Focusing Your Family on Reflection

When you think of spiritual disciplines, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of prayer or reading the Bible. Hospitality and fasting may also come to mind. If you’ve been working on getting your family focused on some of these as a way to strengthen your children’s faith foundations, great!

One spiritual discipline doesn’t get talked about much in Christianity – at least in Western cultures. That’s the idea of reflecting or meditating on God’s Words. Often in the West, meditation is associated more with religions like Hinduism, so many Christians avoid the topic entirely.

To avoid all of the debate and confusion, let’s call it reflection or deeper thinking. The Bible actually has quite a bit to say on the topic. Many of the verses on reflection or meditating on God’s Words are found in Psalms. My favorite verse though is Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

This verse is great for a couple of reasons. First, it addresses the idea of reflection or deeper thinking in a practical way we can understand. Instead of sitting in a lotus position repeating a meaningless phrase, this verse tells us the types of things we – and our families – should be thinking about constantly. It also tells us by the process of elimination the things our families should spend a lot less time thinking about every day.

Secondly, the next verse gives us a model for reflection and deeper thinking. “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Reflection is more than just reading a good verse and repeating it over and over.

Reflection is ultimately thinking about the things God has said to us through scripture, what those words mean, how to live them and then practicing them. Reflection is then thinking about how practicing what God has commanded went that day and repeating the original process.

Why don’t we do this more often? Why aren’t our kids taught to do this? Because reflection requires time, attention and for most people quiet and solitude – things our culture rarely provides. Reflection requires being intentional and creating the time and space for it to actually happen.

What often happens to us and our children is that if there is free time or quiet, we become uncomfortable. Instead of filling it with the things God wants us to fill it with, we fill it with noise. The noise may be actual noise, but it can also be metaphorical noise. Instead of reflecting on things that can strengthen our faith and help us be more godly, we fill the time with meaningless things.

Teaching our kids to reflect on God’s Words, on all of those good things in Philippians 4 requires even more intentionality. We have to fight against the natural inclination of children to be in constant motion. We have to fight the cultural expectation that every moment is planned for our kids with activities and lessons. We have to take the time to find ways to guide our children in reflection and then help them practice it.

Tomorrow, we will share fun ways to help you and your kids spend time in reflection and deeper thinking. Until then, pull out your family calendar. Where can you carve time each day for your family to engage in reflection? Do you need to let go of some activities to make room for your kids to learn how to think more deeply about what God wants from them and for them? It’s a spiritual discipline worth finding the time to learn and practice as a family.

Tips for Focusing Your Family on Hospitality

When was the last time you had someone in your home that didn’t live there? If you are like most Americans, it may have been awhile. A quick read through the New Testament though and you will notice it seems like people were regularly inviting others to come into their home for a variety of reasons.

Barna recently published research that had an interesting twist. They found Christian homes that worked actively with their children on spiritual things by praying and studying the Bible were not as successful in raising children to be active Christians as those that did those things and also practiced hospitality. The authors of the study aren’t sure if the hospitality made the difference or the types of people who were hospitable made some sort of difference, but they felt hospitality was key.

If you aren’t used to having others into your home, the idea of hospitality may make you break into a cold sweat. You may be fearful of people seeing your messy house, judging your decorating choices, hating your cooking or a hundred other nightmare scenarios.

Actually, most visitors to your home don’t really care about any of those things (unless perhaps your house was recently condemned by the health department!). They are just thrilled to be invited somewhere. They feel special someone thought of them and liked them enough to include them. Oh, they may pick at some food, but that’s probably more about them than your cooking.

In fact, make it easy on yourself if you are concerned. Invite people over for ice cream. Or popsicles. Or muffins from Costco. Use paper plates. Serve take out. Eat a picnic in your yard on plastic picnic cloths.

Evidently, it doesn’t really matter whom you entertain either. Family counts. So do your kids’ friends. So let them have that sleepover they’ve been begging to have. Let your daughter plan a tea party for her grandmother. Invite the neighbors to bring a lawn chair and sip lemonade as you watch the sunset.

Why does hospitality matter? We may never really know for sure. What we do know is that it is something God has always encouraged His people to do. Plus it’s a great way to build relationships that will give you opportunities to serve others and share your faith. Or to encourage Christian brothers and sisters. Best yet, it teaches your kids how to truly show God’s love to others. It really is worth taking the time to focus your family on hospitality.

Tips for Focusing Your Family on Scripture

Keeping your family focused on scripture – on God’s Words in the Bible – should be one of the basics of Christian parenting. For a lot of reasons though, this one is an area in which parents often find themselves procrastinating. There are a lot of different reasons for avoiding focusing your family on scripture, but the result is the same. Kids who aren’t grounded in scripture will have a very difficult time obeying God.

