Fun Family Stewardship Project

Stewardship is a concept your kids will probably only learn about at home or Church. In our society today, very few people employ stewards and those who do give them varying titles. In Bible times, a steward was quite possibly the best servant role one could have. Wealthy people often owned vast or even multiple estates – much like today. A steward was similar to a caretaker, but usually much more. He was basically the stand in for the owner for whatever he was the steward.

Stewards had a lot of authority and a lot of responsibility. They made decisions for the owner and were responsible not only for the upkeep, but also the improvement or growth of the property they managed. When an owner checked in with a steward, he expected only good news. Bad news or the decline in value of a property most likely ended with the steward losing his job.

Your kids may not know that when God created the Earth, He made all of mankind the stewards of everything on it. Christians should take good care of the environment, not for some political or social reason, but because it is one of the jobs God gave us. You can have fun teaching your kids how to be good stewards by having some fun with zero waste cooking.

Start by teaching them about Creation and God’s expectations for us as stewards of it. If your kids are older, you may want to look at other scriptures that mention stewardship. Tell them that one way to be a good steward is to reduce waste and use every part of the things we use to make food. Talk about different plants and animals that are used for food. How much of that plant or animal ends up being thrown away – either by producers or by those cooking it?

Explain that as good stewards, we should attempt to waste as little of anything as possible. There are lots of books and websites with ideas for zero waste cooking, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Plant the parts of vegetables you usually throw away like roots and grow free food for your family.
  • Take the bones from meat, leftover parts of vegetables and simmer in water to make broth.
  • Use things like eggshells, used coffee grinds, and the parts of fruits and vegetables you normally throw away and create a compost pile to improve the soil.
  • Research to see if some of the parts of fruits and vegetables you normally throw away, like apple and cucumber peels, are actually edible and start eating them. (Bonus…peels are often where most of the vitamins are found.)
  • Research creative ways to use things you normally throw away in craft projects, to replace household products, etc.
  • Buy products with as little packaging as possible or make things like bread yourself instead of purchasing them. I’ve never been brave enough to try it, but some families buy the grain and grind their own flour.

What other ideas can your kids find? (Hint: There’s an idea not mentioned in the photo above.) Don’t worry if a particular activity doesn’t work well for your family. Ask around. You may find that a friend or neighbor would love to use your eggshells or coffee grinds for something!

Helping Your Kids Quit the Blame Game

Have you ever asked your kids who broke the lamp (or did whatever) and immediately heard choruses of, ”It’s not my fault!” and ”He/she did it!”. If so, your kids have already learned how to play the blame game. They know if they can avoid any personal responsibility for something that has upset you, they are also likely to avoid any possible consequences.

Unfortunately, the game is best played using lies and avoiding personal responsibility for one’s choices. Not the best skill sets for a child being raised in a Christian home to learn. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your kids learn to avoid playing the game at all.

  • Play a new game. This is more fun with older kids. As they watch shows, see news reports or just around the house, can they catch others playing the blame game? At dinner each night, see if anyone saw people playing it during their day. What happened? What were the possible negative consequences for those who played? Your kids may not be aware they were playing the game or perhaps aren’t aware how playing it can damage their relationships with others. Seeing or hearing about lots of real world examples can make them more aware.
  • Play the game in an obvious way yourself. You may need to set up a scene with your spouse if something doesn’t happen naturally. When someone asks you something like, ”Does anyone know where my socks are?”, flip into blame game mode. Be a little over the top dramatic. It’s not your fault. Your spouse was in your kid’s room. The cat walked by the laundry basket. After a couple of minutes of blaming others, ”find” the socks where you left them (like the refrigerator!). You get the idea. Be silly and have fun with it. Don’t copy something that has actually happened in your home or it will look like you are making fun of your kids. Sometimes laughing at ourselves can also be instructive. Younger kids may try to intervene and ”fix” the situation. Don’t let them get too agitated. After your little ”skit”, ask your kids to give you a better way to handle things the next time that happens. See if they can come up with other situations when people blame others instead of accepting responsibility for their actions.
  • Have a ”blame” jar. A common strategy for breaking bad group habits, which you may have to adapt slightly depending upon how much money your kids have. An alternative way to play is to place enough money for a family treat in the jar, instead of family members having to put in some of their own money when caught playing the blame game, you take money away from the jar. They can return money to the jar by taking appropriate blame for an incident. This will need to be monitored by parents to avoid cheating. If you are brave enough, allow them to try and catch you blaming others for your own mistakes.
  • Read all about it. Read your kids Bible stories and stories from history where people blamed others for their own choices. There are plenty of examples. How might things have gone differently if the person had taken responsibility for their own actions? You will probably need to point out how blaming others undermines trust and how that in turn weakens important relationships in their lives.

