How to Help Your Kids Fall in Love with the Bible

5 tips for cultivating a love for God's Word in your children

Three things that God has given to every Christian are His Son (to die for us), His Spirit (to live within us), and His Word (to teach and direct us).

All three are vitally important to our walk with God, and every believer, including children, should have a love and appreciation for each of these things.  In today’s post, I’d like to focus on the importance of our love for God’s Word, and ways that we can encourage our kids to fall in love with it as well.  

As parents, we never want the Bible to just become another book on the shelf, or simply a family tradition to our kids. We want them to fall in love with it.  But in order for that to happen, we must keep the Bible at the forefront of our family and our everyday lives, so our love for it grows deeper as time passes.  

If you agree, here are 5 practical ways to help you cultivate a love for God’s Word in your children.  Which of these 5 are you already doing and which ones can you implement into your home starting today?

1.  Start teaching them love and respect for the Bible at as young an age as possible

From the time a child is born, they are old enough for mom and dad to read the Bible to them.  At the ages of 2+, they can even understand that we love the Bible by holding it and hugging it. Teach your children from the youngest ages songs about the Word of God. Tell them Bible stories with an open Bible in hand, and even allow them to hold it themselves.  Even if your children are already past these early years, the best time to start or continue developing a love for God’s Word is now.

2.  Make the Bible a central part of your family’s daily life and routine

Here are some ideas you might consider trying:

  • Daily family verse – Read it together in the morning, memorize it for the day or the week, use it as a theme for family devotions.
  • Nightly devotions – We’ve found personally that one of the greatest ways to instill the Word of God within the hearts of our children is to sit together in the living room with an open Bible and an open conversation about a story, a principle, or a verse. (Here’s A Busy Parent’s Guide to Doing Family Devotions that will help.)
  • Posted Scriptures – Deuteronomy 6:9 reminds us as parents of the importance of having Scripture “written on the posts of our house”.  Make the words of Scripture a visible centerpiece throughout your home.  Whether this is by way of take-home papers from church, handwritten verses from your kids, or framed scriptures on your walls, make the word of God a central part of your home by making it visible!  

3.  Memorize the Bible together as a family

Most parents want their children to memorize the Scriptures, but are we willing to memorize the scriptures ourselves?  Nothing will motivate your children to hide God’s Word in their heart more than when you are willing not just to help them, but to memorize with them.  When they have to memorize scripture for school or church, don’t just expect it of them, exemplify it for them!  I was recently encouraged by a friends’ family who memorized an entire chapter of the Bible together.  (And it wasn’t even Psalm 117. Lol.)

4.  Make the Bible come alive to your kids!

I love what Keith Ferrin has to say about this… “Read the Bible like you’re reading Curious George to a five-year-old. Change the volume. Change the pace. Give the characters voices. After all, they didn’t sound like the monotone voice you are reading with.” 

Teach your kids that the Bible is much more than just something to study and read, but something to enjoy.  Get into it when you read it, act it out with character roles, have fun!

5.  Treat the Bible like the living book that it is that has the power to help us daily

Talk to your kids regularly about what God is teaching you through the Bible.  Let them know how it is shaping your daily decisions and guiding your every step.  When you children have decisions to make for themselves, rather than giving them answers, give them scriptures to look up and read, and guide them into practicing practical Christian living by making choices based upon what they read.

Too often, many times we inadvertently teaching our kids to come to us, or run to the pastor every time they need answers or wisdom for life decisions.  May we first point them to the wisdom of the Word of God, realizing that God has given our children the same Holy Spirit that He has given to us to guide them into all truth. 

6.  Set the example

If our kids don’t see us pick up the Bible between Sundays, they’re probably not going to do it themselves, or be convinced that it’s really the life-changing book worth that we claim it is. Actions speak louder than words.  When our kids see us reading the Bible, talking to them about the Bible during the week, and showing them Scriptures that apply to their daily lives, they can’t help but learn to love the Bible even more. 

For me personally, I often enjoy reading my Bible in the mornings on my phone or iPad. However, when I know that my morning devotion time will intersect with the time my children wake up and start their day, I choose to read from my hard copy of the scriptures.  It’s a simple, yet intentional choice, because the first time my kids see me is often when I’m sitting at the kitchen table spending time with God, and I want that that potential life-long impression upon their heart to far outweigh my convenience and preference to use a device.  It may seem trivial, but it’s still one more way to show them my love for the Word of God.

What can you do starting today to set the example for your kids in this area of loving God’s Word?

If you are serious about passing down a love for God’s Word to your children and would like to dive deeper into how to do it, I’d strongly encourage you to get a copy of Keith Ferrin’s book, Like Ice Cream. (You can even get the first 1/3 of the book free at this link.)  It’s an easy read with a great family message.  I loved reading it, and know you will too!

“Passing down a love for Scripture ought to be as easy as passing down a love for ice cream.” – Keith Ferrin

I love that!  In the book, he shares practical ways for how to do just that.  It’s not as hard as we often think.  It simply requires that we be intentional.  

May these few ideas help us and our kids to fall in love even more with God’s Word, the Bible.

