Gone are the days when snow, water outages or pandemics meant children stayed home with no academic responsibilities. Virtual learning means school continues – no matter what. There are several hidden gifts in those virtual days, however. Cutting out travel time and extra curricular activities means your kids have extra free time in their days. Why not claim some of that for God?
There are lots of great ways to add activities that encourage your kids to spend time with God and learn more about Him. Here are a few of our favorites.
Take a snow stroll. The Bible tells us God’s creation points us to Him. Snow changes how the world looks, sounds and even smells. Take your kids for a stroll, asking them to point out the things that are different from a regular non-snow day. Older kids may enjoy taking photos that show the beauty of God’s blessing of snow. Over a cup of hot cocoa after your walk, ask your kids why they think the things they saw could point people to God.
Practice academic skills with a biblical framework. Our website has tons of activity ideas tied to Bible stories and academic skills like language arts, math, second languages, science, health and even survival skills. Look around for some skills your kids need to practice. Have fun teaching them the connected Bible story and doing the activity. (http://teachonereachone.org/activity-ideas/)
Have a family devotional. What better time to start that family devotional habit? Our website can be searched for family devotional ideas or use some of the activity ideas on our ministry website.
Serve one of your neighbors. Make some soup or homemade bread for a neighbor. Offer to shovel their sidewalk. Find ways for your family to serve others around you with some of your extra time.
Teach your kids a Christian life skill. Our free teen curriculum can be adapted for older children, too. In addition to the Bible lesson, you will find activities teaching your kids important Christian life skills like godly conflict resolution. They also give your kids guided practice, so they will know how to do what God wants them to do.
Encourage your kids to discover, develop and/or use the talents God gave them to serve Him. Your kids probably have things they have wanted to try, but never seem to have the time to do. Encourage them to take some time to try or read about a possible new talent. Or let them work on developing a talent they’ve already discovered or help them find a way to serve someone using one of their talents.
The next time your kids have a virtual learning day, use some of that redeemed time to teach them something God wants them to know or encourage them to use some of that time spending time with God and serving Him. It’s a great way to help your kids build a strong faith foundation and reach their godly potential.
Yesterday in worship service, I had to smile. The sermon was based on the passage John 1:1-14. I knew it well. Why? Because my third grade Bible class teacher had us memorize it and several other long passages of scripture.
Scripture memory used to be common a few decades ago. It weakened a bit in generations after that when scripture memory work was limited in many cases to reciting just one verse (called a memory verse). It wasn’t as helpful because many kids looked at it for a few seconds then repeated it. Close enough was good enough for most teachers and the verses never made in to the long term memories of children. Now, it is the rare Bible class teacher that even asks students to memorize any scripture at all. It’s considered boring and therefore, thought to add no value to their spiritual growth and development.
Actually, the truth is that scripture memorization is a critical part of spiritual development. It doesn’t matter how easily they can look up a verse on their phones. Having it stored permanently in their brains provides benefits a Bible app cannot give.
Memorized scripture gives your kids immediate knowledge of what God wants them to do when given a choice. Your kids will have to make many choices during their lives in a split second. They won’t have time to do a Google search for applicable scriptures and read them in their Bible app. Having important verses memorized gives them immediate access to the information they need to make a godly choice.
Memorized scriptures serve as constant reminders of God’s promises, principles and commands. When your kids have thoughts rolling around in their heads, memorized scripture can provide some helpful input. For example, if your kids are thinking about how unpopular they are, memorized scriptures about God’s love can remind them they are indeed loved – no matter how it feels at the moment.
Memorized scriptures can make it easier for your kids to encourage others and share their faith. When a peer asks a question about life or God or needs encouragement, your kids will already have ideas of what they can say stored in their brains. Adults may patiently wait while you search for answers in the Bible, but your kids’ friends want some wisdom in the moment. Your kids can provide wisdom beyond their years by quoting the appropriate scriptures (or at least a summation of them).
