One of the difficult things to teach children about decision making is how to slow down the process a bit. Snap decisions often have negative consequences, because not every angle was considered before the choice was made. There’s a fun family devotional you can do that will help your children better understand the possible consequences of making important decisions too quickly.
Before starting, you will need the ingredients to make lentil stew. You can find recipes online – here is one recipe that claims to be authentic. Gather your children and have them help you make the stew. As it is simmering, tell them the story of Jacob and Esau found in Genesis 25:27-34. Make sure you explain the importance of a birthright during those times. (By obtaining Esau’s birthright, Jacob would be much wealthier than he would have been after Isaac died.)
Ask your children why they think Esau was willing to trade a lot of wealth in the future for a bowl of stew now. Would he have made the same decision if he had stopped and thought about it a little more carefully? Would Esau have starved to death in the time it might have taken him to get food some other way? Since he wasn’t really dying of hunger, why didn’t he wait a few more minutes rather than giving Jacob his birthright?
After they have thought about Esau’s poor decision making, ask them to think of times when they perhaps make decisions too quickly. What negative consequences could they have avoided if they had taken a little more time to think about the possible consequences of each option? Why is it important to take time to think and pray before making important decisions? If they are engaged in the discussion, teach them decision making tools, like listing all of their possible options and the pros and cons for each one.
After the devotional, encourage your kids to slow down, think and pray before making any major decisions. Remind them that they don’t want to be like Esau, regretting trading their birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.
School starts back in just a few days in some districts. Others of you may have another month before the first day of school. No matter when your kids head back to class, why not start the year out right with the first of what could be a year of important, practical family devotionals?
The book of Proverbs is a great way to teach children and teens the practicality and importance of following God’s wisdom and obeying His commands. Wisdom is a great theme to discuss with your children throughout the school year. What is knowledge? What is wisdom? Can one have lots of knowledge, but little wisdom? Is it possible to be wise without knowledge? How do the things they are learning each day in school fit into the ongoing discussion of knowledge and wisdom? How might they use the things they are learning to serve God?
Choose a time for your devotional that is unlikely to be interrupted by activities. If your children are particularly exhausted in the morning or the evening, try to pick the time when they are most alert. Tie your family devotionals to something you do every day, like eating a particular meal, when they are eating an after school snack or at bedtime. Don’t make them too long. If they are particularly interested in the verses you have read, you can continue your discussion off and on throughout the day.
Proverbs has 31 chapters, containing 915 verses. Since the school year lasts 180 days, that means you only need to cover an average of about five verses each school day. Or you can cover more and go through the entire book more than once during the year. Don’t get too rigid about the number of verses each day. Some days a thought might take ten verses, while other days just one verse can spark a lively discussion. End each devotional time praying over your children, their teachers, friends and schools. It’s a great way to keep your kids focused on being who God wants them to be every day at school.
Ever have one of your children tell you that they ”really, really neeeeeeeeed” something that is actually not a necessity? It’s important for your kids to thoroughly understand the difference between their ”needs” and their ”wants”. If not, they will be more likely to become selfish, entitled, greedy and unwilling to help others because it costs them something ”important”.
Start by telling them the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings 16:29-17:24. Explain that God took care of Elijah’s ”needs”, but didn’t necessarily provide everything that Elijah may have wanted. For example, the ravens brought Elijah bread and meat and he had water to drink from the brook. God didn’t give Elijah fruit or his favorite dish. Anything above the very basics in life are not needs, but things we want. It is not sinful to at times want something. Wanting too much or thinking we ”deserve” or ”need” the things we want can cause us to have sinful attitudes and behaviors as we attempt to get everything we want.
Place several magazines and catalogs in front of your children. If your children are younger, point to various photos and ask them if the item pictures something they need or something they want. Give older children the chance to find pictures of things that may be harder to decide if the item is a need or a want. For example, are vegetables a need or a want? Are there circumstances when vegetables might switch from one category to another? (Perhaps, we need vegetables to be healthy, but we may want a particular vegetable. In what situations would that want be okay and when might it be a sign we are becoming selfish or entitled?)
While on the surface this is an easy subject to teach your children, the nuances of it can be more difficult. Continue to revisit the topic regularly with your kids to help them develop hearts that are grateful and generous.
Part of the challenge of teaching the Bible to children and teens is that it contains the stories of people who lived in cultures very different from our own. They had different technology, household items, clothing, food, music, languages and customs. The average child from today being told a Bible story about David, for example, might hear something like…”So David was out in the fields tending sheep, playing his lyre and practicing his slinging.”
As adults, we know what all of those things are and how they are important in later stories about David. Children, however, probably have no idea what is involved in tending sheep and may not have even seen a sheep in real life. They also don’t know what a lyre is or slinging. So what they hear from that original sentence is ”So David was out in the fields blah, blah, blah.” And that’s assuming they even know what a field is! Of course their brains aren’t satisfied with the ”blahs” in the sentence so they begin to try and figure out what those mystery words meant.
Meanwhile, you are three paragraphs further into the story….three paragraphs they haven’t heard because they are still trying to figure out the first sentence you said. Of course, once they realize you are so far ahead of them in the story, many will give up entirely and begin thinking of things totally unrelated to what you are trying to teach them.
