Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids About Following God’s Instructions

There are those who believe Christianity is merely a set of harsh rules made and enforced by a grumpy old God. Unfortunately, many Christians make matters worse by the ways they attempt to teach, explain and reinforce God’s commands. The truth is that God’s commands aren’t God’s attempt to make us miserable nor are they meant to be some sort of tortuous litmus test for entry into Heaven. Rather God’s commands incorporate God’s perfect wisdom and love. They are instructions for living the best possible life in a fallen world.

Have you ever seen someone try to put together a piece of IKEA furniture without the instructions? Since it’s a challenge even with instructions, attempting assembly without is a formula for disaster. God’s instructions for you and your children are very similar. Life is difficult – even as a Christian. Failing to follow God’s instructions for living the Christian life just adds layers of complications and negative consequences – some of which can have lifelong repercussions or even end one’s life prematurely.

There are some fun things you can do to illustrate this to your children in more concrete ways. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Origami fail. Find instructions for an origami figure your kids don’t know how to make. Give them some paper and read the instructions to them. Do not show them the finished image or tell them what they are trying to create. Periodically, start to read a step (stopping before it makes any sense) and tell your children that you don’t like that step and think you have a better one. Then give them a random step that’s sure to mess up the final product. After the final step, show them what their object should look like. Ask them why theirs doesn’t look the same. Then repeat the process, but this time give them the proper directions. (When we don’t like God’s instructions and try to replace them with our own, our lives won’t turn out the way God wanted them to.)
  • Tech disaster. Ask your kids to help you assemble something or figure out how to use a new product. Refuse to read the instructions. Be as frustrating as possible until they are begging you to read the instructions. (Isn’t it interesting how many Christians try to live the Christian life, but have never even read the New Testament for themselves? No wonder we struggle!)
  • Blindfold maze. Create a maze your children can walk through, but don’t let them see it. Blindfold them one by one and guide them through the maze verbally (using safety precautions of course). Afterwards ask them what would or did happen when they didn’t follow your instructions exactly. (While there is grace when we ask forgiveness, failing to follow God’s instructions perfectly can result in negative earthly consequences – even after God has forgiven us because we repented.)
  • Making up the rules as we go. Play a favorite board game with your children. Only this time, regularly announce you are changing one of the rules. Make sure all of the rule changes obviously favor you. (Sometimes when we don’t follow God’s instructions, we hurt others by our choices.)

Have fun with it, but revisit the topic regularly. It’s critical your children thoroughly understand the problems that arise when they don’t follow God’s instructions.

5 Hidden Times to Teach Your Kids About God on Busy Days

What’s the number one excuse Christian parents give for not teaching their kids about God at home? I haven’t done an official survey, but I am almost positive the answer would be lack of time. Yet some of the busiest parents I know find ways to teach their kids about God daily. They may not have extra hours in their day, but they have learned how to use some hidden time wisely and point their kids to God even on the busiest of days.

Where are these little nuggets of time you can use to teach your kids about God? Here are five of our favorites.

  • Car time. Busy days usually also mean a lot of time in the car. You could probably do an entire family devotional in one trip, but there are other ways you can use this time as well. Try doing drive by prayers with your kids when you pray for the people and things you notice on your drive. Ask them about their day and talk about the things God would want them to know about the choices they made or need to make. Play music that is based on scripture and sing along – they will memorize Bible verses easily when they are lyrics to their favorite songs.
  • Fast food time. You may not sit down at the kitchen table to a home cooked meal, but you can still have meaningful conversations at the table in a fast food restaurant or even in the car in the parking lot if you went through the drive through.
  • Required reading time. Many schools require students to read a certain number of minutes each day. They rarely assign specific books. Why not let your child read from a children’s Bible, the NIrV version of the Bible itself or one of the many Christian books written for children? Some churches still have libraries where you can borrow Christian books for free.
  • Snack time. Many children have an afternoon snack. Instead of tossing the food at them and going about your business, sit down with them. Even on the busiest of days, you can spare five minutes to have important conversations with your kids while they eat their snack.
  • Bedtime. Once children reach school age, many parents stop doing bedtime prayers with their children. Yet most still tuck their children in and have some sort of bedtime ritual. Consider praying over your child, reading a few Bible verses, telling a Bible story or reminding your children “who they are and whose they are” instead of some secular affirmation in your bedtime routine. Those five extra minutes of time spent with you and God can also help calm and soothe your kids, making it easier for them to sleep.

Be creative. If one of your children is waiting with you during the activity of another – you’ve got a nice block of time. Children too old for naps, benefit from an afternoon rest time when you can rest with them for a few minutes, talking about the things God wants them to know. Find what works best for you and your children, but find time somewhere… because even if you attend church and Bible class regularly, your children will still need to get the bulk of their spiritual education from you.

