A Cozy Way to Encourage Your Kids to Read the Bible

The Danish have a term “hygge” that is an extremely popular way of creating a warm and inviting environment in a home. While the word doesn’t have a true translation into English, the word cozy is most often used to try and communicate the idea of hygge to English speakers. Think of the most welcoming, comforting environment you have ever experienced. It was probably a home with hygge.

One of the challenges for encouraging children and teens to be daily, independent Bible readers is to get them to sit still and focus long enough for them to read and process a few verses of scripture (or more!). They’re either super busy running from activity to activity or lost in a virtual world on a device. Enticing them to sit and read their Bible for a few minutes each day can seem impossible.

The answer may just be in helping them create their own corner of hygge reserved only for spending time with God. You can call it their Bible corner. Help each of your children find a literal corner of your living space where they can create a permanent Bible study and prayer corner. Some people have even used a closet as a private, quiet place to sit with God.

Allow each child to design their corner so it is comfortable, inviting and has everything they need to read the Bible – including an easy to read version of the Bible like the NIrV or a study Bible, a journal, pens, etc. Many kids will choose to have pillows and a blanket and sit on the floor. Others may find some sort of chair that is inviting. They may even want to keep a bottle of water and some snack foods in their corner. The key is for them to want to sit in that spot when they see it.

The other key to success for a Bible corner is to try and place it where they will walk by it several times a day. Seeing that inviting Bible corner can encourage them to stop and take a few minutes to rest, calm and spend some time with God in scripture and prayer. If your schedules allow, you might even want to create some Bible corner time in your schedule each day, when everyone goes to their respective corners and spends time reading scripture and praying.

Will your house look a little more cluttered? Perhaps, but isn’t it worth it if your children develop the habit of spending time reading their Bibles and praying every day?!

Raising Teachable (Christian) Kids

Ask any educator what makes a successful student and the answer could be summed up in one word – teachable. Have you ever tried to teach something to someone who had no intention of learning from you? It is one of the most frustrating experiences you will ever have. You can be the best, most successful educator that has ever lived, but you cannot force someone to learn what you are trying to teach them.

There are natural consequences built in when a student in school refuses to learn. If bad grades aren’t motivation enough, there may also be disciplinary consequences imposed by school leaders to emphasize the importance of being teachable. For children and teens who are being taught about God and the Bible in church classes, however, there don’t appear to be any immediate consequences. Grades aren’t given. Parents don’t seem to care enough to even do much when their children aren’t being taught anything of value, much less examine whether or not they are learning what is being taught.

Or you and your spouse may have found yourself frustrated when trying to teach your children about God at home. They may seem uninterested in learning what you are trying to teach them or are perhaps openly antagonistic about your attempts to teach. It may feel like a hopeless situation. Your kids can’t become faithful, productive Christians if they don’t know who God is and what He expects from them.

Whether or not your children are teachable has more to do with their character than what is being taught. Focusing on this list of character traits and behaviors will make it easier for you and others to teach your children about God (or about math for that matter.) Teachable children and teens are….

  1. Good listeners. If your children don’t listen carefully when they are being instructed, much of the information will be missed. There are lots of fun activities you can do to help improve your children’s listening skills.
  2. Humble. If your children think they are smarter than the person teaching them, they will rarely learn anything. Regularly reinforce that everyone has something to teach us – even if it is an example of how not to live our lives. They can only learn these sometimes critical lessons if they are humble.
  3. Curious. Learning is fueled by curiosity and master teachers know how to get students curious about a topic. If your kids are encouraged to be naturally curious, however, it won’t matter if their teacher knows how to spark their curiosity. They will already be curious.
  4. Tenderhearted. A tenderhearted child wants to please God. They want to learn how to please God. A child whose heart is hardening doesn’t care how God feels or about learning what He might want from them.
  5. Independent learners. Studies have shown young people need to be engaged spiritually an average of 14 hours a week in order to grow to be faithful, productive Christians as adults. They can’t possibly get it all from Bible classes or even you. They need to be independently engaged in spiritual disciplines like reading scripture, prayer, meditating on scripture, etc.
  6. ”Growth mindset.” For our purposes, this means that they are aware God wants them to continue to grow spiritually. They will never reach perfection, but they should always remain focused on growing as Christians.
  7. Life long learners. Connected to having a growth mindset, a life long learner realizes there is always something new to learn, understand or practice in the Bible – even if they have read it many times.
  8. Motivated to please God. The motivation to learn scripture like one would a subject in school will only help to a point. To really learn and use what God wants them to requires a strong motivation to please God – even when it is counter cultural, causes problems in their lives or goes against what they selfishly desire.