Why? Because if they aren’t extremely familiar with scripture they don’t really know who God is. Which means when others try to demean God in some way, your kids don’t have any real reasons to disagree. Your kids will also have a very fuzzy idea of how God wants them to live their lives. Not just obeying His commands (although that’s important), but the positives of how to live a Christian life – serving, loving, faith sharing and more.

To be prepared to live a productive Christian life, your kids have to know the scriptures. There is no short cut. Ignorance is not an excuse – especially when our access to scripture is so ridiculously easy today. Don’t depend on your church or a Christian school to teach your kids everything in the Bible either. They don’t have enough time – even over eighteen years – to cover everything your child needs to learn.

Like it or not – you are responsible for homeschooling your child in the Bible. If you haven’t homeschooled before, the very idea may frighten you. It’s what God expects of parents though, so He’s given you what you need to be successful. Here are some ideas though to get you started.

  • Have family devotionals. They don’t have to be fancy or long. Consistency helps, but if you skip a day just pick up the next day. There are so many helps for family devotionals. This blog has lots of free family devotionals for which you can search. Our parent website – Teach One Reach One Ministries ( – has over 200 children’s Bible lessons and hundreds of free activity ideas you can do with your Bible lesson. Your favorite book vendor also sells dozens of family devotional books on a variety of topics.
  • Refer to scriptures in your conversations. You don’t necessarily have to quote a verse word for word with the accompanying reference, but you can slip in a scripture summary very easily. If you are talking about something that reminds you of something in the Bible, mention it.
  • Encourage personal, independent Bible reading. Get everyone their own NIrV Bible for easier reading. Set up comfortable spaces meant just for Bible reading. Encourage your kids to think of the Bible as a library and “check out” different books. Challenge each other to read a chapter of Proverbs or some other book each day and then talk about it at dinner every night. Don’t go too far and demand multiple chapters or hours spent in Bible study daily. You want to establish a great habit and make it interesting and engaging.
  • Teach your kids how to fact check with the Bible. Your children will encounter all sorts of people who will claim to explain what the Bible has to say on a variety of topics. They may be Christians or atheists. Their mistakes may be innocent or intentional. Regardless, it’s important to teach your kids how to fact check what they see or read by the Bible. Make it a game – although it’s important to remember the stakes are incredibly high.
  • Have scriptures around your family. Maybe you have some scripture art as a decoration. Or you handwrite note cards with scriptures your kids need and tape them to their bathroom mirror. Maybe you leave them little love notes and include a scripture. Be creative, but your kids need to be exposed to scripture as much as possible. Often they will absorb a scripture just by being exposed to it constantly.

Once again, the particular activities you use to expose your kids to scripture on a daily basis aren’t that important. What is key is making sure your kids know what God has to say so well, they don’t stumble around making decisions and wondering what God really wants them to do. Or they don’t have their faith destroyed by someone misinterpreting the Bible, because they actually know what is really in God’s Word. It takes time and effort on your part, but it is worth every minute you can find to spend on it.

Tips For Focusing Your Family on Prayer

You’ve decided you want to be more focused in the Christian parenting of your children. So where do you start? In fact, maybe that’s the problem you have struggled with from the beginning. With so many things you can teach your kids about what God wants from them and for them, where do you start?

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t have a specific chapter on the perfect way to parent your children with a wonderful step by step check list. What we do have are lots of verses – many repeated multiple times throughout scripture – that begin to give us a picture of what a strong spiritual foundation looks like.

One of the earliest and easiest things to help your children understand about God is how they can talk to Him. Prayer is one of the most basic spiritual disciplines. In fact, my guess is that it is the one with the highest percentage of parents making some intentional effort to teach their kids about it.

Yet, what have you taught your kids about prayer? More importantly, what have they actually understood and incorporated into their lives? Not sure? Ask them! Younger kids especially will be likely to tell you the truth about what they know about prayer and how often they are beginning to pray on their own without adult assistance.

Once you know what your kids understand about prayer, you can begin intentionally doing things to add to their knowledge. You can plan activities that will encourage them to begin praying more independently. You can help them better understand how God answers prayers and all of the wonderful ways it can deepen their relationship with God.

Here are some of our favorite ideas to try:

