Fun Family Self Reliance Activity

Over the years, there has been an assumption that historical American values and Christian values are interchangeable. In many cases – like honesty – this may be true. There is one historically American value – self reliance – that isn’t one hundred percent Christian. While you don’t want your children to expect others to do everything for them – especially things they should be doing for themselves – there is much about self reliance that isn’t biblical at all.

Why? Because part of the foundation of Christianity is an acknowledgment that we can’t do it all ourselves. That we need God for forgiveness and to be able to spend eternity in Heaven. God also created the church to work as a body – together – to support one another and hold each other accountable for obedience to God’s commands and to work together – pooling their gifts to serve others and share their faith.

In our increasingly isolated, digital world, it can become easy for your children to grow up believing that they don’t need anyone in their lives. That the perfect virtual worlds they can create are better than the annoyances that come with interacting with real people. That they can please God as a Christian by watching services online and giving money virtually – no human interaction necessary.

There is a fun family devotional you can do to show your kids the importance of being involved as part of the Christian “team” and serving and sharing their faith with others IRL (in real life). Start by reading 1 Corinthians 12 to your family. Ask them what it means and why they believe Paul wrote it to the Corinthians. What was he encouraging them to do? Why? What are some reasons we are tempted to avoid interaction with other Christians? With people who need to be served and learn about God? Why does God expect us to do both? What are the advantages to being in a church family who obeys 1 Corinthians 12? What would it look like? What part of the body (their gifts, talents and opportunities) do they think they might be in your church now? In the congregation they attend as adults in the future?

To underscore how the Christian life is better lived in community, participate in one or more of these activities as a family. How did working together make it easier to succeed? What happened when someone didn’t carry their weight? How much harder, lonelier, etc. would the activity have been if done alone?

  1. Escape room. Check first to make sure the theme and activities are a match for your family. These are hard enough as a team and impossible if attempted alone.
  2. City scavenger hunt. You can often find these online. They involve going to an unfamiliar town or part of town and finding objects. Geo caching is similar and works well when everyone helps.
  3. Service project. Find one large enough that everyone in your family has to help to pull it off. We have tons of ideas for service projects on our website. Just click on the service tab to be taken to the list of service projects.
  4. Odyssey of the Mind Activities. Search online for free ideas. Look for activities that requiring the group to work together to solve a problem building something in a short amount of time. Most require lots of little things you probably have around your house.
  5. Cooking as a body. Find a recipe to cook together as a family. The twist is that each member can only be one body part. For example, Dad is the left arm, daughter the right arm, son the legs, mom the eyes, etc. So to get eggs out of the fridge will require two or three people to work together. The same with stirring (hand holding bowl so it doesn’t spin off the counter!) and other parts of cooking. You can also do this with any activity that requires using multiple body parts to complete it.

Have fun with it. Revisit the topic multiple times until you are confident your kids understand when self reliance is good and when they need to be in community or rely upon God.

Answering the Spiritual Questions Your Kids Aren’t Asking

Depending upon the source, only 3-10% of children being raised in Christian homes have a faith foundation strong enough to ensure they will be faithful Christians as adults. Yet, I imagine if we were to poll Christian parents, the vast majority would say their children fell into that 3-10% of spiritually grounded young people. It’s human nature to think we and those we love are the positive exceptions to the rule. It’s one of the reasons why people continue to do things they know are bad for their health – they will be in that small minority that comes out unscathed from their bad choices.

Part of the problem is that as parents we tend to freeze frame our children at various points in their lives. Your view of the strength of your children’s faith may very well be based on something they said when they were in preschool about how they love Jesus. Or maybe your confidence is based on the fact that your children chose to be baptized and devote their lives to Christ. While that is an important step on any faith journey, it doesn’t guarantee your children won’t rebel against God later in life.

We tend to think rejection of God begins when someone becomes enamored of and then enmeshed in sin. The truth is that for many young people being raised in Christian homes, the first step away from God is much more subtle and insidious. In fact, it’s a little replay of how Satan worked in the Garden of Eden. Satan lured Adam and Eve into sin by getting them to question and then doubt God’s truth – if they ate the fruit of that tree, they would die.

Satan works the same way today. First come the questions. What I’ve always wondered is why Adam and Eve didn’t discuss what Satan said with God before they ate the fruit. It wasn’t like they were starving. Or that they didn’t have regular access to God who actually walked and talked with them. They just chose not to go to the source of truth with their questions. Adam and Eve accepted Satan’s lie as the answer to the question he had posed and acted accordingly.

