Teaching Your Kids About Balance In the Christian Life

Have you ever noticed the human tendency to go to extremes? If I’m not exercising at all, and decide that’s not a great choice, instead of exercising a few minutes a day….. I will have a multi-hour mega workout session. Or if I believe my parents were way too strict…. I raise my kids with no rules at all. Instead of finding the perfect – usually happy medium – our pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. Which means that while we may correct some of the problems at one end, we just exchange them for equally serious problems at the other end.

It’s important to help your kids avoid the pendulum swings and this constant exchange of serious negative consequences. God is stable and steady. He’s even referred to in scripture as a rock. God’s commands and principles keep us in that healthy, balanced area of life, attitudes and behaviors. The Christian life only seems extreme because the rest of the world is swinging between the extremes in life. In reality, the Christian life is lived in that stable, healthy, calm, balanced area of God’s wisdom informed obedience and decision making.

There’s a fun family devotional you can do to begin having conversations about balance and the Christian life. Take your kids outside. Create a balance beam out of a line made of chalk or a wooden board on the ground. Take turns walking, jumping and doing other things while staying balanced on the “beam” you have created. See who can stay balanced on one foot the longest as you take turns calling out things you all have to do while staying balanced on that one foot.

After you’ve had some fun, find a place to sit and talk. Ask your children to name some activities where it is important to have good balance – like riding a bike or walking a tightrope. Explain that there is a different kind of balance in life that is important to understand when we make choices. Read or tell them some of the stories of the life of Peter. You may want to start with John 13:1-10 and Peter’s rather extreme reaction to Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles. If your children know a lot of Bible stories, ask them to think of other times when Peter or other people in the Bible had an extreme over reaction to something. Discuss together what might have been a better, more balanced and more godly response to what happened.

The difficult part of this type of topic in a devotional is helping your children make the mental leap from the principle you are teaching to what it might look like in their own lives now and in the future. Remember, that these balanced, godly choices in life are not always about sinning versus not sinning (although they can be). Often, they are about making wise, godly choices that don’t start them down a road that might eventually tempt them to sin. For example, in our earlier example about exercising, under or over exercising is not necessarily a sin. Either extreme can become sinful, however, if it eventually tempts them to take illegal drugs to build muscle or lose weight or if they are not being good stewards of their health and the body God gave them.

Work with them to think of other examples in life when people tend to go to one extreme or the other when God’s wisdom would put them in the middle. Don’t forget with older children and teens to talk about extremes like Christians can’t have any fun (think Puritans) on one end and living a life centered on having fun on the other. Discuss how God’s wise center is not having fun doing sinful things in moderation, but finding lots of fun things to do that aren’t sinful. Point out that when they are confused about where that godly center is that they can find the commands and principles to help in scripture. Help them find some verses in Proverbs and other scriptures that give some great guidance in finding that perfect balance.

Afterwards, you may want to go outside and try some more balancing fun, like walking with a book balanced on your heads, playing Twister or having an old fashioned egg race or “floor is lava” game. Don’t forget, this is a topic you will need to re-visit multiple times as a topic of discussion and in the moment as you watch your children struggle with pendulum swing type decisions. Finding their balance in God’s wisdom can make it much easier for them to live the Christian life.

Fun Family Self Reliance Activity

Over the years, there has been an assumption that historical American values and Christian values are interchangeable. In many cases – like honesty – this may be true. There is one historically American value – self reliance – that isn’t one hundred percent Christian. While you don’t want your children to expect others to do everything for them – especially things they should be doing for themselves – there is much about self reliance that isn’t biblical at all.

Why? Because part of the foundation of Christianity is an acknowledgment that we can’t do it all ourselves. That we need God for forgiveness and to be able to spend eternity in Heaven. God also created the church to work as a body – together – to support one another and hold each other accountable for obedience to God’s commands and to work together – pooling their gifts to serve others and share their faith.

In our increasingly isolated, digital world, it can become easy for your children to grow up believing that they don’t need anyone in their lives. That the perfect virtual worlds they can create are better than the annoyances that come with interacting with real people. That they can please God as a Christian by watching services online and giving money virtually – no human interaction necessary.

There is a fun family devotional you can do to show your kids the importance of being involved as part of the Christian “team” and serving and sharing their faith with others IRL (in real life). Start by reading 1 Corinthians 12 to your family. Ask them what it means and why they believe Paul wrote it to the Corinthians. What was he encouraging them to do? Why? What are some reasons we are tempted to avoid interaction with other Christians? With people who need to be served and learn about God? Why does God expect us to do both? What are the advantages to being in a church family who obeys 1 Corinthians 12? What would it look like? What part of the body (their gifts, talents and opportunities) do they think they might be in your church now? In the congregation they attend as adults in the future?

