Ready for Valentine’s Day? We are big celebrators in our family. Any excuse for adding a bit of fun, joy and love to our days and we are there! Valentine’s Day may have been founded to celebrate romantic love, but why not use it to teach your kids about agape love and have some family fun.
Agape love is the type of love God has for us and we are to have for those around us. It’s a higher love not based on attraction, romance or even friendship. It’s loving others just because they are human beings whom God created and loves.
There are a lot of fun things your family can do to spread some Agape love on Valentine’s Day. You should still have time to accomplish one or more of these before the holiday is over. (Because Valentine’s Day is on a Friday night this year, restaurants are “celebrating” on Saturday and Sunday, too. Let’s do the same!)
Shower widows, widowers and single people with love. There’s nothing like Valentine’s Day to remind you that you are single. No matter how happy someone single may be normally, everyone celebrating love can leave one feeling lonely and alone – even unloveable. Have your kids make cards, cookies or little baggies of those heart chocolates. Allow a few minutes to stay and visit. If necessary prepare your kids ahead of time about some things they can say to help the conversation.
Love on friends and “frenemies”. Every child has someone at school or in their activities who is less than kind to them. They may have even been treated by another child as an “enemy”. What a better way to teach your kids about loving their enemies than helping them prepare a Valentine surprise for their friends, but especially for those “not so nice kids”. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy. Having some discussions on the subject though can help your kids feel more loving as they give a card or treat to someone they may normally avoid.
See the “invisible” people. People with special needs, people who are socially awkward or “unattractive”, people who are poor…our world has lots of people that are unseen by others, because they don’t fit the mold of someone who makes a good friend or even acquaintance. Consider having some of the “invisible” people your family knows over for a meal or dessert. Or give them a Valentine’s treat and have a real conversation with them. Find out the things they enjoy doing. Get to really know them as “real” people with real stories. Make them visible to your family.
Thank the unappreciated. How many bus drivers, crossing guards, or maintenance people are ever thanked, much less receive Valentine’s treats? Even teachers can be forgotten. What about the mail carrier, the garbage collectors and the counter person at the dry cleaners? How many unappreciated people can your family make feel appreciated over the next few days?
Serve those who help others. Ministries and non-profits usually have ongoing needs for items or volunteer hours. Can your family find a way to give a ministry or non-profit some extra help?
Surprise your family members. Let’s be honest. The people in our family know how to get on our “last nerve”. Living in the same house can create conflicts and hurt feelings. We can say the worst things to the people who love us the most. Why not change that dynamic? Encourage everyone in your family to find ways to surprise, encourage and love everyone in your family. Make it fun and focus on all of those little things that would make life more pleasant for the people in your family.
Make Valentine’s Day a day when your family has a tradition of loving everyone they can. Encourage your kids to pour out love generously. Who knows, your family may enjoy it so much it becomes a habit every day of the year!
Scripture memorization is a great way to help your kids keep God’s words on their hearts and in their minds. Your church may not encourage your kids to memorize scripture. If you want your kids to know what God would want them to do without having to take the time to research, look up and read scriptures, memorization is key.
With so many possible passages, which ones should you help your kids memorize? Below is a list of some of the scriptures that can help your kids be who God wants them to be.
Some of the passages are only one or two verses. You will need to review these regularly in order for them to transfer to your children’s long term memories. Longer passages should do that automatically because of the number of repetitions they take to memorize.
Make sure your kids understand what they are memorizing. Explain to them how those verses can help them if they memorize them. Since memorization assignments at home are rare for non-homeschoolers, you may want to have ways to celebrate whenever they memorize passages.
The scriptures have been divided into categories to help you organize your memorization project.
