Fun Family Activity on God’s Greatness

Do your children understand nothing is impossible for God – even today? There’s a fun family devotional and activity you can do to get your family talking about the amazing things God has done and can continue to do in the future. You will need a Bible, some art paper, sidewalk chalk and buttermilk.

Grab a Bible (preferably NIrV to make it easier to understand) and tell your kids the story of Elisha and Jehoash found in 2 Kings 13:1-14:22, and 2 Chronicles 25. Focus on the part of the story of Jehoash with Elisha and the arrows. Explain that although Jehoash had been evil, God still loved the people of Israel. When the king humbled himself enough to go ask Elisha for God’s help, Elisha gave him some instructions.

The king evidently did not have enough faith in God (or humility, the Bible doesn’t really tell us why he stopped so quickly) to strike the ground five or six times. As a result, the King would not be able to totally defeat his enemies and they would continue to cause trouble for the people of Israel.

Explain that sometimes it is hard to believe God will really take care of us and keep His promises. It is important to remember that God can do amazing things – even today.  God wants us to trust Him and pray to Him – even if we think it would take a miracle for God to say “yes” to our prayer. It’s important to believe God still works in amazing ways.

Ask your kids to share some of the amazing God works in the Bible. Older children may also be able to share stories of how they have seen God answer their prayers in amazing ways. With younger kids, you may want to share some amazing things you have seen God do.

Give everyone a sheet of paper on which they can draw. Tell them that normally when you draw with chalk it gets very dusty and makes a mess. If you dip the tip in buttermilk first though, the result is a creamy, dustless, no-smear drawing – amazing.  (Older students may be able to understand the analogy of us adding God to our lives to make our lives richer and fuller.) Have everyone use the technique to create drawings to remind them God is amazing. Have them title their artwork so they will remember the theme and display the finished works where everyone can see them.

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Ending the Sibling Wars

Cain and Able may have been the first, but they certainly weren’t the last siblings to have issues. For a lot of reasons, merely being raised in the same home does not automatically make siblings best friends. In fact, some parents unknowingly set the stage for sibling conflicts that can last decades beyond childhood.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. There are plenty of siblings who see each other as friends – some even best friends. Are there things those families do that are different from others? Or are their children just more alike than yours?

Actually birth order, birth gap and personality only play a small role in the relationships your kids will develop with each other. The major impact is in how you expect them to treat each other and how you handle things when the inevitable sibling conflicts arise.

Here are some of our top tips for raising loving siblings.

  1. Teach your kids God wants them to love, serve and be kind to each other. The more your overall family attitude is that you all treat everyone with love, serve others and are kind to everyone, the easier it will be for your kids to treat each other the same way. Remember though, you and your spouse will also have to model these attitudes in how you treat each other.
  2. Remind your kids your family is a TEAM for God. If members of your family are allowed to constantly act selfishly – putting themselves before others – the less likely they will see your family as a unit that works together for the good of everyone. Strong teams realize that at times members must make sacrifices so the team as a whole is stronger. Kids who have an “every man for himself or herself” attitude will be more likely to fight to continually get their way.
  3. Teach your kids each one of them has special gifts from God they can use to serve each other, your family and God. God has most likely given each of your kids some gifts that are slightly or radically different from each other. It’s important they realize no gift is more important than the other – even if one child’s gift gets him or her more attention in the world. All gifts are to be used to serve God. Gratitude to God for those gifts should always be expressed – humility will also strengthen sibling bonds. Remind them that often one or more of their gifts can also be used to serve each other in some way, and encourage them to do that whenever possible.
  4. Do not let your kids use ugly words when speaking to each other. It doesn’t matter how frustrated or angry they are at each other, don’t let them speak harshly to each other in anger. Teach them godly conflict resolution skills and insist they use them. Bad conflict habits often begin by ignoring those same bad habits used between siblings in childhood.
  5. Do not let your kids tease or say ugly things about each other. Many sibling relationships are damaged for life because siblings were regularly allowed to say ugly things to each other under the guise of “teasing”. As an adult, you may think your super skinny daughter knows she doesn’t have “thunder thighs”, but in most cases young people will believe the taunts tossed at them by siblings – even if the teasing seems ridiculous to everyone else. There is no positive outcome from allowing siblings to tease each other – just a slow cracking of the relationship over time.
  6. Encourage your kids to express their love for each other regularly. Not the kick the dirt, “Mom’s forcing me to say it” affection, but genuine honest affection. Encouraging them to say I love you when they are too young to have many conflicts is a great way to start the habit. Homes where parents say “I love you” a lot, seem to also raise kids who are comfortable saying those same words to others.
  7. Help your kids think of ways to encourage and serve each other. Encourage your kids to be proactive in encouraging and serving each other in good times and bad. After a few years of asking them their ideas for celebrating or encouraging each other, they should be able to do some of those things without your prompting.
  8. Do not treat one child with more or less love and kindness than your other children. Playing favorites always turns out badly – just ask Jacob and Esau! There are a million reasons why you may prefer one child over another, but no healthy ones for your kids. Each child has different needs – fair is not always equal. In general though, life should feel fair in your home. There should not be a “golden child” – especially one that every child in your family can easily identify as the same child.
  9. Work together as a family on service projects, sharing your faith and family projects. Working together on things as a family will create a teamwork atmosphere over time. Siblings that are taught to work well together to achieve common goals as kids will be more likely to continue to do it as adults.

