Why A Routine Matters To Your Kids

I do the piggy toes every night with my son... here's why

Our youngest son is 6 years old, and since the time he was about 3, there’s nothing he loves more than when dad tucks him in at night and does ‘the piggy toes’.  In fact, his last words verbatim every night before he heads downstairs to go to bed are these, “I love you, hug & kiss in bed, don’t forget to do the piggy toes.”

Well, sometimes I take a little longer than he thinks I should before I make it to his room, but no matter how long it takes, it’s very seldom that he falls asleep until I’ve made it in to do the piggy toes.  In fact, some times he’ll even weasel his way back up to the top of the stairwell to remind me that he’s still waiting and to ask if I’m still coming.

So, what’s the big deal about the piggy toes? Well, I don’t think that it’s the piggy toes that matter to my son as much as it is the importance of the daily routine of his dad making him feel loved just before he goes to bed each night.

There are many things that we all do for our kids out of routine that meet their needs and sometimes even pamper to their wants.  Sometimes this may be as simple as a daily ritual, a special phrase between parent and child, or simply a nightly hug before bed.

But what is it about a routine that is so important?  Here are a few reminders as to why a routine is really important for our kids.

A ROUTINE PROVIDES NEEDED CONSISTENCY

Whether it be in our daily routine or in our discipline, kids thrive on consistency.  Our kids need our lives to maintain consistency as much as possible for their sakes, and a routine helps to bring that about for them.

A ROUTINE BRINGS ABOUT SECURITY

There’s something that makes my son feel secure every night once I’ve tucked him into bed and done the piggy toes.  And whether it’s a bedtime routine, a morning routine, or even a favorite phrase you say to your kids everyday before dropping them off at school, a routine that they can count on makes them feel secure.

A ROUTINE NONVERBALLY SPEAKS LOVE

A routine speaks your child’s love language, because it’s a part of the love language of every child.  When I do the piggy toes, my son feels that daddy loves him.  When I routinely tell my daughter that she’s beautiful, she feels loved by her daddy.  Because a routine speaks love.

A ROUTINE MAKES LIFE EASIER FOR BOTH OF YOU

Rather than having to rehash expectations and responsibilities, a routine, whether it be for bedtime, chores, homework, etc. allows for both you and your child to share an understanding of mutual expectations.  This relieves both you and them of unnecessary friction that can naturally come from the lack of a routine.

A ROUTINE MAKES GOOD SENSE

Most of us have a routine we follow in every other area of life, so why not our family?  It benefits both parent and child, and better yet, it follows the biblical principle to ‘let all things be done decently and in order.’  Hey, if it’s good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for us. 😃

So, the next time your kids try to ‘enforce‘ a family routine upon you, don’t begrudge it, embrace it. Because the day is going to come all too soon when them asking you to “do the piggy toes” will only be a cherished memory.

In what areas of your family do you need to incorporate more of a consistent routine?

Making Memories Out Of Messes

A lesson learned from a father/son camping trip gone wrong

For nearly six months, my son had been begging me to take him camping.  We had enjoyed a great father/son campout with our church the year before that he absolutely loved, so when he found out that we wouldn’t be doing one that coming summer, he was pretty disappointed to say the least.

So, we scheduled a time for us to go by ourselves and camp out.  We planned it all out and got things ready to go – tent, hotdogs, marshmallows, and all the good stuff.  This camping trip was sure to be the trip of a lifetime.  My son was pumped, and even though I’m not an avid camper, I was even looking forward to it as well.

The day finally came, and from between the time to we left the house and the time we reached the campground, a huge storm had started brewing.  By the time we arrived to set up camp, it was pouring down rain with wind gusting like I hadn’t seen in a very long time. There was no way we were going to be able to set up camp, and I was more than ready to turn around and go home.

But to my 10 year old son, all of the wind, the rain, and thunder was nothing but pettiness to him, and certainly nothing worth abandoning our camping trip for.

So… we stayed, and set up our “2 man” tent (I think it was more like a 2 ‘kid’ tent as small as it was) in the pouring rain.   Thankfully, after a while, the rain subsided, and we were able to get a fire going and start roasting some hot dogs.  However, that didn’t last long.  As we were finishing roasting our dogs over the fire, the rains came down, and the floods came up.

We hurried into our little tent, and started snacking on our goodies we had brought.  However, the rain was pouring so hard, that is started leaking through the the tent’s roof as well as coming up through the floor, getting us all wet. There was no way that we were going to be able to sleep either comfortably or dry in the tent through the night.

Without much of any other options, we set up camp in the front seats of my truck… and ended up sleeping there for the entire rest of the night as the rains continued.  It had to have been one of the longest nights I can ever remember.  My back was killing me (you know exactly what I mean if you’ve ever tried to get an entire nights sleep in the reclining seat of a car).

However, the next morning, we woke up to the sun brightly shining and we enjoyed the day together cooking breakfast, hiking, playing football, and just having a great time.

As much as I disliked so many parts of our camping trip, and in many ways, it seemed to be a terribly huge fail… guess what is one of my sons’ favorite memories that he still talks about more than any other?  Yep, you got it – “that one time we went camping and everything went wrong.”

Despite the mess of the entire situation, it became one of my sons’ fondest memories.

Here’s something that I learned that day…

“You can make the most of your messes, or your messes can get the best of you.”

Looking back, I’m thankful that I didn’t allow the temporary inconveniences to keep me from making life-long memories.

What messes are you facing in your life or family today, and in what ways can you turn them into memories for your family through your perspective of those messes?

