5 Ways Your Kids Can Reflect God’s Love at School

School has started in our area. I don’t know about you and your family, but I think of every new school term as an opportunity to make positive changes. One great change to encourage your kids to adopt is for them to intentionally reflect God’s love to others during their days at school. It’s a great way to be salt and light to their teachers and peers.

So what are some practical ways they can reflect God’s love at school? Here are some of our favorites.

  • Thank their teachers after each class or at the end of the school day. Many teachers put in lots of their “free” time and spend their personal money to make their classes the best possible. Yet most are only thanked on teacher appreciation days or at the end of the year. Get in a family habit of truly appreciating your children’s teachers every day.
  • Encourage the struggling. Life is hard and school can be even tougher at times. It doesn’t help those who are struggling when other kids tease them or show obvious impatience. Teach your kids to be that encouraging voice that cheers those struggling on to hopeful victory of whatever their challenge.
  • Be kind to the kids who don’t “fit in”. Believe it or not, every child feels like an outsider at some point in school. Some kids, unfortunately, are perennially on the outside looking in. It’s great if your children can befriend them, but they should, at the very least, go out of their way to be kind and friendly.
  • Welcome newcomers and help them get acclimated. Your children will naturally have more in common with some children than others. They should always be the first to help any new children, however, and help them get used to everything, make introductions, etc. – at least for the first couple of weeks.
  • Go the extra mile. See a piece of trash? Pick it up and throw it away. Someone drop papers everywhere? Help them gather them back together. Volunteer for little tasks. Look for small opportunities to serve and do them. Be known for going the extra mile to be kind and helpful.

If your children can consistently reflect God’s love at school, they will be the salt and light God wants them to be.

Baking Bread to Teach Your Kids About Influence

There are several Bible verses that compare the influence of things good and bad to leaven. Leaven – or yeast – is designed to make bread rise so it is light and airy. It doesn’t take very much yeast to make two large loaves of bread double or triple in size. In fact, bread recipes often contain salt to mitigate the yeast so bread doesn’t rise too much.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 13:33 and 16:6 that just like yeast, an “influencer” can easily encourage others to do what is wrong or, conversely, to join the Kingdom of God. Explain that this principle is why you are so concerned about with whom they choose to spend the majority of their time.

To illustrate the impact of yeast, find a simple bread recipe that requires yeast. Measure how high the bread is in the bowl both before and after rising. Be careful not to let it rise too long, because it can eventually deflate. Point out that many recipes call for the dough to rise twice for the yeast to have the desired impact on the final loaves of bread.

While waiting for the bread to rise, discuss how they can be “good” yeast and avoid being influenced by “bad” yeast. If you want to dive really deep into the topic, point out that unleavened bread is only considered unleavened bread by devout Jews if it has been completed – from the first mixing of the ingredients to being removed from the oven – in eighteen minutes or less. After that the flour itself begins to develop the tiniest bit of leaven (a variation of how sour dough starter is made). You can even try making unleavened bread in the eighteen minute time frame and then letting one loaf sit out to “rise” for a few hours. Bake both and compare the two finished loaves. Does even that “non” yeast leaven make a difference? Can even tiny bits of negative influence change us in negative ways over time?

Have fun with it, but encourage your children to think carefully about their influence on others and the influence they allow others to have on them.

Christian Parenting and Tea Parties

If you have young children, you’ve probably attended several pretend tea parties thrown by your children. There’s just something about pretty food, tea cups, dressing up and acting like grown up royalty that screams fun to kids. You may have considered throwing a tea party for your children and their friends, but were intimidated by the ”fancy” part of it. The good news is that not only can you throw a tea party that is affordable and easy, but you can teach your children quite a few Christian life skills in the process. In fact, begin by giving your kids a budget for the party. Have them find ways to do everything they want for the party, but still stay within the budget. Take them shopping and teach them how to find bargains at the store. The better they are at managing finances, the more they will have to use to serve God.

So how can you make a tea party easy and affordable? First of all, it’s a rare American child who will like hot tea. Instead, fill their tea cups with lemonade or caffeine free iced tea. What’s a tea party without petit fours? They are not easy to make and bakery ones are expensive. Thankfully, someone has finally produced a frozen variety that is affordable. If you want your kids to practice patience and perseverance, try making your own. Make it easier by buying frozen pound cake and cutting it into small squares while it is not quite thawed. Then find a recipe for the pourable icing to frost them with. (It is thinner than standard frosting.).

