Summer is a gift to families! The kids aren’t in school. The weather is generally amazing. Employers are often a bit more relaxed. You may even have vacation time to use. Your family can get a lot out of the extra time together. You can even spend some of that extra time teaching your kids about God, while you are having fun together and accomplishing your other goals for the summer!
Here are seven great ways to spend family time and teach your kids about God.
Read great books. What’s more relaxing than a summer siesta time reading books? The Bible is a library of 66 books. Start your kids out with an NIrV Bible and on story heavy books like Judges, Ruth, Esther, the Gospels and Acts. You can also read some of the secular and Christian books we have suggested in past blog posts and then discuss them over ice cream.
Keep academic skills strong. The last eighteen months have put a strain on many students academically. Our Teach One Reach One website (www.teachonereachone.org) has tons of free activity ideas that tie Bible lessons to academic skills practice in fun ways. We have ideas for language arts, math, science, second languages and health and hygiene.
Complete family service projects. What’s better than serving others together as a family? Our Teach One Reach One website (www.teachonereachone.org) has about 200 free service project ideas tied to Bible lessons. Designed for groups, most work for families, too.
Enjoy family devotionals. Now is the time to start that great habit of family devotionals. Our Teach One Reach One website has over 200 free Bible lessons with activity ideas you can use, if you want to have fun together as part of your devotional.
Solve sibling conflict (and more). Now is the time to tackle those parenting issues like sibling conflict that cause so many problems during the school year. The Teach One Reach One website has free printable parenting sheets you can print to help you tackle some of your most pressing parenting concerns.
Explore family gifts. Summer is one of the best times of the year to help your kids discover, develop and use the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Search our Parenting Like Hannah website for past posts on the topic to help.
Have fun training your kids. The Parenting Like Hannah website has tons of past posts with fun ideas on dozens of ways to teach your kids things God wants them to know and do, while having fun in the process. Just use the search function and look for “fun ideas”.
Your family deserves an awesome summer! Being intentional in how you use some of the time will mean your family can grow spiritually while you are enjoying life.
(Here is an annual favorite post on some books to make your kids think and spark family conversations.) Summer often brings reading lists for kids and teens. Sometimes, they are given specific books to read, but often there is a lot of freedom. Wouldn’t it be great if some of that extra reading time could be spent reading books that will encourage your children to live godly lives? There are actually quite a few good Christian/positive secular books for kids and teens on the market.
I have had several people ask me for suggestions, particularly of good non-fiction books. The list below is not complete and not all are technically “Christian” books. They are all, however, books that will get your children thinking. Take advantage of the summer slow times and ask them to share with you some of the things from these books they particularly liked and others with which they are not sure they agree.
Various books of the Bible – Make sure your children have an NIrV version of the Bible for an easy to read and understand translation. Instead of encouraging them to read it from cover to cover, tell them to think of it as the 66 individual books it really is. Have them start with James, Mark, Acts, Esther, Ruth, Proverbs. They are all story-based or highly practical.
unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Jamieson- Explains how the information we are given in the media and other places can be presented in ways that are meant to push a certain viewpoint. Helps them understand how not everything they see is necessarily totally accurate.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell- An interesting look at what makes some people succeed. This book should lead to a lot of interesting discussions. (Whether you agree with it or not!)
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt- While I disagreed with a couple of his points theologically (He does not believe baptism is necessary for the remission of sins. Although, I believe he may have changed this belief recently.), he does a wonderful job making you take another look at your priorities. He examines what God demands and how it has been clouded by the American Dream. My newest favorite by David Platt is Something Needs to Change. It reads like an adventure story, but points out the brokenness in our world and how one person can begin to make a difference.
I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond – Michael Oher does a phenomenal job telling his own story. In the process, he shows how people can make a real difference in the lives of hurting children. Chapter 20 should be required reading for every hurting child and the people who are trying to help them.
