If you have school aged children, you are familiar with sleep overs. Many parents don’t like hosting them because behavior can get out of control with the combination of lack of sleep, junk food and too much unstructured free time. With a little extra effort, you can host a sleepover that’s still lots of fun, but helps others and teaches the kids or teens attending about serving.
First, you need a theme for your party of service. Does your church support service efforts in your community or mission efforts in other countries? Contact someone you believe the young people attending the party would be interested in serving and find out if there is something your group can do to serve them. Local service has the advantage of a possible field excursion to serve or deliver needed items. Service projects for the mission field make it fun to carry the theme throughout the evening with food, music and games from the country you are serving.
Once you have identified the group you are serving, you will need to gather the items you need for the project. If the group does not have a suggestion, our ministry website has dozens and dozens of service project ideas. Our family has hosted parties where the girls made fancy hair ornaments for girls in a homeless shelter and decorated onesies for children served by a Christian foster care agency. Your party can plan a collection, making posters and fliers to distribute or physically go somewhere and execute a project. (Some organizations have minimum age limits, so call before going.)
Have fun with it. Older children and teens may want to plan the entire party. The more ownership they have of the service project you complete, the more they will enjoy participating. If possible, have party goers interact with the people they are serving – either during the party or at a later date. It will make the entire experience more meaningful for them. Done well, you may be hosting many more service sleepovers in the future!
Very young children may not be aware of their thought process. As they begin to realize they can control not only their thoughts, but the words that come out of their mouths, they are ready to better understand how to filter their thoughts and reject saying things that are not loving, kind or productive. This fun family devotional can get them started.
Begin by explaining to your children that Jesus had some half siblings (Mary was their mother and Joseph was their birth father). James who wrote the book of James in the Bible was one of those siblings (not James the Apostle). James’ book was written to encourage Christians to live a life that would make people want to learn more about God.
One of the topics James mentions quite often is our speech. Read James 1:19-20, 26, 3:1-18 and 5:12. Ask your children to list all of the things James said we should control about our speech. If you have the time, you may want to read other verses in the Bible about our speech like, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 15:1-4, Proverbs 21:23, Proverbs 16:24, Ephesians 5:4, Matthew 12:36, Luke 6:45, Proverbs 10:19, Ephesians 4:15, etc.
Give your children a large sheet of plain paper. Have them draw the outline of a person’s head on it. They should draw the brain in the head. Have them glue a coffee filter on the head between the brain and the mouth. They should draw one arrow that goes from the filter to a ”trash can” and another arrow that goes to the mouth.
In the trash can, they should write the types of words that should not be spoken (not specific curse words). By their mouth, they should write words describing the types of words God does want them to use. After they are finished, make sure they understand what is covered by each category. So called ”mild” curse words may be considered acceptable by your older children while your child in kindergarten may think “stupid” is a curse word. With older children, this can also lead to a deeper discussion of what our influence might be on people if we use certain words and whether or not saying them is important enough to risk having someone reject God because of the things we say.
End the devotional by brainstorming ways you all can improve your speech. Revisit the topic periodically to see how well everyone has learned to tame their tongue!
Children and teens are learning how to navigate the world around them. One of the most difficult areas of life for them to master is interpersonal relationships. In fact, most of us adults are still trying to be more loving and godly in our relationships with others, too. If your children are old enough to spend time with people their age, you have probably already seen them struggle with the conflicts that often occur in relationships.
Perhaps the most difficult of relationships for Christian young people to understand and live out in their lives is the idea of loving and praying for your enemies. We live in a world that increasingly encourages everyone to destroy not only enemies, but anyone who thinks differently from us on a wide range of topics. In a world that believes it is tolerant, your children will be exposed to people who counsel them to do things that are far from loving.
So what are some things you can do to raise children who are counter cultural and love their enemies as commanded by God? Here are some of our top tips on the subject.
