must come first. God does not want your child missing worship and Bible classes eight weeks in a row because he or she is on a traveling sports team…for a lot of reasons. This is one of those points where parents who raise active, productive Christians split from those who raise kids who only attend or aren’t involved with Christianity at all. Being willing to sacrifice what’s popular and fun from what God wants you to do is a key faith building step. As a parent of a child who has gone through college admissions, I can tell you most universities don’t need to see dozens of different activities that have taken up every free moment. They want to see qualities like commitment, perseverance, leadership and teamwork skills. These skills can be just as easily shown through an activity or two and taking the initiative to serve God by planning and executing meaningful service and faith sharing opportunities or regularly teaching in a Bible class.
  • Everything else. This category will change regularly. It might include a family vacation, a special school project or a youth group activity. It can even include a little mindless entertainment, although having discussions about those choices is also another great conversation to have at some point.

This activity needs to be revisited regularly until you begin seeing consistent godly time management skills in your kids. If they drop the ball in one area, encourage them to try again the next day, week or month. If your time management skills need a godly update, do the activity with them – especially since their calendars often impact yours, too. It’s also a great way to help them understand that if each of your three kids participates in three activities and don’t drive, you and your spouse are running to nine activities…and what that does to your calendar. Teaching your kids godly time management skills will take some time and effort on your part, but if you do it well, it can help all of you spend your time doing more things that are important to God.

Fun Fall Family Service Projects

The more your family works together to serve others and share your faith, the more it will become natural and easy for your kids to continue to live that way as adults. Fall is a great time to serve others. As you serve, you can find ways to point others to Jesus. If you are serving Christians, you can find ways to encourage their faith.

Here are some ideas for fun Fall family service projects to get you started.

  • Apples. Do you have an apple orchard somewhat close to you? Take the kids and go apple picking. When you get home you can create little gift baskets or bags of apples to share with neighbors.
  • Hand Pies. Take some apples and this recipe and make apple hand pies for people. Make sure you are wearing masks and handling them with food gloves after they come out of the oven, to keep recipients safe from any COVID germs your family might be carrying. Adding a reminder to reheat should also kill any germs.
  • Pumpkins. Most areas have pumpkin patches. Grab your kids and go buy pumpkins for at risk people who aren’t getting out much. You can also offer to carve their pumpkins when it gets close to the end of October.
  • Pumpkin spice muffins. Grab a box of spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin (regular size, not extra large). Mix the cake mix, can of pumpkin and about ½ of the empty can of water. No need to add the other ingredients on the cake mix box. Put the batter in a muffin tin lined with muffin papers and bake at 350* until firm to the touch. Once again, wear masks and food gloves when handling cooked muffins. These taste better warmed, so that should also kill any germs when the recipient reheats them.
  • Fall Garden. Winter kale and cabbages as well as some herbs will produce during the fall months. Depending on your zone, you may still be able to plant and harvest foods you can share with others…especially those in food insecurity.
  • Fall flowers and decorations. Sunflowers, mums and other fall flowers are often cheap to purchase. Or have your kids gather acorns and colorful leaves and make an art project. Take them to someone who can’t get out safely to purchase those things and brighten their day.
  • Nuts. You can’t do this in every location, but in some places you can pick edible nuts off the ground. Make sure you are allowed to do it and know you are picking edible nuts (chestnuts for example can be edible or inedible depending upon the tree). Give them quickly as nuts can go rancid over time.
  • Leaf raking. This fall service project staple really does make a huge difference in the lives of homeowners who are in poor health or physically disabled. Make sure you are disposing of the leaves the way the homeowner wants them to be removed or used.

No matter which service projects you choose to do, having your kids make cards or drawings with a note and a scripture written on them, pretty much guarantees their faith sharing scripture will end up on the refrigerator of the recipient. It’s a great way to teach your kids about faith sharing and encouraging others as you help them choose which scripture to use. If they want to get really creative, they can make scripture art to share – with a service project or as a service project on its own.

You will have to carve out time and use some family resources to do some of these family service projects. It’s a great way though, to create family memories and help your kids learn how to put the pieces of a Christian life together.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #16

How was your week? Need encouragement or ideas? Here are our social media challenges for the week.

Monday: To your kids life can feel like a maze. They need your help learning how to navigate it. Not to run it for them, but to teach them how God wants them to run it. That will take a lot of time and effort, put you have to do your part if you want them to have the best chance of spending eternity in Heaven.