Thinking In Pictures: and Other Reports from My Life with Autismby Temple Grandin- A wonderful look into the world of autism, written by a woman who used her autism to change how animals are slaughtered. (Not as gory as it sounds. This is one of our favorites and there was an excellent movie made about Temple Grandin recently.)
Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes Courter- A harsh look at life in foster care. One of my favorites, although it broke my heart to read it.
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir by Neil White – The memoir of a prisoner who is placed in a facility that also houses people with leprosy. This is also an excellent look at arrogance, entitlement and how to handle great pain and rejection with grace and love.
Eric Liddell: Pure Gold by David McCasland- The story of a man who not only stood up for his beliefs at the Olympics, but went on to become a missionary.
Love Does and Everybody Always by Bob Goff – Want your kids to love others – a lot? These books by Bob Goff come in versions for younger readers, but even the adult versions are easy enough for most teens. Goff’s books are fun and inspiring, even if a little light on the passion for helping others get to Heaven side.
Not all of these books are appropriate for every child and many of these should only be read by teens. Please do your own research before giving your child a book to read. Older children can find series like Christy Miller, which will satisfy their desire to read some quality fiction books.
Many of the books today have hidden agendas for promoting ungodly thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Some of these your children will be forced to read in the process of their education. Providing books that encourage godly thinking and empathy can help counter some of these influences. (Of course, the Bible will always be the best counterculture tool you can ever give your child.)
Have fun reading this summer – some of these books I have enjoyed as much as our daughter did – you may want to read the same books yourself. If you find other great books for Christian kids, be sure and let me know. I would love to share them with other readers.
Many of you have kids in school for another few weeks, but in Atlanta, school is out for the summer. There is a celebratory feeling as school is not only completed for the year, but we emerge from COVID restrictions to a world we vaguely remember. The temptation is to immediately do everything we missed – which many are doing, if the TSA line in our airport is any indication!
The problem with jumping back into everything at once is that it can leave you feeling even worse. Did you know when the people were freed from the concentration camps in WWII, the soldiers gave them food to help them regain all of the weight they had lost. Unfortunately, what they didn’t know is that a stomach that has been starved for months on end must gradually be reintroduced to food. Some died, because they ate too much too quickly.
For your family to have a great post COVID restrictions summer, it’s going to help to have a plan. Call it a summer bucket list. Really discuss what you have missed and what you haven’t. What things were you doing too much of before COVID and what things had you been neglecting?
Where does God fit in to your post COVID world? Sadly, virtual church has meant many of us believe we can skip the messiness of church with real people and merely watch our favorite service. Attending church virtually long term will gradually weaken the faith that is strengthened in relationship with other Christians. If you didn’t have that before, it’s time to be intentional about creating those relationships now. Your kids will need those relationships or studies show they will most likely reject Christianity entirely as adults.
What things does your family need to do to strengthen relationships with each other? What do you need to do to be more intentional about helping your kids build strong faith foundations and grow to their godly potential? What are some things you can do to help them experiment with different gifts to see which ones God has given them to use to serve Him?
Don’t forget to schedule fun! A lot of people believe you can’t obey God and have fun. It’s one of Satan’s favorite lies. Doing fun things with your kids exposes that lie and shows them the truth – sometimes godly fun is a lot more fun than Satan’s idea of “fun”.
So grab your family and make that summer bucket list. It may just be your best summer ever!
Self esteem is an interesting topic in parenting. Christian parenting adds an additional depth to the discussion. How do you raise children who realize they are deeply valued and loved by God, but who also recognize their sin separates them from God and they need to repent? How can you raise children who are confident to use the gifts God has given them to serve Him, yet humble enough to realize those gifts come from God and are to be used to serve Him as well as perhaps to earn a living or just enjoy? How do you raise kids who have a realistic view of their strengths and weaknesses and work on improving their weaknesses avoiding using their strengths to merely gain power, control or other purely worldly goals?
