At Home Family Easter Activity

Every year about this time, I like to share one of our Easter family traditions with other parents. Even though we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus every week, it doesn’t hurt to take advantage of an occasion like Easter to reinforce important Bible lessons. (Likewise, you can do this activity with your kids any time – not just on Easter.)

(Since most of us have limited access to stores at the moment, this is posting earlier than normal to give you time to find egg whites or other ingredients you may need.)

Resurrection Cookies are a great way to review the story of Jesus’ death with your children. I got the recipe from one of my neighbors years ago and suspect it is one of those that has been passed around all over the country. I would love to credit the creator, but have no idea who that would be.

You will need a Bible, preferably an NIrV version for younger children. Preheat the oven to 300* and make sure it has reached 300* before you start cooking. Your bowl and beaters need to be grease free for this to work well. We have used pasteurized eggs (or the boxed egg whites) and they work fine, although it is more difficult to keep the yolk out of the whites. It is best to do this right before the children go to bed, but aren’t so sleepy they won’t enjoy it. It can take up to thirty minutes at night and about five or ten minutes the next morning.

For ingredients you will need: 1 cup of whole pecans, 1 teaspoon of vinegar (apple cider vinegar), 2 egg whites, 1 cup sugar and a pinch of salt. I am numbering each step with its scripture to make the recipe easier to follow with your children.

1. Read John 19:1-3. Place the pecans in a large baggie and seal it. As your children beat the pecans with a rolling pin, discuss how Jesus was beaten by the soldiers after his arrest.

2. Read John 19:28-30. Allow the children to smell the vinegar and taste it if they are brave enough! As the vinegar is placed in the bowl explain that when Jesus got thirsty on the cross and asked for something to drink, he was given vinegar.

3. Read John 10:10-11. Add egg whites to the vinegar. Explain to your children that eggs represent life. Discuss how by Jesus giving his life up on the cross, he gave us the hope of eternal life.

4. Read Luke 23:27. Sprinkle a little salt in each child’s hand. Let them taste it. Put a pinch in the bowl. The salt represents the tears of those who loved Jesus when they realized he was dead.

5. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16. Add the sugar. Tell your children that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because he loves us. He wants us to become Christians and spend eternity with him in Heaven.

6. Read John 3:1-3. Beat the mixture on high (stand mixers work best) for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed (when you turn off the mixer and lift the beaters it leaves stiff little mountain tops). Discuss with your children how the color white stands for purity. Jesus’ blood allows us the chance to be cleansed of our sins and be pure again.

7. Read Matthew 27:57-60. Fold in the pecans. (Optional ingredient, but still drop the mixture as indicated.) Drop the mixture by teaspoonfuls onto a parchment covered cookie sheet. Explain to your child that each mound represents the tomb where Jesus was laid.

8. Read Matthew 27:65-66. Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Let each child place a piece of tape on the oven door (or roll a large rock in front of it!). Explain how the soldiers sealed the tomb of Jesus.

9. Read John 16:20 and 22. As you send your children to bed, explain you know they may feel sad about leaving the cookies in the oven over night. Ask them if they can imagine how sad the followers of Jesus must have been when Jesus was sealed in the tomb.

10. Read Matthew 28:1-9. When your children wake up the next morning, allow them to open the oven and take out the cookies. Have them break open the cookie and see the empty air pocket. Remind them how surprised and excited the followers of Jesus must have been on that first Sunday morning after the cross when they found the empty tomb and realized Jesus was alive.

This is a fun reminder of the resurrection for any time of the year or you can make it an annual tradition. The goal is to create a memorable experience that will place the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection firmly in the minds and hearts of your children.

Virtual Church and Your Family

Virtual church is becoming more and more popular. There are a fair number of people who no longer are members of a physical church family, but “attend” virtual church services on Sunday. I even saw an article recently that a church was allowing people to design their avatar and have it virtually baptized.

Virtual church gives you options you may not have in a “regular” church – including the ability to “attend” service at any time and in any place that provides live streaming and play back of services.