Tea sandwiches? Teach your children some cooking skills they can use to serve others. Cut the crusts off of regular sandwich bread. Make a few favorite sandwiches of your children and their friends, then cut each sandwich into four triangles.

Hospitality is one of the attributes of a strong Christian. Discuss with your children whom they want to invite, but more importantly, how to make them feel comfortable and welcome in your home. This can also be a great excuse to review some basic manners needed at a ”proper” tea party.

Involve your children in the cleaning and decorating. They will learn responsibility and begin developing a strong work ethic (hopefully!). Chances are, you will even get to remind them of the Bible verse about doing everything without grumbling and complaining more than once! Help your children plan a few activities to keep their friends engaged before or after the tea party if they want their friends to stay a little longer. Talk about “considering the needs of others” and making sure they choose activities they know their friends will enjoy.

When everyone has gone home, “let” your children help with the clean up. It’s a great time to talk about working “as for the Lord” and how we all must do some things we don’t enjoy in life, but are necessary. While you are cleaning, talk about the party and what things you want to change or try the next time. It is a great way to begin teaching them how to reflect and make improvements in their lives and ministries.

Most of all, have fun! Be the house where your children and their friends want to be. It takes extra time and effort, but when your kids are teens, you will be glad you did.

Hosting a Service Sleepover

If you have school aged children, you are familiar with sleep overs. Many parents don’t like hosting them because behavior can get out of control with the combination of lack of sleep, junk food and too much unstructured free time. With a little extra effort, you can host a sleepover that’s still lots of fun, but helps others and teaches the kids or teens attending about serving.

First, you need a theme for your party of service. Does your church support service efforts in your community or mission efforts in other countries? Contact someone you believe the young people attending the party would be interested in serving and find out if there is something your group can do to serve them. Local service has the advantage of a possible field excursion to serve or deliver needed items. Service projects for the mission field make it fun to carry the theme throughout the evening with food, music and games from the country you are serving.

Once you have identified the group you are serving, you will need to gather the items you need for the project. If the group does not have a suggestion, our ministry website has dozens and dozens of service project ideas. Our family has hosted parties where the girls made fancy hair ornaments for girls in a homeless shelter and decorated onesies for children served by a Christian foster care agency. Your party can plan a collection, making posters and fliers to distribute or physically go somewhere and execute a project. (Some organizations have minimum age limits, so call before going.)

Have fun with it. Older children and teens may want to plan the entire party. The more ownership they have of the service project you complete, the more they will enjoy participating. If possible, have party goers interact with the people they are serving – either during the party or at a later date. It will make the entire experience more meaningful for them. Done well, you may be hosting many more service sleepovers in the future!

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids to Filter Their Words

Very young children may not be aware of their thought process. As they begin to realize they can control not only their thoughts, but the words that come out of their mouths, they are ready to better understand how to filter their thoughts and reject saying things that are not loving, kind or productive. This fun family devotional can get them started.

Begin by explaining to your children that Jesus had some half siblings (Mary was their mother and Joseph was their birth father). James who wrote the book of James in the Bible was one of those siblings (not James the Apostle). James’ book was written to encourage Christians to live a life that would make people want to learn more about God.

One of the topics James mentions quite often is our speech. Read James 1:19-20, 26, 3:1-18 and 5:12. Ask your children to list all of the things James said we should control about our speech. If you have the time, you may want to read other verses in the Bible about our speech like, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 15:1-4, Proverbs 21:23, Proverbs 16:24, Ephesians 5:4, Matthew 12:36, Luke 6:45, Proverbs 10:19, Ephesians 4:15, etc.

Give your children a large sheet of plain paper. Have them draw the outline of a person’s head on it. They should draw the brain in the head. Have them glue a coffee filter on the head between the brain and the mouth. They should draw one arrow that goes from the filter to a ”trash can” and another arrow that goes to the mouth.

In the trash can, they should write the types of words that should not be spoken (not specific curse words). By their mouth, they should write words describing the types of words God does want them to use. After they are finished, make sure they understand what is covered by each category. So called ”mild” curse words may be considered acceptable by your older children while your child in kindergarten may think “stupid” is a curse word. With older children, this can also lead to a deeper discussion of what our influence might be on people if we use certain words and whether or not saying them is important enough to risk having someone reject God because of the things we say.

End the devotional by brainstorming ways you all can improve your speech. Revisit the topic periodically to see how well everyone has learned to tame their tongue!