Are you raising teachable children? Working on this list of attributes can make it much more likely your children will learn and use what God wants them to know and live.

3 Things Your Kids Need to Live the Christian Life

Christian parenting is hard. It’s complex. It’s also crucial if you want your children to grow up to be faithful, productive Christians. What if there were a way to simplify it a bit and know what you needed to focus on the most? It’s possible, but first, we need to define the type of Christian we want our children to be.

Is your goal to have children who identify themselves as Christian, believe in God, are nice and attend worship service a few times a year? Is your goal for them to attend church most of the time as adults, give money to their church and help with one of the ministry chores in their congregation? Or is your goal to raise a child who passionately lives his or her faith as an adult – obeying God’s commands and principles, worshipping God at church and in life, fellowshipping with Christians, serving others and sharing their faith daily? I believe God wants your children to grow up to not just believe in Him and be nice people, but truly model their lives to be like the life of Jesus – daily worshipping, studying, praying, obeying, serving others and sharing their faith.

Sounds great, but how do we get there? Our minister’s message this week wasn’t about parenting, but I think his points also work well as we Christian parent our children. Your kids are going to be involved in spiritual warfare. In order to get to Heaven and take as many with them as possible (making the world a better place in the process), they will need you to help them in three basic areas.

  1. Preparation. They can’t live the life God wants them to live if they have no idea what that is. They can’t defeat Satan when tempted by quoting scripture (like Jesus did when tempted) if they don’t know any scripture. They can’t serve others and share their faith effectively if they don’t even know what they believe. Your job in this area is to prepare them as well as you possibly can. If you were sending your child into a dangerous situation and wanted them to return unharmed, you would do anything and everything possible to make sure they were prepared. The battle for their souls has eternal consequences and you should be just as passionate about making sure they are prepared for it.
  2. Purpose. Do your kids know their purpose on Earth? Many young people struggle because they have no sense of purpose or meaning in their lives. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 is a good place to start. The New Testament is filled with commands and principles God gives Christians that help build an understanding of our meaning and purpose on Earth and how we are to think, speak and behave to be able to most fully reach those goals.
  3. People. The people with whom we spend the most time impact us in lots of ways. Your kids can’t isolate themselves from people who aren’t Christian or never sin, because they wouldn’t have anyone to spend time with during their lives. Especially when they are young, however, they should spend the majority of their time with people who encourage them to obey God – whether or not they have the same beliefs. They should look for friends who help them be the best that they can be. Your children will be kind to, serve and teach others who are struggling, but their faith isn’t strong enough to weather having those people as their best friends. Even as adults – when they may spend much of their day ministering to others, they still need to have a core group of friends who are strong Christians and will not only encourage them, but also hold them accountable.

That’s it. Christian parenting boils down to three basic areas – preparation, purpose and people. If you help your children well in those three areas, they will very likely be faithful, productive Christians as adults.

Helping Your Kids Make New Year’s Resolutions All Year

Our holiday celebrations have done us a disservice. We have unknowingly come to believe that decisions to change are best made on New Year’s Day. Which is fine if it’s only a couple of days away, but not so great if it is another 364 days from now.

Your children need to believe they can initiate needed changes – especially with God’s help – at any point in time. In fact, that is one of the huge beliefs underpinning Christianity – that we can change and make godly choices, becoming who God wants us to be. Don’t let a little thing like New Year’s undermine your children’s ability to repent and change course whenever it is needed.

You can lead by example – announcing a change you want to make at some random time and asking them to encourage you and hold you accountable. You can also create little random times of setting goals for positive change. A mom I know said that they would each write down something in their lives they wanted to get rid of (like a bad habit) and throw the piece of paper into the fire to symbolize the change they were working towards. You could have a “Goal of the Month” for the family or each person. Create space on birthdays, holidays, family vacations and at other times when a little reflection and goal setting would add to the experience.

While hopefully some of the goals will be spiritual, it’s okay to have some fun goals too. There’s nothing wrong with everybody saving money together so you can go on a special vacation. Or finally climbing that nearby mountain together. Your kids will still learn something from the process of how to set and achieve goals in life that can translate to spiritual goals as well.

Don’t believe the cultural hype that goal setting is for stressed out perfectionists. God has always asked His people to continue to grow spiritually and that’s a lot easier to accomplish if your kids learn how to set and reach spiritual goals.

Are Your Kids Creating Jesus In Their Image?

