Fun Family Activity That Teaches Your Kids About the Needs of Others

If you think back to the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), one of the themes is whether or not we are willing to notice the needs of others. The priest and the Levite “saw” the badly beaten man, but they didn’t want to acknowledge the man’s needs in any way that might require them to actually get involved and provide assistance.

Many Christians go through their daily lives in a similar fashion. They may see a need someone has, but find ways to rationalize the fact that they don’t get involved with any number of seemingly valid reasons. Yet those who have the needs not only continue to have a crucial need, but they may also miss out on an opportunity to learn about Jesus or have their faith in God strengthened.

What if you trained your children to be different? To not ignore someone’s needs, but seek out that knowledge? To not only pray for someone, but also put in the effort to get involved in meeting that need? There’s a fun activity you can do with your children, that can begin laying the groundwork for their service to others in life.

Pick an area to explore, like your neighborhood or some public place where you are likely to encounter a lot of people. Explain to your children the challenge before you go. Start by reading or telling them the story of the Good Samaritan. Point out how the priest and Levite acted almost as if they didn’t actually see the man. Explain that often we can act the same way. We look the other way, so we don’t have to get involved. Today your family is going to be different. You are going to look for needs and meet as many of them as you can.

This activity is actually a scavenger hunt of sorts. Perhaps you notice a neighbor hasn’t picked up their paper from their driveway. You can move it to the door they use to save them a few steps and brighten their day. Perhaps another neighbor hasn’t had an opportunity to rake their leaves. If your family worked together, you could rake a yard in just a short time. (You may want to ask permission first, if you think the neighbor might get upset.)

Sometimes the little things – like holding open a door or thanking a worker for doing a great job – can make a person’s day brighter. Your family can bring a little light into their lives. Other times, the project may require a little effort on the part of your family. Occasionally, your family may notice a need that is too big for your family to meet. Can you brainstorm ways to get the need met anyway? Perhaps involving other families or your church or finding non-profits or agencies who can help.

Be creative. Do this regularly as a regular reminder of how God wants you to serve others. Encourage your children to look for similar opportunities at school or work each day. Make sure your family is the Good Samaritan and not the priest or Levite.

Teaching Your Children About Choices

Life is full of choices and the older your children get, the more freedom they will have to make choices independently. Unless they have been taught how to make godly decisions, they may base their choices on their emotions, the pressure from friends or a number of other reasons that don’t necessarily factor in what God wants them to do.

As Christians, we should attempt to make all of our decisions based on the commands and principles of God. God may not care if we wear a blue shirt or a green one, but your kids will make a lot of decisions where God definitely has a preference regarding which option He wants them to choose.

So how can you prepare your kids to make godly decisions – especially since we know making sinful choices often leads to negative consequences that can last a lifetime? There are many things you can do, but here are some of our favorites.

  • Discussing and acting out scenarios. Will your children be facing a tough situation soon? Have a discussion about how God would want them to handle the situation. If they are nervous about what they will say or do, encourage them to practice with you playing the role of the other person. Feeling confident in their decision and how they will tell those who may not agree, can make it easier for them to follow through with those godly decisions that are counter cultural.
  • Encouraging pre-decisions. It is much easier to say “no” to peer pressure if you have already decided that will be your response. Most children and teens can’t process a complex situation and what God might want them to do quickly enough to make consistently good choices. If they have already decided they will not do something (or will do something good), it can be easier to withstand pressure and stick with the godly choice.
  • Studying scripture and its real life applications as a family. No matter how wonderful your congregation may be, they will not be able to teach your children everything in the Bible and how to apply it to their lives. Studying scripture as a family – making sure to discuss how God wants us to apply each passage to our daily lives – gives your children a mental tool box full of God’s wisdom, principles and commands. They can use those tools to analyze their choices and come to a decision that will please God.
  • Teaching them a godly decision making model. Children can benefit for being taught a model to use when they are faced with a difficult choice. We have a free printable resource that walks them through the steps. (Also available in Spanish and Ukrainian.)
  • Modeling and explaining godly decision making. Did you and your spouse decide to turn down a promotion at work because it meant too much time away from your family or some other godly reason? Your kids need to see how you make those tough decisions and how you factored God’s principles and commands into your choice. Of course, this should be done in age appropriate ways, but if your kids never see the process modeled, how are they going to do it themselves?
  • Discussing long term thinking and potential long term consequences. One of the challenges young people often face in decision making is thinking beyond the moment. They can see cheating on the test may give them a better grade, but fail to factor in what will happen if they get caught. Should young people obey God because they love Him rather than from fear of negative consequences? That’s the eventual goal, but it often starts with understanding God’s wisdom in guiding you to live in such a way that it minimizes unnecessary negative consequences.

Don’t leave your children unprepared to make godly decisions. Spend plenty of time teaching them how to make decisions that will be pleasing to God.

A Novel Approach to Teaching Your Children Good Manners

In spite of what it may appear from our chaotic, often selfish world, good manners should always be in fashion. They are designed to show consideration and kindness to those around us. Which is why manners training should be a critical skill set taught and practiced in Christian homes. While sociopaths can use manners to manipulate others, your children should be taught good manners ought to be the outpouring of a loving, humble heart seeking to reflect God’s love to others.