It may not be easy, but you can raise your kids to treat each other with love, respect and kindness. It will make your family stronger and healthier. It will also make your family a light in a world of families that can’t get along. It’s worth your time and effort to help your kids build those bonds with each other.

Becoming a Family Who Serves

For a few years public and private schools required students to participate in acts of service. The thinking was that it would raise up a generation of young adults who gave selflessly of themselves to help others.

For some young people, it may have worked. Many however, just put in their required hours and moved on with their lives. God asks us as His people to serve Him, in part by helping others. The story of the Good Samaritan is a Christian classic. How can you raise kids who serve as part of their Christian identity instead of merely replicating what schools have done with mixed results?

The difference is in the heart of first you – the parents – and then how that is passed on to your children. The key is to make being children of God a part of your family’s core identity. Serving others should be more a part of your family DNA than the secular things that define your family identity.

There are some things you can do to make serving others a natural part of how your children interact with others:

  • Serve others regularly. If your family only helps others once or twice a year, it’s more of something you do to fill time – not part of your family’s DNA.
  • Start when your kids are toddlers. It’s amazing how much even the tiniest of children can do to help others. If your kids are well behaved, most groups will welcome them to work along side you as you serve others.
  • Don’t wait for formal programs. Look for opportunities to serve neighbors, friends and family. You want to teach your kids how to see the opportunities God gives us to serve others each day – not just when someone organizes a big service project.
  • Help your kids find ways to serve using the gifts God has given them. Don’t worry too much about those spiritual gifts in Corinthians. For now, focus on the talent gifts God has given them. Help them discover and develop the gifts God has given them. Then help them find creative ways to serve others using those gifts. Making a direct connection between the gifts God has given them and serving others will connect a lot of what your kids are learning about God to their actual life.
  • Don’t forget the faith piece. As things happen while you are serving, refer back to scriptures that discuss those issues. Find ways to share your faith as you serve those who aren’t Christians. Find ways to encourage the faith of the Christians you serve. The ministry of Jesus is a great example of connecting serving others and sharing the good news of the Gospel. Teach your kids how to do the same with those they serve.
  • Don’t forget to have fun. Yes, serving others and sharing our faith is serious business. That doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun. The fun doesn’t all have to be silly, laughing fun (although we still talk about the time our then four year old accidentally had her hair painted by her Nana as we were serving an inner city ministry). There is also fun to be found in using your gifts, seeing the relief or joy on the faces of others, learning new things, seeing new places and having new experiences.

Taking the time to regularly serve together as a family – making sure to bring God into the process – will help serving become part of your kids’ core identity. With hearts that belong to God, they will be well on their way to becoming productive Christian adults.

Fun Ways to Focus Your Family on Reflection

The Bible has a lot to say about reflecting or meditating on God’s Words. Philippians 4:8 also tells us about the types of things about which we – and our kids – should be spending our time thinking. Deeper thinking can help kids put together the pieces of what a Christian life is – what God is calling them to do – who He wants them to be.

Unfortunately, most of us were never really taught how to meditate, reflect or do deeper thinking – even about God and His Words. While some with a more analytical personality may naturally do these things, for many of us it will be a learned spiritual discipline.

