Fun Family Activity That Teaches Your Kids About the Needs of Others

If you think back to the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), one of the themes is whether or not we are willing to notice the needs of others. The priest and the Levite “saw” the badly beaten man, but they didn’t want to acknowledge the man’s needs in any way that might require them to actually get involved and provide assistance.

Many Christians go through their daily lives in a similar fashion. They may see a need someone has, but find ways to rationalize the fact that they don’t get involved with any number of seemingly valid reasons. Yet those who have the needs not only continue to have a crucial need, but they may also miss out on an opportunity to learn about Jesus or have their faith in God strengthened.

What if you trained your children to be different? To not ignore someone’s needs, but seek out that knowledge? To not only pray for someone, but also put in the effort to get involved in meeting that need? There’s a fun activity you can do with your children, that can begin laying the groundwork for their service to others in life.

Pick an area to explore, like your neighborhood or some public place where you are likely to encounter a lot of people. Explain to your children the challenge before you go. Start by reading or telling them the story of the Good Samaritan. Point out how the priest and Levite acted almost as if they didn’t actually see the man. Explain that often we can act the same way. We look the other way, so we don’t have to get involved. Today your family is going to be different. You are going to look for needs and meet as many of them as you can.

This activity is actually a scavenger hunt of sorts. Perhaps you notice a neighbor hasn’t picked up their paper from their driveway. You can move it to the door they use to save them a few steps and brighten their day. Perhaps another neighbor hasn’t had an opportunity to rake their leaves. If your family worked together, you could rake a yard in just a short time. (You may want to ask permission first, if you think the neighbor might get upset.)

Sometimes the little things – like holding open a door or thanking a worker for doing a great job – can make a person’s day brighter. Your family can bring a little light into their lives. Other times, the project may require a little effort on the part of your family. Occasionally, your family may notice a need that is too big for your family to meet. Can you brainstorm ways to get the need met anyway? Perhaps involving other families or your church or finding non-profits or agencies who can help.

Be creative. Do this regularly as a regular reminder of how God wants you to serve others. Encourage your children to look for similar opportunities at school or work each day. Make sure your family is the Good Samaritan and not the priest or Levite.

Teaching Your Children About Choices

Life is full of choices and the older your children get, the more freedom they will have to make choices independently. Unless they have been taught how to make godly decisions, they may base their choices on their emotions, the pressure from friends or a number of other reasons that don’t necessarily factor in what God wants them to do.

As Christians, we should attempt to make all of our decisions based on the commands and principles of God. God may not care if we wear a blue shirt or a green one, but your kids will make a lot of decisions where God definitely has a preference regarding which option He wants them to choose.

So how can you prepare your kids to make godly decisions – especially since we know making sinful choices often leads to negative consequences that can last a lifetime? There are many things you can do, but here are some of our favorites.

  • Discussing and acting out scenarios. Will your children be facing a tough situation soon? Have a discussion about how God would want them to handle the situation. If they are nervous about what they will say or do, encourage them to practice with you playing the role of the other person. Feeling confident in their decision and how they will tell those who may not agree, can make it easier for them to follow through with those godly decisions that are counter cultural.
  • Encouraging pre-decisions. It is much easier to say “no” to peer pressure if you have already decided that will be your response. Most children and teens can’t process a complex situation and what God might want them to do quickly enough to make consistently good choices. If they have already decided they will not do something (or will do something good), it can be easier to withstand pressure and stick with the godly choice.
  • Studying scripture and its real life applications as a family. No matter how wonderful your congregation may be, they will not be able to teach your children everything in the Bible and how to apply it to their lives. Studying scripture as a family – making sure to discuss how God wants us to apply each passage to our daily lives – gives your children a mental tool box full of God’s wisdom, principles and commands. They can use those tools to analyze their choices and come to a decision that will please God.
  • Teaching them a godly decision making model. Children can benefit for being taught a model to use when they are faced with a difficult choice. We have a free printable resource that walks them through the steps. (Also available in Spanish and Ukrainian.)
  • Modeling and explaining godly decision making. Did you and your spouse decide to turn down a promotion at work because it meant too much time away from your family or some other godly reason? Your kids need to see how you make those tough decisions and how you factored God’s principles and commands into your choice. Of course, this should be done in age appropriate ways, but if your kids never see the process modeled, how are they going to do it themselves?
  • Discussing long term thinking and potential long term consequences. One of the challenges young people often face in decision making is thinking beyond the moment. They can see cheating on the test may give them a better grade, but fail to factor in what will happen if they get caught. Should young people obey God because they love Him rather than from fear of negative consequences? That’s the eventual goal, but it often starts with understanding God’s wisdom in guiding you to live in such a way that it minimizes unnecessary negative consequences.

Don’t leave your children unprepared to make godly decisions. Spend plenty of time teaching them how to make decisions that will be pleasing to God.

