Family fun trips are great times to reinforce what your kids have been learning about God. Zoos, aquariums, nature preserves and even farms are usually full of animals and other creatures God created. (Our suburban yard has even been host to deer, foxes, possums, rabbits and more!) You can use the animals you see as ways to teach or remind your kids of some important biblical principles.
The great news is that you don’t have to preach a sermon to your kids. You don’t have to memorize a lesson plan or a bunch of scriptures. You can just make casual comments as you go. Often these comments are best made in response to something your child has said. Hopefully, some of them will come out of your mouth spontaneously. And of course, you can say other things while you are enjoying God’s creation, just sprinkle in the comments from time to time.
Use your own words, but try saying some of these things to your kids the next time you visit the zoo or aquarium.
“God must really love us to have created such an amazing variety for us to enjoy!”
”God is so creative! Did you know God made you in His image, which means He made you to be creative, too?!”
”God is amazing!”
”How awesome is that! God created the (insert creature name) so that (insert interesting fact about animal you just learned). Did you know that the extreme intricacy in God’s creation is what is leading many scientists – even some atheists – to admit that the idea that all of this was created by chance is impossible?”
”Oh! That’s a donkey like the one in the Bible that Jesus rode.”
”I wonder if this animal would have been clean or unclean when Noah was loading the ark?”
”How interesting that all of these different types of (insert name of animal grouping) are related. Noah didn’t have to take one of each variety of these on the ark, just one of each kind, or group of animals. He probably took baby animals so they would have longer to breed after the flood and would have taken up less space and eaten less food on the ark.”
”I wonder what day of creation these were created on?”
”God told Adam humans were supposed to take care of everything He created (have dominion over). How do you think He would want us to take care of all of these animals/fish? What is one thing we can do to help?”
”God sure did bless us by giving us so many beautiful things to see while we are on Earth!”
”Why do you think God created (insert name of creature) so that (insert characteristic)?”
”How many animals did we see today that you think are mentioned by name in the Bible?” (Provides a great excuse for teaching your kids how to use Bible resources to find information.)
”What are some things we saw today that we should thank God for the next time we pray?”
”God is amazing!”
You won’t use all of these every time you go to a zoo or a nature preserve. Some you will word differently because of the personalities and interests of your kids. There are probably dozens of more things you could say, but these should get you started. Have fun with it. Use every chance you have for a teaching moment that points your kids to God.
There has been a lot about this year that hasn’t been so great for many. One of the positives, though, is that many families have been taking daily walks together. While they are great for exercise and stress relief, you can also use them to teach your kids about God. Not by lecturing, but by having fun as you go.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Play “Name the Blessings”. The Bible tells us God’s creation cries out His name. Not literally of course, but we were meant to look at nature and see God. What many Christians forget is that God is responsible for all of our blessings. He may not have built a house with His own hands, but He created the raw materials and gave people the gifts needed to plan and construct a home. As you walk, take turns naming the blessings from God you see. You may want to play it so that you have to find something for the next letter of the alphabet. Or see who can keep it going without repeating a blessing. Have fun with it. End your walk with a quick prayer thanking God for His blessings.
Take a prayer walk. As you walk, notice things or people that need to be prayed over. Perhaps it is the neighbor who has been sick or the family who just had a new baby. Maybe it’s for the children who attend the neighborhood school. You can stop and pray as you think of prayer needs and/or add them to your family prayer journal when you get home.
Take a service walk. Everyone appreciates a little act of love and service. My grandfather used to take the paper thrown by the street and walk it up to the door people used and leave it there, saving them a walk. Your family may want to surprise people or for some acts (like weeding a neighbor’s flower border), you may need to ask permission first. Even if the person refuses your offer of service, their day can be brightened by your offer.
Meet the neighbors challenge. On an average walk in my neighborhood, I can encounter anywhere from five to twenty five people. Using safe distancing practices (and masks if required), see if you can meet these people and start new neighborhood friendships that last beyond COVID. It’s hard to serve and share your faith with people unless you get to know them. You can start by having your adorable little ones wave and say “Hi!”
Storytelling walks. Running out of things to talk about on your walks? Try telling stories casually as you go. They can be family faith stories, Bible stories or any other story that teaches your kids about God and what he wants for them and from them.
Any experienced parent will tell you family walks are incredibly valuable. Use them to really listen to your kids and learn about their hearts. Have fun with one of the walks above. Just keep taking them as often as possible.