Learning anything requires practice if we want to become good at it. Which means if we want our kids to practice thinking more deeply about God and His Words, we need to have engaging activities to help them better understand the spiritual discipline and practice it.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Take your kids to a beautiful sight in nature. After you’ve explored, sit down and talk while you rest or enjoy a snack or picnic. Ask thinking questions like, “Why do think God gave us so many beautiful things to enjoy?” or “What is your favorite thing God created for us?”. Older children and teens might enjoy thinking questions like, “How do you think God wants us to be good stewards of His Creation?” or “What do you think God wants us to do when He said mankind was to have dominion over everything He created?”. Hopefully, some deeper questions will send you all back to the Bible for a deeper dive into what else God may have to say on a particular topic.
  • Allow a few extra minutes at bed time for reflection. Talk about what they thought went well that day. Ask them where they think God would want them to do something differently if the same things happened again or how they saw God working during the day. There are all sorts of deeper questions you can ask. Remember though that kids will see this as a way to stall bedtime. Or your conversations may be so good you lose track of time. If that happens, think of ways to put a comma in the conversation until the next night or have the discussions on nights that don’t require an early wake up time the next morning. (I’d suggest making bedtime earlier, but we all know how well that will be received!)
  • Have family dinners. You may have seen “table talk” cards that are encouraging conversation at the dinner table. Often, these are just deeper thinking and sharing questions. You can easily make your own set of table talk cards. They don’t have to all be spiritual in nature. Sometimes a simple conversation will gradually lead to talking about much deeper faith type subjects.
  • Solve mysteries, logical fallacy stories and logic puzzles together. Technically this is a purely secular activity, but it teaches your kids to look past the obvious. Often things that are said which are negative about God and all things Christianity seem logical and reasonable on the surface. Dig just a tad deeper and the logic falls apart. We also need to be aware that just because a Christian may use poor logic when explaining something in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong in their conclusion about what God wants. Logical fallacy stories are a great way to have these conversations. Ultimately, your kids need to understand they need to keep checking everything by the Bible and what it actually says. (The Fallacy Detective Series was one of our favorites when our daughter was young.)
  • Have fun “what if” conversations. The topics don’t matter. Watch for opportunities as you have these conversations to mention things God would want them to know on the topic. For example, if your question is “What would you do if you won a million dollars?”, you can work in all sorts of comments about generosity, helping others, being good stewards and more.

Have fun with it, but spend time focusing your family on God’s Words, commands and principles. Spend time encouraging your kids to think about the plans God has for their lives, how to use the gifts He gave them and other important spiritual topics. Reflection is a great way to encourage spiritual growth in your family. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.

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Focusing Your Family on Reflection

When you think of spiritual disciplines, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of prayer or reading the Bible. Hospitality and fasting may also come to mind. If you’ve been working on getting your family focused on some of these as a way to strengthen your children’s faith foundations, great!

One spiritual discipline doesn’t get talked about much in Christianity – at least in Western cultures. That’s the idea of reflecting or meditating on God’s Words. Often in the West, meditation is associated more with religions like Hinduism, so many Christians avoid the topic entirely.

To avoid all of the debate and confusion, let’s call it reflection or deeper thinking. The Bible actually has quite a bit to say on the topic. Many of the verses on reflection or meditating on God’s Words are found in Psalms. My favorite verse though is Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

This verse is great for a couple of reasons. First, it addresses the idea of reflection or deeper thinking in a practical way we can understand. Instead of sitting in a lotus position repeating a meaningless phrase, this verse tells us the types of things we – and our families – should be thinking about constantly. It also tells us by the process of elimination the things our families should spend a lot less time thinking about every day.

Secondly, the next verse gives us a model for reflection and deeper thinking. “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Reflection is more than just reading a good verse and repeating it over and over.

Reflection is ultimately thinking about the things God has said to us through scripture, what those words mean, how to live them and then practicing them. Reflection is then thinking about how practicing what God has commanded went that day and repeating the original process.

Why don’t we do this more often? Why aren’t our kids taught to do this? Because reflection requires time, attention and for most people quiet and solitude – things our culture rarely provides. Reflection requires being intentional and creating the time and space for it to actually happen.

What often happens to us and our children is that if there is free time or quiet, we become uncomfortable. Instead of filling it with the things God wants us to fill it with, we fill it with noise. The noise may be actual noise, but it can also be metaphorical noise. Instead of reflecting on things that can strengthen our faith and help us be more godly, we fill the time with meaningless things.

Teaching our kids to reflect on God’s Words, on all of those good things in Philippians 4 requires even more intentionality. We have to fight against the natural inclination of children to be in constant motion. We have to fight the cultural expectation that every moment is planned for our kids with activities and lessons. We have to take the time to find ways to guide our children in reflection and then help them practice it.

Tomorrow, we will share fun ways to help you and your kids spend time in reflection and deeper thinking. Until then, pull out your family calendar. Where can you carve time each day for your family to engage in reflection? Do you need to let go of some activities to make room for your kids to learn how to think more deeply about what God wants from them and for them? It’s a spiritual discipline worth finding the time to learn and practice as a family.