I am not sure how many families use virtual church to augment their attendance at a brick and mortar church or watch church virtually as their only family worship experience each week. As with any trend though, virtual church is becoming more popular and we need to think about how it impacts kids, teens and families before it becomes trendy.

I had never attended a virtual service before, so I felt like I needed to do so in a realistic fashion in order to write this post. My husband and I had a Sunday where we had an opportunity to do something that would have made us very late for the church we normally attend. We decided this would be the perfect opportunity to test a virtual worship service.

We chose to “attend” a church that was not our normal church home, but one in a church that we have visited many times in the past. The singing is always wonderful and their minister is one of our favorites. We chose this as I am not one who just sits and watches a screen for long periods of time, so I chose one I knew would be most likely to keep me from getting distracted.

It was an interesting experience. We noticed some things that impacted us both and others that impacted us differently because of our personalities. Below are our observations – some good, some bad. At the end I will share our conclusion about virtual church for families.

  • Singing worship songs is different. Our fellowship practices a cappella singing. The way this church was set up for sound, you could hear the song leaders well, but not the congregation. I missed experiencing hundreds of people singing their hearts out to God together. It did give me an appreciation for just how amazing the talent of the song leaders really is. I love to sing, so I still sang. My husband sings in church normally, but didn’t feel comfortable singing at home. I would image his reaction is more typical than mine.
  • There is no communion for you to take at home. The New Testament says the Christians had communion every first day of the week. We were able to pray and think about communion things, but didn’t have the bread and grape juice. This could be taken care of had we thought about it ahead of time.
  • It’s easier to do other things while worshipping. This is more of a personality thing I think. Because no one else is watching you though, it’s easier to pause and put clothes in the dryer or multi-task while watching. It probably interrupts the flow as much as day dreaming during the sermon in a physical church. On the plus side, if someone had to get up for some reason, you can pause it or rewind and not miss anything.
  • There’s no fellowship. One of the main reasons I believe God has placed us in community is because of the spiritual benefits being in the room with your brothers and sisters can provide. At home, there were no hugs, no one happy to see you, no one to give you emotional support or encouragement, no one to offer you help if you needed it.
  • There is no feeling of family for your kids or mentors. At home, your kids don’t get to interact with peers and adults like they do at church. There aren’t those relationships that become like extended family and give your kids emotional ties to the church. There are no relationships that develop into mentorships, giving your kids other adults who are encouraging them to grow spiritually. They also don’t have the opportunity to find peers who are trying to obey God – which is counter cultural – like they are. No way to feel a little less alone in that counter cultural journey which can be so tough when you are young.
  • There are no Bible classes. Done well, Bible classes give your kids chances to explore God’s word in ways that are most appropriate for them. It’s a place where they can ask questions and participate in activities that help them better understand what they are learning from the Bible. I’m not aware of any church that offers virtual Sunday School after their virtual worship service.
  • The opportunities to get involved in ministry with the church may be extremely limited. This particular congregation did a great job at keeping viewers informed of how they could participate in real activities with that church family. Others may not give that information on their live stream, or you may live so far away you couldn’t participate if you wanted to do so.
  • There is no way to be baptized to become a Christian or confess public sin to your brothers and sisters. Those things can happen, but you would have to be a lot more intentional about it.

Our conclusion? Virtual church works well if you are too ill to attend worship or are in a work situation that has caused you to miss service. It is not and probably should not replace attending a “regular” church and being an active part of that church family.

Yes, church families are filled with people who sin. It’s easy to want to avoid those “annoying” people, by attending church virtually. While we might miss being aggravated by someone, we are also missing the opportunity to grow spiritually by learning how to truly love that person. Virtual church as it is now, loses the accountability, encouragement and spiritual growth potential of a brick and mortar church family. For that reason alone, your family probably needs to spend almost all of your time worshipping in a “real” church.

Preparing Your Kids for Vocational Ministry

Vocational ministry is based on the idea that Christians should be ministering to those around them and sharing their faith in everything they do – including their occupation. Whether your children grow up to be stay at home parents, neurosurgeons, plumbers or anything in between, they can participate in vocational ministry.

