One of the top goals of Christian parents is to help their kids develop strong spiritual discipline habits. Many families do a great job of encouraging their children to have active, independent prayer lives. Helping kids and teens develop the habit of reading the Bible daily is often more problematic. When we have trouble reading the Bible ourselves on a daily basis or even having periodic family devotionals, how can we help our kids build strong independent Bible study habits?
One of the biggest barriers to developing the spiritual discipline of spending time in scripture each day is just remembering to do it. You and your kids may have the best of intentions. Then life happens and you get distracted. Suddenly, your family looks up and realizes you haven’t even thought about reading the Bible for several days… or even weeks or months.
A great way to help your kids remember daily time in scripture is to set up a Bible corner. If you have enough room, each child may want their own. Bible corners can be in any room, but preferably one in which your child will be several times each day – even on the busiest ones.
Encourage your child to make it as cozy as possible – maybe with a favorite blanket, pillow or chair. Teens might want to add a favorite mug or glass ready for their favorite beverage. Have them place a paper Bible, notebook, pen and any study aids they need in the corner. If the corner is ready for immediate Bible study, it will be much more effective. Teach your kids that when they walk by their Bible corner, they should stop and have their Bible study time if at all possible. If they can’t at that moment, they should schedule an exact time later that day when they will use their Bible corner.
Have fun with it, but use your Bible corners to encourage more time spent in scripture each day – for you and your kids.
It’s amazing how many young adults claim their job title is “Influencer”. In fact, your kids may have that as their career goal, too. Even if your children are interested in other careers, they may very well follow influencers on social media. They understand the power influencers can have on the purchases people make, the music they listen to, the content they stream and more. What your kids may not understand is that they have a sphere of influence even if they are “off the grid”.
When discussing their sphere of influence, your kids will naturally think of followers on social media or kids at school who will follow their lead if they suggest something. What they may not understand is the more subtle ways they can influence others – sometimes without even being aware they are impacting those people. The things they say and do can alter the ways people think and even their belief systems.
Tell your kids the story of Ruth. Point out the impression she gave to people merely by gleaning wheat to help care for Naomi. In fact, Boaz was so impressed with her attitudes and actions, that he married her. She even became the great-grandmother of King David! She never preached a sermon or wrote a book, but the things that she said and did reflected God’s image to others and influenced them in a positive way.
Ask your kids to think about who sees or hears them on a regular basis. Remind them they can make an impression on people who notice them – even if they don’t see those people themselves. Help them think of examples when something a stranger said or did impacted them in some way. Encourage them to think of the ways what they say and the things they do could influence others – in a good or a negative way. More importantly, help them brainstorm ways they can be more intentional in their choices in hopes that their influence points more people to God. Encourage them to use any influence they have in ways that make a positive difference in the spiritual lives of others… that type of influence may not earn them any money, but it can have eternal implications.
There is a certain arrogance that seems to come with being young. In the 1960’s, the popular catch phrase was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”, but I believe they were just saying out loud what young people have thought for thousands of years. In fact, the book of Proverbs is at its core an attempt to encourage young people to listen to the wisdom of their elders and God. Unfortunately, that arrogance of youth often causes them unnecessary pain as they refuse to learn from the mistakes of those that have gone before.
Many would argue that the arrogance of youth is now on metaphorical steroids. Social media allows equally naive, arrogant people to encourage each other’s ideas – whether or not they are based on wisdom or truth. Popularity is equated with validity/truth/wisdom. Sadly, many will live a life filled with negative consequences because of their lack of humility.
It doesn’t have to be that way for your children. You can help them avoid the temptation of arrogance by actively teaching and encouraging humility. It’s not an easy task in our self focused world, but it can be done. Here are some of our tips for raising humble children.
- Surround your kids with scripture. They should hear verses like “Pride comes before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) over and over again. Place those verses around your house where your family will see them daily. Etch those scriptures deeply on the hearts of your children. Have family devotionals about Proverbs and Bible stories that involve pride and its consequences. Encourage your children to read Proverbs regularly in their independent Bible reading. Help them memorize and review key verses.
- Point out the problems arrogance causes. Be careful how you have these conversations – you don’t want to appear as if you are gloating or prideful yourself. It is important, however, to see that many times negative consequences can be avoided by humbly listening to and heeding wisdom. Arrogance can seem appealing when it looks like a “fun” athlete or well dressed celebrity. Make sure your kids also know the downside of pride.
