Summer Replacement Activities to Help Kids Grow Spiritually

As COVID strategies continue to develop and change, there is a strong possibility the summer activities in which your kids normally participate may already have been cancelled, delayed or dramatically altered. This may mean your kids will spend more unstructured time at home for part or all of the summer.

Don’t worry! In general, this can be an excellent development in the lives of your kids. Most kids are over scheduled to the point where their activities are hurting them more than helping them – especially spiritually. Extra time at home can also mean more time for you to be engaged with your kids – and that’s great, too.

What about that tendency young people can have to get into trouble when they aren’t occupied? Firm, but loving limits and consistently applied consequences for violating them will often almost entirely eliminate that problem.

If you want to engage your kids in some meaningful activities this summer that will also require minimal exposure to COVID, here are some great ideas to get you started.

  • Fun, hands-on engaging academic review activities that are connected to Bible stories in meaningful ways. Our Teach One Reach One Ministries website has tons of free activity ideas that will help your kids learn or review academic skills in foreign languages (created for ESL, the activities would work with any language), language arts, math, science, health and even sustenance and survival, while also learning Bible stories.
  • Family or individual service projects. We have lots of free service projects ideas online that connect serving others to Bible stories in meaningful ways. Created for groups to do, many can also be done as is or scaled back for individual young people or families.
  • Family Bible devotionals and activities. Search for family devotionals on Parenting Like Hannah and you will find plenty of free family devotional ideas to keep you busy all summer long.
  • Gift discovery, development and use. Many craft stores are offering project ideas and sales on materials to encourage kids to try different arts. You can also find YouTube video lessons on music, crafts, cooking and a variety of other potential areas of giftedness. Try them together and you may find some new gifts, too. Once your child has identified a gift, find online ways to encourage development of the gift and search our service project ideas to see if they can use that gift to serve others and share their faith in some way.
  • Explore apologetics and other ministry films and videos. Our church supplies its members with free access to Right Now Media, a group that has quality videos on all sorts of Christian content by many of the most popular speakers. If your church doesn’t offer it, you can look into an individual subscription or find some of the content on other sources. Even Netflix or Amazon Prime have occasional Christian films listed. Your kids probably won’t want to watch these as much as they will want to screen a secular streaming service show, but throwing one of these into the mix for family viewing from time to time might interest them more than you think.
  • “Old school” activities – with a twist. Try chalk paintings with cornstarch and food dyes, container gardening from scraps, low waste cooking or cooking through a famous chef’s cookbook. Or go straight old school and teach your kids jacks, four square, hopscotch and other summer classics. If you do these with your kids occasionally, you can strengthen your relationship in ways that will make later spiritual discussions more well received.
  • Look for God in His creation. Go on a nature hike (where they are allowed), lay on blankets in your yard and watch the clouds drift by or star gaze. Grow flowers or vegetables and share the results with others while admiring them as they grow and produce beauty or food (or both). Go rock or shell hunting. Feed the birds. Point out the variety and complexity in God’s creation.
  • Read great books. Encourage your kids to read, read the same books at the same time as your kids or read to them during a resting time. Of course the Bible is the best, but don’t forget Christian books like those by C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, Francis Chan, David Platt and more. There are fiction and non-fiction options and many classics have special versions for kids and/or teens. (We will share a list of some of our favorite non-fiction books for older kids and teens some time in the next week.)
  • Find fun ways to exercise together. If you can’t get outside to exercise, P.E. With Joe on YouTube is a teacher and family favorite of many. It makes sense that we can serve God more easily when we are healthy. You and your kids will find many other benefits from exercise, healthy eating and ample sleep.
  • Learning and practicing spiritual disciplines. Scripture or prayer journaling, Bible study, scripture reflection, scripture art, prayer walks and more are great ways for your kids to learn how to stay connected to God the rest of their lives.
  • Learning Christian life skills. Godly conflict resolution is a lot easier if you know the steps of productive conflict resolution. Good stewardship is easier when you understand how to make a budget. We have lots of free Christian life skill lessons that were written for use with teens, but could easily be adapted for use with elementary aged children as well.

So take advantage of this old school summer. Do some things with your kids that will help them grow spiritually while they are having fun. It may just end up being your best summer yet!

7 Key Components of Your Child’s Faith Foundation

As a Christian parent, you want your kids to have strong faith foundations. That strong foundation can help them avoid temptation and grow to become faithful, productive Christians. Yet many children raised in “good” Christian homes have faith foundations so weak, they crumble at the first stressor.

Part of the problem is we don’t have enough discussions about the specifics of what kids need to build a strong faith foundation. As a result, many parents are left to guess what their kids need or praying the church is providing their kids with everything they will need spiritually.

