Ideas for Valentine Family Fun and Service

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!

Creating Space for Your Kids to Grow

Maria Montessori was an Italian educator who believed giving children the freedom to explore their environment was the best way for them to learn. She developed classrooms full of interesting things that would engage children, encourage them to explore, experiment and ultimately learn.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything in her theories, she did have some important points. And though as far as we know, she didn’t apply them to a child’s spiritual growth and development, they do.

The ministry of Jesus and how he discipled the apostles is very interesting. We know now what their futures held, but they didn’t. Jesus did, however, and he spent a lot of time teaching and mentoring them. But look a little more closely.

There were times where he went off to pray and left them to themselves. At other times, he sent one or more of them on what could basically be described as an errand. Once he sent them off for a period of time to try teaching and healing on their own.

These opportunities gave the apostles time and room to process, think, pray, day dream, experiment and practice. The Bible doesn’t give us many details about what they did during these times. We know a few of their activities like fishing, sleeping, discussing, arguing and talking to those around them, but we can only imagine the other things they did during those times.

The apostles spent about three years with Jesus. Yet the teaching, mentoring and free space and time to grow helped them do just that. As far as we know, with the exception of Judas, they all became courageous ministers.

Who knows the plans God has for your kids? What Maria Montessori and Jesus knew though is that your kids need some free time. They need time to pray, read scripture and process everything they are learning about God. They need time to reflect on scripture and think about who God has created them to be. They need time to experiment with the gifts God may have given them and think about how they can be more like Jesus. They need to experiment in the ways they can best serve others and share their faith.

They won’t have the time to do these things if every moment is not just scheduled, but over scheduled. Or if their free time is spent interacting with screens. Fill your home with things they can explore, experiment with and ultimately learn. Give them enough free time without devices so they can work on becoming who God wants them to be.

This will probably mean making some tough decisions. Activities will have to be cut. Ignore societal pressure that demands every child be engaged in programmed activities every minute of every day. Yes, idle hands can be the devil’s workshop, but only if there is no godly adult presence and guidance. Give your kids the space and time to grow to be the person God created them to be. You may just be pleasantly surprised how they grow when they have the space and time to do it.

Your Child Has a Ministry

What? Your child isn’t old enough to work at McDonald’s. In fact he or she is convinced a career as super hero or astronaut is in their future. Yet, God has a ministry plan for your child…if he or she is ready for the challenge.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) God loves your kids. He wants them to choose to be His child and become a Christian when they are old enough to make that choice. He even has a ministry…good works…specially prepared for them to do.

Those good works are your child’s ministry. They may be big or small. In fact, some of those good deeds might be presented to them while they are still young and living at home.

Our world has us so focused on helping our kids find occupations and jobs, that we forget it is more important for them to find their ministry. Yes, they need to have food on the table and hopefully a roof over their head, but where they will truly grow and become fully who God created them to be is in their personal ministry.

Start now by helping them build strong faith foundations and develop and use their gifts from God. Talk about ways to find those good works God wants them to do. Encourage them to be as content in taking soup to a lonely neighbor as they are in going on a mission trip to Africa. Teach them how to find ways to share their faith and encourage other Christians as they do those good works.

God doesn’t give any of us a list of the good works He has prepared for us so we can check them off as we go. If I had to guess, it’s because that list is possibly based on our reaction to each opportunity as it is presented to us…or in this case your kids. What God has done is told us to be on the look out for those opportunities He gives us to do those good works.

Your child may never be a “professional” minister. His or her good works will most likely take place more in the world than in the church building. Some of them will be based on the gifts God has given your child. This isn’t a competition. It’s about being fully the person God has created your child to be – His child, doing those good works He has prepared for him or her. It’s worth the time and effort to help your child learn how to live that Christian life.

Simple Ways to Point Your Kids to God

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.

Fun Way Your Family Can Thank Others

For many, November has become the month of Thanksgiving. As a Christian parent, it’s important to teach your children to be thankful and encourage others throughout the year.

This fun family devotional is a great way to start the conversation. It also introduces them to part of a familiar Bible story that may be new to them. You will need a Bible and the materials you will use to complete whatever project you choose to do with your children as part of the devotional.

Read Exodus 4:16-5:6 to your children, or tell them the story. Point out that Moses wasn’t particularly excited to do what God was asking him to do. He knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The Israelites might reject him and Pharaoh would not be at all happy to hear what God told Moses to tell him.

Yet, Moses obeyed God. Things didn’t go well at first. Pharaoh kept changing his mind and was angry a lot of the time. There were plagues on the Egyptians. Moses may have wondered at times, what was happening. But he knew the way the Egyptians were treating the Israelites was horrible – especially since the Israelites were doing all of the hard work for them.

Moses probably went through most of his life without anyone thanking him for all of the things he did to obey God and lead the people out of Egypt. In fact, he probably heard more complaints than appreciation and encouragement.

There are many people in our world today who also have jobs where they provide help to others and hear more complaints than gratitude. Have your kids name some of the people who do “thankless” jobs. They may name categories of jobs or specific people they know. You may need to help them get started or add to their list.

Look carefully over your list. Are there thirty people on it your family can thank in a meaningful way for the next month? It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but over the course of a month, your family can appreciate and encourage more than thirty people who probably really need it.

What are meaningful ways to thank someone? Saying “thank you” is a start, but meaningful gratitude is a little more. Perhaps you want to make cards or write notes explaining why your family is so grateful for what that person or group of people does. Maybe you want to make them a baked treat or give them a small gift card. Your kids might want to make them a special craft or pick a flower or some apples to give them.

It doesn’t really matter how your family makes those “thank you’s” more meaningful. Just taking the time and effort to truly thank and encourage someone can make a huge difference in their lives and give them the strength to continue helping others. It’s a great way to reflect God’s love accurately and perhaps even multiple it.