Good manners often reflect the cultural norms of the location where those being taught manners live. As anyone who has moved to a different country or even a different region of their own country can tell you, what is considered good manners in one area may be considered unnecessary or even rude in another. Did you know, for example, that the thumbs up sign used by those in the U.S. as a symbol for “That’s great!” is actually an extremely rude sign in many countries in Latin America, the Middle East and in countries like Greece (with a meaning similar to flashing the middle finger in the U.S.)?

While there is nothing wrong with teaching your children the good manners expected where you live, it is equally important to teach a novel principle that is rarely shared with children. Their manners should reflect what the people with whom they are dealing consider good manners, not what they think good manners should be. For example, if you live in an area where being “fashionably late” is expected, when your child visits, studies or lives in a country like Germany that considers those who are late to be rude, they should adjust their behavior and be early or on time to meet the local standard of good manners.

Why is this important – especially if others know you are from somewhere else with different ideas of good manners? Because good manners are not about what we want, but about respecting the needs of others and showing them kindness and respect in the ways that communicate it to them. The only exception would be if the expected behavior violates one of God’s commands. And when your children return home? They should revert back to the behaviors that are equated with good manners where you live.

The great thing about this approach is that it applies to other differences like generational concepts of good manners. Perhaps in your area young adults do not expect children to say ”Yes sir or ma’am”, but older adults find it disrespectful for children and teens to merely reply “Yes”. If your children have been taught to treat others with the manners that make the other person feel loved and respected, they can easily shift behaviors to make each person feel that love and respect.

Throughout your training though, remember to constantly reinforce the importance of the heart attitudes they have regardless of what manners they need to use. Otherwise, instead of reflecting God’s love, they will come across as a manipulative sociopath in the making.

10 Secrets of Successful Christian Parents

My aunt was visiting recently and brought with her photos and other mementos from the lives of my grandparents. As we looked through everything, I realized my grandfather was actually quite remarkable. Abandoned at eighteen months old and growing up in several foster homes, he broke the cycle of disfunction his birth parents had created. More importantly, he became a Christian as an adult and eventually became an elder in his congregation.

Grandpa is an exception. In the United States, it is unusual for adults from non- Christian homes to grow up to become faithful Christians. Sadly, it is becoming unusual for children raised in Christian homes to grow up to become faithful Christians. Yet, there is a set of Christian parents that does raise children who are faithful Christians as adults.

The parenting area of Teach One Reach One Ministries began in part, because in talking to these successful Christian parents, we realized almost all of them were doing some specific things that were different from other Christian parents. Since then, Barna has done research that backs up our initial theory. Successful Christian parents have certain parenting practices in common. Here are ten of our favorites.

  • They are intentional. When Barna found that hospitality had a significant connection to successful Christian parenting, they realized it was also connected to intentionality. Successful Christian parenting rarely occurs by accident. These parents plan, pray, assess, adjust, study and a half dozen other action verbs that represent the high priority and intentionality they place in their Christian parenting journey. To most, they consider parenting the most important ministry work they will ever do.
  • They focus on God’s priorities, not those of their culture. Culture is secular by nature. Following culture’s priorities means you are probably making at least some decisions that run counter to what God would have you do as a parent. Christian parenting is counter cultural. Your priorities will often be at odds with those of other parents in your community.
  • They listen to their children. Christian parents who are successful, don’t always agree with their children. They do, however, create opportunities for their children to share what’s on their hearts and minds with them. When their children are talking to them, they listen actively, intently and respectfully even when they know they will respond in disagreement. Most children understand their parents will disagree with them and while they may not like it, they know it may be in their best interest. What destroys relationships, however, is when they cannot get the attention of their parents when something is worrying or bothering them.
  • They ask questions to help assess where each child is spiritually and what each needs to grow in his or her relationship with God. You don’t ever want your children to feel as if they are taking a test or you are grilling them, but you do need to periodically ask questions that help you assess their knowledge, understanding or practicing of what they are learning God wants for them and from them. Your children won’t necessarily know when they have a gap in their spiritual knowledge or understanding, which makes it nearly impossible for them to ask for your help. Your questions can help illuminate areas where they may need more teaching or coaching.
  • They actively teach their children what God wants them to know on an almost daily basis. Sickness or other emergencies may disrupt things for a day or two here or there, but successful Christian parents make teaching their children about God a top priority.
  • They model the Christian life intentionally. They aren’t perfect, but they make a concerted effort to live life the way God wants them to do. They don’t make excuses for and rationalize their sins and they make serving others and sharing their faith a part of their daily lives.
  • They give their children lots of guided practice. Successful Christian parents think of themselves as coaches. They include their children in common Christian activities like serving others and give them guided practice. They make corrections when their children aren’t exhibiting Christian character traits. Their children get regular positive and negative constructive feedback on their attempts to live life as God would want them to do.
  • They recognize the differences in their children and individualize how they teach and coach each child. God has created each of your children with slight or significant differences from your other children. Some of the things you do as a Christian parent will work for all of your children. At other times, each of your children may need instruction or correction that is specific to his or her needs that are different from your other children.
  • They make adjustments when the things they are doing don’t seem to be working. They don’t mindlessly continue doing things that obviously aren’t having the desired effect on their children. They take advantage of the wisdom of more experienced successful Christian parents to make critical adjustments before problems become bad habits that are difficult to break.
  • They encourage their children to take increased responsibility over time for their own spiritual health and growth within a healthy Christian community. Successful Christian parents don’t micromanage their children until adulthood. They give their children opportunities to take more and more responsibility for their personal spiritual growth and health while they are still at home and can get help if they are struggling. They also teach their children that being an active part of a church is critical and a huge part of being a Christian. They teach them how to identify and become involved in the most biblical, healthiest church they can find. They also remind them that Christians are human and still sin and teach them how to navigate common problems in a church environment.

