Does your family enjoy board games? Do your kids love challenging you and your spouse to play them in basketball or croquet? Does your family enjoy a challenge of any kind? There is a fun way to channel that competitive energy in a positive manner – that will also encourage spiritual growth amongst the members of your family.
Before involving your children, sit down with your spouse and create a list of things that if your family did them more consistently, it would lead to spiritual growth. The list might contain some of the spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible daily, praying more often throughout the day or attending worship services more regularly. It could also contain things like memorizing scripture or reflecting daily on a specific Bible verse. You may want to add doing more to serve others or share your faith. Try to think of things that family members could do individually as well as things to do as a family (like family devotionals).
Once you have your list, call your family together. Read Colossians 1:9-10. Talk about what it means to have a ”life worthy of the Lord” and ”to please Him in every way”. Ask your kids to name some of the good works God wants us to do and ways we can grow in the knowledge of God. Share with them the list you and your spouse created and add any new ideas they have that are appropriate.
Read Hebrews 10:24-25. Discuss ways of encouraging each other to do the things on your list more consistently. Introduce the idea of a family challenge as a way of encouraging each other. How you structure your challenge will depend a lot on the ages and personalities of your kids. You may want to just focus on one area, like daily Bible reading, or include several items from your list in the challenge. Most families will benefit more from having a family goal each member can help reach, although some may want to see which family member can memorize the most verses of scripture or something similar (only do this for items where each family member has about the same chance of being successful and if your family enjoys healthy, godly competition that won’t become negative over the course of the challenge).
After you have set your goal, find ways to encourage each other as you work towards it. Remember, encouragement is not demeaning, harassing or punishing those who aren’t helping reach the goal. All encouragement should be just that – encouraging in a positive way. You may want to set a time limit on the challenge and a goal to measure success against. Rewards won’t make much of a long term impact, but if your kids have worked very hard to reach a family goal, you might want to surprise them with a special celebration at the end. Have fun with it, but do what you can to make the improved habits continue long after your challenges have ended.
Someone has taken the concept of idle hands being the devil’s workshop and decided children and teens should not have a spare moment of unscheduled time. Schools are pressured to give lots of homework and keep kids at the building for as many hours as possible. Extra curricular activities often demand young people practice or perform six to seven days a week – all year. We run our kids from activity to activity, coming home in time for them to do homework and get inadequate amounts of sleep. If our kids do have a rare free moment, all they have the energy to do is zone out in front of a screen – watching videos or playing games.
While all of that constant activity may indeed keep most kids out of terrible trouble (trust me if they want to find it, they will still get in trouble), it is also robbing our kids of some things that could help them grow to be strong Christian adults. To develop an active, living faith takes time and more importantly time to do nothing but read the Bible, pray and think. While those things can all be done on the run, it just doesn’t have the same effect as when those activities are done in the still of margin time.
If you and your family have been following our plan this year to live more like Jesus, you and your children may have established some new godly habits. Hopefully, they will be practiced by your children for their entire lives. There is only one more godly attribute to teach your children in the challenge.
This attribute is perhaps the toughest challenge of all. You see, Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything the world values for God and God’s plan. Think about it for a moment. Jesus (as far as we know) never owned his own home and set down roots. He never married or had children. He never had a career where he made enough money to buy anything he wanted. Although many disciples followed him for a time, when things seemed to take a turn for the worse, only a handful of people supported him as he died on the Cross.
This month’s assignment in Teaching Our Children to Live More Like Jesus is to take the time to prepare our children to serve God. In Preparing Our Children for God, I shared some of the reasons I believe this is possibly one of the most important things we will ever do as parents.
Unfortunately, I am afraid many parents put more thought and effort into how they will potty train their child than how they will prepare that same child to follow and serve God. Admit it, when your first child was old enough to potty train how many articles and books did you read? How many experienced parents did you ask for advice? How many times did you call someone in the middle of the training process for support or emergency advice?
I think sometimes when we think about trying to be as purposeful about preparing our children to serve God, we just get overwhelmed. How are we supposed to train our child when we still don’t totally understand everything ourselves? Where is the training manual? Whom do we go to for the correct advice? You may even feel a bit embarrassed asking for help because you assume all of the other Christian parents have it down pat and will be shocked you don’t.
One of the oldest debates in education, psychology and other related fields is nature versus nurture. What qualities are we born with and which ones are a result of our environment? For parents, the question becomes “How much can I and should I influence my child’s personality and gifts?”. I believe the Bible can give us some answers.
There aren’t a lot of people in the Bible about whom God gives us details of their childhood through their death. Moses is one of the interesting ones. You may recall that as a Hebrew baby in Egypt, Moses begins his life in danger of having it taken from him. His family sets him afloat in hopes of saving his life. Sure enough, Pharaoh’s daughter finds the child and raises him as her own. She even brings Moses’ real mother in to nurse him and help care for him.