Creating a Bible Corner for Your Kids

One of the top goals of Christian parents is to help their kids develop strong spiritual discipline habits. Many families do a great job of encouraging their children to have active, independent prayer lives. Helping kids and teens develop the habit of reading the Bible daily is often more problematic. When we have trouble reading the Bible ourselves on a daily basis or even having periodic family devotionals, how can we help our kids build strong independent Bible study habits?

One of the biggest barriers to developing the spiritual discipline of spending time in scripture each day is just remembering to do it. You and your kids may have the best of intentions. Then life happens and you get distracted. Suddenly, your family looks up and realizes you haven’t even thought about reading the Bible for several days… or even weeks or months.

A great way to help your kids remember daily time in scripture is to set up a Bible corner. If you have enough room, each child may want their own. Bible corners can be in any room, but preferably one in which your child will be several times each day – even on the busiest ones.

Encourage your child to make it as cozy as possible – maybe with a favorite blanket, pillow or chair. Teens might want to add a favorite mug or glass ready for their favorite beverage. Have them place a paper Bible, notebook, pen and any study aids they need in the corner. If the corner is ready for immediate Bible study, it will be much more effective. Teach your kids that when they walk by their Bible corner, they should stop and have their Bible study time if at all possible. If they can’t at that moment, they should schedule an exact time later that day when they will use their Bible corner.

Have fun with it, but use your Bible corners to encourage more time spent in scripture each day – for you and your kids.

What Lentil Stew Can Teach Your Kids About Making Wise Choices

One of the difficult things to teach children about decision making is how to slow down the process a bit. Snap decisions often have negative consequences, because not every angle was considered before the choice was made. There’s a fun family devotional you can do that will help your children better understand the possible consequences of making important decisions too quickly.

Before starting, you will need the ingredients to make lentil stew. You can find recipes online – here is one recipe that claims to be authentic. Gather your children and have them help you make the stew. As it is simmering, tell them the story of Jacob and Esau found in Genesis 25:27-34. Make sure you explain the importance of a birthright during those times. (By obtaining Esau’s birthright, Jacob would be much wealthier than he would have been after Isaac died.)

Ask your children why they think Esau was willing to trade a lot of wealth in the future for a bowl of stew now. Would he have made the same decision if he had stopped and thought about it a little more carefully? Would Esau have starved to death in the time it might have taken him to get food some other way? Since he wasn’t really dying of hunger, why didn’t he wait a few more minutes rather than giving Jacob his birthright?

After they have thought about Esau’s poor decision making, ask them to think of times when they perhaps make decisions too quickly. What negative consequences could they have avoided if they had taken a little more time to think about the possible consequences of each option? Why is it important to take time to think and pray before making important decisions? If they are engaged in the discussion, teach them decision making tools, like listing all of their possible options and the pros and cons for each one.

After the devotional, encourage your kids to slow down, think and pray before making any major decisions. Remind them that they don’t want to be like Esau, regretting trading their birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.

Fun Way to Raise Grateful Kids

Gratitude should be a natural outpouring of our relationship with God. Yet, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the problems of the world or to begin comparing our possessions to those of people wealthier than us. Suddenly, instead of feeling grateful, we can begin feeling whiny, critical and even see ourselves as victims because we can’t immediately have everything we want. We may even forget to thank God when he grants our prayer requests.

A lack of gratitude is also contagious. It only takes one member of your family to begin whining and complaining. Before long, your entire family is miserable. Thankfully, gratitude is contagious, too.

Studies have found gratitude is good for us. It encourages positive thinking and reduces the use of negative words. Gratitude also changes the hormone levels in our body, helping us feel less stressed and happier. Spiritually speaking, gratitude can encourage us to serve others and share our faith. It also serves as a reminder that we don’t deserve the things we have, but they are blessings from God.

There is a fun ongoing activity you can use to encourage gratitude in your home. Create a “graffiti wall” in your home. Place a large piece of paper somewhere where everyone can see it on a daily basis. Try the refrigerator, bathroom mirror or the door everyone uses. (Make sure the paper is thick enough that markers don’t bleed through and ruin what is behind it.) You can even go over the top and paint an entire wall with chalkboard paint.

Talk about the importance of thanking God – even on days that don’t seem so great. For the first few days, find a time when everyone goes together and adds words or drawings to your gratitude wall. Encourage your children to visit the wall at least once a day. Read over past entries and add new ones daily. Pray and thank God for the things on your wall. Ask visitors to your home to add their own entries. Make gratitude contagious. You may just find your family is less stressed and happier, too.