Taking the time to explore some of these cultures with your kids fills in a lot of the “blahs” for them, making the Bible much easier to understand. Plus it is a lot of fun! Thankfully, there are a lot of resources both online and offline to help you and your kids explore the various cultures of the Bible. To start though, you need to know some of the cultures you may want to explore. We have left out some of the more obscure ones in our list of cultures to explore with your kids. (Note that the list contains the terms under which you are most likely to find resources.) Arabia, Assyrians, Amorites, Babylon, Crete, Cyprus, Edom, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece or Greek Empire, Hittites, Persia, Israel, Roman Empire, Jebusites, Kush, Lebanon, Macedonia, Malta, Medes, Mesopotamia, Samaria, Sheba (Yemen), Syria and Philistines. It is important to add the word ”ancient” when searching for any culture that has a modern equivalent, so you only get the information regarding the time periods covered in the Bible.
There are some great general resources that often cover more than one culture.
Museums. If you live near a museum with actual artifacts, that is a great way for them to see some of the items ”in real life”. Those memories often ”stick” better than looking at photos, although photos are preferable to nothing at all. This link has a great list of the museums in every state that contain artifacts related to cultures in the Bible. https://www.bibleplaces.com/us-museums-artifacts-biblical-world/
Online museum collections. Educators favorites are the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), the British Museum (britishmuseum.org) and the Louvre (louvre.fr/en). Search the collections to find not only artifacts, but artwork related to the Bible.
Lonely Curator videos. The Museum of the Bible has short 3-5 minute videos their curators made during the pandemic when the museum was closed. They cover a variety of topics. Some are better than others, but several have interesting information. (Like did you know that from the time you start making the dough for unleavened bread until the time it comes out of the oven has to be less than 18 minutes or it is considered leavened? Flour and water eventually create a leavening of their own even without yeast and evidently that process begins at the 18 minute mark!)
Recipes. Google ”ancient recipes of ________” to find authentic recipes. Some sites are better than others so fair warning about any content on these websites beyond the actual recipes. I found a website ancientrecipes.org that seems to have recipes from several cultures in the Bible.
Clothing. It is difficult to find a lot of high quality websites with clothing from ancient cultures, but google ”clothing in ancient _________” to find what is available.
Music. YouTube has videos of music from several ancient cultures featuring some instruments that are unfamiliar to us today. Search for ”music from ancient _______” to see what’s available.
When using unfamiliar websites, be careful to screen before allowing your children to use them without you. At times, they may contain information that is unbiblical, spurious or just too confusing for children to sift through. Have fun with it. Use a Bible story as a springboard for your exploration or explore a culture and then find all of the stories in the Bible related to it. Exploring these cultures will make your kids’ Bible reading comprehension much better, plus it is a fun way to explore God’s Word together.
I have to admit that there are a few stories in the Bible that are just funny. One of my favorites can be a great way to introduce your kids to the importance of moderation in living the Christian life. You can find the story in Numbers 11:4 and following.
This is one of those stories that is best read directly from the Bible. The exasperation of Moses at the whining of the people is classic! Then for God to basically tell them that if they want quail…He will give them quail. In fact, they will eat so much quail for a month that it will ”come out of their nostrils”! I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a conversation that could happen in any home with whining children!
There are a couple of ways to have fun with the idea of having ”too much of a good thing”. Before you read the Bible story to your kids, call them to a meal. Serve them ice cream or some other treat as their entire meal (One non-nutritious meal won’t be bad for most healthy children and having only dessert for a meal will make the experience very memorable – especially if you are normally really healthy eaters.)
After they have enjoyed their unusual treat of a meal, inform them that from now on that will be the only food they will be given for every meal and snack. Very young children may get excited at first. Remind them that if they only eat ice cream, they can’t eat any of their other favorite foods like macaroni and cheese.
Or you can do the same thing by finding a recipe for ”manna” cookies and giving that to them for their meal. Explain that although we don’t know exactly what manna tasted like, we have enough of a description to know a little bit about what it may have tasted like. Ask them how they would feel if that were the only food they ever got to eat – every meal – every day – every week – every month.
In both cases your kids will probably admit that while it is fun to have a dessert like meal, having only it for a long time would be difficult. It’s too much of a good thing. Then read them the story of the manna and the quail. Explain that the Israelites had the same reaction. Only instead of remembering that God had just rescued them from slavery (which was horribly difficult), they focused on the fact that they missed the variety in their diet. They whined and complained until God got so frustrated He gave them so much quail, they probably never wanted to eat quail again. It was too much of a ”good thing”.
Read them a few verses like 1 Corinthians 6:12, Proverbs 25:27 and Proverbs 25:16. Explain that there are some things God knows we need or want that in moderation aren’t bad for us, but that if we want too much of it we can have too much of a ”good thing”. Have your kids think of examples in addition to the ones in the verses you read. Suggest that sometimes wanting too much of something – like money – means we even stop worshipping God and make the thing we want our idol. How deeply you can go with this conversation will depend upon the age and maturity of your kids.
Explain the concept of moderation. Help your kids think of ways to enjoy good things with moderation so they don’t get too much of a good thing or start worshipping the good thing instead of God. Have them share the good things they like so much that they could have problems with later if they are not careful to keep God first. Encourage them to use strategies that help them remember to use that thing in moderation.