  • Pssst… We purchased new Bibles for our kids for Christmas (Shhh… don’t tell) What better way to help them fall in love with the Bible than to give them a nice new copy to call their own, right?  If you’d like to give your kids a really nice, yet inexpensive kid-friendly Bible for Christmas, check out these Kids Study Bibles all between $12-$17.  

4 Killers You MUST Teach Your Kids to Avoid

Psalm 107:17  Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.

You don’t have to look far to see people all around who are afflicted by their own self-inflicted choices.  Choices that have defeated them, enslaved them, and oftentimes even end up killing them.

God has given us restrictions and restraints upon what we do with our behavior and with our bodies, and He has done it for our good.  A wise parent will help their children see the dangers of these 4 potential killers long before they ever become a threat:

  1.  DRUGS & ALCOHOL

While it’s important to teach our kids to “Just Say NO to drugs!” (brings back memories, doesn’t it?), we also need to help them understand the good common sense reasons behind why we should say no to these things. Drugs and alcohol claim the lives of thousands of young people every year and ruin the lives of multiplied thousands of others.  

Our kids must also understand that just as drugs are a poison to the human body, an abuse of alcohol is as well.  That’s why it’s called in-toxic-ation.  This is also why our bodies object to these substances with loss of motor skills, slurred speech, impaired vision, and poor judgment.  Not to mention, they will destroy one’s liver, heart, kidneys, and ultimately put them into an early grave.  

Proverbs 20:1  Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. 

 2.  TOBACCO

“If you smoke, it’s estimated, you have ten times the risk of getting head and neck cancer (tongue and mouth, nasal cavities, voice box, throat, and esophagus) than if you didn’t smoke.  That’s true for lung cancer, too,” says Erick Sturgis, M.D.

Smoking is so deceptive because the negative effects can go unseen within our bodies, usually “hidden” for many years before the irreparable damage is done.  If you haven’t recently, show your kids a picture of a healthy lung compared to a smoker’s lung. Help them understand that an abuse of the lungs through smoking can cause many future health problems, including a terrible disease called emphysema that steals your breath away as you get older, making it difficult, even painful just to breathe.  

Despite being in decline in recent years, according to the AAFP (American Acadamy of Family Physicians), tobacco use is still “the leading preventable cause of death and illness” in our nation.  The number of deaths (more than 400,000 annually) caused by tobacco use is greater than the combined number of deaths due to AIDS, alcohol, automobile accidents, murders, suicides, drugs, and fires. (source)  Smoking is nothing short of an expensive way to die early and something we should help our children to avoid.

I Corinthians 3:17  For the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. 

  3.  PORNOGRAPHY

Very few things are ravaging our nation and our homes like the killer of pornography.  No, it is not a killer of the physical body, but it is a killer of the mind.  It is a killer of purity.  It is a killer of many good marriages. And it is a killer of the spiritual lives of many men (and women). 

Proverbs 7:22  He goeth after her straightway as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life… Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. 

The strange woman of Proverbs takes on many forms today, and one of the most prominent is porn.  And yet the world flaunts it even to the point where “family” shows push the lines of soft porn by promoting it to our kids as both normal and acceptable. (If you watched the latest season of AGT, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)  Not to mention the intentional advertising of it to our children through seemingly innocent apps like Snapchat and Instagram. 

Psalm 101:3  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.

It is our responsibility to warn our children of the strange woman who is a killer of men’s lives and souls.  And with the average age of a child’s first exposure to porn being between 8-11 years old, we cannot stay silent.  We need to warn our children, and especially our boys, of her dangers. (For some practical tips on how to do this, check out this great article from Dave Willis at StrongerMarriages.com, 3 Keys to Raising Boys in a Sex-Crazed Culture)   

  4.  SEXUAL IMMORALITY 

God has made Himself very clear in the Scriptures that any form of sex outside of marriage is sinful and unacceptable, no matter what kind of spin the world puts on it. 

I Corinthians 6:18 warns us to “Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” 

When we help our children understand that God’s precious gift of sex is to be reserved for marriage only, we protect them against future marital struggles, future regret, as well as a host of other horrors, including STDs.  We must teach them that there is no such thing as “safe sex” outside of the marriage bed.  Saving and sharing sex with a lifetime partner in a marital relationship is still the best way to experience the safest and best sex of a person’s life, just as God ordained (Hebrews 13:4).  

Parents, we must take seriously our responsibility to prepare our children for a lifetime of purity.

While every parent needs to discern the appropriate age to address these killers with their children, the time to address them is usually sooner than we realize, but definitely long before they become a threat. No parent ever desires for their child to become enslaved by any of these four things, yet the time to do the preventative maintenance is now. 

By helping our children understand the great dangers that they will face, we ultimately prepare them to avoid playing the part of the fool…

Proverbs 5:22  His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.  He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.  

Which of these four killers do you currently need to address with your child? Are there others that need to be added?  I’d love to hear your feedback. Also, please share this to help other parents as well. 

  • Christmas is less than a month away!  If you’re looking for a great way to highlight the importance of Christmas with your kids, check out my friend, Ryan Rench’s newest book, Once Upon a NON-Time: 25 Christmas Stories for Kids. I ordered ours last week, and can’t wait to read it together as a family. 

“Mommy, Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?”

What to tell your child when their pet dies

Our family recently watched the new movie, The Stray, and it was quite a tear-jerker.  (Spoiler alert…) While it was a very clean and enjoyable movie, it could potentially raise some serious questions from your kids about what happens when a family pet dies.