Nothing happens in our lives by accident.  There is a grand master plan and a lesson to be learned through every circumstance and difficulty of life, if we’ll just look for it.

God speaks through life’s messy situations. So don’t miss the message in your mess.

Mom & Dad, You Need A Break!

Ideas for how to implement down time into your schedule

Parenting is one the most rigorous jobs on the planet… just ask any mom with young kids.

It can flat wear you out.

In order to be at our best for our little angels, sometimes it simply means getting some time away from them and their golden halos.

We all need some time to recharge, refresh, and then get back into the game revitalized for the mission. But how do we do it? 

Well, it doesn’t happen by accident, so here are some intentional ideas that you can put to work in your family to make sure you get a needed break every now and then:

  1. Schedule It… It’s often true that what gets scheduled gets done.  So put time away on your weekly calendar, even if its just for a few hours.  If you’d like to see how my wife and I have incorporated time away on a weekly basis, I’d encourage you to check out my Free Intentional Family Game Plan.
  2. Do a ‘Kid Swap’… This is as simple as finding another family with kids of similar ages who would agree to watching your kids on a night while you go out, and you returning the favor for them on a different night while they go out.  Your kids will love the time with their friends, and you’ll save yourself the cost of a babysitter. Chances are, there are other couples out there with kids just like you who are needing to have some down time as well.  
  3. Hire a babysitter… I’d guess that there are some responsible and charactered teens or college students in your church that would love to make a few extra buck on a regular basis, while at the same time having a positive influence on your kids.  Years ago, we set up an ongoing scheduled night with a teenager when they would plan to watch our kids so we could go out, and it worked out great for both us and them.  
  4. Put the kids to bed early… (or maybe just ‘on time’) With school back in full swing, your kids need to be getting to bed earlier anyway.  So set aside some quality time at the end of the day for you and your spouse to connect.  I’m not referring to time spent side by side on the couch scrolling through your phones, but enjoyable time intentionally spent together.
  5. ‘Mom’s Only’… Dad’s, let’s admit it, mom usually needs the time away from the kids more than we do, especially if she stays at home with them all day.  Take initiative and give her permission to go out by herself or with her friends ‘kid-free’ from time to time.  Maybe even give her a few bucks to make her time away even more enjoyable.  Happy wife, happy life, right? Lol.
  6. Quit making excuses… Let’s face it, if we don’t make it happen, it won’t, and we’ll continue living day to day on the last thread that’s about to snap.  So stop coming up with excuses for why you can never get away to spend time alone.  Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed to take some time for yourself.

Parenting by nature is one of the most selfless jobs in the world that can simply drain your tank to empty fast.  So you need to spend some time refueling yourself every now and then.

Also, don’t hesitate to offer to take someone else’s kids when you see that they need a break.  We’ve had friends do that for us, and it’s been a huge blessing.  You could be someone else’s blessing by doing the same, whether it be for your pastor, a friend, or anyone else.

Feel free to share these ideas. What are some ideas that you’ve found successful to finding time to get away and take a break from your little angels?  I’d love to hear yours! 

Could Your Family Be Found Guilty Of Having Too Much Fun?

Have you ever been around “that family” that just can’t help but laugh together, joke around together, make fun of each other (in a good way), and just simply have a good time without even seeming to try?

It’s refreshing to see families living and loving life together.  It’s even more refreshing when that family is your own.

If your family was accused of allegedly having way too much fun together, and placed on trial, would there be enough evidence to convict you of such a claim?

Every family needs regular daily laughs and fun together, and every family also needs strategic times of anticipation, excitement, and time spent together to develop and nurture their relationships.

Here are some thought provoking questions for you to answer to determine if your family could be ‘convicted’ of having way too much fun:

  1. Is laughter a natural and daily part of your family life? (in the backyard, around the dinner table, in the vehicle?)
  2. When is that last time you scheduled something fun and exciting for your family to do together on your day off, just because you wanted to be together having a good time?
  3. Have you taken a family vacation in the last year… last two years… last three years?
  4. Family memories don’t have to happen on a day off or a vacation away.  When is the last time you simply had a “family fun night”? Have you had at least one in the last 3-4 weeks?
  5. When you do spend time together as a family, do you actually unplug by turning your phone off, or at least keeping it put away, and trying to be totally present in the moment?
  6. When is the last time you purposefully added humor into your family life… like playing a practical joke on another family member, just for fun? (You know, like freezing mayo in the tub of vanilla ice cream.)  Sometimes the little things can make the biggest memories.
  7. When’s the last time your kids asked if you could all go do something fun (bowling, go to the park, go out for pizza or ice cream, take a family bike ride) and you enthusiastically said “YES! Let’s do it!” without hesitation?
  8. Have your kids been envying other families that always seem to be having more fun than yours, or do other kids seem to envy your family for how much fun you have together?
  9. How many times in the past week have you told your kids a joke, intentionally tried to make them laugh or smile, tickled them, wrestled with them, or played outside with them?  How much have you been conscious of the little things that make being a kid so much fun?
  10. When is the last time you did something crazy just for fun… like downloaded a crazy app just so that you could get some good laughs with your family? (Here’s a few hilarious ones to try – Aging Booth, Mix Booth, Red Hands, Math Fight)

So how did you do?  Of the 10 questions, how many could you answer in the positive? (Yes, you may need to go back and count your answers.)  Could your family be convicted of having too much fun?  Grade yourself:

  • 0-4:  There’s not enough evidence to convict you.  Your family needs to have way more fun together.
  • 5-6:  They’ve got some dirt on you, so there might be a case. Your family is off to a good start, keep improving.
  • 7-8:  Your family is almost sure to be convicted of having way too much fun.  Keep up the good work!
  • 9-10:  Your family is found guilty as charged – a way cool, fun-filled family that is charged with the irreversible consequences of life-long memories made and relationships built.

