In Judaism, there is a holiday God established in the Old Testament. It was called the Feast of Tabernacles, the Festival of Ingathering, or more commonly today, Sukkot (Leviticus 23:34-43). The celebration included building a temporary shelter made from branches and leaves.
For seven days they lived in those shelters. God wanted the experience to remind them of everything that had happened when God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The days when every Israelite lived in a temporary shelter in the wilderness. Each evening, those who celebrate are told the stories of Moses and the Israelites.
We may not be Jewish, but the way the holiday is celebrated is also a great idea for a memorable family devotional. What better way to remember lessons from the Bible than building a temporary shelter out of items from God’s creation? Look up to the night sky – point out the moon and the stars – as you tell your children important stories from the Bible.
You may choose to follow the original holiday and tell the stories of Moses. Or you may choose to tell the stories of another person in the Bible. If you do this for several nights in a row, you can cover many of the stories from the life of someone like David or even from the life of Jesus.
Fall is when Sukkot is celebrated, but you can do this type of devotional any time of the year. It’s a great way to take your kids into God’s creation in your own backyard and give them a memorable experience of hearing some of the Bible stories God wants your children to know. Who knows? It may become a family tradition!
Having a grateful heart and thanking God regularly for His many blessings can help your kids be more appreciative and generous. It doesn’t come naturally to many children – especially as they grow older. How can you encourage them to be more aware of their blessings and that they all come from God? This fun family devotional is a good starting point.
Grab a Bible, some plain paper and art supplies like markers, crayons or even paints. Before starting, you may want to draw a large heart on a sheet of paper for each of your younger children. (You can have older children draw their own hearts on their paper before doing the activity.)
Read the story of the Ten Lepers found in Luke 17:11-19. Focus especially on the gratitude of the last leper who returned to thank Jesus. Ask your kids why they think one leper came back to thank Jesus. Have them share why they think the others did not return to thank Jesus.
Remind your children that God expects us to be grateful for everything He has given us. Ask them why our gratitude or thankfulness is important to God. (You may have to ask them to think about how they would feel if they gave someone a very special present and the person opened their gift, shrugged and walked away.)
Give your kids the sheets of paper with the hearts drawn on them. Explain to them that God gives us many gifts because He loves us. Tell them you want them to illustrate as many things on their drawings as they can of things for which they should thank God. Encourage them to put personal things, as well as things everyone would have in common.
Once your kids have completed their artwork, have them share what they drew. Encourage them to add new items to their drawings if they wish. Ask your children to think of ways they can thank God for His gifts. (Make sure taking good care of them – stewardship – is mentioned as part of the discussion.) Encourage them to use their drawings this week as they pray, to help them remember to thank God for the many blessings He has given them.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1 NIV) Your kids need to be able to “see” God as one of the very basic parts of their faith foundation. The Bible tells us one of the best ways to see God is in His creation.
There’s a fun way to have a family Bible study time, enjoy God’s creation and teach your kids to see God in it. Grab your Bibles, a phone with camera capabilities or some of those disposable cameras or the newer “instant” cameras (similar to the old Polaroid cameras).
You can do this in your back yard, a local park or in a more dramatic National Park. Gather your family and review the story of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. Share with them Psalm 19:1. Explain that although we can’t see God himself until we get to Heaven, God has created things to remind us of Him when we see them. Tell your children each of them may notice God in His creation in slightly different ways.
Give each child a camera. (If you want to do this in a low tech way, you can give them drawing paper and coloring pencils, crayons or markers.) Tell them you want them to capture the best images they can of things they see that make them think of God. Give them the time and encouragement to be truly creative and capture multiple images.
How you share the results of their efforts will depend upon the type of camera you chose. When you can see the photos, have your kids share why they chose those particular things as something that reminded them of God. Ask them to think of other things that remind them of God, but may not have been in the place you explored. You may want to also encourage them to say a quick prayer of thanksgiving and praise every time something reminds them of God. It’s a great way to teach your kids to see God for the rest of their lives.
Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? A man was robbed, beaten and left to die on the side of the road. The religious people who should have helped him, walked on by, too busy to help. The Samaritan, who culturally would have hated the victim, stopped and took the time to serve him.
That story should open our eyes to how important it is to God that we stop and help those He places in our path who have needs. Unfortunately, some of us are so obsessed with our own lives that we don’t even notice the people around us who need our help.
There’s a great way to teach your kids how to be more observant of those around them who need to be served. If you have the time, it’s also a great way to teach them how to use their gifts to serve others and to share their faith while serving.
Grab a Bible and read the story of the Good Samaritan to your kids. (Luke 10:25-37) Explain to your children that as sad as it was that those first people refused to help the victim, it’s even sadder when we are so self-absorbed we don’t even notice someone needs to be served.
Tell your kids you are going on a family service walk. It can be in your neighborhood or in a public place like a mall. As you walk, tell your kids you want them to be really observant and notice people that might need someone to help them in some way. With younger children you may have to give them clues like, “Look for people who look sad” or “Look for people who look like they could use an extra pair of hands to help them.”
Your kids can write down what they notice or just try and remember the things. (With young children, if they share in the moment, you may run the risk of hurting someone’s feelings.) After your walk, talk about what they noticed. Are there things they or your family can do to help those people or people like them? With older children, you can begin having discussions about discernment and how God wants us to use our resources to know the best ways to help people.
Doing this activity regularly can train your kids to be more observant of the needs of others. If your family follows up by actually serving some of the people you see, you will make an even deeper impression on your children. You may even want to encourage other families to do the same thing and then share with each other the needs you see in your community. It’s a great way to strengthen the faith foundation of your children and help them grow to their godly potential.
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.