Because let’s be honest, for most families, it’s likely bound to happen sooner or later. For one reason or another, a beloved family pet will die.  

And when it does, what is a family to do?  What are parents supposed to say?  How do you answer all of your kids’ questions about death, eternity, and if they will ever get to see their pet again?

Losing a family pet can be a difficult thing, especially for a child.  But it can also be a positive thing for preparing a child to know how to cope with the struggles of life and the realities of death that they are certain to face as they age.

Whether your family has experienced this, or have yet to, here are a few thoughts to help you discuss this sensitive subject with your kids (or to file away for future use):

  1.  God created pets for our enjoyment because He loves us

A family pet has the potential to be so enjoyed that they oftentimes become “one of the family.” We connect with them emotionally, and they bring us great joy and happiness. This is a beautiful reminder of the good gifts that God has given us to enjoy in His creation. 

If you remember in Genesis 1:24-25, after God created the “living creatures”, He saw that they were good.  And in the next verse, vs. 26, he tells us that God made them for man.

But not only did God give them to us to enjoy, He gave us dominion over them as well – Genesis 1:28.  As humans, we are overseers of not only our beloved pets but over all of God’s creation.

  1. God created animals differently than he did humans

Genesis 1:7  God breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

God has placed eternity in the hearts of human beings.  He has not done so with animals.  Animals are unlike humans in that God has created us with a soul, an understanding of right and wrong, and an ability to connect personally with our Creator. In addition:

  • We are conscious of the future.  Animals live only for the moment.
  • We can understand the concept and consequences of our actions upon our future.  Animals can only live for what is most pleasant here and now. (Their #1 thought is their next meal.)
  • We were created for a higher purpose that matters for all of eternity.  Animals serve one primary purpose – for the benefit and enjoyment of mankind.

Just as God created animals different than us, God’s love for them is also different than His love for us.  Mankind is God’s prize creation. This is why God sent His only Son to the cross to save the souls of men. 

  1.  God doesn’t promise that our pets will be in Heaven, but He does promise that there will be animals there

One of the biggest questions our kids will often have is this, “Will I get to see my pet again someday?”

The good news is that there will be plenty of animals in Heaven with us for all of eternity.  They will be for our enjoyment there quite possibly even more than they were here on earth.

Isaiah 11:6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

However, God makes no promises as to whether or not those animals in Heaven will be ones that we knew here on earth.  

So is it possible for our pets to be in heaven?  While it may not be likely, anything is possible. God can do whatever He pleases. And if God were to choose to let someone’s pet into Heaven, who is to stop Him?

But the Bible gives us no clear answers that this will be the case.  So, it’s okay to simply be honest about this with our children by telling them that we just don’t know.  

What is important is helping our children understand that regardless of what animals will be in Heaven, they will not be there because they have a soul like we do, but simply because God has chosen for them to be a part of eternity for us to enjoy.

  1.  God understands how we feel when we lose something or someone we love

This could be the most important lesson of all that your children could learn through the loss of a pet.  God cares about us when we hurt, and He understands.  

The loss of things we love in this life is a sad reality of living in a fallen world.  Ever since Adam and Eve “lost” in the Garden of Eden, loss has been a constant part of the human existence.  Yet God understands our feelings and frustrations over losing something that is important to us, even when we are kids.

And He even wants to comfort us when we are sad.  

God ultimately understands because He has suffered the greatest loss of all through the giving of His only Son for our salvation, and He understands when you lose something you love as well.  

While we may not be able to give completely satisfactory answers to all of our kids’ questions, may we do the best we can to help them understand what God does and doesn’t tell us concerning this subject.  And may we tactfully and tastefully help them understand the truth by giving them comfort without giving them false hope.  

What Ever Happened to Childhood?

Once upon a time, kids were just kids

Once upon a time, there were children.

They were carefree little tykes who played with dolls and toy trucks, went to school to learn their lessons and did what their mothers, fathers, and teachers told them to do.  At night, their parents read them bedtime stories and they fell asleep dreaming of knights and princesses.  Children loved their parents and knew that Mom and Dad would always be there in the morning.  Of course, children got into trouble sometimes, but only because they were naturally mischievous, not because they were downright wicked.

Think hard.  Do you remember children?

In this era of fast-lane living, it’s difficult to believe that childhood once did exist as an innocent age of Tom Sawyer exploits and happy, golden days.

What has happened?  Has childhood as a time to be remembered fondly vanished forever?

Here are some statistics about childhood in the United States:

  • Of all persons arrested for a serious crime, 1 out of 3 is a minor.  And no offense is too outrageous to imagine – children have robbed, raped, and killed.
  • Many kids have replaced candy and bubble gum with drugs.  According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 27% of children aged 12 to 17 have smoked marijuana at least once.
  • The rate of adolescent suicide has risen dramatically over the last two decades.  According to the U.S. Public Health Service statistics, suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents.
  • By age 15, many youngsters have already engaged in sexual intercourse.  And unwanted pregnancy isn’t the only price adolescents pay for promiscuity, according to statistics from The Centers for Disease Control.

If this is what’s happened to childhood, where have we gone wrong? Are we responsible because we’re forcing children to grow up too soon? 