So, is your family guilty of having way too much fun, or far too little?  A good question to answer, considering you only have a limited amount of time to maximize on the unlimited amount of fun that can be had in a family.

Go out and do something TODAY to get yourself convicted for being ‘that family’ that’s guilty of having way too much fun!

A Busy Parents Guide To Doing Family Devotions – Part 2

Practical help to become the primary spiritual influencer in your home

Last week, we discussed The Why behind the importance of doing family devotions.  If you haven’t yet read it, I’d encourage you to check it out.

We were reminded that of the 168 hours in a child’s week, the church on average only gets one of them, leaving 167 hours remaining, most of which are spent with their families.

This has to cause us to stop and answer the question, “Who is to be the primary spiritual influencer in a child’s life?”  And the obvious answer is – the parents.  The key to raising godly children has to start first and foremost at home.

1 to 167

The church only gets 1 of 168

“God expects each and every parent to do his or her part in raising children. The very first responsibility we have as parents is to teach our children of God. Every other responsibility falls before this one… As parents we also need to know that instilling in our children a faith in God and the Bible, is the best thing we can ever do for them. That early teaching will stay with them the rest of their lives. Impressions are made while they are young.” – David Boswell

There’s no question that one of the greatest key factors in whether or not young people remain dedicated to their Christian faith or walk away from it is the influence of their parents.  And I believe that much of that spiritual influence can come by way of family devotions.

So let me share with you some practical and proven ways to successfully have family devotions:

The WHAT:

Many parents think… “I understand the importance of family devotions, but what in the world am I supposed to do?!”

Well, good news, it’s simpler than you think!  Let’s get practical.

  1. Read the Bible out loud
    • Whether it’s just one verse and an explanation, five verses from one of the gospels, or chapter one of the book of Genesis, just start somewhere.
    • Talk about a different doctrine each night… go through the 10 commandments… read the account of the 7 days of creation, and discuss one day each night.
    • You probably know more about the Bible than you think you do.
  2. Use a devotional idea book or Bible storybook with pictures (for younger kids)
    • While stories are a great way to do family devotions, this time can be about much more than just that.  Family devotions are about:
      • Sharing our knowledge – Taking what we know and transferring that knowledge to our kids.
      • Sharing God’s truth – Instilling within them a passion for the things of God.
      • Passing down our faith – Handing off the baton of faith to be carried into future generations.  (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 teaches us that “We are to teach our children what is already in our heart…”)
  3. Act out Bible stories through role play
    • Kids love to be the Bible characters and kids learn through participation.
    • Kids retain 10% of what they hear, 40% of what they hear and see, and 80% of what they see, hear, and experience (participate in).
    • I can remember many times when the stories of the Bible would come alive during family devotions times… cardboard boxes would become boats crashing on the waves, and nerf balls would become stones thrown at Goliath.
  4. Sing songs
    • Devotion time needs to also be a fun time.  Sing fun songs, action songs, worship songs.
    • Singing songs about the Lord is not something that should just be reserved for church time.
    • Family devotions can be a time of family worship, and what better way to worship than to sing together to the Lord.
  5. Memorize verses together.
    • Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11
    • I don’t know about you, but I want my children to have a strong defense against Satan, and one great way to do that is by them hiding God’s Word in their hearts.
    • In addition to memorizing verses, memorize the books of the Bible, look them up, do Bible Sword Drills as a family.  Make learning God’s Word fun and enjoyable.
  6. Pray
    • Family devotion time should also be prayer time.
    • Have a list of prayer requests.
    • Take advantage of this time to teach your kids how to pray and allow them to pray as well.

Okay, you may be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how am I going to make it all happen?”  Great question.  Here’s some ideas…

The HOW:

  1. Schedule it
    • What gets scheduled gets done. (maybe start with just once or twice a week)
    • Remember, there is no right or wrong time. For us, it works best at the end of the day right before bed.
    • For some families, it may work best at the start of the day over breakfast, or immediately after dinner time each night when everyone is still gathered together.
    • Regardless of when you schedule it, I guarantee you that Satan will make sure some “circumstance” comes up every single night as an excuse.   Make your family devotions a priority. Fight for your family altar, because Satan won’t let it come easily.
  2. Let loose and have fun.
    • Family devotions are not a time to protect your dignity. When doing role play, be a character in the story, and have fun with it.  (Dad, you be Goliath, and let your kids hit you in the head with the nerf ball, the fall crashing to the ground.)  Make it a wonderful time to laugh and smile together.  Your kids will never forget it.
    • Remember, you’re not just teaching the Bible, you’re making memories.
  3. Keep it short and sweet.
    • Your kids don’t need or want you to preach them a message.
    • Also, don’t let your devotion time become a behavioral correction time.  Over the years, there’ve been some times when we’ve fallen into the trap of using our devotion time to ‘beat our kids over the head’ with Bible verses about what they’d done wrong that day.
    • Protect your devotion time as a time to make God look good, not to make your kids look bad.
    • Keep it short and sweet, we’ve found that between 5-10 minutes is usually perfect.
  4. Keep it varied.
    • You might do one verse and memorization one night, Bible reading and discussion the next, and a themed song and role play the next night.
    • We’ve even assigned our older kids to be in charge of doing devotions on some nights, which can be a great training tool.
  5. Ask lots of questions and allow for lots of questions.
    • You want your family devotion time to be a discussion, not a mini sermon.
    • The purpose of family devotions is not to have church every night of the week, it’s to allow the Bible to come alive to your family!  This happens through lots of questions and discussion.
  6. Always end in prayer.
    • A family altar gives you the daily opportunity to pray together over needs and wants. (family needs, special requests, missionaries, the lost, etc.)
    • This is also a great time to train your children to pray by giving them opportunities to lead in prayer.