- Help your kids develop godly self esteem – neither too high nor too low. A few decades ago, people became concerned about children with low self esteem. To compensate, they begin focusing only on a young person’s positive traits and ignoring the negative. What resulted were children with self esteem that was too high – which came with its own set of negative consequences – like arrogance and meanness. It’s fine to point out the strengths you see in your children, as youth can be a time of self doubt. Don’t be afraid to encourage them to admit and work on their weaknesses – especially in regards to character and sin. The key is balance.
- Regularly serve others and share your faith. As you do, focus on helping your family serve not from pride, but as truly humble servants. Be willing to do those dirty, thankless jobs. Do things in secret. Focus on mirroring the attitudes of Jesus as he helped others during his life on Earth.
- Point out the benefits of wisdom and set a good example. What often resonates with young people is that there are obvious benefits now for obeying God when it comes to heeding wisdom. It’s an immature motivation, but you have to meet your kids where they are and help them grow beyond that point. They will also watch you carefully. Does someone give you wise advice and you ignore it? Do you mock the attempts of older people to give you advice? Do you show disdain for anyone older than you (for example – out of touch, old fashioned, legalistic, etc.)?
Your children will benefit from being humble. Others will benefit if your children are humble as well – your family, the Church and the world. It’s worth taking the time and effort to raise humble children.
One of the difficult things to teach children about decision making is how to slow down the process a bit. Snap decisions often have negative consequences, because not every angle was considered before the choice was made. There’s a fun family devotional you can do that will help your children better understand the possible consequences of making important decisions too quickly.
Before starting, you will need the ingredients to make lentil stew. You can find recipes online – here is one recipe that claims to be authentic. Gather your children and have them help you make the stew. As it is simmering, tell them the story of Jacob and Esau found in Genesis 25:27-34. Make sure you explain the importance of a birthright during those times. (By obtaining Esau’s birthright, Jacob would be much wealthier than he would have been after Isaac died.)
Ask your children why they think Esau was willing to trade a lot of wealth in the future for a bowl of stew now. Would he have made the same decision if he had stopped and thought about it a little more carefully? Would Esau have starved to death in the time it might have taken him to get food some other way? Since he wasn’t really dying of hunger, why didn’t he wait a few more minutes rather than giving Jacob his birthright?
After they have thought about Esau’s poor decision making, ask them to think of times when they perhaps make decisions too quickly. What negative consequences could they have avoided if they had taken a little more time to think about the possible consequences of each option? Why is it important to take time to think and pray before making important decisions? If they are engaged in the discussion, teach them decision making tools, like listing all of their possible options and the pros and cons for each one.
After the devotional, encourage your kids to slow down, think and pray before making any major decisions. Remind them that they don’t want to be like Esau, regretting trading their birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.
Gratitude should be a natural outpouring of our relationship with God. Yet, it’s easy to get caught up in all of the problems of the world or to begin comparing our possessions to those of people wealthier than us. Suddenly, instead of feeling grateful, we can begin feeling whiny, critical and even see ourselves as victims because we can’t immediately have everything we want. We may even forget to thank God when he grants our prayer requests.
A lack of gratitude is also contagious. It only takes one member of your family to begin whining and complaining. Before long, your entire family is miserable. Thankfully, gratitude is contagious, too.
Studies have found gratitude is good for us. It encourages positive thinking and reduces the use of negative words. Gratitude also changes the hormone levels in our body, helping us feel less stressed and happier. Spiritually speaking, gratitude can encourage us to serve others and share our faith. It also serves as a reminder that we don’t deserve the things we have, but they are blessings from God.
There is a fun ongoing activity you can use to encourage gratitude in your home. Create a “graffiti wall” in your home. Place a large piece of paper somewhere where everyone can see it on a daily basis. Try the refrigerator, bathroom mirror or the door everyone uses. (Make sure the paper is thick enough that markers don’t bleed through and ruin what is behind it.) You can even go over the top and paint an entire wall with chalkboard paint.
Talk about the importance of thanking God – even on days that don’t seem so great. For the first few days, find a time when everyone goes together and adds words or drawings to your gratitude wall. Encourage your children to visit the wall at least once a day. Read over past entries and add new ones daily. Pray and thank God for the things on your wall. Ask visitors to your home to add their own entries. Make gratitude contagious. You may just find your family is less stressed and happier, too.