Tuesday: What will your kids remember about their childhood? Probably not always what you think. What they often remember and unintentionally copy are your attitudes and actions. Making sure you are accurately reflecting God’s image makes it more likely they will. Struggling with a sin? Get the help you need to conquer it or your kids are likely to repeat the pattern. Do what you can to give your kids a godly pattern to copy.

Wednesday: Freedom means different things to different people. The Bible tells us we have freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, liberal theology is teaching that freedom means we no longer have to worry about obeying God’s commands…except to love one another. That’s not what Jesus taught. Loving God includes obeying Him…even when we don’t understand or like those commands. Teach your kids how to obey God. It will make a huge positive difference in their faith journey.

Thursday: Are your kids distance learning from home or homeschooling? Our Teach One Reach One Ministry website has tons of free lessons and activity ideas to add learning about God to your child’s day. With lessons for kids and teens, there’s something for every age. www.teachonereachone.org

Friday: Do your kids know you love them? Maybe, but they still need to hear you say the words. They need hugs. They need you spending a lot of quality time with them. They need to know you like them and enjoy doing things with them that they love to do. These are the things that really help your kids know you love them.

Can Your Children’s Music Really Influence Them

Full confession. I am one of those people who tends to make up their own lyrics to songs. Mind you, it isn’t intentional. I tend to misunderstand them and choose similar sounding, but inevitably wrong words. During my teen years, I also quickly realized the lyrics of many songs whizzed past me as I did not hang out with a group that regularly used foul slang terms. The lyrics I sang were rather innocent, even if the original lyrics weren’t.

Having said that, I have heard adults for decades claim that the lyrics of songs do influence many, if not most teens. I decided to do some research. Obviously, God would prefer we listen to songs with wonderful lyrics. If, however, your teens prefer more mainstream music, could it really impact their faith journey negatively?

The first study I found was under the oversight of the Prevention Research Center. Their study Music, Substance Abuse and Aggression came to some interesting conclusions.

They found that there did seem to be a significant connection between listening to rap music and alcohol use, illicit drug use and aggressive behaviors when all other variables were controlled. Alcohol and illicit drug use (but evidently not aggressive behaviors) were also strongly tied to young people who listened to techno and reggae.

What is unclear, however, is whether listening to those genres encourages those behaviors or young people engaged in those behaviors are drawn to those genres of music. (Note: In this study, alternative, R&B, rock, pop, country, punk, heavy metal, salsa, classical, jazz and world music did not seem to have the same connection to negative behaviors. None of those sampled listened to Christian music.)

They also found that a young person’s gender, age, sensation seeking and ethnicity had some influence on substance abuse and aggressive behaviors. These were controlled for in the genres of music, but it indicates a third sphere of influence on negative teen behaviors.

Their final conclusion was that a teen’s substance abuse and aggressive behaviors could be connected to their frequent listening to the lyrics of certain genres of music containing lyrics about alcohol, drugs and violence.

Also interesting is the impact music and lyrics can have on emotions. A study by Bharucha found that people tend to listen to music to help them feel a specific emotion. So if they want to feel happy, people tend to choose to listen to happy, upbeat songs. Young people may also choose particular songs because the lyrics reflect their current feelings. When one recalls lyrics are actually poetry, this dynamic makes sense.

A study by Vastjall, found that participants reported significantly less stress in periods when they were listening to music than in periods of time when they weren’t. They concluded that even a passive listening to music can influence mood.

Music can also be used to manipulate the emotions of others. Countries have regularly used music as part of their torturing regimen. Music may be chosen for this purpose because of the tune or the lyrics. Volume was also used to create a response in those being tortured.

So what does God have to say about music? In the Bible, we see many verses suggesting we use music to praise God and encourage and teach others. Perhaps the most applicable verse to our discussion of the impact of negative lyrics would be Philippians 4:8. Paul tells us God wants us to fill our minds with things that are good, pure, lovely, admirable and the like. Why? Because the lyrics that become locked in our minds can influence us and God would prefer that influence to be positive.

Should you ban your kids from listening to anything except hymns? That type of parenting can easily backfire, if you aren’t careful. On the other hand, having open discussions between parents and teens about the music each prefers (Mom and Dad’s favorite tunes might have suspect lyrics, too!), it’s lyrics and how it may be influencing each of them can and should be a regular conversation in Christian homes.