7 Things Your Kids Need This Summer

Summer is quickly approaching and your family is probably finalizing plans for how you will spend those few weeks out of school. Many of you will fill every waking minute of your children’s time with camps and other organized activities. While those things can be good, there are seven things which your kids need more this summer.

  1. Time to be bored. Boredom encourages your kids to process what they have been learning, dream godly dreams and be creative. Take away the devices and provide supplies for crafts, library books, plain paper or notebooks, pencils, pens and free time. If not used wisely, feel free to offer to substitute free time with extra jobs around the house!
  2. Quality time with you. Did you know most parents only interact with their kids for a few minutes a day – primarily with logistical conversations? Your kids need lots of quality time with you listening to them and giving them coaching and counseling where needed. They need you to be totally present and engaged with them for hours, not minutes.
  3. Daily time with God. Summer is a great time to help your kids establish lifelong habits of daily scripture reading and prayer. Those two habits are disciplines that will help them stay healthy spiritually.
  4. Time walking in nature. Long walks in nature are phenomenal for mental and spiritual health. Taking them together can also give you more quality time.
  5. Time serving others. In a selfish world, your children will easily become self centered and entitled. Regularly serving others in ways that allow them to also hear the stories of those people will encourage softer, others focused, servant hearts.
  6. Time doing manual labor. Over scheduling means many kids aren’t learning how to work hard doing things that aren’t necessarily fun – a skill often needed to succeed in careers and ministry. You can add an element of fun, but it won’t hurt your kids to help you with household jobs that require more effort than putting food in a pet’s bowl.
  7. Time learning Christian life skills. A lot of the things God requires of Christians are much easier if your kids have the skill sets to do them well. Things like conflict resolution and budgeting can make loving others and generosity easier. We have a free curriculum on our website, Living the Christian Life, with lessons for you to use.

Don’t make this summer another blur of too many activities and not enough time spent being intentional about helping your kids be healthy mentally and spiritually. Give them what they really need.

Tips for Having Natural Spiritual Conversations With Your Kids

As a Christian parent, you would probably love to have meaningful spiritual conversations with your children. When you try, however, the conversations feel stilted and awkward. Or perhaps you find what you thought would be a great spiritual discussion spiraling into an argument. It seems that no matter how hard you try, you never feel like the conversations are helping your kids grow spiritually.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to make it more likely you are able to achieve your goals in these crucial conversations.

  1. Choose the time and place carefully – especially if you already know your children will disagree with what you have to say. Timing is half the battle. Try to have conversations when everyone is relaxed and well rested. Sometimes having them on a hike or other area away from home can make potentially tense conversations less so. What you want is for the atmosphere to be as relaxed and casual as possible.
  2. Try opening the conversation with a casual question. Godly Play promotes using “I wonder…” questions when having spiritual conversations with children. Asking a question changes a conversation from sounding like a sermon to a mutual discovery of what God wants from both you and your children. It also gives them a platform for feeling heard, making it more likely they will listen to your counsel.
  3. Give them space to ask questions and express doubts. We say it a lot, but it’s true. It’s not doubts that destroy faith, but doubts that aren’t addressed by Christians with godly, biblical answers. Leaving your children’s spiritual questions unanswered makes them vulnerable to whomever Satan sends their way to answer those questions.
  4. Use their real life experiences to point out God’s wisdom and/or commands on the topic. Combined with “I wonder” questions, this works well. So, for example, if your child comes home talking about how nobody likes Susie because she tells lies, then you can launch at least a mini conversation with, “Hmmm. I wonder if that is one of the reasons God hates lies…. (No one can trust us if we tell lies)?”
  5. Use the cover of their peers. Sometimes your child may be concerned about telling you about a doubt or concern. It can be easier if you frame the question about how people their age or their friends feel about the topic. Chances are at least one of their friends has the same concerns and they can answer your question honestly without having to openly admit they are having the same questions.
  6. Stay calm and listen carefully. What if your child launches a spiritual bombshell in the middle of a conversation? If the child is doing it to get a reaction from you, losing your cool plays right into their plan. Most kids and teens will shut down the minute a parent gets upset. They stop listening, get defensive or begin rebelling. Often staying cool and casually presenting the truth gives them a little time and space to feel like they came to the conclusion on their own instead of being forced into it by you. Bring up this topic again periodically to monitor how they are processing it and don’t gloat when they finally agree with you.
  7. Bring in a “neutral” third party. They may not listen to what they consider a sermon from you, but may read an apologetics book or watch a video. It removes the parenting dynamic from the equation and encourages them to deal with the actual topic without getting entangled with their feelings about your relationship.
  8. Practice authoritative parenting. If you practice an authoritarian parenting style, your kids are already primed for rebellion because you have harsh rules and consequences without a nurturing relationship. If you are a permissive parent, your kids are also primed for rebellion, because you have taught them they can do whatever they want without consequence. Authoritative parents with their nurturing parenting style can get away with being firm and even strict, because their kids know their parents are doing those things in their best interest. They may not always agree with you, but they are much less likely to rebel against you and/or God.
  9. Don’t be afraid to share spiritual truths, but mirror how Jesus did it. Sometimes your children may need to hear the harsh sounding truth that their choices are not making God happy. Making excuses for them or pretending like a sin isn’t a sin won’t help. Neither will pretending there is some mysterious third path where they can call themselves a Christian, but refuse to get baptized or even attempt to obey God’s commands but still go to Heaven. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our children is to tell them a hard truth. But even harsh truths can be shared with love and showing them there is a path for forgiveness and grace.
  10. Don’t think addressing a spiritual topic once will settle the topic. As your children age, they will have more experiences that can raise additional questions or concerns. Bringing up important topics periodically can allow you to check in before they get too far down a spiritual rabbit hole.