Oldest memories stick with us the longest. Robot’s Law states that early memories are less likely to be lost than more recent ones. Other studies have found memories that are regularly reinforced stick with people the longest. Translation? Getting your kids to memorize and then regularly repeat key scriptures means those will be the last memories to fade as they age. Want your kids to have God’s words on their hearts for their entire lives? Start them on scripture memory early. It’s why many Christians tell stories of relatives in late stages of dementia who can still sing church songs and quote scriptures from memory.
Scripture memory work doesn’t have to be boring. Many verses have been made into songs. Singing them together over and over can cement those scriptures just as well as standard memorization. Plus the tune can serve as a trigger to bring those memories flooding back later. Take the time and effort to help your kids memorize scripture. It’s a great gift to give your kids.
Christmas and birthdays can prove challenging to kids. Almost everyone has that one relative who means well, but for some reason always buys the gift your kids are sure to hate. As a Christian, you don’t want them to lie, but you don’t want to hurt sweet Auntie Jane either. Or, maybe your kids have turned gift getting into a full time job…leveraging opportunities for more gifts that would put any Wall Street tycoon to shame!
Let’s be honest. Gift getting is a parenting minefield. Teaching your kids these four skills, however, can make gifting a lot less hazardous (and hopefully more godly) in your home.
Teach your kids to expect nothing. Gift getting problems often begin when expectations aren’t met. When the focus is on building expectations, gift getting is in danger of becoming an exercise in greed and entitlement. If your kids can learn to expect nothing, then anything will be a pleasant surprise.
Encourage your kids to express gratitude for everything. It’s important to teach them that “their truth” isn’t necessarily “the truth”. Just because they think the sweater from Aunt Jane is ugly or that books make horrible gifts, doesn’t mean the sweater actually is ugly or that books make bad gifts. It is merely their opinion and does not need to be shared with the gift giver. Neither should your kids lie and say a sweater they think is ugly is beautiful. Rather, teach them the art of expressing gratitude for the love, time and effort the person put into choosing the gift for them. Or to find some aspect of the present they like and thank the person for that. Socks may not be their favorite gift, but “Thanks! Those socks look like they will really keep me warm!” is an honest expression of gratitude. Those thanked in person don’t necessarily need a thank you note, but gifts received in the mail or through a third party should be appreciated with a call or note to the giver.
Help your kids share their blessings. Whether it’s giving a sibling a turn playing with their toy or passing on toys, books and clothes they have outgrown to others, your kids should focus on at least a balance of receiving and giving. All getting and no giving makes for a very selfish child.
Teach your kids to acknowledge all of their blessings are from God and regularly thank God for those blessings. Establish a pattern of thanking God for everything – not just foods at mealtime. Every good thing does come from God and should be appreciated as a blessing. Prayers should always contain an element of gratitude.
Don’t forget, you need to model what you teach to your kids. Grateful, appreciative parents often raise grateful, appreciative children.
If your kids are school age, you’ve probably already noticed that everything their favorite teacher says is a fact, regardless of whether or not it actually is. It can be funny if the new fact is that okra is the best vegetable ever, but for Christian parents your kids’ lack of discernment can quickly become problematic. Not being able to differentiate between the facts of God’s truths, and the assumptions and opinions of others can leave them spiritually susceptible to being led astray.
There’s a fun activity you can do with your kids to help them begin to discern between facts, assumptions and opinions. Grab a Bible and share with your kids the story of Hannah and Eli found in 1 Samuel 1:1-18. Ask your kids what Eli assumed about Hannah? What was Eli’s opinion of Hannah based on his assumption? What were the facts of what Eli observed? How did Hannah explaining the facts of what she was doing change Eli’s opinion of her?
Explain that if Eli had not taken the time to discover the facts of what was happening, he could have made a lot of mistakes based on his assumption. As it was, he added to Hannah’s distress by falsely accusing her. Had he chosen to tell others or deny her access because of his assumptions, the situation would have gotten even worse.