To underscore how the Christian life is better lived in community, participate in one or more of these activities as a family. How did working together make it easier to succeed? What happened when someone didn’t carry their weight? How much harder, lonelier, etc. would the activity have been if done alone?

  1. Escape room. Check first to make sure the theme and activities are a match for your family. These are hard enough as a team and impossible if attempted alone.
  2. City scavenger hunt. You can often find these online. They involve going to an unfamiliar town or part of town and finding objects. Geo caching is similar and works well when everyone helps.
  3. Service project. Find one large enough that everyone in your family has to help to pull it off. We have tons of ideas for service projects on our website. Just click on the service tab to be taken to the list of service projects. http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/
  4. Odyssey of the Mind Activities. Search online for free ideas. Look for activities that requiring the group to work together to solve a problem building something in a short amount of time. Most require lots of little things you probably have around your house.
  5. Cooking as a body. Find a recipe to cook together as a family. The twist is that each member can only be one body part. For example, Dad is the left arm, daughter the right arm, son the legs, mom the eyes, etc. So to get eggs out of the fridge will require two or three people to work together. The same with stirring (hand holding bowl so it doesn’t spin off the counter!) and other parts of cooking. You can also do this with any activity that requires using multiple body parts to complete it.

Have fun with it. Revisit the topic multiple times until you are confident your kids understand when self reliance is good and when they need to be in community or rely upon God.

Fun Family Activity Exploring Scarcity & Abundance Mindsets

If the devil is truly the father of lies as Jesus taught (John 8:44), one of his favorites is the scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset is a belief that every possible resource – including things like love – is limited and therefore when some of a resource is given to someone else, there is less for you. As with all of Satan’s lies, there is a bit of truth to hook us. If you have one apple pie and give someone a slice, there is definitely less of that pie for everyone else to eat.

What the scarcity mindset ignores is that there are often infinite resources we just can’t see at the moment. There are other apple pies that can be baked or purchased. A mother’s love is infinite and can expand to love dozens of children equally. Unfortunately, a scarcity mindset leads to selfishness, jealousy, envy, stress, short term versus long term thinking and problem solving, power struggles, cheating, lying, theft and a host of other problems and sins. As we learn from Cain and Abel, in its extreme a scarcity mindset can even lead to murder (and war).

There is a fun family devotional you can do with your children to begin shifting them from a scarcity to an abundance mindset. Start by sharing the story of Elisha feeding the hundred in 2 Kings 4:38-44. You may have never heard or forgotten about this story yourself. Note the similarities to Jesus feeding the 5000 and 4000 later in time. Introduce the idea of a scarcity mindset…. that 20 loaves are not enough to feed a 100 men or 5 loaves and two fish enough to feed 5000. Yet, with God anything is possible. Ask your children what would have happened if any of the people involved in the stories had possessed a scarcity mindset. Would they have shared the little food they had? Why not? What might have happened if they didn’t share their food?

Now your children might point out that in those cases God created a miracle so there was an abundance of food. How can they be sure that when they share or have an abundance mindset, that there will be enough for them? For a fun activity, re-enact the story of Stone Soup. This can be a really fun activity for several families to do together or you can set up each member of your family to be an entity in the story.

The gist of the story is that during a famine each family in the village just had one item left in their home to eat and it wasn’t enough. One potato, one carrot, etc. Someone had the idea that if they pooled all of their items and added lots of water they would have a soup that would feed them all for several meals (the actual story involved tricking everyone so it isn’t necessary to actually tell the story, just reenact the sharing and pooling of resources aspect). Without sharing and pooling their resources they wouldn’t have enough for even one meal for their family. You can do it with soup, but it can also work with any recipe where each family or person just has one ingredient and can’t make the desired finished product without the help of everyone else.

While you are eating, ask your children how a scarcity mindset would have meant their project failed while an abundance mindset made it successful. Ask them to think of other real life examples. Then discuss examples of things we believe are in short supply – like love and friendship – but which can actually expand and give many people more than enough. For older children and teens, you may also want to explore the idea of sacrificial giving – sharing something even though it may mean you actually do have less for yourself – and how God feels about that.

If you want to extend the activity, find things your family can share with an abundance mindset. This is one of those discussions you want to continue having over the years to encourage generosity in your children.