Have fun with it, but make it a priority in your home. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a huge part of repentance. If your kids can’t accept responsibility, they will struggle to be a Christian.

Helping Your Kids Dream of Serving God

Over the years, I have noticed that sermons and Bible classes discussing serving others and sharing our faith tend to go one of two ways. Either they are extremely general in nature or (if it’s a class specifically for kids or teens) it focuses on doing little basic things around the home or school. As a result, kids and teens often get more specific ideas and encouragement about ways to serve others from secular sources. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing except that they begin to believe serving others happens more in a secular environment and they don’t learn the importance of connecting sharing their faith to service (or how to do it).

You may not be able to change this dynamic in your church very easily, but you can do some things with your own kids to help them learn about some of the many ways Christians serve others and share their faith around the world. This more specific knowledge can help them begin dreaming about how they can serve God and share their faith using their own talents and opportunities – now and in the future as adults.

Here are a few ways to expose your kids to more specific ideas of ways to serve God, while sharing their faith.

  • Invite people to share their stories with your kids. Since hospitality has been shown to be a key ingredient in successful Christian parenting, get even more benefits by inviting over people who serve God and share their faith. Encourage them to share their stories with your kids. What are they doing? How did they get involved in those ways? What skills and knowledge did they need to be effective?
  • Share books, articles and social media posts with your kids. Many people in ministry share their stories in a variety of ways. Follow lots of different people to get a taste of a variety of experiences. In my own ministry, for example, I would have never mentioned ministering to children who have been through a war. Then this year, a war broke out in a country where I do quite a bit if ministry work. I had a steep learning curve about ministering effectively to young people who have lived through a war. I also shared what I learned with others through my ministry. Your teens could have read the ebook that resulted and learned about what would be involved in helping children of war (who are often underserved around the world). While they might not be ready to do much yet, it can plant a seed either for more skills they want to learn or for ministry they hope to do in the future.
  • Explore secular non profits and discuss ways to adapt them so they would also include faith sharing. Secular non profits do some great things. They just don’t include the faith sharing piece God wants us to include in everything we do. Explore with your kids what different non profits are doing. How could a few things be changed to point those they are helping to God? (Note: For teens, the discussion should include funding. Many Christian groups become secular because access to government funds is often restricted if Jesus is mentioned. How could they find funding and still share their faith?)
  • Encourage dreaming, brainstorming and experimenting. Your kids need time to dream these godly dreams. Encourage them to brainstorm ways to solve the problems they see in the world around them by serving others and sharing their faith. Allow them to take some first steps towards something that interests them. Look at ”failure” as a learning experience. Not every idea will work, but sometimes what they learn from their mistakes leads to an idea that will work well.
  • Encourage shadowing, mentoring and apprenticeships. Do your kids seems particularly interested in a specific area? Is there a Christian doing those things that would allow your child to shadow him or her for a day or a project? Would they be willing to mentor your child? What about an apprenticeship where your child will be providing actual help on a ministry project? Encourage your kids to learn as much as they can and think of ways to make the ministry even more effective. Even if that ministry doesn’t like the ideas, they may be useful to your child in the future.

Don’t raise kids who have no specific ideas of ways they can serve others or share their faith. Or kids who think doing an occasional extra chore around the house or being kind to someone at school fulfills God’s commands for them to serve others and share their faith. Help them be prepared to fully serve God every day of their lives.

Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids to Go the Extra Mile

One of the most overlooked scriptures in the Bible is perhaps Matthew 5:41. Jesus was preaching what we now call the “Sermon on the Mount”. If you recall, it has a lot of practical advice for people who follow God. There are two underlying principles in the sermon. The first is that God looks at our hearts and not just our actions. Actions can be faked, but we can’t hide our hearts from God.

