Fun Ways to Include God on Family Walks

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.

Tips for Helping Your Family Grow Spiritually If You Are Quarantined

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.

Creating Space for Your Kids to Grow

Maria Montessori was an Italian educator who believed giving children the freedom to explore their environment was the best way for them to learn. She developed classrooms full of interesting things that would engage children, encourage them to explore, experiment and ultimately learn.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything in her theories, she did have some important points. And though as far as we know, she didn’t apply them to a child’s spiritual growth and development, they do.

The ministry of Jesus and how he discipled the apostles is very interesting. We know now what their futures held, but they didn’t. Jesus did, however, and he spent a lot of time teaching and mentoring them. But look a little more closely.

There were times where he went off to pray and left them to themselves. At other times, he sent one or more of them on what could basically be described as an errand. Once he sent them off for a period of time to try teaching and healing on their own.

These opportunities gave the apostles time and room to process, think, pray, day dream, experiment and practice. The Bible doesn’t give us many details about what they did during these times. We know a few of their activities like fishing, sleeping, discussing, arguing and talking to those around them, but we can only imagine the other things they did during those times.

The apostles spent about three years with Jesus. Yet the teaching, mentoring and free space and time to grow helped them do just that. As far as we know, with the exception of Judas, they all became courageous ministers.

Who knows the plans God has for your kids? What Maria Montessori and Jesus knew though is that your kids need some free time. They need time to pray, read scripture and process everything they are learning about God. They need time to reflect on scripture and think about who God has created them to be. They need time to experiment with the gifts God may have given them and think about how they can be more like Jesus. They need to experiment in the ways they can best serve others and share their faith.

They won’t have the time to do these things if every moment is not just scheduled, but over scheduled. Or if their free time is spent interacting with screens. Fill your home with things they can explore, experiment with and ultimately learn. Give them enough free time without devices so they can work on becoming who God wants them to be.

This will probably mean making some tough decisions. Activities will have to be cut. Ignore societal pressure that demands every child be engaged in programmed activities every minute of every day. Yes, idle hands can be the devil’s workshop, but only if there is no godly adult presence and guidance. Give your kids the space and time to grow to be the person God created them to be. You may just be pleasantly surprised how they grow when they have the space and time to do it.

Simple Ways to Point Your Kids to God

A recent Barna study found kids and teens who grew to be faithful, productive Christians as adults had been exposed to an average of about 2 hours of spiritual content a day.

Before you start to panic, the good news is that it doesn’t all have to be formal instruction (Note: Sending your kids to a Christian school, doesn’t remove the need for you, as their parents, to provide spiritual content for them.) Things like praying and having people over to eat count towards the total.

In fact, there are lots of rather simple things you can do to increase your kids’ exposure to spiritual content each day. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Have faith conversations in the car. If you’re a parent, you probably spend a lot of time in the car with your kids. As you talk about life, make sure to point them towards God whenever possible. These spiritual discussions are a key factor in building a strong faith foundation.
  • Have drive by prayers. Don’t close your eyes if you are driving, but get in the habit of having short prayers motivated by things you see as you drive. Anyone can notice something and lead a drive by prayer for it.
  • Make time for family devotionals. You make time to read your kids lots of secular books and encourage them to read independently. Why? Because you have heard it will help them do better in school. Make an effort to read the Bible to your kids and encourage them to read it independently. Having a strong faith foundation is even more important than doing well in school.
  • Make worship services and Bible classes a priority. When you regularly skip church and Bible class for other activities, you send the message that those are things are good to do only if there isn’t anything better available.
  • Serve others and share your faith. Serving others and sharing your faith should be as much of your family DNA as your last name and your holiday traditions. You will initially do these things as a family. As your kids grow older, their individual service and faith sharing should be as common as what you do as a family.
  • Let your kids have their friends over. Hospitality is a major part of the home life of kids who grow up to be faithful Christians. It doesn’t have to be formal entertaining either. Letting them invite their friends to your house counts. So do visits by neighbors and extended family.
  • Do things with other Christian families. Don’t wait for your church to plan something organized. Meet another family at the park, take a hike with a group from church or grab a fast food lunch after church with others.
  • When you take your kids to a museum, look for sections covering cultures in the Bible. Many museums have sections with artifacts from the Egyptians, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Greeks and other cultures in the Bible. You may find lots of artifacts mentioned in the Bible like oil lamps, Torah scrolls, mummies (Jacob and Joseph’s bodies were mummified in Egypt), even some of the idols like Baal. (Note: In some museums, artifacts from Israel will be found in a section called Levantine or Levant culture.)
  • Take your kids outside. The Bible teaches us that creation points to God. Take your kids on a hike, to the beach, to an aquarium or zoo. Point out how amazing God is and how much He loves us.