There’s little doubt that our changing priorities and values have had a significant negative effect on children.  If kids are engaging in adult vices, perhaps it’s because they’re being forced to accept adult responsibilities.  It’s not uncommon today for a 6 year-old child to have his own key that opens a door to an empty house in which he prepares his own dinner.  Nor is it unusual for young children to log thousands of miles each year jetting between separated or divorced parents.

“We treat kids as though they’re grown-up when they’re only ten years old.  We believe we’re preparing them for life in the real world, but we’re harming them more than we’re helping them,” says Jean Rosenbaum M.D.

The increasing divorce rate and the growing number of single-parent or two-career families are accountable for children being left at home without supervision and, more importantly, without role models.  Is it surprising then that youngsters turn to television as a babysitter and for role models?

Parents Needed!

If childhood is to make a comeback, experts agree that adults must assume their responsibilities as parents… This means being able to set house rules and to restrict the influences that their children are exposed to.  Parents should supervise TV viewing and fire the tube as a regular babysitter.

This is difficult and it requires an amount of attention most parents aren’t prepared to devote to child-rearing.  Children are not little adults.  They need to be treated differently, to learn discipline and to develop respect for themselves and others,” says Neil Postman, author of The Disappearance of Childhood.

He offers parents this simple guideline: “The longer children are allowed to mature, the more mature they will become.  There is no crash course on maturity.”

(These are excerpts from an article written by I. E. Thompson in 1984)

 

 

 

 

When God Chooses to Bless You

Last week, my wife and I attended The KidMin Nation Mega-Con (children’s ministry conference) in Nashville, led by our friends Ryan & Beth Frank. This was a conference that promised to be the most audacious, out of the box KidMin conference ever… and in my opinion, it definitely lived up to its name. The level of professionalism, organization, and practical ministry content was second to none, as was the heart of those behind it.  We left greatly encouraged and well equipped to minister in even greater ways than before.

And part of the hype surrounding the conference was the fact that they were giving away the keys to a 2017 Chevy Malibu to one of over 1600 children’s pastors in attendance. And even better yet, my lovely wife, Charity, was chosen to be the winner of that car! (You can watch her win the car here.)

And if the simple fact that they were giving away a car wasn’t impressive enough, coming to find out that the two couples who spearheaded the conference, Ryan & Beth Frank, and Martijn & Amy Van Tilborgh, actually used personal funds to purchase this car and give it as a gift was mind-blowing and very humbling.

While we are currently relishing in the way that God has chosen to bless our family, I can’t think of a better or more deserving person than my lovely wife, Charity, to be honored with such a gift.

While I don’t brag on her nearly as often as I could, today is different. For the past 16 years, she has served alongside me in the full-time children’s ministry and been the most selfless, servant-hearted person I have ever known. She serves, and serves, and serves some more. Most often behind the scenes and in the shadows, yet she is making ministry successful on so many levels. She constantly sacrifices of herself to meet the needs of others in both her family and ministry, even when it often comes at a high personal cost of her own time, convenience, and resources.

Prayer changes things… 

When it was announced many months ago that this car would be given away at this conference, my wife began to pray. You see, for some time now, she has been saving up her extra money to purchase a small, more fuel efficient car for her to get around in.  Due to unforeseen family circumstances, she’s been driving a lot of extra miles lately, and so she was hoping and praying that God would bring along something more practical and economical.

In addition, we had recently started looking for an additional vehicle for our son who is starting Driver’s Ed this month. In fact, the day before winning the Malibu, I had found a potential car online for us to purchase and showed it to Charity.

God’s plans are better than our own…

Well, God decided that He had something far different and far better in mind!

I remember telling one of my kids at the conference that, “Whoever God wants to have that car will be the person who wins it.”  And sure enough, God chose to bless my beautiful wife with that new car!

So, as we sat down as a family this past weekend to discuss our blessings, it was a special time to reflect upon God’s goodness in our lives in so many ways.  And we walked away with these few thoughts:

  • God is good, all the time.  Car, or no car, our family has been abundantly blessed far beyond what we deserve.
  • God makes no mistakes.  Mom won the car because God wanted mom to win the car.
  • Good gifts are “God” gifts.  Every blessing in our life both big and small has come from the hand of God.

God has blessed our family in so many ways so many times, and yet, He has chosen to bless us yet again. And this time, specifically, He blessed my wife, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Isn’t it about time that your family sat down together and discussed the blessings of God in your lives as well?

Because regardless of whether or not you ever win a car, God has chosen to bless each and every one of us abundantly in more ways than we could ever count.

James 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father…

12 Things to Remind Your Child About Going Back to School

As parents, it’s our job to prepare our kids for life.  And a big part of that job often includes partnering with our school of choice to help educate our children academically.