Your kids are going to have lots of questions about spiritual things. It’s how they process and learn. To you, some of these questions may sound like doubts more than questions and in some cases, they may be. These questions and doubts can feel very scary as parents. What if we don’t know the answer? What if we give the wrong answer? Or perhaps we give the right answer, but word it in such a way that it pushes are children even farther away from God?

Interestingly, studies have shown that it’s not these questions and doubts that in and of themselves cause young people to reject God. It’s when they go unanswered by Christian adults. Because, just like in Eden, Satan will make sure they will get his answer. And Satan’s answers are always designed to encourage us to walk away from God and live life our way.

Don’t be fooled into thinking your kids are set because they don’t ask these questions. They may not have voiced them to you or know how to articulate them, but they have them. If you shut them down whenever they ask a spiritual question, they will stop asking them and that puts your kids’ faith at even greater risk. Make your home a place where it is safe to ask any question about God, the Bible, Christianity or anything else of a spiritual nature. Be honest if you don’t know the answer and look for answers together. (Note: Any answer should ultimately point your kids to scripture, not another human – unless that human is used to encourage your kids to read and study scripture.)

Your children have spiritual questions. Encourage them to ask them all and help them find biblical answers. Don’t let Satan have free reign over your children’s thoughts and beliefs.

Fun Family Activity Exploring Scarcity & Abundance Mindsets

If the devil is truly the father of lies as Jesus taught (John 8:44), one of his favorites is the scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset is a belief that every possible resource – including things like love – is limited and therefore when some of a resource is given to someone else, there is less for you. As with all of Satan’s lies, there is a bit of truth to hook us. If you have one apple pie and give someone a slice, there is definitely less of that pie for everyone else to eat.

What the scarcity mindset ignores is that there are often infinite resources we just can’t see at the moment. There are other apple pies that can be baked or purchased. A mother’s love is infinite and can expand to love dozens of children equally. Unfortunately, a scarcity mindset leads to selfishness, jealousy, envy, stress, short term versus long term thinking and problem solving, power struggles, cheating, lying, theft and a host of other problems and sins. As we learn from Cain and Abel, in its extreme a scarcity mindset can even lead to murder (and war).

There is a fun family devotional you can do with your children to begin shifting them from a scarcity to an abundance mindset. Start by sharing the story of Elisha feeding the hundred in 2 Kings 4:38-44. You may have never heard or forgotten about this story yourself. Note the similarities to Jesus feeding the 5000 and 4000 later in time. Introduce the idea of a scarcity mindset…. that 20 loaves are not enough to feed a 100 men or 5 loaves and two fish enough to feed 5000. Yet, with God anything is possible. Ask your children what would have happened if any of the people involved in the stories had possessed a scarcity mindset. Would they have shared the little food they had? Why not? What might have happened if they didn’t share their food?

Now your children might point out that in those cases God created a miracle so there was an abundance of food. How can they be sure that when they share or have an abundance mindset, that there will be enough for them? For a fun activity, re-enact the story of Stone Soup. This can be a really fun activity for several families to do together or you can set up each member of your family to be an entity in the story.

The gist of the story is that during a famine each family in the village just had one item left in their home to eat and it wasn’t enough. One potato, one carrot, etc. Someone had the idea that if they pooled all of their items and added lots of water they would have a soup that would feed them all for several meals (the actual story involved tricking everyone so it isn’t necessary to actually tell the story, just reenact the sharing and pooling of resources aspect). Without sharing and pooling their resources they wouldn’t have enough for even one meal for their family. You can do it with soup, but it can also work with any recipe where each family or person just has one ingredient and can’t make the desired finished product without the help of everyone else.

While you are eating, ask your children how a scarcity mindset would have meant their project failed while an abundance mindset made it successful. Ask them to think of other real life examples. Then discuss examples of things we believe are in short supply – like love and friendship – but which can actually expand and give many people more than enough. For older children and teens, you may also want to explore the idea of sacrificial giving – sharing something even though it may mean you actually do have less for yourself – and how God feels about that.

If you want to extend the activity, find things your family can share with an abundance mindset. This is one of those discussions you want to continue having over the years to encourage generosity in your children.

Fun Family Devotional On Fruitfulness

One of the more odd stories from the time Jesus spent on Earth is found in Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-25. It seems strange, doesn’t it, that Jesus would destroy a tree for not bearing fruit when it wasn’t even the correct season for it! Yet when you connect the story to what happened immediately after it in the text, it becomes a little more clear. Jesus and God expect those serving them to bear fruit and there will be consequences for failing to produce any. It’s a similar lesson to that found in the Parables of the Talents and Minas and in other scriptures in the New Testament.