Teach your children God’s views on the topic and discuss it regularly. Your children will struggle to obey God and love their enemies if they don’t realize or remember that it is a command from God. I met a young man recently who had grown up in a war torn area of the world. Even though his father had been a soldier and watched as the enemy burned their family home to the ground, he regularly reminded his children that not only did he expect them to avoid saying anything negative about the enemy country and its people, but he also told them he would hold them accountable if he ever heard them doing so. Loving your enemy needs to be part of your family DNA as well as a command from God.
Define enemy for them. An enemy is not someone who disagrees with them or holds an opinion that is different than theirs on a topic. Enemies are people who actively seek to do us harm. They need to learn that the word enemy is a very strong way of describing someone in a negative way and it should be used very rarely in describing another person.
When they do believe they have an enemy, encourage them to pray for that person, but also make a point of your entire family praying for them as well. I believe God commands us to pray for our enemies because it is very difficult to simultaneously hate someone and pray for their benefit. Our brains don’t like contradictions, so praying for their enemies will make it more difficult for them to actively hate them. If your entire family prays for the enemy of one member, you also are reminding your children that your family is a team for God, not just individuals who happen to live together.
Don’t forget to teach your children the rest of the command. Luke 6:27-28 also says to do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and to not just pray for, but also love your enemies. Discuss and find ways to do good to any enemies your family has. Discuss what it means to bless those who curse you. How can your family do that on a regular basis also? With so many good things your kids will be doing for their enemies, it will be difficult for hate to take root in their own hearts.
Be empathetic about the pain your children’s enemies cause. I think Psalms shows us that it is natural to be hurt and even angry in the immediate aftermath of an enemy’s blows. Show empathy for that pain, but also put a time limit on it. Continuing to revisit the same grievance over and over is what can lead to sinning in one’s anger.
An enemy may never become a friend, but encourage your children to try and thaw relations when possible. It can be extremely difficult to act kindly towards an enemy. Most children, teens – and even adults – either try to avoid the person or snap back with their own anger. In potentially dangerous situations, avoidance may indeed be wise, but for the average childhood enemy situation, encourage your child to see if they can improve the overall relationship even a bit. Frenemy wouldn’t be a term if it were impossible to at least broker a truce of sorts.
Set a good example. If you are always criticizing your own enemies – or even worse – plotting revenge, you cannot expect your children to love their enemies. Setting a good example will make it easier for them to understand how loving your enemies is done.
It may never be easy for your children to love their enemies, but it is possible. They will need your help though in learning how to do it. Coaching them through the process will help them become who God created them to be.
Did you know a common resilience activity for children and teens who have experienced trauma is to help them define their support network? Whom do they know that will listen to them, give them emotional support and help them problem solve? The truth is that all young people need to develop a support network – even if they never experience a traumatic event.
Christian children and teens need an extra dynamic in their support networks. As our world moves more and more towards secularism, whom can your children depend upon to give them godly advice? Since all wisdom comes from God, it makes sense that those sharing God’s wisdom will be giving the most helpful advice and counsel.
Ask your children whom they would talk if they had a problem. If those people weren’t available, to whom else could they turn? Why did they choose those particular people? Even though it’s not required, often children and teens prefer to go to someone they like for help. Talk about the value of godly advice – even if it’s not coming from someone who is ”fun” or ”popular”.
If your children can’t quickly name two or three strong Christians to whom they would turn for help if family weren’t available or if they aren’t choosing people who would give them godly advice, you have some work to do. Explain some of the people you would trust to take care of them. Tell them why you think those are the best people for them to ask for help. Find ways to have your children spend quality time with these people, so they feel comfortable with them and will hopefully decide to place them towards the top of their list of helpers.
Life has lots of twists and turns. You may not always have an opportunity to be there to support your children emotionally and spiritually when they are struggling. Making sure they have plenty of godly options as helpers will give your children an extra layer of protection.
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.