But as we full well know, there’s a lot more than just academics on the line.  So, with the new school year back in full swing, here are 12 simple yet important things to remind your kids about going back to school:

  1. It’s okay if school is fun, but fun is not the purpose of school.  Your future is the purpose of school.
  2. You will have some good days, and you will have some bad days – guaranteed.  Learn to embrace them both.  Because the bad days will make you appreciate the good days even more.
  3. You’ll make some new friends this year.  And they will shape not only a part of your life but a part of your future, so choose wisely.
  4. Follow the rules (in the classroom, in the cafeteria, on the playground, etc.), even when no one is watching, and even when others don’t.  Remember that you ultimately answer to God.
  5. Your teacher will make some mistakes this year that negatively affect you.  Be patient and understanding, even when it’s hard.
  6. Don’t say everything you think, and always think before you speak.  This will save you a lot of trouble, and others a lot of hurt.
  7. Give your best, every day.  Read, study, learn, repeat.  Don’t settle for accomplishing someone else’s best.  Your best is between you, your parents, and God.
  8. When you have the chance to make yourself look good by making someone else look bad, take the high road, and do the right thing.
  9. When you’re faced with the perfect opportunity to cheat, don’t do it.  The pleasure of saying no will far outweigh the fear of getting caught.
  10. When you see “that kid” who doesn’t have a friend, be the one to change that.
  11. When you’re not sure what to do, ask yourself, “What would make my parents and God most proud?”  Then do that.
  12. Remember who you are.  You are a Christian.  You are a friend.  You are an achiever.  You’ve got what it takes.  And your good attitude is your greatest resource.

Why not pull your child aside before the end of the day and remind them of these 12 things?  It might just open up a door for some great conversation.

One of the Greatest Dangers Facing Our Christian Young People Today

Having been raised in church since I was born, I had heard about Jesus and the gospel since day one.  It’s all I’d ever known.

I can vaguely remember kneeling at my mom’s bedside at the age of 4, praying a prayer, and making a ‘profession of faith’.  However, my profession never extended beyond my knowledge, because the gospel had never changed me. I had never truly been born again.

However, when I was 12 years old, The gospel become very real to me personally. God began doing a work of conviction in my heart, and it was at that time that I allowed the gospel’s transformational power to change me, as I genuinely called upon the name of the Lord to be saved.

Our kids KNOW the Gospel…

Most kids raised in church have the privilege of being used to hearing the gospel.  In fact, they know it so well they could probably recite it forwards and backwards.  They’re told about God’s love and how Jesus died for them even while they’re still in diapers in the nursery.

And as they grow, they hear it taught in Sunday School and in Children’s Church. And they’re even able to quote verses from the Roman’s Road.  They hear regularly about the amazing power of the gospel to change lives. And this is a good thing.

And yet… many of them grow up so accustomed to the gospel that its familiarity has the underlying potential to breed an inadvertent apathy towards it, to the point that it often has little to no impact upon their everyday lives.  Many of them having either never experienced the transformational power of the gospel firsthand in their own lives, or having never allowed it to transform every facet of their daily lives and choices.

So what is one of the GREATEST DANGERS facing our Christian young people today?…

The gospel is so common that it just becomes old hat, and as a result, one of the greatest dangers facing our Christian kids is this – they’ve gotten “used to” the gospel.

What God intended to radically transform ours and our children’s thinking and living, actually has the potential to become all too familiar, all too fast, to the point that we forget (at least by our actions) that the gospel is the one thing God has given us to change both ourselves and to change the world around us. (Rom. 1:16, Eph. 2:1-10)

God’s plan has always been that the gospel would shape our identity, determine our priorities, and affect every decision we make in life (about what we say, how we react, what we listen to, where we go, who we associate with, etc.)

A driving PASSION of their life, or just a PART of their life?…

The gospel was never meant to be compartmentalized into just a part of our lives, but rather, that there be no part of our lives that remains untouched by the gospel.  

The gospel is meant to define life for us, while at the same time defining us for life.

It is not to be a casual part of life, but rather a commitment that requires our willingness to die for it, and even more importantly, our passion to live for it throughout the process of everyday, ordinary life.

Yet, so often, if we’re not intentional, our kids (and ourselves) can get so used to the gospel that it becomes more of a necessary evil of life rather than a transformational reason for living. It becomes simply another relic added to the shelf of our family traditions, rather than the entire foundation upon which our children build their very lives.  

Let’s face it… we all know “Christians” who’s priorities and decisions give little to no indication of real or dramatic life change because of the gospel.  However, have we ever stopped to consider that this could be happening in our own homes and in the hearts and lives of our own children? Just because ours is a “Christian” family, does not give us any guarantees. Because life change for our children requires much more than just a label. 

My wife and I now have 2 teenagers in our house (please pray for us).  And although I’m thankful that my kids have grown up hearing the gospel all of their lives, I don’t ever want them to “get used to the gospel”.  I want it first to change them through the power of salvation, but then also through the ongoing process of sanctification, and allowing the gospel to be the filter through which they view every detail of their daily lives.

So how is a Christian parent to do this?… That is, raise “Christian” kids who don’t get over the fact they are Christians?

While ultimately, we know that this requires the supernatural touch of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives (first and foremost through salvation), here are some practical ways and ideas we’ve tried as parents to help our kids, and especially our teens, to never “get used to” the life-changing, transformational power of the gospel.