A Novel Approach to Teaching Your Children Good Manners

In spite of what it may appear from our chaotic, often selfish world, good manners should always be in fashion. They are designed to show consideration and kindness to those around us. Which is why manners training should be a critical skill set taught and practiced in Christian homes. While sociopaths can use manners to manipulate others, your children should be taught good manners ought to be the outpouring of a loving, humble heart seeking to reflect God’s love to others.

Good manners often reflect the cultural norms of the location where those being taught manners live. As anyone who has moved to a different country or even a different region of their own country can tell you, what is considered good manners in one area may be considered unnecessary or even rude in another. Did you know, for example, that the thumbs up sign used by those in the U.S. as a symbol for “That’s great!” is actually an extremely rude sign in many countries in Latin America, the Middle East and in countries like Greece (with a meaning similar to flashing the middle finger in the U.S.)?

While there is nothing wrong with teaching your children the good manners expected where you live, it is equally important to teach a novel principle that is rarely shared with children. Their manners should reflect what the people with whom they are dealing consider good manners, not what they think good manners should be. For example, if you live in an area where being “fashionably late” is expected, when your child visits, studies or lives in a country like Germany that considers those who are late to be rude, they should adjust their behavior and be early or on time to meet the local standard of good manners.

Why is this important – especially if others know you are from somewhere else with different ideas of good manners? Because good manners are not about what we want, but about respecting the needs of others and showing them kindness and respect in the ways that communicate it to them. The only exception would be if the expected behavior violates one of God’s commands. And when your children return home? They should revert back to the behaviors that are equated with good manners where you live.

The great thing about this approach is that it applies to other differences like generational concepts of good manners. Perhaps in your area young adults do not expect children to say ”Yes sir or ma’am”, but older adults find it disrespectful for children and teens to merely reply “Yes”. If your children have been taught to treat others with the manners that make the other person feel loved and respected, they can easily shift behaviors to make each person feel that love and respect.

Throughout your training though, remember to constantly reinforce the importance of the heart attitudes they have regardless of what manners they need to use. Otherwise, instead of reflecting God’s love, they will come across as a manipulative sociopath in the making.

Fun Gratitude Ideas For Families

Thanksgiving should be exactly that – a day of giving thanks to God for all of the blessings in our lives. Yet, Christian families should express gratitude on a daily basis. It’s sometimes easier though to see what is missing in our lives than what is there. As a result we can fall into the habit of complaining more than we express gratitude – to God and those around us. And since habits are often contagious in families, if you have forgotten daily gratitude, so have your children.

There are lots of fun things you can do with your kids to express gratitude – not just on Thanksgiving or during the month of November, but all year long. Here are some of our favorites.

  • A gratitude bucket. For some reason, in Luke 6:38 when Jesus talks about blessings being tamped down and overflowing (because we have given a lot back to God and to help others ourselves), I think of a bucket. Dollar stores often sell small buckets to use for decorative purposes. Place your blessings bucket in the middle of your kitchen or dining table with slips of paper and pens beside it. Encourage family members and visitors to write the things they are grateful for on the slips and place them in the bucket. Periodically, pull out the slips and read them as a family. How quickly can your family fill the bucket with gratitude? Can you fill a full sized bucket with gratitude, too?
  • A rose amongst thorns. Is your family having a particularly bad day – or series of days? It’s okay for everyone to vent, but put a strict time limit on it. Then spend twice as much time talking about the blessings God has given you that day in spite of the thorns you had to endure.
  • A gratitude wall. It doesn’t have to actually be a wall, but find a large space you can cover with paper. Encourage family members to cover the “wall” with the things for which they are thankful. Make sure the paper is thick enough to keep the writing from bleeding through or you may need to repaint the wall after all. If you want to go all out, paint a wall or an area with chalkboard paint and provide chalk for people to use to decorate your gratitude wall.
  • A family gratitude journal. Take some time at the end of each day to sit down as a family and add a few entries to your gratitude journal. To make the time a mini family devotional, share a few verses of scripture and end your journaling time with a prayer of thanksgiving for all of your many blessings.
  • Gratitude baskets. It could actually be a little token of some sort or a card or note. Periodically, spend time as a family creating thank you items for those to whom you are grateful. Pay special attention to thanking those who are often forgotten, like garbage collectors, mail carriers, Bible class teachers, kind neighbors, restaurant servers and store keepers. Discuss with your children how often we take people for granted who are helpful or kind. Remind them to constantly thank others each day.
  • Gratitude tsunami. This takes a little more effort, but can make the impact of gratitude more obvious to your children. Help your kids plan and execute a gratitude tsunami for someone like the school janitor or custodian, a bus driver or the person at church who is always especially kind to children. What’s a gratitude tsunami? At a specific time on a particular day arrange for as many people as possible to flood that person with notes, tokens of appreciation and verbal gratitude. The bigger the “tsunami” your kids can execute, the more obvious the impact of gratitude on others will be.

Have fun with it, but make sure your home is filled with gratitude. You will all benefit from it.

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.