Having spiritual conversations with your children doesn’t have to be difficult. The more often you have them, the more natural they will seem. And the more time you spend in personal Bible study, the more likely you will be able to handle whatever happens. Your kids desperately need you to have these conversations with them. Don’t let them down.

5 Benefits of Family Chores

Chores in many families are often an individual effort. Each person has a list they need to accomplish over a specific period of time. Chores are a great way to teach your children a great work ethic and responsibility (as well as some life skills), but can often get side tracked by a myriad of issues. One way to short circuit many of these intrinsic issues is to switch up the model to one of family chores.

So what are family chores? Each family member may still have individual tasks to perform, but doing chores is presented as a family effort. So instead of having a child on “dish duty”, present it as “we are all going to work together to clean the kitchen after dinner”. The same child may still be responsible for loading the dishwasher, but everyone in the family has a task at the same time in the same area. This has the benefit of having a more deeply cleaned kitchen, while minimizing the “Cinderella effect” solo chores can have on children. (I’m stuck loading the dishwasher while my sibling is playing video games. Sure, the sibling had an earlier chore while the dish loader was playing video games, but that’s quickly forgotten!)

Or crank up some fun music and work together to clean the house every Saturday morning. You may be separated throughout the house cleaning different rooms, but the music ties everyone together. Or offer to help your child with a chore – like going on a walk with your son as he walks the dog.

What are the potential benefits of family chores?

  1. Gives you more opportunities for teaching and training your kids how to do certain tasks. It’s much easier on everyone if you are working with your child and see her put in a dish the wrong direction to make a quick correction than it is to call the child back to the chore after every dish has been placed incorrectly and must be replaced.
  2. Promotes the idea of your family as a team that works together for the good of all. Too many families are groups of individuals sharing a living space rather than an actual family. Family chores reinforce working together and helping each other reach goals and do things for the good of everyone.
  3. Gives your children the attention and time with you they crave. It’s amazing how much children open up when helping a parent cook dinner or clean a garage. They have your mostly undivided attention and can relax in that space and begin sharing their lives and hearts with you.
  4. Models the way churches should work. Too often dysfunctional churches are merely reflecting the dysfunctional families that attend them. Having a healthy family dynamic can provide an example for the members of your church and for your kids of how Christians should work together to accomplish the good works God has for them to do.
  5. Adds a bit of fun to boring tasks. Let’s be honest. Chores aren’t fun or they would call them hobbies! Working together to music, laughing, telling stories and jokes while you work can make something that’s boring seem more fun and help the time pass more quickly.

Try family chores for a while and see what happens. You may just find they solve a lot of your issues with chores.

5 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Intervening In Your Child’s Life

One of the hidden secrets to successful Christian parenting is understanding that you may not always be there to micromanage your child’s life. It is important to raise children who can think through situations and make the best possible decisions in the moment based on what God would want them to do.

But we live in a microwave world and even Christian parents can fall into the trap of immediately intervening whenever their child has an issue, because… let’s be honest… it’s faster and easier for us to do it properly for them. Unfortunately, that creates an attitude of helplessness that is not in their long term best interest.

The next time your child has an issue or a problem, ask yourself these five questions before jumping in to intervene on your child’s behalf.