So what does it mean to bear fruit and why is it important that your children understand the importance of bearing fruit as Christians? There’s a fun family devotional you can have to start the conversation. Before the devotional, purchase some fruit at the grocery store. Pick one or two that are favorites and then perhaps one or two that are new to your children.

Read your children the two parables. Explain that often the first four books, the Gospels, tell the same or very similar stories – either from a different point of view to reach a different audience of readers – or perhaps because Jesus did or said similar things more than once during his ministry. Ask your children why they believe Jesus destroyed the fig tree. Explain that when stories like this are in the Bible, God wants us to learn something from them. What do they think they are supposed to learn from these parables?

Point out that right after the parable in Mark, Jesus cleansed the Temple. What might be the connection? Jesus was angry at the Priests for taking advantage of the people and trying to make a lot of money, rather than ministering to the people which was supposed to be the fruit they were bearing. The fig tree was to teach the apostles an important lesson that could help them better understand – and later teach – what was about to happen at the Temple.

Read Matthew 28:18-20. Explain that some Christians are confused. They think that being a Christian is only about avoiding sin. In reality, it is also about producing fruit in the Kingdom. Ask them what clues these verses give us about the types of fruit we are supposed to bear. Read Galatians 5:22-23. Explain that these are more types of fruit Christians should bear. These particular ones let others know we have the Holy Spirit within us (Note: You may need to explain this concept to your children. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is given to us when we become Christians during our immersion in baptism. It does not feel scary to have the Holy Spirit in us, but rather the Holy Spirit is a helper God gives Christians to help them make good choices.)

Ask your children why they think Jesus got so angry when the tree and the priests didn’t produce fruit. Explain that God will also be angry with Christians when they don’t produce any of the fruit that you have studied in the verses you read. Sitting in church or even calling yourself a Christian means little if we don’t produce fruit. Works don’t help us earn our way to Heaven, but is rather the expectation of God from people He has already saved and a fulfillment of our faith. Read James 2:17-26 and ask your children to explain what it means in their own words.

Bring out the fruits you purchased. As you are eating them, Google to find out how they are grown and what happens to the fruit trees that don’t produce fruit after interventions. Orchards can’t afford for space to be taken up by unproductive trees. If a tree has no hope of producing fruit again, it will be destroyed and a new tree planted in its place. End your time by explaining God has much He wants Christians to do on Earth. He needs us to be productive so the work can all be done. Brainstorm some ways your family can produce fruit for God now.

Fun Family Devotional on Culture and God

Have a weekend or holiday when you can spend a few hours having fun and teaching your children about God? This one can be lots of fun, but does take a bit of extra work depending upon how “big” you want to go with the theme. The spiritual principle is that although many things change over time, God and His principles and commands do not. (It is also great for talking about modesty which is about having an attitude of modesty (not calling attention to oneself – especially in order to encourage sexual attention) and what clothing that might have meant Christians wore or rejected as immodest at the time Note: This conversation includes the males in your family, as they too can be immodest in attitude and clothing.)

The idea is to look at several times periods and compare and contrast them. Start with the decade in which your children were born, the decade their parents were born, the decade their grandparents were born, a random decade more than 100 years ago and the time of Jesus. Have fun with your kids researching clothing styles, trendy foods, cars (or donkeys/horses!), fads, costs of every day items etc. You can make a trip to the public library, look at old family photos or search online together.

If you want to really spend a lot of time together enjoying this look into the past, consider ordering a box of mixed candy from different decades, cooking old recipes together, taking a ride in a historic car or train, trying on vintage clothing, listening to the most popular songs of that era, etc.

After you have had fun, sit down together and have a discussion. Start by reading Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8. Ask your children what it means that God never changes. Read Proverbs 6:16-19. Ask your children if they think God hated those things in each of the time periods you explored. Do they think God still hates those things today? Why or why not? Point out that God doesn’t suddenly approve of lying if most of the people in the world suddenly decide lying is better than truth. We don’t get to vote on God’s commands. We show our love for God by serving and obeying Him – even if that means we look very different from our culture.

If you have older children, you may want to spend some time talking about how Christians will always look different from the world around them and why God wants it that way. Spend time talking about the mixed feelings they may have about “never really fitting in with the popular kids at school” or at times, even some Christians who have decided to adapt cultural norms instead of God’s. Revisit these conversations regularly as your children will struggle with needing to be different to please God at various times in their lives.