No matter how great the children’s and youth ministries are at your church, they just don’t have enough time with your children to give them everything they need spiritually. Even if your kids are enrolled in a Christian school, they won’t get everything they need. There are rare exceptions, but strong faith foundations are usually the result of a lot of intentionality from the child’s Christian parents. (Studies are showing young people need about 14 hours of spiritual content from active teaching, independent study and conversations and experiences every week to have a strong spiritual foundation.)

So, what exactly are the things your child needs you to help them with so their faith foundation will be strong?

  • Bible knowledge. There are over two hundred Bible stories and thousands of verses outside of the context of a story. Your kids need exposure to all of this content – either through active teaching or independent Bible study. Churches will give your kids exposure to about ten to twenty percent of that content. Your kids will need your help learning the rest. If your kids are exposed to very little Bible content, they are trying to live life without having read God’s instruction manual. Your kids will struggle to live the life God wants them to live if they have no idea what it is or how to do it.
  • Application principles. Application principles are taking a Bible story, figuring out the lessons God wants them to learn from the story and how to apply those principles to their daily lives. Without this piece, Bible stories are just interesting stories with no real value (in your child’s mind). Your children need your help learning how to understand what they read in the Bible and how it should impact their daily lives. They will need help molding their character, words, actions and ultimately hearts to be the Christian God wants them to be. You can teach them how to find the principles independently, but they will still need your help and encouragement in applying them to their daily lives.
  • Christian life skills. Many of God’s commands and application principles have skill sets attached to them. These skills must be taught to your kids in order for them to more easily obey God. Christian life skill training should include things like godly conflict resolution and stewardship skills like budgeting and giving, amongst others.
  • Gift discovery, development and use. God has given each of your kids at least one gift to use to serve Him by completing the good works God has planned for your child. Your kids may have different gifts, the same ones or a mixture of overlapping and unique gifts. They will need your help discovering, developing and learning how to use their gifts to serve God. For some children, this will come easily, while others will struggle for some time just identifying their gifts.
  • Critical thinking skills. While this overlaps other areas we have already discussed, we are beginning to separate it out because it is an area often neglected in a child’s spiritual education. Critical thinking skills are used when your kids think more deeply about what God has to say. It involves reflecting on scripture, but also apologetics – knowing how to defend their faith to skeptics and how to share their faith with seekers. It also involves analyzing more critically the faith challenges they will experience in the world and clearly seeing the logical fallacies or weaknesses in arguments against God that sound as if they contain sound logic and wisdom.
  • Servant leadership skills. Your kids may not grow up to be official church leaders, but they should have the servant leadership skills that will help them lead others to God. They need to learn how to effectively serve others and share their faith. Many also need to learn how to lead others with a servant heart and not the secular leadership model that is often toxic, because they will hold leadership positions in their church, company or community now and/or in the future.
  • Hospitality. This is another area we are beginning to separate from the others because of its vast importance. The Bible is full of examples of people being hospitable to others. In fact, God commands His people to show hospitality. Not surprisingly, studies are showing hospitality is a key component in the Christian homes who raise kids to be faithful, productive Christians.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t give up! We have so many free tools to help you. We have daily challenges to encourage you. Providing your kids with the things on thIs list is the very best way to help them get to Heaven. It will take lots of intentionality and hard work, but it needs to be your top priority. It is the most important gift you can give your kids.

Teaching Conflict Resolution Skills to Your Kids (And Their Parents)

Put siblings in a confined space for very long and conflict usually erupts. Often it’s over something silly, like someone breathing on someone else, chewing too loudly or crossing an imaginary line. Sometimes though, there are legitimate differences of opinions or grievances.

Unfortunately, most parenting experts give the very worst advice on managing sibling conflicts. The “let them work it out on their own” philosophy has reigned for many decades now and our society has become the worse for it.

Godly, effective conflict management skills will rarely be figured out by two five year olds in conflict. Or even two adults. It’s a skill set that isn’t complex, but must be taught. If you and your spouse have wonderful conflict resolution skills, your kids may learn them from observing you resolve your conflicts.

For the rest of us who grew up learning to “work it out on our own”, we probably demonstrate as many bad conflict resolution skills as good ones. So what are godly conflict resolution skills? I can’t take credit for these steps, but they are considered the standard in effective conflict resolution.

1. Give your kids time alone to calm down. When emotions are running high, conflict resolution is unlikely to happen in godly ways. Allowing everyone time to regain their self control is key.
2. Have each child think about how they feel and why they feel that way. It’s important for kids to begin to analyze why they feel the way they do. Are they really that upset at what happened or was it just the last straw in a bad day?