I know that when the subject of family devotions comes up, we as parents start to feel guilty for not doing a better or more consistent job at this. But when you consider the impact that this one choice can have over the lifetime of your child, it’s really all worth it.

I love these encouraging words that Dennis Rainey said concerning family devotions –

“There is no formula. No guideline. No perfectly right way. The only real requirement is that you do something to get your family into the Bible, even if it feels uncomfortable at first… You and your children simply need to hear God’s Word and interact with it on a regular, daily basis. I promise you, He’ll take care of it from there.”

It’s not always easy, and it’s not always convenient… but I’ll guarantee you, it’s worth it!

Our children are the hope of the future, and much of our hope rests in our God-given responsibility to pass down our faith from one generation to the next.  Notice these important reminders from the book of Psalms:

Give ear, O my people, to my law: inclined your ears to the words of my mouth… Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done…  That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.  Psalm 78:1, 3-4, 6-7

Below are two free resources that you can use to springboard into your family devotion time:

  • The first is an easy reference guide to the why, the what, and the how of doing family devotions that includes additional devotional resources you may want to check out.  Feel free to distribute this to families in your church, or teach them these principles yourself.
  • The second is a 7 lesson discipleship course from KidzBlast.com that you can go through with your family to study and discuss seven core biblical principles together.  These can serve as your first 7 family devotions! Feel free to make as many copies as needed.

Simply click on either of the graphics below to save or download these resources.  In addition, feel free to let me know what you think of them.

Family Devo GuideIf you feel that this article and these resources can be of help to other families that you know, please share by clicking here.

A Busy Parent’s Guide To Doing Family Devotions – Part 1

Practical help to become the primary spiritual influencer in your home

Every child has just 168 hours in a week, and on average, the church has only 1 of them, which leaves 167 other hours remaining, the majority of those being spent with their families.

Family Devotions 1 copy

Who do you think has the most influence? Who do you think has the most opportunity to infiltrate the heart and mind of a child with the truths of God and life-long godly habits and Christian character?

Deuteronomy 6:6-7  “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in hine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up…” (In other words, training your children in the ways of God is to become a regular, and even daily, way of life.)

One of the greatest tools you can use as a parent to consistently develop the spiritual foundation and godly character of your children is a Family Altar, or more commonly known as Family Devotions. This is a component of family life that has become a real help to our family, having become a cornerstone for spiritual growth and training in our home.

God clearly commands us as parents in Ephesians 6, to bring our children up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” And that is unlikely to happen apart from some intentional times of us pouring into the hearts and minds of our children spiritually.

But interestingly, when God gave parents that command, it didn’t come with any detailed instructions to follow. It just says to do it.

Partly, because God has given us instincts as a parent. When you became a parent, did anyone have to tell you what to do? You instinctively knew certain things that were your responsibility (to clothe, feed, and educate your kids.) And those things that you have learned intuitively, you have passed on to your kids.

The same applies spiritually as well.  It is our responsibility to “feed them, clothe them, and educate them” spiritually. As we grow spiritually, we teach them.  And the deeper that we develop our own relationship with God, the easier it becomes for us to naturally pass that on to our children.

Deuteronomy 6 commands us to pass on our faith to our children when we sit down in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up.

The spiritual training of our children is supposed to be an everyday part of life, not something we simply relegate to Sundays or Wednesdays.  And one of the best ways that we have found to help us do that is through having consistent family devotions.

Whether you currently do family devotions, have struggled to be consistent in doing them, or have never tried doing them, over the next two weeks, I’d like to give you some practical suggestions and tools of the Why, the What, and the How when it comes to family devotions.  (We’ll cover the Why below, and the What & How in next week’s post.)

The WHY:

