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.
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.
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?
Ask parents what bothers them the most about their children’s behavior and “whining and complaining” probably make the top five list of almost everyone. What if you could do something fun that might just help them better understand why complaining is something they need to erase from their lives?
This one takes a little effort, but it’s more fun and thereby possibly more effective than your daily lectures on the topic. You will need to get some tonic water, some quail (your butcher can special order it they don’t normally carry it) and make a batch of “manna” cookies (you can find a recipe here). Then grab your kids and a Bible.
Tell your kids they are going to have an experience very similar to one the Israelites had in the wilderness. Take your kids outside and go on a really long walk. (This works best on a warm day.) Have the tonic water and some cups in a tote bag. When your kids complain about being thirsty, give them a drink of the tonic water. (It’s bitter, but won’t hurt them.)
When you arrive home, serve them manna cookies. Ask them what it would be like if that were the only food you served them at every meal for the rest of their years at home – no restaurant meals, no school lunches – just manna every meal. (Note: No one knows for sure exactly what manna tastes like. This recipe is based on the few clues we can find in the Bible.)
Pull out your Bible and tell them the story from Numbers 10 and 11. When you reach the part about quail, let your kids taste some of the quail meat you cooked.
As they are eating have them discuss how they felt on your little “journey”. What are some reasons all of the complaining made God and even the leaders so upset and angry? Remind them God had just delivered the people from horrible slavery. Discuss what the people should have been grateful for instead of complaining. Ask your kids how all of the complaining might have affected Moses and Aaron and their leadership. What about Joshua, who was in training to become the next leader? What about the people themselves?
Ask them what things they complain and whine about a lot. What should they be grateful for instead? How does their whining and complaining have a negative effect on others? Challenge them to think of ways to remind themselves to be more aware of their complaining and make an effort to stop. (You might even want to have a family challenge to encourage everyone to break bad habits!)
Have you ever talked with your kids about centering their lives around God? Do they know what it means to view the world through the lens God would want them to use? There’s a fun activity you can do with them that can help them better understand what happens when you use God as the foundation of your life and when you don’t.
Grab your kids, a Bible, some scrap paper or other materials. Read them the story of the wise and foolish builders found in Matthew 7:24-27. If your kids are younger, you may want to ask them to sing the song that goes with this story.
Explain that the story may be hard for them to understand since they have probably never built a building. Put out the stack of recycled paper. Give each child a pillow, heavy sweater or anything soft that will create an unstable foundation. Tell your kids they are to build the tallest tower they can using only paper on the foundation you have provided.
Give them a set amount of time to build their tower. Explain that you will now be a hurricane and see how strong their towers are. Go to each tower and blow on it, fan it, whatever you need to do to get it to start falling apart. Then have them repeat the experiment using the floor as their foundation. Can they build a stronger tower on this firmer foundation? (Realize your “building materials” are weak too, so go easy on the “wind” for the firmer foundation!).
Talk about what happened. Ask why Jesus wants us to build a firm foundation on God. Discuss what having a firm foundation in God means. What will they do differently than someone whose foundation is not in God? (Note: For younger children, keep it very simple.)