The second principle should be life changing for all Christians. God doesn’t call us to do the bare minimum to please him. He’s not happy that we are merely ”better” than the average person. He calls us to go the extra mile. Go so far above what could be expected or even hoped for that people are shocked. Shocked enough to ask why we are different and who is God that He motivates us to live our lives in this way.

Going the extra mile isn’t easy. As strange as it may sound, your kids may get teased for going above and beyond expectations. That’s why it is so important for you to start teaching them this principle when they are still toddlers. It is also why you need to find fun ways to encourage them to go the extra mile when it isn’t so fun – because most of the time going the extra mile means we have to sacrifice something we want for ourselves in order to be able to do it.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • What’s an extra mile? The bar for excellence has gotten so low in our world, that defining the ”extra mile” will be difficult. Take your kids on a walk one mile from your house (If they are really young, make it a distance that will be difficult, but not too difficult for them.) As you walk, explain that in the time of Jesus, there were no cars, tanks, jeeps, etc. Most soldiers had to walk and carry everything they needed. They were allowed to stop any random person on the street and ask them to carry their ”stuff” for about a mile. Jesus was telling them that if they were asked, they should go two miles instead of one. Stop when you reach one mile. Explain that this would have been the stopping point allowed by Roman law. (For older kids, you may want to have them carry a backpack for more authenticity.) Explain that Jesus wants them to keep going – even if they are tired after a mile. Walk the remaining mile to get back home. Ask your kids how the people must have felt when they heard this teaching. Can they think of real world examples of going the extra mile?
  • What is an extra mile today? Have your kids think of all of the things they are either asked to do by others or opportunities they might have to help others. What would most people say is the first ”mile” in each case? What would the extra mile be? To make it more fun, have them interview people of different ages and backgrounds – even Christians and people who aren’t Christians. Do they see any patterns in the answers people gave them? If they could have interviewed Jesus, what do they think his answers would be?
  • Going the extra mile around the world in 80 days style. Pick a fun place some distance from your home. It could be somewhere in your town or you could circumnavigate the globe. Calculate how many miles it is to your goal. Each day, have everyone share at the end of the day times when they felt like they really did go the extra mile. If everyone agrees the person went an extra mile, then you move one mile closer to your goal. It’s important to keep a high but not impossible to reach definition of the extra mile in mind as you go. Your first goal might be a short distance to keep your kids motivated. Consider having a family reward when you reach your goal. For example, the first goal might be to the ice cream place a few miles away and when you reach your goal, you go out for ice cream. It’s important to emphasize that often there is no reward for going the extra mile, but God expects us to go it regardless. This exercise is to help them develop consistency in going the extra mile, so an occasional reward after working hard for several days, weeks or months can be a celebration of improved consistency.
  • Shower someone with extra miles. Choose someone your family knows who is not a Christian. How can your family go the extra mile consistently, over a long period of time to serve this person? As time passes, notice if the person becomes curious. Make sure you are honest about wanting them to learn about Jesus if they ask why you are being so kind to them. See what happens. Not everyone will want to visit your church or ask questions about God, but many will.

Have fun with going the extra mile. You might find it’s the best thing your family has ever done.

Protecting Your Kids From Predators at Church

Over the last few decades, there have been numerous reports of children and teens being sexually molested at various churches. While a couple of denominations have dominated the headlines, it is something that sadly could happen at any church – including yours. I hasten to add that this type of behavior is condemned by God and Christianity. Those who behave this way and those who may cover it up are not doing what God commands them to do. In one of the most famous exchanges between Jesus and his disciples, Jesus reinforced the importance of protecting children from any sort of harm. He also let it be known that the punishment for hurting them would be severe.

The truth is that predators look for churches, ministries and non-profits to find their victims. They want to take advantage of easy access to a large number of children in a place where those running it tend to trust others at face value when they say they want to help children. Thankfully, many places are being more careful about screening volunteers, but not every predator will get caught in a background check. Those with criminal records might move on, but if they’ve never been arrested, they may pass the average guidelines.

The answer isn’t to keep your child away from churches, ministries and their programs. It’s to make smart choices so they stay safe – even if there is a predator in the building. Here are some important ways to protect your kids.