  1. Send them on a mission’s trip.  Our oldest two children were able to be a part of a mission’s trip to Grenada last summer, and it was a life-changing experience for both of them. I’m convinced that there is very little else that has the potential to change a teenager’s perspective about their purpose in the world and in God’s kingdom than to put them into such an environment of less.  Sending your child on a mission’s trip forces them to come face to face with the reality of what really matters in life.
  2. Expose them to the lost.  If we’re not careful, we can easily over-insulate our children from the lost world to the point of isolating them from it as well.  Our children desperately need to see firsthand just how greatly they are needed for the cause of the gospel. Because our children will rarely ever have a burden to reach others with the gospel if they aren’t ever surrounded by or exposed to others who desperately need it.  Whether you encourage your kids to make friends with unsaved neighbors, those at school, or witness publicly together as a family, find ways to expose your kids to the lost world all around them.  Our two oldest recently detasselled for the first time, and our son often enjoys paint-balling at a local course.  Both of these exposures have been an eye-opening experience for them of the sinful lifestyles and lost condition of many teenagers today.  In addition, it’s also given them a burden for these same people.  (As always, use discretion as the parent for what you know to be best for your specific child, and never use this as justification for allowing your children to be regularly surrounded by worldly influences).
  3. Help surround them with other people whose lives have been changed by the gospel.  Nothing motivates us to be changed by the gospel as much as rubbing shoulders with others whose lives have been, and are actively being, changed by the gospel.  
  4. Challenge them to read, read, and read some more.  Start by motivating them to get into the Word of God for themselves so that the Bible becomes real to them during this crucial age of the teenage years.  Also, give them some good books to read.  Here’s a great book my wife and I recently bought for our two teens and required them to read – This Changes Everything: How The Gospel Transforms the Teen Years.
  5. Require them to be involved in serving in their local church.  If they aren’t serving when they’re a teen, why should we expect that they’ll be serving or passionate about the gospel when they’re an adult and out of our home?  There’s a reason why 50% of our “Christian” young people are leaving the church once they leave high school.  And a big part of it is because the gospel has never become real to them either practically or personally while they were still at home.  They’ve never learned to possess their own faith.
  6. Never “get used to” the Gospel as a parent yourself.  If the gospel has not truly transformed not only your soul, but your everyday life and choices, don’t expect it to transform your children any more than you have allowed it to first transform you.  Because more than your kids will become what you say, they will become who you are.

“The greatest way for the gospel to change the hearts and lives of children is for it first to change the heart and lives of their parents.”

Once our children’s lives become radically changed and defined by the gospel, so many other details of their life and future fall into place concerning their priorities and decisions. 

We have been put “in trust with the gospel” and its life-changing power, for ourselves, our children, and the lost all around us. (I Thess. 2:4)  May we never take that lightly.  And may we never “get used to it.”

Do you agree that this is one of the greatest dangers facing our Christian young people today? Feel free to let me know.  I’d love to hear from you.

Mom & Dad, Please Get to Know Me

My youngest son and I just spent a week together conducting our final VBS of the summer.  We had a blast, and while we were away, I asked him a list of questions to get to know him better, as well as to see how well I really know him.  While I thought I’d ace this, some of his answers actually surprised me.

Shane & I about to board a plane to Lubbock, TX for our final VBS of the summer.

If you have children, you probably know them pretty well too… or at least you think you do.

Sometimes we’re convinced that we know our own kids better than anyone else, but if we really stop to evaluate ourselves, we might just find out that we don’t know them quite as well as we think, or as we should.

One of our primary goals as parents is not just to raise our children, but to know them.

It’s easy to get so busy taking care of our children, that we can lose track of many of the important details of their lives.

God gave them to us to guide through life, and this requires that we study them, learn them, and know them to the best of our ability.  Their wants, desires, needs, and special quirks should be things that we both know and understand better than anyone else.

Learning to know our children can be a life-long process, but a very worthy one.  So here is a list of basic questions/statements for you to try and answer to see how well you know your child.  Pick up a pen, and start filling in answers: (printable pdf available by clicking on the image)

After filling out your answers to all of the above questions, ask your child their responses to the same questions, then compare and discuss your answers together.

My son got quite a kick out of seeing how many answers I got right (and how many I got wrong). He thought is was super fun to see how well dad knows him.  And we had some great discussion as well.  I’m sure your kids will love it too.

Don’t be surprised if you get stumped along the way.  Just have fun.  And remember, the goal is simply to get to know your child better.  And believe me, you will.

Are You Being Fair to Your Pastor & Your Ministry?  

4 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself

Church staff members have the potential to be a vitally important part of any church, adding value and quality to the ministry.

However, they also carry with them the potential to become a weight or burden to a church. Especially if they are not producing and growing both themselves and the ministry they oversee.

Every person who serves in full-time ministry, as pastor or staff, must constantly be striving to lead better by becoming better, and grow their ministry by first growing themselves. I’ve been privileged to work under two senior pastors who have done this exceptionally well through example, and encouraged their staff to do the same.

If you serve in a staff capacity where you are being paid by the tithes and offerings of the generous people of your church, here are four thought-provoking questions to consider (I’m sure there could be many more) to help evaluate if you’re being fair to your pastor and your ministry?

1. What is the last book I’ve read specific to my ministry or growth development?

(Maybe for some, the question would suffice, “What is the last book I’ve read?”) Whatever area of ministry you’ve been called to serve in, most likely its because you have a passion for that area of ministry. What are you currently reading to increase your knowledge of and passion for the things God has gifted you to do and placed closest to your heart?