Vocational ministry isn’t new. The Apostle Paul and his companions (Aquila and Priscilla among them) were tent makers. The Bible tells us they worked hard to earn the money for their expenses so they wouldn’t burden anyone. (See 2 Thessalonians 3:8, Acts 18:1-3, Acts 20:33-35 and Philippians 4:14-16)

It’s easy to imagine Paul working Jesus into conversations with his clients or asking them to hear him teach somewhere when he wasn’t working. Likewise, we can imagine Priscilla and Aquila answering their clients questions about Jesus or listening to them talk about their problems and finding ways to serve and teach them.

Your kids can do the same things, no matter which occupation they ultimately choose…if you prepare them. Some Christians have been unknowingly practicing vocational ministry for decades. Like Paul and his friends, they find ways to minister to others and share their faith while on the job. In some cases, it required creativity as they dealt with company restrictions, but somehow they managed.

Others have left Jesus in the church building, perhaps picking him up for an occasional conversation on their days off with someone, or participating on a short term mission trip or service activity with their church.

God means for us to be more like Paul, Priscilla, Aquila and ultimately Jesus himself. He wants you and your kids to minister to others and share your faith at every possible opportunity at school, work or during your free time.

Your kids will be more likely to have a personal vocational ministry if you have lots of discussions about it now. What careers interest them? How could they serve others and share their faith on the job? What restrictions does that career track place on talking about God at work? How can they still serve others and share their faith in spite of restrictions? (Note: Most companies just don’t want anyone spending work time teaching people about God or bothering people who aren’t interested. They have no restrictions on break times like lunch, after work, for voluntary participation or for conversations that don’t take place in company facilities. Others have no limitations at all.)

It’s also important you model vocational ministry to your children. Talk about the ways God gave you to serve people at work and/or share your faith when you get home each day. If you haven’t been doing those things, you can start now.

Finally, encourage your kids to start practicing vocational ministry now – at school and extra curricular activities. Talk about some things they can do or say. Make part of your end of day reflection talking about the ways each of you served others and shared your faith, as well as the opportunities you didn’t take advantage of. Why did you pass on the opportunity? What could you do differently next time?

It’s fine if you all learn about and begin practicing vocational ministry together. As you learn and grow, you will be reflecting God’s love, meeting the needs of those around you and sharing the Gospel message with others. And those are always great things for families to do together!

Fun Ways to Strengthen Family Bonds

Feel like you are not as close to one or more of your kids as you would like to be? Don’t ignore the tension in your relationship, hoping it will disappear on its own. It may, but it’s more likely the issues will compound over time, gradually weakening your relationship.

You may not be overly concerned, because you believe it is natural for parents and kids to grow apart emotionally as your children approach adulthood. While teens will become more independent as they reach the end of high school, your emotional bonds should still be strong and healthy.

If you allow your relationship to deteriorate, you will have fewer opportunities to encourage your kids to grow to be who God wants them to be. Since getting your kids to Heaven should be your most important parenting goal, you need to have the type of relationship that allows you to provide guidance and advice to adult children if they need or want encouragement in their Christian walk.

Repairing relationships with your kids can become hard work if you let them deteriorate too far. If you catch issues when they begin though (or even before), it’s perfectly reasonable to expect your relationship to remain strong and healthy with a little focused effort.

There are fun things you can do with your kids that usually lead to a relationship becoming stronger.