Fun Family Devotional On Fruitfulness

One of the more odd stories from the time Jesus spent on Earth is found in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-25. It seems strange, doesn’t it, that Jesus would destroy a tree for not bearing fruit when it wasn’t even the correct season for it! Yet when you connect the story to what happened immediately after it in the text, it becomes a little more clear. Jesus and God expect those serving them to bear fruit and there will be consequences for failing to produce any. It’s a similar lesson to that found in the Parables of the Talents and Minas and in other scriptures in the New Testament.

So what does it mean to bear fruit and why is it important that your children understand the importance of bearing fruit as Christians? There’s a fun family devotional you can have to start the conversation. Before the devotional, purchase some fruit at the grocery store. Pick one or two that are favorites and then perhaps one or two that are new to your children.

Read your children the two parables. Explain that often the first four books, the Gospels, tell the same or very similar stories – either from a different point of view to reach a different audience of readers – or perhaps because Jesus did or said similar things more than once during his ministry. Ask your children why they believe Jesus destroyed the fig tree. Explain that when stories like this are in the Bible, God wants us to learn something from them. What do they think they are supposed to learn from these parables?

Point out that right after the parable in Mark, Jesus cleansed the Temple. What might be the connection? Jesus was angry at the Priests for taking advantage of the people and trying to make a lot of money, rather than ministering to the people which was supposed to be the fruit they were bearing. The fig tree was to teach the apostles an important lesson that could help them better understand – and later teach – what was about to happen at the Temple.

Read Matthew 28:18-20. Explain that some Christians are confused. They think that being a Christian is only about avoiding sin. In reality, it is also about producing fruit in the Kingdom. Ask them what clues these verses give us about the types of fruit we are supposed to bear. Read Galatians 5:22-23. Explain that these are more types of fruit Christians should bear. These particular ones let others know we have the Holy Spirit within us (Note: You may need to explain this concept to your children. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is given to us when we become Christians during our immersion in baptism. It does not feel scary to have the Holy Spirit in us, but rather the Holy Spirit is a helper God gives Christians to help them make good choices.)

Ask your children why they think Jesus got so angry when the tree and the priests didn’t produce fruit. Explain that God will also be angry with Christians when they don’t produce any of the fruit that you have studied in the verses you read. Sitting in church or even calling yourself a Christian means little if we don’t produce fruit. Works don’t help us earn our way to Heaven, but is rather the expectation of God from people He has already saved and a fulfillment of our faith. Read James 2:17-26 and ask your children to explain what it means in their own words.

Bring out the fruits you purchased. As you are eating them, Google to find out how they are grown and what happens to the fruit trees that don’t produce fruit after interventions. Orchards can’t afford for space to be taken up by unproductive trees. If a tree has no hope of producing fruit again, it will be destroyed and a new tree planted in its place. End your time by explaining God has much He wants Christians to do on Earth. He needs us to be productive so the work can all be done. Brainstorm some ways your family can produce fruit for God now.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Delayed Gratification

One of the root causes of sin is when the desire to have something we want clouds our judgment. We want what we want, when we want it – which is usually now. When that doesn’t happen, sinful attitudes and behaviors often result. The ability to accept delayed gratification can help your children overcome many of the temptations to sin in life. Of course the ultimate delayed gratification – an eternity spent with God in Heaven for remaining faithful to God – is the very underpinning of Christianity.

There’s a fun devotional you can do to help your children begin to understand the importance of accepting delayed gratification in living the Christian life. Before calling your children together, take a few moments and think of examples in today’s world when waiting for something has better results or conversely, demanding what we want now can have negative consequences in the future. A simple example would be eating a seed instead of planting it and waiting for it to provide entire pieces of fruit or lots of vegetables to eat. Having this list prepared will make the activity easier for you to lead.

Call your children together and tell them the story of Jacob working for Rachel found in Genesis 29:14-30. Point out that Jacob loved Rachel so much he was willing to wait seven years to marry her and work for Laban for seven additional years as a result of marrying Rachel right after Leah. Point out where it said the seven years seemed to him like only a few days. Ask your children why that might be true. Point out that if Jacob had not been willing to work for Laban for fourteen years, he would not have been able to marry Rachel – the love of his life. To Jacob delayed gratification was worth it.

On the other hand, point out that in the story of Jacob, Esau and the lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34), Esau was not willing to wait to eat stew. His unwillingness to endure delayed gratification meant he lost his birthright to Jacob.

Give your children one of the examples you thought of earlier. What are the rewards for waiting and/or the consequences for failing to wait? Make a game of it using more of the examples own your list. See if your children can think of other examples. Mix up silly ones – like eating uncooked food – with more serious ones that can lead to sinning. Have fun with it, but throughout the game, emphasize the importance of taking the time to think about what might happen if they waited to get what they wanted a little longer. Would waiting actually be better in the end?