  1. You are to be the primary spiritual influencer in your home.
  2. Provides a Biblical training ground for your children.
    • Family devotions is a prime place for doctrine to be taught, Biblical literacy to be established, cultural issues to be discussed, and biblical world-view to be formed.
    • Sometimes as parents we inadvertently think that because we take our kids to church on Sundays, they will naturally know things like the books of the Bible, or how to look up chapters and verses, etc.  But honestly, why shouldn’t we be teaching them those things at home?
  3. Opens up doors of spiritual communication.
    • Family devotions give you and your kids an opportunity to talk about spiritual things, which unfortunately, many Christian parents never do outside of church.
    • There are many times when I have a plan and a direction for our devotion for the night, but those plans are derailed (in a good way) by my kids and their questions.  And before you know it, we are on completely different spiritual subjects altogether.  But that’s okay, because the purpose of our devotion time is ultimately to facilitate spiritual discussion.
    • Family devotions make your home an easy place for your kids to talk about spiritual things.
    • Family devotions also provide a prime way for you to regularly share the gospel with your kids.  Many times over the years our family devotion time would take on a gospel emphasis for sometimes weeks at a time when we knew that God was dealing in the heart of one our children.  That nightly time allowed us to water the seeds of the gospel that had already been planted and were about to bring forth fruit.
  4. Prioritizes personal and spiritual time together.
    • Your kids need to know that the Bible is a priority in your home.  How will they know that if you never open it, read it, or discuss it together?
    • Especially if you have young kids, I’d encourage you to always us a physical Bible and encourage your kids to as well.  While having the Bible within technological reach on every device we own is a nicety, there is still something special about holding a physical Bible with pages and ink in your hand, knowing that it’s singular purpose (unlike a device) is to learn and hear from God.
    • When our kids were very young, we would have them hold and hug the Bible while we did family devotions, because we wanted them from the youngest age to understand the importance we placed upon God’s Word.
  1. Helps you to grow together relationally and spiritually as a family.
    • There’s just something special about growing closer to God with your family.  Reading together, learning together, and praying together build spiritual memories that you will never forget.
    • It also gives you an opportunity to teach your family what God is teaching you, as well as share stories of things that God has done in your life and on your spiritual journey.
    • Ask yourself these questions – do my kids know when I was saved… how me and my spouse  fell in love and got married… the things that have happened in our life to bring us to where we are now?  All of those are opportunities to grow together spiritually as a family.
  2. Gives your kids an opportunity to ask you questions.
    • Kids have lots of questions. And unfortunately, many of them go unasked and unanswered because parents don’t facilitate and cultivate opportunities.
    • Family devotions allow you an opportunity to ask questions and answer questions.
    • While I am in full support of answering questions in our children’s programming at church, I would much rather kids be getting the majority of their questions answered at home by their parents.  The way that will happen is by parents doing the same thing we do at church – teaching kids the Bible and then asking them if they have any questions.
    • You might just be surprised at how much your own kids are thinking about spiritual things and how much they are longing to know.  You’ve just got to give them the chance to ask.

Hopefully, these things will challenge you to honestly consider The Why behind doing family devotions.  Take it from a family that has done it, and let me assure you that it is very rewarding.

Charles Spurgeon – “Let us expect our children to know the Lord. Let us from the beginning mingle the name of Jesus with their ABC’s. Let them read their first lessons from the Bible… But let us never be guilty, as parents, of forgetting the religious training of our children; for if we do we may be guilty of the blood of their souls.”

In next week’s post, we’ll tackle the What and the How by giving you some practical and proven ways to successfully have family devotions.  I’ll also be giving you a free gift that you can use to get started doing your own family devotions!

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Kids Will Be Kids… We Just Need To Get Used To It!

6 things to maximize your influence with the kids in your care

Through traveling across America as well as to other countries conducting VBS and children’s programs, what I’ve found is this – kids will be kids… In certain ways, God has wired them all the same!

team group of happy child outdoor in nature have fun

Whether they come from good Christian homes, or from the worst of families or neighborhoods, whether rich or poor, black or white, American or from another country, they all have some of the same things in common.  Which allows for us as children’s ministry workers to do the same kinds of things and get the same results.

The sooner children’s ministry volunteers and leaders embrace certain things about kids instead of resenting them, the more effective that they will become, regardless of the age, background, or region where these kids are from.

Here are some things that those who serve in children’s ministry need to get used to and embrace, because kids will be kids:

  1. Kids are motivated by INCENTIVES (both positive & negative)

Kids love prizes.  And that’s okay.

If a children’s ministry isn’t leveraging the use of prizes in their ministry, they are probably missing out on one of the greatest motivators for kids to listen and behave.  Whether this be quiet seat prize winners, a treasure chest, or any other form of prizes, use them and you will start to see the difference.

Cool prizes have a way of speaking a whole lot louder than frustrated volunteers.

However, kids are also motivated by negative incentives.  When rules are explained and consequences enforced, those rules become far more than just rules alone, they become an incentive for good behavior as well.

  1.  Kids are wired for FUN

There is not a kid on the planet who doesn’t love to have fun.  That’s why our children’s ministry theme is “combining faith with fun.”  We want to give kids a reason to want to come to church by making it one of the best hours of their week.  Coming to church should be a place where kids want to come to have fun learning about God.

Nothing will help kids to have fun more than when you do.  

Learn to let loose, swallow your pride, just be you, and remember what it’s like to be a kid yourself.  Kids love adults who know how to have fun, get crazy, be silly, and get on their level.

  1.  Kids love to SING

There’s something special about music that is so very powerful to unify a crowd, to teach Bible doctrine, to help kids learn how to worship, and to engage them with actions and fun.

Why is it easier for kids to memorize verses when we put them to music?  Why are kids able to know a song by heart after just hearing it one time?  And how is it that singing can bring out the fun in even the quietest of kids who absolutely love to get after it through song?

Kids love to sing.  Kids need to sing.  Because music has the power to get them moving, thinking, learning, engaging, and worshipping – sometimes all at the same time.

  1. Kids want to PARTICIPATE

God created kids to be doers.  They learn best though activity and participation.  That’s one of the reasons why kids’ church is so much more fun than “big church”!  We appeal to their nature of wanting to participate in order to learn.  This is why we have action songs, team challenges, lesson character roles, and review games, etc.

The more kids get to participate, the more engaged they become.  And the more engaged they become, the more they will learn and remember.

  1.  Kids long for AFFECTION

Everywhere I go to do children’s programs, it never ceases to amaze me when kids I don’t even know come up and randomly give me a hug.

Kids love to be loved, and desire for people in their lives to give them affection through their words, their gestures, and appropriate touch.

Every kid, everywhere loves to be given a compliment, to be showered with praise, to be given a high five, a pat on the back, or to simply be told they are loved.

Kids long for affection, and they need to be regularly experiencing the love of God through us.