  1. Is this something my child has already tried to handle independently? Most situations that happen in childhood can be easily handled by the child if he or she takes a moment to think about the best way to deal with the situation and takes those steps. This may take a bit of trial and error, but a good rule of thumb is to ask the child what has been attempted to rectify the situation before coming to you. (Note: This question can also cut down on tattling and whining if used consistently.)
  2. Is this a situation you can teach or coach your children to handle for themselves? Interpersonal conflicts are going to occur throughout their lives. It’s better to take some time teaching them how to handle these common situations and coaching them through the process than swooping into fix it. It takes a little more time on the front end, but can save you tons of time and stress later.
  3. Is this a situation where you need to teach your child how to pray and wait on God? These are important Christian life skills. Even you can’t fix situations that require praying and waiting on God. If you try, you are more likely to make the situation worse than you are to fix it. (Note: Every decision should be covered in prayer. In this particular situation, it is obvious to you as an experienced adult that the only option is to wait for the situation to play itself out and for God to act within those things that are obviously out of your control.)
  4. Will not intervening teach your child an important life lesson? Has your child procrastinated to the last second on a school project and then expects you to swoop in and help finish it? Your child will learn more from the bad grade for a late or poorly completed project. (Just remember that this lesson is best taught early when one bad grade has little impact on your child’s academic future.) If the life lesson will not be dangerous or cause permanent damage to your child in some way, it may be better for the lesson to be learned by experience.
  5. Could your intervention actually make things worse? I would imagine every parent has erred here at some point. We want to support our children, but sometimes our best efforts to help them backfire. Sometimes taking a breath to consider other options will help you make the best choice when you believe intervening is your only option. Remember that when you do decide you need to intervene, your children are watching you to see how you treat other people as you attempt to correct a situation. If you throw a tantrum, that’s how they will learn to handle conflict themselves.

Being supportive of your children when they are struggling is wonderful Christian parenting. Just make sure your support doesn’t do more harm than good.

Involving Your Children In Adult Ministry Projects

Talk to any Christian parent of adult children actively engaged in serving and ministering to others and they will tell you they involved their children in their ministry projects from almost infancy. Their children grew up serving and sharing their faith with others as much of their identity as other family priorities. Why? Because not only did their parents live their faith on a daily basis, they included them in their personal ministry in age appropriate ways as early as the toddler years.

Now if you weren’t raised in a home like that, you may wonder how it is even possible. How can parents include an eighteen month old in a project serving an inner city ministry or engage a three or four year old on a mission trip? It’s not only possible, but you may already know families doing that very thing who can help you do what they did. Until you identify them, here are some tips to get you started.

  1. What things are your children capable of doing? Can they hand you items? Move things from one place to another? Clean? Paint? Code a computer program or app? Knowing your children’s capabilities can make it easier to involve them in ways that benefit both them and the ministry project.
  2. What tasks are required to complete the ministry project? Older children and teens may be capable of completing tasks independently, while toddlers may only be able to assist you with one part of a task. When our daughter was barely over a year old, she would put cans from our church pantry shelves into a box to transport them to the urban ministry. Yes, I still needed to neaten them a bit, but she took an active role.
  3. Teach them skills they can use to help. Relatively young children can help with tasks that are more advanced if they are taught how to do them and given practice. For things like sewing or computer coding, you can even pay someone to teach them skills that interest them, but you yourself don’t have.
  4. Allow extra time and build in time for regular meals and rest times. The biggest mistake groups make when involving children or teens in service and mission work is that they push them too hard. When young people are hungry or tired, the behavior problems begin to surface and the entire project can become a nightmare. It’s better to take an extra few hours or days to complete a project with everyone well fed on healthy food and well rested. The results will be much better – both on the project and in making an impact on your children.
  5. Let them help in the planning process. Families with young adult children actively engaged in ministry from childhood often report that their children can plan and execute sophisticated ministry projects as teens and young adults. Why? Because their parents involved them in the planning process as children. Start out by giving them two acceptable options between which they can decide and that are part of the plan for the project. As they grow older, give them more ownership of the planning process. By their teen years, most will be capable of planning and executing at least a simple service project if they have been involved in planning with you since childhood.
  6. Let them meet and get to know the people they are serving as much as possible. Relationships make serving others more meaningful. Meeting and growing to love the people your family serves can lead to your children developing a passion for ministry that children who only do service projects where they never meet the people they served never develop.
  7. Spend time in reflection with them after a ministry project. What went well? What would you do differently next time? Did you have the outcome you expected? Why or why not? How did you see God working within the project to change or modify it as you went? What additional opportunities did God give you? What roadblocks did you encounter? Were they from God or Satan? How do you know? What do you do in each situation? Reflection helps them understand the thought processes needed in enhancing ministry projects and accomplishing the goals God has for them.

Involving your children in your ministry projects takes extra time and effort, but it is worth it to raise children who are actively involved in serving others and sharing their faith as adults.