1 Corinthians 13
Scriptures to Comfort
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Scriptures About Courage
2 Timothy 1:7
1 Peter 5:7
Scriptures About Behavior
1 John 1:8
1 Timothy 4:12
Scriptures About Our Heart
1 Peter 5:5
Scriptures About Family
1 Timothy 5:8
Scriptures About Friends (and Enemies)
1 Corinthians 15:33
1 John 4:7
1 Thessalonians 5:11
1 Peter 4:8-10
Don’t know these scriptures yourself? What a better family activity than memorizing them together? Having God’s words on the hearts and minds of your family will help all of you.
A recent Barna study found kids and teens who grew to be faithful, productive Christians as adults had been exposed to an average of about 2 hours of spiritual content a day.
Before you start to panic, the good news is that it doesn’t all have to be formal instruction (Note: Sending your kids to a Christian school, doesn’t remove the need for you, as their parents, to provide spiritual content for them.) Things like praying and having people over to eat count towards the total.
In fact, there are lots of rather simple things you can do to increase your kids’ exposure to spiritual content each day. Here are a few of our favorites.
Have faith conversations in the car. If you’re a parent, you probably spend a lot of time in the car with your kids. As you talk about life, make sure to point them towards God whenever possible. These spiritual discussions are a key factor in building a strong faith foundation.
Have drive by prayers. Don’t close your eyes if you are driving, but get in the habit of having short prayers motivated by things you see as you drive. Anyone can notice something and lead a drive by prayer for it.
Make time for family devotionals. You make time to read your kids lots of secular books and encourage them to read independently. Why? Because you have heard it will help them do better in school. Make an effort to read the Bible to your kids and encourage them to read it independently. Having a strong faith foundation is even more important than doing well in school.
Make worship services and Bible classes a priority. When you regularly skip church and Bible class for other activities, you send the message that those are things are good to do only if there isn’t anything better available.
Serve others and share your faith. Serving others and sharing your faith should be as much of your family DNA as your last name and your holiday traditions. You will initially do these things as a family. As your kids grow older, their individual service and faith sharing should be as common as what you do as a family.
Let your kids have their friends over. Hospitality is a major part of the home life of kids who grow up to be faithful Christians. It doesn’t have to be formal entertaining either. Letting them invite their friends to your house counts. So do visits by neighbors and extended family.
Do things with other Christian families. Don’t wait for your church to plan something organized. Meet another family at the park, take a hike with a group from church or grab a fast food lunch after church with others.
When you take your kids to a museum, look for sections covering cultures in the Bible. Many museums have sections with artifacts from the Egyptians, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Greeks and other cultures in the Bible. You may find lots of artifacts mentioned in the Bible like oil lamps, Torah scrolls, mummies (Jacob and Joseph’s bodies were mummified in Egypt), even some of the idols like Baal. (Note: In some museums, artifacts from Israel will be found in a section called Levantine or Levant culture.)
Take your kids outside. The Bible teaches us that creation points to God. Take your kids on a hike, to the beach, to an aquarium or zoo. Point out how amazing God is and how much He loves us.
Helping your kids build strong faith foundations and grow to their godly potential takes intentionality. Once you make the time though, the things you need to do are actually rather basic. Don’t let anything stop you from teaching your kids about God.
Teaching your kids about God requires more than just reading the Bible to them. Your children need to understand why Christianity is so important to you. They need to know what all of God’s commands and principles look like in real life.
One of the best ways to have those conversations is to share family faith stories with your kids. Children love to hear family stories. Why not make some of your family stories about the faith you and your family have in God?
So what are good family faith stories to share with your children? Here are some of our favorites.
Baptism stories. Not just of the baptism itself, but what you were thinking at the time. Share why you think it was important to be baptized. Explain why you are glad you became a Christian. Talk about how you felt coming up out of the water. Sometimes the details of a baptism can have funny elements to them and it’s okay to share those, too. In fact, those little fun details can make the more serious parts of the story more memorable.
Stories of times you were aware of God working in your life. Don’t let words like “luck” and “coincidence” creep into your family stories. God is still working in the world today. Give Him the credit He deserves when those amazing things happened in your life.