Let’s be honest. None of us really wants to be quarantined for a long period of time whether it’s from this virus or something else. The good news is that a lot of healthy families are being quarantined at home. We don’t know how many of us or how long any one area will find everyone at home before the virus peaks and life resumes as normal.
If you find your family at home for any period of time, don’t waste that precious time. You may have few other opportunities to connect as a family in this way. There are a lot of ways you can take advantage of this time and use it to better prepare your kids to be who God wants them to be.
Reconnect emotionally. Have those long conversations. Find out what everyone is thinking and feeling about all sorts of topics. Get to really know and appreciate each other. And limit time on devices to no more than an hour or two a day outside of time required for school or work.
Have fun together. Play games. Watch silly old kid movies. Tell jokes and stories. Have tea parties. Build forts with blankets. Have a family sleep over. Just enjoy being together.
Start or entrench habits of spiritual disciplines. Family devotionals, independent Bible reading, prayer, meditating on scriptures…all of those habits that will make you and your kids stronger spiritually, but you never seem to have time to practice. Challenge and encourage each other to establish good spiritual habits that will keep all of you connected to God each day.
Serve others. Whether or not people can leave their homes seems to vary from place to place. FaceTime people who may be isolated at home alone. Help others as much as whatever restrictions you are under will allow. Model unselfish behavior by not hoarding supplies, but sharing.
Read good books aloud. Most adults don’t realize it, but even many teens still enjoy hearing a great book read aloud. C.S. Lewis stories appeal to all ages as do many other great books that allow you to have interesting family conversations. You should have access to e-books even if libraries close and many classics you can find online free or at very low cost.
Look for God working in the world today. Things like pandemics can make some people question whether or not God still loves us and cares about us. They may feel like God has disappeared. Point out the small blessings God sends your way each day. Celebrate God’s goodness as He gives people gifts to develop new medicines and vaccines to end the current health issues facing us. Remind your kids daily that God is alive and walking beside us even when scary things happen.
I doubt any of us will be volunteering to be quarantined for fun. Taking advantage of the opportunities it may present your family to grow closer and more godly if it is required of you though, may bring your family more benefits than just good health.
Teaching your kids about God requires more than just reading the Bible to them. Your children need to understand why Christianity is so important to you. They need to know what all of God’s commands and principles look like in real life.
One of the best ways to have those conversations is to share family faith stories with your kids. Children love to hear family stories. Why not make some of your family stories about the faith you and your family have in God?
So what are good family faith stories to share with your children? Here are some of our favorites.
Baptism stories. Not just of the baptism itself, but what you were thinking at the time. Share why you think it was important to be baptized. Explain why you are glad you became a Christian. Talk about how you felt coming up out of the water. Sometimes the details of a baptism can have funny elements to them and it’s okay to share those, too. In fact, those little fun details can make the more serious parts of the story more memorable.
Stories of times you were aware of God working in your life. Don’t let words like “luck” and “coincidence” creep into your family stories. God is still working in the world today. Give Him the credit He deserves when those amazing things happened in your life.
Stories of experiences that made you keenly aware of God’s existence. Often these stories involve an experience in God’s creation – nature – but they don’t have to be limited to that. Sometimes God is just as present in a beautiful piece of music or art or something else we usually attribute to humans. God gives us talents, so the results of using them are also part of His creation.
Stories of answered prayers. Stories of times when God granted your requests are important for children to hear. Perhaps even more important are the times when God asked you to wait or denied your request. Share with your kids how you learned of God’s amazing wisdom as time revealed why granting your request would not have been in your best interest.
Stories of your Church family helping you become more faithful. Many young people struggle with seeing the advantages of being engaged in Christian community. They see the problems people cause, but miss noticing the advantages. God wants His people to be part of a vibrant Christian community. Telling your kids stories of how fellow Christians helped you through difficult times, encouraged you or helped you grow and mature can help your kids understand why God wants them to be involved in a local congregation.
Stories of times when you learned obeying God’s commands really was best for you. Some of God’s commands may seem outdated to your kids. Yet, God meant those commands for all time. It’s crucial to show your kids how God will always be wiser than people.
You may have other faith stories to share with your kids and that is wonderful. Encourage other family members to share their faith stories, too. The more faith stories your children hear, the more they will understand how God works and why being a Christian is so important.
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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