  • Playing board games. Games are fun if you don’t get too competitive. It’s a great way to switch gears if you are currently in a period when you have been giving a lot of corrections and consequences.
  • Parent child dates. This is great for kids who have lots of siblings or for a parent who is absent a lot because of work or other obligations. Take one child at a time and do something you will both enjoy. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Choose activities that will allow you to have great conversations, too.
  • Take a class together. Learning together can be a great equalizer for a child who feels unheard or invisible. Take a class in an area where you both have no experience or your child is a bit better at the topic then you are.
  • Hikes, walks and other physical activities. This is great for parents and kids under a lot of stress. If the activity makes talking difficulty, make sure you allow time for talking in a relaxing activity afterwards.
  • Cooking. There’s something about a kitchen that encourages kids to talk. Your conversations will be even longer if your child is helping you cook something – or you are helping your child cook.
  • Planning an adventure. Whether it’s a family vacation, a birthday party or redecorating their bedroom, planning something big usually involves a lot of conversation and a bit of dreaming.
  • Serving someone. If your child is old enough, let him or her take the lead planning and executing the service project. Instead of correcting your child when you think his or her ideas are unrealistic, ask questions to get your child to reflect and make more effective choices. Service is a great way to take the focus off of any tension and put it into working together to help someone else. It can also give all of you some needed perspective.

In the end, what the activity is will not be as important as carving out extra time to really interact with your child in meaningful ways. Those times can help even great parent – child relationships. They can also repair the emotional distancing that can sometimes occur as kids get older. It’s worth your extra time and effort.

How Telling the “Christmas Story” Might Weaken Your Kids’ Faith

When you are fighting a battle, it’s important to know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Whether you realize it or not, you are in a constant battle with Satan for your kids’ souls.

Satan is a tricky opponent. He can use all sorts of statements from people in the secular world to confuse your kids. He uses the writings of people from other faiths to cause your kids to question basic faith tenets.

One of Satan’s most devious tricks is taking the teachings of well meaning Christians and pointing out all of the flaws with what they said. These flaws could be a simple misunderstanding, a result of poor memory or weak logic. Unfortunately, many times we could prevent these flaws, but fail to do the research our opponents do to rid our teachings of mistakes.

Christmas is one of those places where error is often innocently taught. Young people can easily find those mistakes. Instead of understanding they were unintentional mistakes of well meaning Christians, adolescents and young adults may allow them to undermine their faith.

When telling any Bible story to kids or teens, it is crucial that you are accurate. Don’t add details that the Bible omits. Here are some things commonly taught about Christmas that could later become a stumbling block for a struggling young person.

  • Christ was born on Christmas Day. We don’t have any idea when Jesus was actually born. Many believe, it is more likely Jesus was born in the Spring or Fall. You can tell your kids some Christians chose this day to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but not because they knew it was his actual birthday.
  • There were three wisemen. We actually don’t know for sure how many wisemen traveled to worship Jesus. The number three became attached because the wise men brought three gifts. Similar groups historically had five or more men and possibly their servants, too. (They also weren’t the kings of the Christmas song. They were magi or wisemen.)
  • Mary rode to Bethlehem on a donkey. Since she was pregnant, it is not hard to believe she did ride a donkey to keep from having to walk that far. The Bible, however, makes no mention of how Mary and Joseph got to Bethlehem.
  • Jesus was born in a stable or barn. While we know Jesus was swaddled and laid in a manger, the stable part is a bit of a misconception. There are two common opinions of what actually happened. One was that animals often spent the night in a cave. The other is that Mary and Joseph were staying with relatives. The guest room was full of other relatives, so they were staying on the first floor of the house. Many households with only a few animals brought them into the first floor of the home at night. (This still happened in places like Ireland hundreds of years after Jesus.) There weren’t what we would call traditional wooden stables or barns in the area at the time of Jesus.
  • The shepherds and wisemen showed up the night Jesus was born. While the shepherds may have come the night Jesus was born, we are pretty sure the wisemen arrived much later. Their journey was long and King Herod later killed all of the boys under the age of two years, indicating he believed Jesus was probably not a newborn.
  • Jesus was born in 1 A.D. The calendar thing can get confusing. The Bible doesn’t give us the exact year of Jesus’ birth. Based on other information provided in Luke about rulers, most historians believe it is more likely Jesus was born about 5 B.C. (or B.C.E.)

Do any of those details really matter? In the larger scheme of things, the only thing that really matters is that Jesus was born, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies and later died and rose from the dead. If you are telling the story to your kids though, the details do matter. Making up details or repeating details that are misunderstandings can give Satan a tool to use to create cracks in the faith foundations of your kids. It’s worth getting the details right.