  1.  Kids need THE GOSPEL

Every kid. Every where. Needs Jesus.  Most kids are capable of understanding that they are a sinner, Jesus is the Savior, and they can be saved from their sin by trusting in Him.  Jesus said that to offend one of these little ones comes with great consequences (Mark 9:42), and I can’t think of anything more offensive than to give them fun, but to fail to give them the gospel.

Kids need to hear the gospel. (Rom. 10:17)  Kids need to believe the gospel. (Rom. 10:9)  And kids need to be given opportunities to receive the gospel. (Luke 18:16-17)

In many ways, God made kids with a universal fit for these 6 things – incentives, fun, singing, participation, affection, and the gospel.  They’re basic, but they work… in any setting, any culture, any church.

Whether you’re a children’s ministry volunteer in your church, or a parent with kids in your home, are you taking advantage of these 6 things by using them effectively to maximize your influence with the kids in your care?

Kids are wired the same way, and the sooner we adapt our style and preferences to accommodate theirs, the more of a long-term impact we can have.

Because kids will be kids… God made em’ that way… we just need to get used to it! 🙂

My Wife Corrected Me… And She Was Right

The importance of an "open-heart" policy in your marriage

Since the day we were married, my wife and I have had an “open heart” policy – a mutual understanding that we are each allowed to speak honestly and openly into the heart and life of the other when we have a concern or an issue.

Wife Corrected Me

Sometimes it may be some sort of constructive criticism. Other times it could be to clear up misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or to address family conflict.

These conversations are not always enjoyable, but, like any couple, we have found that in order to maintain growth and continued improvement in our marriage, they are often necessary.

Recently my wife lovingly corrected me, and while I cringed to hear what she had to say, I couldn’t help but agree with her after she shared her heart, because she was completely right.

Her concern?… That it always seemed that I was “working” on my day off.

No, I wasn’t going in to the office, and I wasn’t even doing work-related stuff, but I was filling up my day off with my own tasks and to-do’s.  Unfortunately to the point that to my family, I might as well have been at work.

She felt that it was my day off for me, but not my day off for my family… Ouch!

SO… WHAT WAS HAPPENING?

My wife graciously expressed her desire for my day off to be more about prioritizing time spent with her and the kids by doing things that mattered to them, more than prioritizing getting my to-do list done. And I have to admit, I was guilty as charged.

I’m a to-do list kind of guy every day of the week, and so without even fully realizing it, I had slipped into the bad habit of getting tunnel-visioned and doing the same thing on my day off – focusing on myself and the list of things I needed to get done.

Sadly, my day off wasn’t feeling like a day off for my family.

“Remember, your day off doesn’t just belong to you, it belongs to your family as well.”

I needed to be reminded of some things:

  • Playing together in the yard is more important than making sure the yard gets mowed.
  • Making “small adventure” memories as a family will be far more lasting than making sure all my small errands get run.
  • Taking time to prioritize what my family wants to do before prioritizing what I need to get done is something I’ll not one day regret.

I often have to be reminded of this valuable principle… “Don’t sacrifice the important on the altar of the urgent.”

There will always be “urgent” things that seem to demand our attention – the grass will always need mowed, the errands will always need ran, and the to-do list will always be full.  So we can’t let those things steal from us the most important things in life before they’re gone.

While all of those “urgent” things will still need to be done, it’s important that our family always knows that they come first.  And if anything has to go undone, let’s make sure that it’s the urgent things, and not the most important things.

Make sure to put the big rocks in your life jar first, then fill it up with all the small ones.   Your family deserves to be one of your most important priorities.

SO… MY WIFE CORRECTED ME… AND SHE WAS RIGHT, I WAS WRONG (yes, I just said those three dreaded words).

I’m sure thankful for a godly spouse who cares for me enough to lovingly tell me how it is when I need to hear it, and to help me see my blind spots. Our family will be the better for it.

Do you have an “open heart” policy in your marriage? If not, why not establish one, for the sake of your marriage and your family?

Remember, the next time your spouse comes to you with a concern, be open-minded, be teachable.

Because let’s face it, if you were willing to commit your entire life to this person who cares about you more than any other human alive, don’t you think that what they have to speak into your life is probably worth hearing?

Believe it or not, whatever it is they have to say… they might just be right.

If you agree, please share!  I’d also love to hear your thoughts.

How to Respond When Your Child Has Been Wronged

Mark it down, it’s going to happen.

WRONGED

Your kids are going to come home from school, from church, or some other function, and have had their feelings hurt by a classmate, a teacher, or a friend.  Someone said something, or did something that they shouldn’t have, and now you’ve got a “situation” on your hands that may very well be starting to make your blood boil just thinking about it. (I’ve been there many times, and I’m sure you have as well.)

Your kids are going to think it’s the end of the world, and if you’re not careful, you might find yourself agreeing with them.  But before you just jump on their bandwagon and ride that emotional rollercoaster with them, there are a few warnings to consider.

