The idea of Christians being salt and light is an abstract concept young children will have a hard time understanding. While you will need to have many conversations over the years about what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:13-18, you can begin with some fun activities.
First grab a flashlight. Go into a room or closet you can make entirely dark. Talk about how hard it would be to read a book or do anything without just a little light. For very small children, you may even bring a book into the room to read to them, but discover you can’t without the light.
Have your child turn on the flashlight. Discuss what a big difference even a little bit of light can make in a dark space. If you have more than one child, have each of them turn on an additional flashlight and show the power of having a lot of people being the light.
Try to explain the verses about Christians being a light in the world. Don’t worry if they don’t entirely understand the connection now. You can continue having conversations over the years as they become more capable of abstract thought.
Then give your kids a salted and unsalted snack. You may have to experiment to find one where the two taste distinctly different. Ask your kids to explain what they believe the salt added to the taste of the snack.
Pull out two pieces of bread. (Non commercially baked breads work better because they have fewer preservatives.) Have your kids put their unwashed hands all over both pieces. One piece of bread should go into a plastic baggie and be sealed. The other should be sprinkled with a tablespoon of salt and placed in a plastic bag so the salt stays on the bread.
Have your kids watch the bread for several days. Which piece of bread grew mold more slowly? Discuss the Bible verses while explaining that salt is used for flavor, preserving food and even disinfecting things. It had so many uses in Bible times (remember there was no electricity, so salting things could also keep them safer to eat) that salt was even used as money at times!
Spend a lot of time discussing what it means for Christians to be salt and light in the world. What are some practical things they can do to be salt and light in their worlds every day?
The great thing about kids and teens is their passion for changing the world. They notice things many adults have given up on trying to change. They have the innocence and passion to believe complex problems have simple solutions and that they have those solutions.
Unfortunately, Satan has a vested interested in the world’s problems remaining untouched. He will do what he can to discourage young people – especially Christian young people who might also teach those they are helping the things God wants them to know and do.
You can’t totally protect your kids from Satan’s interference, but you can lessen his effectiveness by teaching your kids some basic truths.
God has a plan. Find it. Follow it. God doesn’t want our world to be full of sin and chaos any more than we do. He gave us free will though so we aren’t just robots He controls. Unfortunately, many people believe because God doesn’t force us to follow His plan for how He wants things to be that He doesn’t have one. God has a plan. Your kids just need to be taught how to figure out what God’s plan is for solving the problem about which they are passionate and follow it. When they do that instead of trying to force their plan on to God, the implementation and results are often easier and better.
Pray. A Lot. Then really listen for God’s answers. Many people who want to make the world a better place, forget to pray to God for His guidance and assistance. Or when they do, they ignore all of the people and circumstances He sends to tell them to go in a different direction. Prayers often don’t seem to work, because we fail to remember it’s a conversation and we need to listen as much, if not more, than we talk.
Use their gifts or ask someone to help who was given the gifts you need. There are times when God asks us to do something for a period for which we are only adequate. In general though, God has built everyone a lane and their most effective ministry occurs when they stay in that lane. World changers often give up because they are trying to do tasks which God meant for them to ask others to do.
Take advantage of the opportunities God gives them. Sure, their plan may be more fun than the opportunity God is giving them right now, but there is a reason He wants them to serve in this way at this moment. Turning down those less glamorous, less fun opportunities God gives them to serve, may mean their personal ministry will never reach its full potential.
Be patiently impatient. God’s timing is perfect. Sometimes that means we need to wait until it is in His plans for us to do the next thing. On the other hand, sometimes God can’t use us, because we refuse to do all of those little things He is giving us to do now. Or we procrastinate for any number of reasons. Or we let others discourage us from pursuing the dream God has given us for our personal ministry. The key is balance.
Do their homework and be humble enough to learn from those who have gone before them. There is often an underlying arrogance about those wanting to change the world. They believe because previous people have failed to completely solve the problem, they have nothing of value to teach newcomers. They may indeed have a bright great new idea that will work. Or they may be getting ready to waste a lot of unnecessary time, energy and money on something that is not going to work. Ask questions, listen, learn…then analyze and make choices.
Remember bigger isn’t always better. It’s better to start small and let God give them a larger territory if it’s in His plan rather than starting too large and failing miserably – hurting others unnecessarily in the process.
Empathy Works. Sympathy doesn’t. Too many people in ministries and charities are full of sympathy. Unfortunately, that reads like they have all the answers and the people they are serving have nothing of value to offer. Empathy looks for commonalities. It learns from those it is serving rather than assuming it is the only one with the solution to the problem. Empathy loves like Jesus.
Equip and empower. Don’t boss and control. Ineffective leaders feel the need to control and boss people around. Effective leaders find people gifted in certain areas and equip, support, nurture and empower them.
Remember the ultimate goal is to help as many people as possible get to Heaven. Earthly needs and problems are important. If we help solve those, but don’t teach anyone about what God wants for them and from them, we have failed as Christians. We cannot and should not ignore earthly needs, but we can’t let them distract us to the point where we forget eternity is forever and our primary goal should always be to help people spend eternity in Heaven.
Who knows what good works God has planned for your children? If you help them learn these truths when they are young though, it is much more likely they will help the world be more like God planned it to be.
This summer is different than perhaps any other summer. The reasons behind the differences aren’t great. Many of the activities your children normally do during the summer have been cancelled or modified. Or maybe your kids will have the same summer they have every year.
Regardless, summer is a great time to focus on growth and improvement. This summer, we are encouraging young people in a pilot program to spend a little time each day trying to grow and/or improve in five different areas. We believe the same framework will work with your kids at home. Here are the five focus areas:
Soul. The activities in this area should help your kids learn about God and become the person He created them to be.
Mind. Mind activities revolve around learning new things and improving in academic areas where there are weaknesses.
Body. These activities should help your kids grow stronger and healthier.
Family. Family activities should involve spending quality time together or serving one another in some way. It’s about strengthening family bonds.
World. These activities should involve learning more about the world and its people. Hopefully, they will also involve developing empathy, serving others and learning how to share the Gospel message in effective ways.
Don’t let your kids spend all of their summer on a screen. Encourage them to spend a few minutes of that time each day working on each of the five areas. You may all be pleasantly surprised what happens by the end of the summer!
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!
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?
Bibleknowledge. 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.