  • Personally take your children to class or the restroom. Chances are high that your kids are safe when lots of people are around, but sometimes the confusion can act as cover for someone.
  • Make sure your church conducts background checks on all volunteers. At a minimum, this should include a criminal records check and reference checks – including calling those in other places where the person may have worked with children or teens.
  • Make sure your church has child safety rules in place. These rules should include not allowing only related adults in one classroom (couples teaching together should have a third adult in the room), classroom doors must be open at all times or have a window in them, children should not be allowed to leave an environment unless accompanied by an adult or peer and adults should not be alone with a child in a room with a closed door. Ministry leaders should regularly monitor any environment to make sure young people are safe. (Especially during worship services and class time in bathrooms and other private places.)
  • Do not allow your child to leave the worship service alone. Due to the nature of my ministry, I meet a lot of people who have had negative experiences. Many of these happened either during a worship service or when there weren’t many people in the building. This can happen to teens as well as small children.
  • Be very cautious about allowing your children to go places with other adults – especially to their homes. It’s often the ”sweet grandpa” type or the charismatic minister who has the parents’ permission to take a young person somewhere alone or to his or her home who causes trouble. It may sound paranoid, but meetings should include more than one child, be in a public place or involve more than one adult.
  • Pay attention to your kids’ reactions to adults. Kids can’t always verbalize why they believe an adult may be dangerous to them or even how. Some kids are very perceptive and pick up on subtle signals even before the person has crossed the line with them in some way. Very young children do go through a stage when all strangers and new situations may cause a meltdown. If your child is normally fine being left with others, but balks at a specific person, pay attention.
  • As soon as your kids are old enough to be taught about ”stranger danger”, constantly reinforce that they should tell you if an adult doesn’t make them feel safe. Let them know over and over that they will not be in trouble if an adult asks them to do something bad. (Of course, also teach them that they can and should say ”no” if possible.) One of the most common weapons of predators is the threat that the child will get in trouble if the adult tells the child’s parents what happened. If your kids know you will be angry with the adult instead, they will be more likely to ignore the threat. Also, as they get older let them know that if an adult threatens to harm you in order to get them to do something, they should ignore it. Reassure them you can handle any threat – no matter how scary it sounds. (The norm is threatening to kill the child’s parents.)
  • Make sure even little children know it is not appropriate for adults to touch certain areas of their body without your/their permission. Obviously, doctors will check those areas, but once a child can go to the restroom without adult assistance, they should know to deny access to areas covered by a bathing suit.
  • Give your kids permission to yell, kick, scream or do whatever is necessary to get away from someone who has grabbed them and taking them somewhere against their will. “Good” kids may be afraid to scream during a worship service if someone does grab them. Reassure them, they will not get in trouble.
  • Spend lots of quality time with your kids. Predators look for kids who don’t have strong relationships with their parents. They often groom them for months before trying anything. The grooming basically consists of giving the child the attention the child craves but doesn’t receive from parents. Having a strong, healthy relationship with your kids will protect them from most predators who use grooming.
  • Don’t assume you know what a predator looks like or the preferred prey. While men are still the predominate predators, women can be, too. Don’t assume a predator will look ”sleezy” or openly leer at children. The average predator looks like an average person. Likewise don’t assume your child won’t be a potential victim, boys can fall victim to a predator as well as girls and teens as easily as small children.
  • If you have a personal or custody situation where someone might attempt to pick up your child from an environment without your permission, make sure everyone involved is aware. You don’t have to give details, but you should let those who are caring for your child know there is a potential danger to your child and that they should release your child to only you or someone else you approve.
  • Don’t assume your church is different than any other church when it comes to predators. Predators aren’t only part of one denomination. They can be anywhere and are much more common than most people realize. As our culture begins to attempt to normalize adult sex with children and pornography, the danger will only get worse. Every story I have been told involved a priest/minister, deacon/teacher or trusted ”grandpa” type adult loved by everyone. Take the precautions to protect your kids.

It is sad to think predators are harming children in ministries, but Satan will do anything he can to destroy a church, Christians and even the growing faith of your kids. Don’t give predators a chance to succeed.