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?
Conflict resolution is an important skill set Christian parents need to teach their children. But there’s another type of disagreement that, while still conflict, requires a slightly different skill set. These disagreements occur when there are different ideas, philosophies, faiths or other more ethereal topics being discussed.
Of course, each side still believes their idea or belief is better – and some are indeed more valid than others. Your kids will need to learn some additional skills to navigate these conversations well.
It is often easy enough to write off a relationship with someone whose ideas are vastly different from ours. God has called us to teach everyone the Gospel message though. He wants us to continue to teach those who aren’t Christian about what He wants for them and from them. Yes, there are times when we need to dust off our feet and move on, but often we do that entirely too quickly.
So what are these skills your kids need to minister to and teach those whose ideas are radically different than theirs?
They need to be solid in their own biblical beliefs. If your children are discussing the big ideas in life, they need to really understand what God has taught. If not, they will be swayed by any argument that sounds somewhat logical – whether it is godly or not.
They need to make their faith in God their own. Often young people struggle in conversations because they are merely parroting what they have heard their parents say. They need to be given the time and encouragement to consider what they believe, hopefully making their Christian faith their own in the process.
They need to learn how to state their beliefs clearly. Faith is an interesting thing. We can have it without being able to verbalize it well to others. Your kids need practice thinking about how they might respond to certain questions or challenges to their faith.
They need to understand logical fallacies and how to avoid using them. Many arguments sound great, but are full of logical fallacies. The ideas may be great, but if they are presented with logical fallacies your kids should learn to stop and examine those ideas more carefully to make absolutely sure they are godly. They should also avoid using logical fallacies themselves – especially when discussing what God has taught. There are better ways to state those beliefs and they need to work to find them.
They need to understand what God cares about in life. Many so called philosophical arguments – including political ones – boil down to people with the same desires, but different approaches. Usually neither side’s approach is perfect, but people have still chosen a side. Christians waste too much time discussing temporary politics and other similar topics while neglecting to tackle the really important issues God wants us to deal with in life. (This is hard for many Christians to accept. While obviously the laws and philosophies governing any society are important, read the New Testament again while remembering the horrible things the Roman government was doing – including insisting Caesar was god. What does it tell us about the priorities of Jesus and his followers?)
They need to know how to listen well. When people disagree, they rarely listen to understand. Most people are listening only long enough to consider what they will argue next. Listening to understand may help them realize the motivations and history behind the other person’s belief make changing the ideas easier once they are truly understood.
They need to learn how to disagree with someone and still leave them feeling loved and respected. This has to be taught very carefully. Too many Christians believe either you have to destroy someone with ungodly ideas or that you can’t even tell the other person their ideas are ungodly because that is unloving. The truth is that you can show someone love and respect for the very fact that they were created and loved by God. If their ideas vary from what God teaches us, it is important to address those differences without destroying the person in the process.
They need to learn to disagree without making personal attacks, using ugly words or losing their temper. This can take years of practice. It requires a lot of prayer, spiritual maturity and self control. Your children will struggle, but they need to begin practicing it now before bad habits become ingrained.
Teaching your kids to disagree well may make them more effective in completing the good works God has planned for them. It is worth taking the time and effort to help them learn the necessary skills.
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.
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.
Your kids are probably homeschooling now, regardless of their regular school situation. Contact with others outside your home is strongly discouraged. In most places though, we are still allowed to walk in our neighborhoods and do things in our yards as long as we don’t come close to others.
Your kids can use this time to reflect God’s love to your neighbors. There are quite a few things they can do to serve and encourage the people nearby. Encourage them to be creative, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Chalk sidewalk art. Send a neighborhood email and offer for your kids to decorate the sidewalk near their mailbox or their driveway with colorful chalk drawings. Remind neighbors to stay inside while your children work. If you have public sidewalks in your neighborhood, most localities allow chalk drawings which will wash away in the next rain. Encourage your kids to come up with cheerful designs that point people to God in some way.
Mailbox art. Have your kids make works of art and tape them to the mailboxes of neighbors. Once again, encourage the use of cheerful colors and finding ways to incorporate scripture or point people to God in some way.
Encourage a neighborhood cheer project for the kids in your neighborhood. Have your kids make fliers and distribute them in your neighborhood. Encourage neighbors to put a specific type of object like a stuffed animal or a drawing of a giant Easter egg in the window of their home where it can be seen by children taking walks with their families. Encourage the families with small children to go on a “treasure hunt” to see how many of the chosen objects they can see in the windows of homes while they are walking with their parents.
Design work out stations. Have your kids design a special workout families can do at certain spots on their family walk in your neighborhood. Space the ideas far enough apart and make them quick enough so families don’t risk exposure to the germs of others. For example, draw a hopscotch board with chalk on a corner sidewalk and tell families to hop rather than walk that distance. Or at a certain landmark, jump up and down ten times. Be creative and distribute the ideas to everyone in your neighborhood digitally or otherwise.
Share Spring. If you have flowers or shrubs blooming in your yard, share them with those in your neighborhood who can’t get out at all. Have your kids decorate containers to put the flowers in with a little water. Then put them on a doorstep of a neighbor, ring the bell and run far enough away to not spread germs when your neighbor opens the door.
Offer weekly check in calls. Have neighbors sign up to receive a weekly video call from your family. Encourage your kids to come up with stories to tell, a song to sing or other things to fill the time after making sure the neighbor is fine.
There are so many ways your kids can use this time to be creative in the ways they serve others and share their faith without endangering themselves or others. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids how God wants them to live their lives.