Stories of experiences that made you keenly aware of God’s existence. Often these stories involve an experience in God’s creation – nature – but they don’t have to be limited to that. Sometimes God is just as present in a beautiful piece of music or art or something else we usually attribute to humans. God gives us talents, so the results of using them are also part of His creation.
Stories of answered prayers. Stories of times when God granted your requests are important for children to hear. Perhaps even more important are the times when God asked you to wait or denied your request. Share with your kids how you learned of God’s amazing wisdom as time revealed why granting your request would not have been in your best interest.
Stories of your Church family helping you become more faithful. Many young people struggle with seeing the advantages of being engaged in Christian community. They see the problems people cause, but miss noticing the advantages. God wants His people to be part of a vibrant Christian community. Telling your kids stories of how fellow Christians helped you through difficult times, encouraged you or helped you grow and mature can help your kids understand why God wants them to be involved in a local congregation.
Stories of times when you learned obeying God’s commands really was best for you. Some of God’s commands may seem outdated to your kids. Yet, God meant those commands for all time. It’s crucial to show your kids how God will always be wiser than people.
You may have other faith stories to share with your kids and that is wonderful. Encourage other family members to share their faith stories, too. The more faith stories your children hear, the more they will understand how God works and why being a Christian is so important.
The positive self esteem movement has created parents who build up their children constantly. Not just in the relatively benign, “Great job!” way, but more along the lines of “You are the most perfect child who has ever lived!” Now studies are finding these types of statements can actually do more harm than good.
We don’t think of the positive statements we make to our kids as capable of causing any damage to them. Yet, the wrong positive words can create inflated egos, a sense of entitlement and even extreme disappointment when they compare reality to their parents’ proclamations.
So what are some positive things parents should avoid saying to their kids?
That is the best ….. ever! All kids are great. Realistically though, less than 5% are going to be outstanding at any given thing. Making them believe they are going to be in that 5%, when it is obvious they are no where even close to that, sets up all sorts of issues for the future. It’s fine to encourage your kids. Look for specific things to complement like, “I love how you used so much color in your painting.” Or compliment them on their growth and improvement. You don’t have to pretend they are the best at something in order to encourage them.
You can do anything you put your mind to. I understand the intention of that statement. Hard work and persistence can sometimes help you achieve your goals. But there is also some realism involved. I never did learn how to swim well at all. Trying to make me believe I could be in the Olympics would have been borderline cruel (if I had believed it) and set me up for disappointment as I continued to struggle. Christian parents also need to make their kids very aware that God has a plan for their lives and they need to follow that. Even though they may be able to do something, doesn’t mean that it is best for them spiritually or in God’s plans for their lives.
You are better than him, her or them. Once again, as an adult I understand the message is to not engage in poor behaviors just because others have chosen to do so. What young people often hear though is that they are literally better than other people for some reason. If you do believe some people are more worthy of God’s love and your love than others, please do some serious soul searching. Don’t pass on those attitudes to your children.
They are just jealous of you. This is often said to comfort a child who has had a peer treat them badly. While sometimes it may be true, it isn’t always the case. This statement can backfire in any number of ways, if the real reason is something different. It’s better to have discussions about how God wants us to treat people who would consider themselves to be our enemies.
It doesn’t really matter if you… Fill in the blank – read their Bible, go to Church every week, pray, have Christian friends, participate in things that will help them grow spiritually… the list goes on and on. Downplaying the importance of working on their spiritual health and growth can cause young people to stop growing spiritually altogether. Some will even reject God as being unnecessary in their lives. Your kids should always hear you reinforce them when they want to do something to grow spiritually – even if it can’t logistically happen for some reason.
What parents consider positive words can cause damage to your kids, too. Think carefully before you speak positive words. They need your encouragement. They don’t need hyperbole or downplaying things that can help them grow.