Helping your kids build strong faith foundations and grow to their godly potential takes intentionality. Once you make the time though, the things you need to do are actually rather basic. Don’t let anything stop you from teaching your kids about God.

Tips For Focusing Your Family on Prayer

You’ve decided you want to be more focused in the Christian parenting of your children. So where do you start? In fact, maybe that’s the problem you have struggled with from the beginning. With so many things you can teach your kids about what God wants from them and for them, where do you start?

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t have a specific chapter on the perfect way to parent your children with a wonderful step by step check list. What we do have are lots of verses – many repeated multiple times throughout scripture – that begin to give us a picture of what a strong spiritual foundation looks like.

One of the earliest and easiest things to help your children understand about God is how they can talk to Him. Prayer is one of the most basic spiritual disciplines. In fact, my guess is that it is the one with the highest percentage of parents making some intentional effort to teach their kids about it.

Yet, what have you taught your kids about prayer? More importantly, what have they actually understood and incorporated into their lives? Not sure? Ask them! Younger kids especially will be likely to tell you the truth about what they know about prayer and how often they are beginning to pray on their own without adult assistance.

Once you know what your kids understand about prayer, you can begin intentionally doing things to add to their knowledge. You can plan activities that will encourage them to begin praying more independently. You can help them better understand how God answers prayers and all of the wonderful ways it can deepen their relationship with God.

Here are some of our favorite ideas to try:

  • Tell your kids Bible stories that involve prayers. There are actually quite a few – especially in the Old Testament. Don’t just read them the story, discuss what happened. Who prayed and why? What was God’s answer? Why do they think God answered the prayer the way He did? Over time, your kids will begin seeing patterns. Have them share what they think those patterns are and then search the scriptures to see if there are passages that confirm or dispute their conclusions.
  • Keep a family prayer journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, although younger kids may want to decorate a spiral notebook as the “official” family prayer journal. It’s a great way to remember God answers prayers and to better understand over time why God sometimes says “No” or “Wait” to our prayers. Your kids may also want to have their own personal prayer journal where they can add scriptures or journal in addition to keep track of their prayers.
  • Have special focused prayer times. It’s easy to get in the bad habit of thinking prayer is just about asking God to grant our wishes. But prayer is also supposed to be a time when we thank God, praise Him, repent of our sins, share our emotions and questions and more. To establish prayer as more than just a wish list, why not have special prayer times? Maybe one night your prayers are all prayers of gratitude. Perhaps another night your prayers consist of verses from Psalms praising God. Before each special prayer time discuss ways your family can be more intentional about including these other areas in their prayers.
  • Use items like prayer rocks, prayer sticky notes, prayer jars and other aids to encourage everyone to pray without ceasing. It’s easy to get busy and forget to pray for long periods of time. Or maybe your family’s prayer times have always been scheduled and formal and you want to encourage everyone to also pray independently. Making prayer rocks, leaving a prayer jar out where everyone can see it or putting sticky notes in random places with the word “Pray” on them can all be fun ways to help remind everyone to pray more often.
  • Have a prayer walk somewhere meaningful. Are you kids concerned about things at school? Why not go to the school grounds on a weekend and walk around the area, praying for various concerns as you see them from where you are standing? (Most schools grounds are open to the public even if the school is closed. Check your area for any restrictions.) Or walk around your neighborhood praying for various neighbors as you pass their house. You don’t have to be showy about it, but if your praying is obvious, be prepared to answer questions those who see you may have.
  • Shake up rote prayers. Rote prayers are great for very young children, because it helps them to “know what to say” when it’s time to pray. unfortunately, rote prayers can quickly become meaningless if you aren’t careful. Your kids may even forget they are praying to God when they say them. If you aren’t ready to make the switch to “original” prayers yet, try changing the routine a bit. For example pray after you eat instead of before – your kids may be more focused because they aren’t starving while you pray. Or pray when you wake up in the morning the same ways you normally would pray with them before they go to sleep. You get the idea – changing the routine can make rote prayers seem fresh.
  • If your kids are older and everyone is going in different directions constantly, have a special prayer reminder. Maybe at a certain time every day, everyone stops what they are doing for a minute to pray for family members. Or maybe it’s a little more flexible and you agree that a certain number of times that day you will pray for a family member. Or if someone in the family has something important at a certain time, remind everyone to pray for that person five minutes before it starts. Family group texts also work great for prayer reminders.

What you actually do will depend upon your family and their needs. The important thing is not which activity you choose, but that you are putting focused effort into helping your kids develop and deepen their prayer lives. It’s a great way to train them to always be in communication with God.