It’s not easy. Many times others will intentionally or unintentionally undo what you are trying to accomplish. And let’s not forget, Satan can use self esteem that is too low or too high to help accomplish his purposes….so he’s working against you, too. That doesn’t mean it is impossible. God wants your kids to have a balanced, healthy, godly self esteem. That’s one of the reasons He gave us a Bible full of His wisdom on the topic and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians to help us keep that delicate balance.
If you want to raise kids with godly self esteem, here are some things you can do to help.
Teach them how God feels about them. The good and the bad. Teach them how much God loves them. Teach them how sad it makes God when they disobey Him. Balance teaching them about God’s tremendous love for them with teaching them how sin fractures that relationship (but not God’s love) unless they repent of those sins.
Help them discover, develop and use the gifts God has given them to serve Him. Understanding God has given them gifts to develop and use to serve Him will give your kids a sense of meaning and purpose. Those are both important parts of a healthy, godly self esteem.
Teach them their confidence should be in God, not themselves, but that God will help them live the Christian life if they will let Him. Your kids need to understand they don’t hold the power, God does. They also need to understand that with God’s help they can be more and more like the person He wants them to be.
Teach them how to learn and grow spiritually. Your kids need to understand life, especially Christian life, is about continuing to learn who God wants them to be and striving to become that person. They will never reach perfection, which is why Jesus had to die on the cross. The very process of learning and growing will give them a sense of progress – no matter how slow – that can also help their godly self esteem. Partially by the positive aspects of growing spiritually, but also from the humility of realizing they will never be able to stop learning and growing.
Teach them how to be godly servant leaders, modeled after Christ. They should be doing things to develop enough confidence to boldly share their faith, while also learning how to serve others joyfully in the humblest of ways.
Like many things in Christianity, godly self esteem is about balance. Teaching your kids how to maintain that balance will help them avoid the pitfalls of negative or overly positive self esteem.
We are celebrating our daughter and son-in-law completing their Master’s degrees in our house. What are you celebrating? Whether it’s big or small, celebrating accomplishments and showing gratitude to God for His part make your family stronger. Here are this week’s social media challenges for other family strengthening ideas.
Monday: Did you know the sounds and spray from a fountain have a calming, soothing effect on people? Teaching your kids to pray, read Psalms, exercise, breathe deeply, listen to soothing music and sounds, do something creative and other ways to regulate their emotions in safe, godly ways will make it less likely they will want to turn to drugs, alcohol and other more dangerous ways. Safe regulating behaviors need to be actively taught and your kids reminded to use them until they become natural.
Tuesday: I read my favorite quote of the week the other day. “Emotions say hurry, while wisdom says wait.” Teaching your kids to take a few deep breaths to pray and think before doing or saying anything when feeling any strong emotions can keep them from making unnecessary mistakes or sinning. And that saying is a good one to quote to them over and over until it becomes a tape in their heads they hear when feeling emotional.
Wednesday: When I bought this plant, it was just tiny shoots. I had to have faith it would really grow and produce this flower. I also had to work hard – making the soil just right for this type of plant, planting it, watering it when it didn’t rain, protecting it from hazards. God created this plant and sent rain a few times to help, but I had to put in some effort if I wanted peonies in my yard. It took hard work and a lot of patience. Your kids are the same. They won’t somehow magically grow up to be the Christians God wants them to be. He will help you. The church will try to help you. Ultimately, though, you are going to have to spend a lot of time and effort on your kids for them to have strong spiritual foundations and reach their godly potential.
Thursday: As life returns to normal, don’t let it. That’s right. Keep those positive changes your family made – spending more time engaged with each other and God. Don’t let the business of every day life rob you of what your kids need most – meaningful time with you and meaningful time with God every day. Be careful about what you add to your schedule. Don’t overload the calendar. Say “No thanks!” to things that don’t add real value.
Friday: Marriage for your kids may be years away. The time to start talking about dating and marriage is when they are too young to date. Teaching them how to find godly people, how to avoid sinning while dating and how to avoid dating just to date (which can be problematic in many ways) can save them a lot of pain and negative consequences when they are finally old enough.