Are you a better and more knowledgeable worship leader, children’s or youth pastor, assistant pastor, etc. than you were a year ago… 5 years ago? Consider this… if the average book consists of 10-15 chapters, and you dedicate yourself to reading just one chapter a day, you could easily read two new books per month.

While the number of books you read or don’t read certainly isn’t a ‘tell all’ of your success or failure towards your pastor and your ministry, it can certainly can be something worth evaluating.  Harry Truman once wisely said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”  The truth is that God has called us to excel in our ministries.  Reading and it’s many benefits can undeniably help accomplish that.

2. Am I personally growing as a leader?

The greatest asset your ministry has to become successful is you, because you are the cap to your ministry’s growth. Your ministry or organization will rarely ever grow or develop beyond your own personal growth and development as a leader. The more you grow and the better you become, the more your ministry or organization will benefit.

So what are you intentionally doing to grow in your leadership skills? Are you attending any conferences, listening to any podcasts, following any thought leaders in your specific field? Are you being teachable by allowing your senior pastor or others to “grow” you in any area that they see room for improvement?

There’s never a time when we’re stagnant, and just staying in the same place. We are always moving either forward or backward as a leader, and our ministry is following right behind us.

3. Who have I personally reached (or am in the process of reaching) and seeing added to my church?

Is there anyone in your church who is there because of you? Are you being a soul-winner, a pursuer of people, an encourager, and hospitable towards the people you lead?

It’s easy in the ministry to let “paperwork” trump “people-work”, and become more focused on the “what” of the ministry rather than the “who” of the ministry.  But we must remember that what we’ve ultimately been called to do is make an eternal difference in the lives of people, including the lost. I personally have to keep myself in check on this one the most.

4. Am I making my pastor’s job easier or harder?

One of the purposes of church staff is to relieve the burden of the pastor in general as well as in specific areas of ministry. This doesn’t mean that the pastor doesn’t get involved or doesn’t care about other ministries, but he shouldn’t have to carry the weight of those ministries on a regular basis.

Protect your pastor’s time by doing the things he has hired you to do. Take initiative to lead and make decisions for your areas of ministry. While a good pastor certainly cares about you and your ministry, and will do whatever he can to help when possible, a good rule of thumb is to remember that you work for him, and not the other way around.  (For more thoughts on this, read 5 Essentials to Becoming a Star Staff Member)

While there are certainly many more things that could be added to this list, may these few cause us to do some self-evaluation.  May we never be guilty of being full-time staff members, but only part-time Christians.

May we strive only for excellence and progress in all that we do, as would be expected of us in any other career or field. Because our pastor, our church, and our God deserve it. And may we never take lightly the calling of God upon our lives to minister.  But may we do it by following the example of the greatest minister Himself, Jesus Christ.

Mark 10:45  For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

Do you have some additional ways that you evaluate yourself to become better as a leader?  I’d love to hear them and learn from you!

How to Put a Spiritual Spin on Fidget Spinners

They’ve taken the kid world by storm in just a matter of a few months… fidget spinners.  You can hardly go anywhere without seeing them in kids’ hands.

When it comes to adults there’s very little middle ground – you either like them or you don’t.  In fact, some adults go to super extremes on both ends.

However, one thing is for sure – Kids Absolutely Love Them!  And they’re probably not going away any time soon. Certainly not by the time you wake up tomorrow (or the next day for that matter).

What I’ve learned over the years is that if something becomes a hit with kids that takes the world by storm, parents and those who work with kids need to take notice, and use it to their advantage whenever possible.  And the fidget spinner is no exception. 

Remember, Jesus Himself was the Master of using practical objects of His day and culture to connect truth to the hearts of people, and in turn teach spiritual principles that He knew they would remember. I believe that we ought to do the same.

So how can we put a spin on all of this buzz to capitalize on the moment of the fidget spinner, and use it creatively to enhance our work with children, as well as teach memorable Bible principles in the moment, that may last for a lifetime?

Here are a few ideas that may help for how to put a spiritual spin on fidget spinners: (Thanks to my friend, Ryan Frank, for the inspiration for some of these ideas.)

1) Teach the Trinity

I asked my 7 year old son last night to look at his fidget spinner and tell me what he could learn about God from it.  He looked at it for a few seconds, and without any prompting from me, said, “God is three persons, but one God.” 🙂 

Most fidget spinners have 3 ends, which can represent the three different persons of the Trinity. But when you spin it, all three look like they are one.  God is three persons, yet one God.  Some spinners even have different light up capabilities in each end, representing that each of the persons of God is different, but they all work together to form the One Triune God. (I John 5:7, Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14)

I found it pretty cool that my son knew the answer I was thinking before I even told him.  Our kids will get it, if we just give them the chance to mentally connect the dots. 

2) Teach the Bible Basics

What are the Bible Basics?… Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers (church). Just like a fidget spinner wouldn’t balance on your finger without all three ends being the same, we need to have a healthy balance of all three of the Bible Basics in order to grow fully as a mature Christian. We can’t just read the Bible and pray when we come to church, we need to be doing those things on a regular, even daily basis to have good balance in our Christian life. (I Peter 2:2, Psalm 119:11, Matthew 6:9-13, Hebrews 10:25)

3)  Teach the Gospel

What are the parts of the Gospel?