Through the many times in our family when this scenario has played itself out, my wife and I have had to learn how to intentionally respond, as well as teach our children how to respond to such situations. Here are some of the things we’ve learned for how to respond when our child has been wronged:

  1. Don’t Overreact.  If you react in the heat of the moment immediately after the situation comes to your attention, you’ll almost always make the wrong decision, or at least have some regrets about the way you handled it.
  2. Don’t Assume the Worst. Reading into the situation by starting to make assumptions about other people’s intentions and character is very dangerous.  By assuming the worst, you’ve just made the problem even bigger than it actually is.  But by assuming the best, you’ve given the other person the benefit of the doubt before ‘convicting’ them in your own mind.
  3. Get the Full Story.  Before making any decisions, find out the other side of the story.  This requires that you calmly contact the other party involved (or the “middle man” in the situation, if that’s a teacher, pastor, etc.).  Ask questions, and be willing to quietly listen to the other side of the story to get all the details before proceeding.  Remember, there’s always two sides to every story, every time.  (According to my father-in-law, there’s 3 sides to every story… your side, their side, and the truth 😃 )
  4. Take Time to Pray.  Stop, breath, and talk to God.  Don’t react, wait, and respond… when the time is right, and when your spirit is right.  And make sure to respond biblically, not emotionally, irrationally, or carnally.
  5. Keep Your Testimony.  Sadly, too many well-meaning Christians lose their testimony and credibility over an irrational knee-jerk reaction to a hurtful situation. (I’ve been guilty on occasion myself.) Sometimes we as parents can be at our worst all while hiding behind the guise of standing up for our kids.  Remember that no matter what has happened to your child, two wrongs still don’t make a right.

Our kids are learning how to respond to real-life situations by watching how we do.  Let’s show them an example of long-suffering, grace, and kindness, even in the most hurtful situations.

Remember, God doesn’t choose to operate through the actions of people who are irresponsible or irrational, but He does operate through those who are yielded to His will, submitted to His word, and guided by His Spirit.  Strive to be that person.

More Control Now, Less Control Later

A parenting principle you'll never regret following

God has blessed us with four children:  Spencer (13) Faith (12) Seth (8), and Shane (6).

More Control

Naturally with raising four kids comes plenty of discipline, but the nice thing about discipline is that, if you do it right, it tapers off with age.  The child in our home who gets the most discipline is most often our youngest, then his older brother, then his older sister, and the person who gets the least amount of discipline is our 13 year old.

That’s not because our older children don’t ever misbehave anymore, but simply because we have lived out this simple principle – “more control now, less control later.”

Why do I discipline my two younger boys who are 6 & 8 quite frequently, but rarely do I have to discipline my 12 and 13 year old?  Simply put…

“If you’ll deal with more while they’re younger, you’ll deal with less when they’re older.”

Unfortunately, too many parents get this backwards. They tend to give more leniency in the early childhood years, oftentimes even making excuses for their children and the way that they misbehave.  Then they try to pull back the reigns with more control as their child gets older, but much to their disappointment, as they find that it just doesn’t usually work.

Here is some wrong thinking that many parents have when it comes to this:

They’re just kids… they’ll grow out of it.

Sadly, many parents fall into the category of those who mistakenly think that their children will just naturally grow out of these bad bahaviors as they age, but that is just not always the case. Instead of growing out of them, when they go unchecked, we are actually allowing those bad behaviors to develop right under our noses.

“Behavioral issues not dealt with from the start don’t get easier with time, but harder.”

Another type of wrong thinking parents sometimes have is this…

If I let it go… it will keep the peace in our home.

Yes, our kids are so cute and cuddly and “innocent” when they are toddlers and kindergartners, but we must remember that they too are sinners with a sin nature that must be kept in check.

One of the things that I struggle to understand is why parents of my generation are allowing their kids to yell at them, kick them, and defiantly say “no” to them, somehow thinking that they’re “just being kids.”  Let’s clarify, they’re just being “sinners”.

Overlooking offenses will not ultimately bring peace into our home, but in the long run, strife and resentment.  However, dealing with offenses promptly and consistently will bring both peace and harmony.

Proverbs 19:18  Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

Proverbs 29:17  Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul. 

If you want a peaceful home for the long haul, follow this principle – more control NOW, less control later. (Here’s some insights on How to Have a Balanced and Biblical Approach to Discipline in the Home)

This third way of wrong thinking can be the most deceptive of all…

I still have plenty of time… I can deal with it later.

Parents, let’s recognize that according to the statistics, we have such a small window of opportunity to influence our child’s early foundational worldview from the ages of 2-5.  What they learn about life in those three years will either be a springboard or a stumbling block to their future.  So be intentional in your strategy, be firm when necessary, discipline regularly, and pray always.  Because everyday that we don’t win the battle over the sin nature, the stronger it becomes.

“What children learn about life between the ages of 2-5 will either be a springboard or a stumbling block to their future.”

I’m thankful that I can (within reason) trust my 11 and 13 year old without having to worry much about them.  Yet, they still know that if and when trust is broken, there will be consequences. It’s refreshing as a parent to know that because we’ve instilled character and discipline into them while they were young, we are now reaping the benefits as they continue to grow older.

If our goal is to help our young people grow up to be a mature adults who can make their own decisions, then let’s give them some opportunities to prove they can do it before they get there.

“Training up your children right in the younger years will set you up for parenting success in the older years.”

I’ll be the first to admit that the ages of 2-5 were some of the hardest parenting years we experienced with any of our kids (and boy, do we have some stories to prove it), but looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m glad that we stuck to our guns when it was tough, and that we won the small battles while they were still small, because now we get to experience the blessing of reaping the benefits.

While we are far from perfect parents, as we’ve seen our children grow, my wife and I have never regretted following this one important principle – more control now, less control later.

Proverbs 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

If you have children anywhere between the ages of 2-12 years old, have you been guilty of believing any of these wrong types of thinking?  How could you apply this principle now, so that you can reap the benefits later?

Feel free to let me know if you agree, disagree, or have something else to add.  I’d also love to hear if you have practiced or proven this principle to be true in your own family.

Life Lessons Learned From a Culture of Less

Take-aways from our family's missions trip to Grenada

Our family just returned from a missions trip to Grenada, West Indies this past week with a team from our church.