Teach your kids the difference between facts, assumptions and opinions. Find the dictionary definitions. Give lots of examples – especially for young children. For example: The fact was that Hannah was praying fervently to God. Eli’s assumption was that Hannah was drunk. His opinion of her was negative because of his erroneous assumption. Point out that keeping our assumptions without checking for facts, causes all sorts of problems. Give examples you have seen of people expecting the worst and causing problems for someone who was innocent. Or someone who assumed the best and believed a lie that later hurt them or others.
Then have fun with it. Play a game where statements are made or scenarios given. In each case, your kids must decide if a fact, assumption or opinion is involved. In some cases an assumption can lead to an opinion so in those cases they need to point out both. Older kids may want to create their own statements and scenarios to try and stump the rest of your family. For older kids and teens, you may want to read statements from social media or news articles. Have fun with it, but make the scenarios varied enough that your kids get lots of practice in discernment. Play the game periodically to keep your kids’ discernment skills sharp.
Christian parents usually give their kids opportunities to serve others as part of their spiritual education. Serving regularly with your kids is a wise thing to do if you want them to grow up loving their neighbors, serving those in need while sharing their faith and living their faith on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the ways we often engage them in serving others doesn’t have the impact on them it could.
Studies have found that when young people serve others through mission trips and the like, any spiritual growth is often small and not sustained over a long period of time. Serving others as a family can have the same results, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Making a few changes can mean your kids experience real, sustainable spiritual growth as a result.
Here are some things to make sure you include when your family serves others.
Talk about why you are serving. Just saying your family is trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus or love others like yourself isn’t enough. Take a close look together at the ministries of Jesus and the disciples found in the Gospels and Acts. Have real discussions about why God wants His people to serve others. Talk about the ways serving others point people to God and how you can enhance that by sharing your faith with those you serve. If your kids don’t understand the true, deep significance of serving others, it becomes just another family activity which can be omitted on a whim when they are older.
Focus on empathy rather than sympathy. Sympathy can have an element of pride attached to it. Empathy attempts to understand the thoughts and viewpoints of others. Your family doesn’t have to agree with or condone ungodly attitudes or actions, but you can understand why those you are serving may (in some instances) have made those poor choices. It can also help to understand the stories of those you are serving. What is daily life like for them? What struggles do they encounter? Empathy also tries to find things in common with those being served. Finding commonalities makes it harder to be prideful and easier to become passionate about sharing the Gospel message as you serve.
Include your kids in the planning and execution of your service. Your kids will be more invested in participating in something they helped plan. It’s also great experience that will enable them to plan and execute ways to serve others independently when they are older. Even toddlers can participate in aspects of the planning process by giving them two acceptable options for some part of your service and allowing them to choose which one you will use.
Make serving others relational. I’m not suggesting you refuse to donate to the various collection drives, it’s just they won’t have the same impact on your kids as developing relationships with the people to whom those items will go. Find ways to help your kids make relationships with those they serve. Long term involvement in the lives of the same people can have the best long term impact, but taking your kids to help deliver the items others collect can at least give some relational aspect to your service. If meeting the people is impossible, try reading a book written to develop empathy for people in similar circumstances.
Encourage your kids to work on their own spiritual growth as they serve others. Serving others can be a great opportunity to work on godly character traits like patience, perseverance, kindness and more. Ask your kids to pick a character trait with which they struggle and be intentional about improving in that area while they are serving. It can help if they memorize a theme verse they can repeat while serving to remind them of their goal.
Spend time on reflection. It took me awhile to fully appreciate the value of a time of reflection after serving others. The lessons you think your kids learn from a service experience may be very different from what they actually learned. Talking about the experience and asking them questions about their perceptions can give you opportunities to correct misperceptions and add insight in ways they may have missed. You can also reflect on the ways you would do things differently should you ever serve in that way again. Reflection is the piece that can help make spiritual growth sustainable.
Regularly serving others with your kids is one of the best things you can do to help them start to put together all of the pieces of their faith. Making these tweaks can make the potential spiritual growth from those experiences meaningful and sustainable.