Baking Bread to Teach Your Kids About Influence

There are several Bible verses that compare the influence of things good and bad to leaven. Leaven – or yeast – is designed to make bread rise so it is light and airy. It doesn’t take very much yeast to make two large loaves of bread double or triple in size. In fact, bread recipes often contain salt to mitigate the yeast so bread doesn’t rise too much.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 13:33 and 16:6 that just like yeast, an “influencer” can easily encourage others to do what is wrong or, conversely, to join the Kingdom of God. Explain that this principle is why you are so concerned about with whom they choose to spend the majority of their time.

To illustrate the impact of yeast, find a simple bread recipe that requires yeast. Measure how high the bread is in the bowl both before and after rising. Be careful not to let it rise too long, because it can eventually deflate. Point out that many recipes call for the dough to rise twice for the yeast to have the desired impact on the final loaves of bread.

While waiting for the bread to rise, discuss how they can be “good” yeast and avoid being influenced by “bad” yeast. If you want to dive really deep into the topic, point out that unleavened bread is only considered unleavened bread by devout Jews if it has been completed – from the first mixing of the ingredients to being removed from the oven – in eighteen minutes or less. After that the flour itself begins to develop the tiniest bit of leaven (a variation of how sour dough starter is made). You can even try making unleavened bread in the eighteen minute time frame and then letting one loaf sit out to “rise” for a few hours. Bake both and compare the two finished loaves. Does even that “non” yeast leaven make a difference? Can even tiny bits of negative influence change us in negative ways over time?

Have fun with it, but encourage your children to think carefully about their influence on others and the influence they allow others to have on them.

Christian Parenting and Tea Parties

If you have young children, you’ve probably attended several pretend tea parties thrown by your children. There’s just something about pretty food, tea cups, dressing up and acting like grown up royalty that screams fun to kids. You may have considered throwing a tea party for your children and their friends, but were intimidated by the ”fancy” part of it. The good news is that not only can you throw a tea party that is affordable and easy, but you can teach your children quite a few Christian life skills in the process. In fact, begin by giving your kids a budget for the party. Have them find ways to do everything they want for the party, but still stay within the budget. Take them shopping and teach them how to find bargains at the store. The better they are at managing finances, the more they will have to use to serve God.

So how can you make a tea party easy and affordable? First of all, it’s a rare American child who will like hot tea. Instead, fill their tea cups with lemonade or caffeine free iced tea. What’s a tea party without petit fours? They are not easy to make and bakery ones are expensive. Thankfully, someone has finally produced a frozen variety that is affordable. If you want your kids to practice patience and perseverance, try making your own. Make it easier by buying frozen pound cake and cutting it into small squares while it is not quite thawed. Then find a recipe for the pourable icing to frost them with. (It is thinner than standard frosting.).

Tea sandwiches? Teach your children some cooking skills they can use to serve others. Cut the crusts off of regular sandwich bread. Make a few favorite sandwiches of your children and their friends, then cut each sandwich into four triangles.

Hospitality is one of the attributes of a strong Christian. Discuss with your children whom they want to invite, but more importantly, how to make them feel comfortable and welcome in your home. This can also be a great excuse to review some basic manners needed at a ”proper” tea party.

Involve your children in the cleaning and decorating. They will learn responsibility and begin developing a strong work ethic (hopefully!). Chances are, you will even get to remind them of the Bible verse about doing everything without grumbling and complaining more than once! Help your children plan a few activities to keep their friends engaged before or after the tea party if they want their friends to stay a little longer. Talk about “considering the needs of others” and making sure they choose activities they know their friends will enjoy.

When everyone has gone home, “let” your children help with the clean up. It’s a great time to talk about working “as for the Lord” and how we all must do some things we don’t enjoy in life, but are necessary. While you are cleaning, talk about the party and what things you want to change or try the next time. It is a great way to begin teaching them how to reflect and make improvements in their lives and ministries.

Most of all, have fun! Be the house where your children and their friends want to be. It takes extra time and effort, but when your kids are teens, you will be glad you did.

Hosting a Service Sleepover

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!

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids to Filter Their Words

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!

Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Love Their Enemies

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.