How many of these Christian parenting practices are you using? Which ones do you need to add to be more effective in parenting your children? Make the changes you need to make as quickly as possible. Childhood is only for a season and your children need as much help from you as they can get if they are to become who God created them to be.

How Parents Can Get the Rest They Really Need

Parenting is exhausting – rewarding, wonderful, amazing… but exhausting. Are you running on fumes in your Christian parenting journey? When you have a free moment, do you flop down in front of your favorite Netflix show or scroll through your phone? The truth is that the ways many of us choose to rest, not only do not leave us rested, but can also leave us feeling more drained than ever.

The answer may be in returning to Sabbath type rest. As Christians, we no longer celebrate the Sabbath as our day of worship (which has been established as Sunday for us). Yet the elements of Sabbath can give us the deep rest we need as Christians and as parents. Ironically, Sunday may not always be the best day for getting Sabbath type rest and the freedom we have in Christ allows us to incorporate these elements in our lives on any day.

So what are some of the elements of a Sabbath type rest? (Note: These are not the elements of a traditional, modern Sabbath observance in Judaism, but rather some of the activities that can provide the deep rest associated with a biblical Sabbath rest.) Here are some of our favorites.

  • Time with God in scripture and prayer. This is not a rushed reading of a couple of verses and a rote prayer. Rather, it is lingering in scripture and pouring your heart out to God in prayer. The Psalms are often great to read for providing comfort and rest, but any scripture can help. Does the scripture make you agitated instead? That may be an indication it has reminded you of an area of your spiritual life that needs more attention.
  • Reflecting on scripture. Choose a verse or a very short passage and reflect upon it throughout your day. What is God trying to teach you through those verses? What action do you need to take because of the verses upon which you are reflecting? How can you share the lessons found in those verses with those you know?
  • Walking, stretching and other “quiet” exercise. Traditionally, exercise is not allowed on the Sabbath. As Christians, we don’t have the same restrictions. While vigorous exercise does not always provide the rest we need, more relaxing forms can. Quiet exercises can release tension and work off toxic chemicals from stress, while still allowing us to reflect on scripture or just turn our thoughts off for a bit. Many Christians also find in the quiet of a long walk they are able to pray and can better “hear” the thoughts God may be planting on their hearts and minds.
  • Sleep. Most adults don’t get nearly enough sleep. Sometimes, the best parenting move you can make is getting a few extra hours of sleep.
  • Doing something creative. It only makes sense that if we are made in the image of God, the Creator, we were designed to create and be creative. Unfortunately, the real world can stifle creativity. Participating in creative pursuits can be extremely restful. You don’t have to start an expensive hobby. Altering a recipe, figuring out a creative way to fix something around your home and other simple things can be creative if we allow them to be.
  • Reading books that help you grow. Reading fiction doesn’t always provide rest – any more than watching a movie. Reading non-fiction books that inspire or help us grow often do leave us feeling inspired and rested.
  • Journaling. Journaling is not restful for everyone, but if you enjoy writing, journaling can help you get all of those thoughts down in a way that can provide you rest. Some have found that making a to-do list of absolutely everything in your brain provides rest because you are no longer anxious about forgetting something important.
  • Exposure to nature. Since God’s Creation was designed to point us to God, the Creator, it makes sense it can also help us feel rested and closer to God. Even those in large cities have green spaces and the sky. You may even want to add natural elements to the decor of your home to have a similar impact on a smaller scale.
  • Community. The traditional Sabbath meal was a family one. Time was spent in worship with others in the community. We learn from the creation of Eve that we were not meant to be isolated from others. Spending time having coffee with a supportive friend or enjoying a family picnic can also provide a Sabbath type rest.

What’s the hardest part about giving yourself Sabbath type rest? Carving out the time to do it regularly. The Israelites were not given the command to celebrate the Sabbath only on weeks when they weren’t busy. God knows we need regular, quality rest. You may have to delete something from your schedule or make other hard choices to carve out time each week for some Sabbath type rest. If you can’t find an entire day, find a few hours on more than one day. Make Sabbath type rest a family thing, as your kids need it, too. You may find life is a lot easier when you all are truly rested and spending regular quality time with God.