  • Tell your kids Bible stories that involve prayers. There are actually quite a few – especially in the Old Testament. Don’t just read them the story, discuss what happened. Who prayed and why? What was God’s answer? Why do they think God answered the prayer the way He did? Over time, your kids will begin seeing patterns. Have them share what they think those patterns are and then search the scriptures to see if there are passages that confirm or dispute their conclusions.
  • Keep a family prayer journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, although younger kids may want to decorate a spiral notebook as the “official” family prayer journal. It’s a great way to remember God answers prayers and to better understand over time why God sometimes says “No” or “Wait” to our prayers. Your kids may also want to have their own personal prayer journal where they can add scriptures or journal in addition to keep track of their prayers.
  • Have special focused prayer times. It’s easy to get in the bad habit of thinking prayer is just about asking God to grant our wishes. But prayer is also supposed to be a time when we thank God, praise Him, repent of our sins, share our emotions and questions and more. To establish prayer as more than just a wish list, why not have special prayer times? Maybe one night your prayers are all prayers of gratitude. Perhaps another night your prayers consist of verses from Psalms praising God. Before each special prayer time discuss ways your family can be more intentional about including these other areas in their prayers.
  • Use items like prayer rocks, prayer sticky notes, prayer jars and other aids to encourage everyone to pray without ceasing. It’s easy to get busy and forget to pray for long periods of time. Or maybe your family’s prayer times have always been scheduled and formal and you want to encourage everyone to also pray independently. Making prayer rocks, leaving a prayer jar out where everyone can see it or putting sticky notes in random places with the word “Pray” on them can all be fun ways to help remind everyone to pray more often.
  • Have a prayer walk somewhere meaningful. Are you kids concerned about things at school? Why not go to the school grounds on a weekend and walk around the area, praying for various concerns as you see them from where you are standing? (Most schools grounds are open to the public even if the school is closed. Check your area for any restrictions.) Or walk around your neighborhood praying for various neighbors as you pass their house. You don’t have to be showy about it, but if your praying is obvious, be prepared to answer questions those who see you may have.
  • Shake up rote prayers. Rote prayers are great for very young children, because it helps them to “know what to say” when it’s time to pray. unfortunately, rote prayers can quickly become meaningless if you aren’t careful. Your kids may even forget they are praying to God when they say them. If you aren’t ready to make the switch to “original” prayers yet, try changing the routine a bit. For example pray after you eat instead of before – your kids may be more focused because they aren’t starving while you pray. Or pray when you wake up in the morning the same ways you normally would pray with them before they go to sleep. You get the idea – changing the routine can make rote prayers seem fresh.
  • If your kids are older and everyone is going in different directions constantly, have a special prayer reminder. Maybe at a certain time every day, everyone stops what they are doing for a minute to pray for family members. Or maybe it’s a little more flexible and you agree that a certain number of times that day you will pray for a family member. Or if someone in the family has something important at a certain time, remind everyone to pray for that person five minutes before it starts. Family group texts also work great for prayer reminders.

What you actually do will depend upon your family and their needs. The important thing is not which activity you choose, but that you are putting focused effort into helping your kids develop and deepen their prayer lives. It’s a great way to train them to always be in communication with God.

What the Beach Can Teach Your Kids About God

Many families make at least a day trip to the beach during the summer months. It’s a great way to enjoy nature, get some exercise and just have fun. Did you know though you can also have fun at the beach using its resources to teach your kids about God? You don’t have to “sermonize”, just work in casual observations and conversation as you do various activities.

There are probably a ton of things you can do at the beach to point your kids to God, but here are a few of our favorites:

  • Watch the sunrise or sunset. Take your towels and sit with your kids enjoying the beauty. It’s a great quite time to have a family devotional. Or just talk with your kids about the beauty of God’s creation and how much He must love us to give us so many beautiful things to see in our world. End your time with a prayer thanking God for His blessings.
  • Take a walk along the shoreline. This is a great time to have those important parent/kid talks about anything and everything. Let your children take the lead. If they are reluctant to talk, asking an open ended question might get them talking. This isn’t a time for lecturing, just listening and trying to get to know your children’s hearts.
  • Collect seashells (Don’t keep any with animals still inside.) This is a great way to get your kids to notice God’s creativity. Talk about the diversity in the shells you find. If you keep finding the same type of clam or oyster shells, challenge your kids to look closer and see if they can notice differences in the same type of shell. Talk about the creativity we have if we are reflecting God’s image. Discuss the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Encourage them to think of creative ways to use those gifts to serve others and share their faith.
  • Notice the waves and the tides – high and low. Talk about how God knows what the world needs – and more importantly, what we need. What are the advantages of each tide? Or just tides and waves in general? (For example, coral needs the action of waves to grow. Coral tanks in aquariums have to create fake waves to keep the coral alive and growing.) What things does God give us that we need? Or have a discussion about needs versus wants. There are a lot of possible application lessons in the waves and tides.
  • Do something with your child that is exercise – running, swimming, biking on the boardwalk bike path, peddle carts, etc. Afterwards talk about the importance of keeping our bodies healthy so we have the strength and health to serve God. Talk about the other areas of health like mental, emotional and spiritual. What does God want us to do to stay healthy in those areas? What new healthy habits can your family develop?
  • Build a sand castle. If you build it near the water’s edge, you know what will eventually happen. When your castle is damaged or destroyed by a wave, you can talk about the things that can destroy or damage us. Talk about the ways you could protect your sand castle. Then talk about the ways God tries to protect us by giving us commands to follow.

The beach can be an amazing fun family vacation. It will create lots of family memories. Why not also use that special family time and the teachable moments at the beach to strengthen your children’s spiritual foundations? It’s time well spent.