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We helped conduct VBS and other evangelistic outreach, and what an enjoyable and memorable experience it was.  From the very moment we arrived and first met the Grenadian people, there were two things that quickly became very obvious to all of us – they are a people with so much less (things, toys, gadgets, conveniences), but they are a people with so much more (joy, contentment, easy-going disposition).

While it would be hard to share all the many things God taught us over the past week, here are a few of the lessons and reminders that stood out to me from rubbing shoulders with the good people of Grenada:

1 – Prioritize People Over Possessions

Surprisingly, the Grenadian culture doesn’t seem to lend itself to the same level of focus on materialism and things as we do in America.  Rather, much more of their focus is on relationships with other people in their daily lives.  They are not running an endless rat race as we do in America to constantly get “the next best thing”, and their access to such things on the island is very limited.

They make the most of what they have, and they are content with such things.  This is something most of us definitely need to learn in the U.S.

2 – Prioritize Passion Over Perfection

While we often try to put equal emphasis upon both passion and perfection in most everything we do (especially ministry), if we had to choose between the two, passion should win over perfection.  While the Grenadian people are not perfectionists in the way they do things, they are very passionate in the way that they do them.

The first evening church service our team went to during the week was an eye opener for our entire group.  To see and to hear the way in which the Grenadians worship and praise the Lord with such passion was energizing.  They were just so real in their worship that it was both refreshing and challenging at the same time.

It makes you stop and think how often we are guilty of focusing more on perfection than passion, and as a result, missing out on the greater of the two.  While I believe that we can and should strive for both, it’s important to remember which is most important.

3 – A Nicer Life Does Not Necessarily Make It a Better Life

In America, we’re used to nice finished homes and churches with carpeted floors, multiple indoor restrooms, air conditioning, etc.  But those are all things that many foreign countries have very little of.  And while I wouldn’t want to live without the niceties of my American life, surprisingly, the people of Grenada were far happier and content with their less than most people in America are with their more. We could live with far less than what we have or think we need.

Paul said in I Timothy 6:8  “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  Life is what you make of it, and I was reminded that a nicer life does not necessarily make it a better life.

4 – Less Really Can Be More

It was an amazing thing to see how little these people have.  Things that we daily take for granted are things that they don’t even consider having to go without.  It was such a joy to watch children get so excited over small things like toothbrushes, notebook paper, candy (“sweeties” as they call them), bubbles, and sunglasses.

They have no Walmart, no Dollar Stores, and no access to so many little things that we have daily at our fingertips.  They have so little, but they are so thankful for the little that they have.  It was quite convicting.  I was especially thankful that my children saw this firsthand and were greatly impacted by it.

5 – It’s Okay to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

The fast paced busy culture that we see all around us on a daily basis is not what we saw this past week.  Rather, people actually take their time to slow down and “smell the roses”.  Their roads and traffic are crazy, but no one seems to get easily upset or ticked off with one another.

It was also interesting that when you bring something to their attention, their response is always “no problem”.  They seem to have very little “problems” because they simply go with the flow of life, and don’t get bent out of shape over the little daily inconveniences that we might normally let ruin our day.

It was thrilling for my wife and I to watch our two oldest kids get to experience the culture and life lessons to be learned from this missions trip and these people.  In addition, they were both able to lead their first souls to Christ as well this past week.  How cool!  I’m excited at how the Lord worked in their hearts and know that it has the potential to bring about life-change for them both now and in the future.

If you ever get the chance to go on a missions trip with your family, I would strongly encourage you to make whatever sacrifices necessary to make it happen.  The benefits and blessings for both you and others will far outweigh the sacrifices that you’ll make to be able to go.

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5 Forgotten Practices That Will Take Your Kids Far In Life

Simple things that can help your child stand out

These forgotten practices can be easily overlooked in our society today, but they are still important things to teach and instill within our children.

Five Forgotten Practices

RESPOND WHEN SPOKEN TO

Remember the days when kids actually acknowledged those who were talking to them with a verbal response?  While it may seem to be fading away, let’s continue to instill that within our children today.

MAKE EYE CONTACT

There’s just something to be said about a young person who looks an adult in the eyes when they’re speaking to them.  But it doesn’t usually happen on it’s own.  It’s a learned behavior.

A PROPER HAND SHAKE

I’m always encouraged when I shake hands with a young person who knows how to give a good, solid handshake combined with looking me in the eyes.  Whether in day to day personal interactions, or when going for a job interview, a good handshake can tell a lot about a person.

COMMON POLITENESS/COURTESY  

When a child knows how to say “please”, “thank you”, or “excuse me” without having to be prompted by mom or dad, it’s quite refreshing.  But we realize that those are trained behaviors that have usually been taught at a young age.

‘YES, SIR’ & ‘YES, MA’AM’

It may seam a bit old fashioned to some, but teaching our children to respond with “Yes sir” or ‘Yes ma’am” is still a sign of respect. In a society where respect is fading fast, such responses can breathe hope into an older generation when they hear it from the mouths of young people.

I don’t believe that any of these things will make or break your child’s character.  But I do believe that all of them, if taught and practiced, can give your children an advantage in many avenues of life as they get older, whether relationally or occupationally.   These are simple things that can help them to stand out above the rest.

Do you agree… disagree, or have more forgotten practices to add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Our family (my wife, myself, and our two oldest) are on a missions trip in Grenada this week with a team from our church.  We will be hosting VBS as well as being involved in other evangelistic outreach.  As you think of it this week, would you please pray for us and our efforts to reach the people of Grenada with the gospel?  Thanks in advance!