  1. The Death
  2. The Burial
  3. And the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Just like a fidget spinner feels like it can spin for an eternity, believing in the Gospel can guarantee your eternity will be in Heaven.

How does someone accept the Gospel?

  1. Admit they are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
  2. Believe that Jesus died for their sin (Romans 10:9)
  3. Call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:10 & 13)

All three are necessary components of salvation.  Just like spinning a fidget spinner is simple, so is accepting the Gospel.  That’s why Jesus said we must be saved with a childlike faith.  These three things are not difficult, but they are essential.

When I mentioned to my son last night that the three parts of the fidget spinner can represent the three parts of the Gospel and the ABCs of salvation, he said this, “Yea, and the circles in the ends pop out so that you can replace them with different ones, just like Jesus takes away our black heart and gives us a new one.”  Once again, I was impressed with his creative thinking.  

I’m sure that these are just a few of many ideas.  How can you get creative to put a spiritual spin on fidget spinners? Because whether you love them or despise them, don’t fail to use them to the advantage of the kids in your life.  They’re even a great tool to encourage kids to use in witnessing to their friends by explaining these important Bible truths.

What other cool ways have you seen fidget spinners used, or what other ideas do you have for how to put a spin on the fidget spinner and maximize it’s potential to reach and teach children?

The Most Important Thing a Dad Can Do Is…

A few months ago, I asked a very pointed question on my personal Facebook page, and asked for people to finish this sentence…

“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING A DAD CAN DO IS?…”

The responses I received were GOLD, and so I wanted to share them with you today.  I found that of all the responses, there seemed to be three main categories, thus representing three main areas that dads really need to “get it right” in their home – Personal, Relational, & Spiritual.

I hope you are challenged by these thoughts as much as I was.

The most important thing a dad can do is…

PERSONAL

“Spend time with his kids.  It makes a world of difference.” – Katarina

“Be present.” – Sarah

“Be there for his children.” – DeAnn

“Be there.” – Paul

“Communicate.” – Ed

“Teach his children a good work ethic.” – Cori

“Listen to his children.  Nothing replaces time and attention.” – Melissa

“Listen with eye contact.” – Sherrilyn

 

RELATIONAL

“Respect and love his children’s mom.” – Erica

“Love his wife.” – Bill

“Love their mother and lead by example.” – Charity

“Listen, and know when to be a daddy and when to be a father.” – Angela

“Love his children.” – Tim

“Love the Lord, and love his wife and family. Be real and transparent.” – Heather

 

SPIRITUAL

“Lead his children to the Lord.” – Ryan

“Model Christ in all he does.” – John 

“Be a good role model for his children.” – Sherril

“Love God openly and radically (Mark 12:30).” – Chuck 

“Lead by godly example by spending time and showing love to them in all he does.” – Travis

“Be faithful.” – Mary

“Be filled with the Spirit.” – John

“Teach them to love God and love others thereby encompassing the entirety of the law.” – David

“Lead his family to the Lord.” – Dion & Viviana

“Model Christ.” – Jeremy

“Stay in church with his family.” – Claire

“Love God with all his heart.  All the other things derive from that.” – Damaris

“Have faith always and he will show his children that they can get through anything!” – Jennifer

 

Wow.  These are so simple, yet so profound!  

I guess you could say that it all boils down to what we’re doing in our relationship with them (personal), our relationship with others (relational), and our relationship with God (spiritual).  

If you’re a dad, which area stands out to you as your greatest strength? And which area stands out to you as your greatest weakness that you need to work on the most?

Please Don’t Judge Me Before You Know Me

A perspective through the eyes of a bus kid

Don’t judge me before you know me.

I’m not the same as you.

I’ve had a strange upbringing,

One which you never knew.

 

My life’s had little structure,

My home is not real safe.

I go to sleep each evening,

With a frown upon my face.

 

Cause Mommy’s still not home yet,

And Daddy, well, who knows?

He left and never came back,

A long, long time ago.

 

There’s lots of men around though,

Different ones all the time.

Some of them are nice to me,

Others make my mommy cry.

 

Sometimes I may talk trashy,

And get onto your nerves.

But I don’t see what’s the big deal,

Cause that’s all I’ve ever heard.

 

I like to come to church though,

It’s a place where I feel loved.

The people there are friendly.

And they never push and shove.

 

Sometimes they gently get on to me,

For not always being there,

But I try my best to wake up,

When no one else seems to care.

 

Today I went to Sunday School,

My teacher taught God’s Word.

I’d never felt that way before,

From what I saw and heard.

 

I gave my heart to Jesus today,

He wrapped me in His love.

He took all of my sin away,

And gave me Heaven above.

 

I’m worried about my Mom though,

I don’t think that she’s been saved.

I hope that the church people,

Will care about her the same way.

 

My life has been a rollercoaster,

Rarely a place I belong,

But I’m thankful for the church people,

That I’ve known I can always count on.

 

Please don’t judge me before you know me,

I’m really a lot like you.

I need to be loved and wanted.

It’s just not something I’m as used to.

  • Every week at churches across the nation, children are picked up on a church bus from unchurched homes and given an opportunity they might not otherwise have to know Jesus.  Would you please pray for the kids and the bus workers this week?  If your church has a bus ministry, would you prayerfully consider serving in some way?