3. Teach your kids to calmly tell each other how they feel, using the
following sentences. “I feel ___ when you ___ , because ____. I would like ____.
It’s important for them to use this exact wording until they get used to this step. If they begin to use other language, it may be necessary to back up and start at step one again.
4. Do not let your kids use ugly words when talking to each other. Name calling, using absolutes like “always” and “never”, cursing and other negative words rarely deescalate conflict.
5. Have each child repeat what the other child wants and needs
in their own words.
Often conflict is worsened because people stop listening. This step forces each person to listen until the other person believes they have been heard accurately.
6. Let each child tell their wants and needs again if they believe they were not restated correctly.
7. Have your kids list as many possible solutions to the problem as possible. In most conflicts, the people involved only see two possibilities…their way and the other person’s way. In reality, there are often many other options that would make both people happier. Teaching your kids to seek those extra options is key.
8. Help your kids pick the solution that will help everyone get what they need. Notice the word is “need”. Everyone may not get what they want, but most of the time it is possible to give everyone what they truly need.

Godly conflict resolution requires teaching, guided practice and real life practice. It takes time and hard work, but if learned successfully, these skills can improve most relationships.

Note: Click here for a printable version of these steps.


Fun Ways to Teach Stewardship

Stewardship for Christians is a rich topic that rarely gets addressed fully…especially for kids and teens. Wrapped up within stewardship are taking care of the blessings God has given us as a world and individuals, giving, generosity and money management.

Money management is such a complex topic many Christians avoid even discussing it. Where is the line between a need and a want? Would God want you to spend your money on a luxury car, a safe dependable car, a jalopy that’s falling apart or to take mass transit?

There are plenty of scriptures about money management for Christians to consider. In wealthier cultures, most of us are probably much more selfish with our money than we should be. We have softened our culture’s extreme greed perhaps, while still indulging in behaviors and choices people in poorer countries would consider wasteful or greedy.

Just because it’s a tough topic doesn’t mean you shouldn’t address it with your kids. In fact, it may make it more important that you make sure they are using their money as God would want them to do.

Thankfully, there are lots of resources available to help. Some cost a little money, while others are free. While not all of the resources below are Christian per se, they teach some important lessons about money. You can easily add scriptures later to point out God’s commands about money, financial responsibility and generosity.

  • Dave Ramsey. Ramsey is a Christian and his materials do address giving back to God. His non-debt approach is important for your kids to understand before they are able to actually borrow any money. His materials do cost money, but you can sometimes find them on sale. His resources designed for kids, teens and homeschoolers not only have important information, but also are interesting to watch.
  • Play Money Magic. This online game gives kids a sense of the need for budgeting. It helps them explore the concept of choosing to buy something now instead of planning for things you will need later that are much more important.
  • Play Spent. Spent is an online game that can help your kids develop empathy for those in poverty. It gives them similar incomes and expenses and helps them understand how difficult it is to meet their basic needs.
  • Play Shady Sam. Shady Sam is an online game created to teach kids about loan sharks. Although technically not loan sharks, many credit cards and rental places charge interest rates that make them comparable to loan sharks.
  • Play Hit the Road. This online game is one of those great scenario type games where kids must make choices as they play. Their choices impact future game play. This particular one involves all sorts of financial decisions.

Take some time to teach your kids about money…how to handle it well, but more importantly how to handle it in ways that please God. It is an important element of raising your kids to be faithful, productive Christians.

Using Art to Help Your Kids Grow Spiritually

Full confession here. In a family full of artists, I’m not very artistic. I do however, have a love of all things connected to art…the finished works of art, but all those fun supplies as well. If you have kids, you probably have all sorts of markers, crayons, paints and other art materials around your house.

Did you know you can use the art supplies you already have at home to help your kids grow spiritually? There are some fun types of art projects you can give your kids that will help them learn more about God and who He wants them to be in life.

Here are some of our favorites.

  • Memory art. Studies have found that drawing something can help you remember it better. Have your kids illustrate Bible stories. Encourage them to double check the elements of their design with scripture to make sure their drawings are accurate.
  • Scripture art. Illustrating specific verses of scripture and writing the full verse on the work of art can serve multiple purposes. First it is a variation of memory art in the very creation of the piece. If you display the finished products, the constant exposure to that scripture can also make it easier for your kids to eventually memorize it. If you regularly point out the scripture and how your family applies it, scripture art can help eventually help them understand how to use that verse in their daily lives.
  • Psalms art. The Psalms are a great example of people expressing their faith and their emotions to God. Over the years they have been used as songs and prayers. Your kids can create their own works of art that serve as Psalms. Have them draw how they are feeling and what they would like to say to God. Studies show art is a great way to help people process events and emotions. What better way than by including the idea of talking to God in the process?
  • Service art. Whether it’s a mural for an orphanage or a drawing for a lonely older person, your kids can use their art to serve others and point them to God.
  • Comprehension art. Art can help children process the application principles in a Bible story. After you discuss an application principle, have them illustrate what that would look like lived out in their lives.

So pull out those art supplies and use them to help your kids grow spiritually. It’s a fun way to help them learn how to become who God wants them to be.