How many times have you heard someone in a discussion involving religion use the words “I think…”, as in “I think Jesus would agree with my personal feelings on” the topic at hand? We probably all do it to some extent, but it’s more common in young people who don’t yet have the biblical knowledge and understanding to actually attempt to make accurate statements about what Jesus would or wouldn’t do, say or think.

Our culture has painted Jesus as going through the world as the epitome of love. While that is accurate, the love that Jesus gave wasn’t always warm and fuzzy. Sometimes that love was tough love – calling out sins and sinful attitudes when they were evident. Telling people they had to obey God’s commands and couldn’t always do what they wanted to do – even if it felt right. Calling people to not just avoid doing unto others what they wouldn’t want done to them, but to go the extra mile and do things they would want done to them. Jesus called people to sacrificial, humble, obedient, service filled life. The world’s Jesus just calls people to be nice.

Your children will have lots of opportunities in life to form and share their opinions about Jesus. It is important those accurately reflect the real Jesus and not the Jesus your kids may want him to be. Often the real Jesus disappears most quickly when your kids are tempted to justify a favored sin and replaced with a Jesus who would want them to be happy – because of course that’s what love is.

There is a strategy to teach your children to help them avoid creating Jesus in their image. Don’t just teach this to them, but help them practice it whenever they start talking about what Jesus would or wouldn’t do, say or think.

  1. Impress upon them the role of the Bible as ultimate fact checker. It doesn’t matter how wonderful or logical something sounds, if the Bible contradicts it, then it must be rejected as false. Of course, it is much easier for your children to use the Bible as their fact checker if they are already very familiar with its contents. Ignorance of scripture is a major contributing factor to creating Jesus in our own image.
  2. What is the evidence for the statement in the Bible? As dangerous as cherry picking scriptures can be, it’s usually how people just learning to use the Bible as their guide operate. It’s just more practical to use a concordance or other aid to quickly find scriptures that may be applicable to the topic than try to read through the entire Bible every time you have a question. Encourage them, however, to at least read a verse or two before and after the passage to make sure it isn’t taken totally out of context… like perhaps someone saying God says to not do something right before the passage that read without that verse may make it seem like we should do that very thing. It won’t help with things like the bad advice Job’s friends gave him that isn’t revealed as really bad advice until chapters later, but it will catch a lot of them.
  3. What is the evidence against the statement in the Bible? Are their verses that contradict what is being said that can be found in scripture? If it seems like the evidence from the previous question and this one seem to contradict each other as well, teach them good ways to dig a little deeper, like asking a Bible class teacher, minister, elder or you to help them understand what is happening. Often, the problem goes back to context or the Old Law versus the New Law. As you help them, teach them what you did to learn and understand the tools you are using to help explain the answer to them.
  4. Are there real life examples in the Bible? Let’s say, for example, your child is trying to discover whether or not it is okay to tell half truths. There are a lot of verses about how God hates lies, but your child still thinks there is some wiggle room. The real life example of Ananias and Sapphira in the Bible makes it abundantly clear that half truths are not acceptable to God. (Note: There are a few cases of what would normally be sin portrayed as acceptable to God, but those are extremely rare and have special circumstances attached.)
  5. What real life examples can they find that show some of the possible consequences of making the choice one way or the other? This one is a bit trickier and definitely is for more mature kids with your guidance. (Satan makes sure there are plenty of examples of people who sin and seem to get by with it.) What you want to teach them to do is to look for the possible negative consequences of making what appears to be a choice that goes against scripture, but still sounds appealing to them. It’s a sort of aversion therapy if you will. So let’s say, they think Jesus would be okay with them getting drunk after a bad week in order to blow off steam. From the previous questions, it looks like Jesus would not want them to do it, but they are still insisting Jesus “would understand” and condone it. So encourage them to look up all of the negative consequences that are possible or likely from binge drinking/getting drunk. In the case of most sins, the actual evidence – especially found in academic research – strongly backs God’s wisdom. Of course, Satan makes sure there will usually be some perceived benefits too – which is why your guidance is needed. For example in our alcohol example, some studies show a slight heart benefit. Pointing out that grape juice, exercise and diet can provide similar or greater benefits without all of the negative side effects is something usually an adult with a little more knowledge, life experience and wisdom can provide.

This method is not always full proof. Young people who are determined to rebel against God won’t care what the Bible says or what the possible negative earthly or heavenly consequences may be. But for the majority of children who are taught how to use this technique from a very young age and who have a heart that still wants to please God, these steps can lessen the likelihood they will begin creating Jesus in their image instead of attempting to become more like Jesus themselves.