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! 

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!

If you’d like to follow this blog and be sure to get next week’s free gift plus an additional free gift for following, you can click here.

If you feel that this article can be of help to other families that you know, you can share by clicking here.

6 Ways to Maximize Your Influence With the Kids in Your Care

Through traveling and conducting various children’s programs for many years, 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

Regardless of their age, background, or religious upbringing, they all have some of the same things in common.  Which allows for us as children’s ministry workers (and parents) to do the same kinds of things and get the same kinds of results.

If you work with kids in any capacity, here are some good reminders of ways that kids will be kids, and how it can help us to be more effective: 

  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 is 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 through 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. Everywhere. 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 tapping into the power 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! 🙂

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.

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.

How to Raise Positive Kids in a Negative World

Let’s face it, the world can be a pretty ugly and negative place sometimes.  You don’t have to look far to find it.  So is it possible to raise positive kids in such a negative world?

Positive Kids

Amid all that’s wrong with the world, thankfully we get to be a part of what’s right as we instill within the next generation the character and desire to be world-changers.

Raising positive kids in a negative world isn’t easy, but it is possible. Here’s some reminders for how to do it:

MAKE SURE YOUR FAMILY’S FOUNDATION IS ROOTED IN FAITH

Nothing gives us a reason to live positive lives more than the fact we know God is in control, He has a grand purpose for our lives, and we can trust Him.

  • Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

LEARN TO POINT OUT THE GOOD EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE BAD

Nothing raises positive kids better than optimistic parents. In your day to day dealing as a family, choose optimism over pessimism in every situation. Pessimism kills positivity.

  • Proverbs 17:22  A merry heart doth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

ALWAYS SPEAK WELL OF OTHERS

Learn not to speak negatively of other people in front of your kids. Better yet, simply learn not to speak negatively of other people.  Your kids will pick up on this very quickly.

  • Colossians 4:6  Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt…

NEVER FORGET THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN YOURSELVES

Remember the poor. Help those in need. Pray for those less fortunate.  When we help our children remember that we really don’t have it as bad as we think, it’s easier to appreciate what we do have.  Guard your children against developing an attitude of entitlement.

  • Galatians 2:10  We should remember the poor…

CULTIVATE A FAMILY CULTURE OF THANKFULNESS

Gratitude is the brother of positivity. You’ll have a hard time finding grateful people who aren’t also positive and optimistic people. Don’t allow a spirit of complaining to rear up its ugly head in your family.  Help your kids learn to appreciate the small and the big things, the good and the bad.

  • I Thessalonians 5:18  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God…

While we may not be able to change the entire world around us, God has given us the privilege to change our part of it through our children. May we always be mindful that we are developing world-changers in our homes – godly young people who can take the most positive message there is into a negative world that desperately needs it.

Is Your VBS Outreach Actually Reaching Out?

Keeping the focus on reaching those without Jesus

Last week, I discussed 5 reasons Why VBS is still important.  You can read it by clicking here.  But while those things answered the “WHY” of making VBS an outreach oriented event, we really need to answer the question of “HOW”.

VBS Reaching Out?

What is it that qualifies a VBS program as being “Outreach Oriented”?  How can we evaluate our strategy to make sure we’re not just entertaining our kids, but seeking out lost kids who don’t know Jesus?  How can we keep our focus on reaching those without Christ?

I believe that 3 things are necessary…

If our VBS Outreach is going to Reach Out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be:

1. Focused on OTHERS

Unchurched parents are more likely to send their children to VBS than to any other church-related activity.  That means that VBS naturally gives us an opportunity to focus our attention outward and reach out into our community.

It ought to greatly concern us if our “outreach” programs don’t do any reaching out to new people.  Because as much as Jesus loves the church, and even gave Himself for it, He hasn’t primarily called us to reach the church.  He’s commissioned us to reach the world.

VBS provides the church with one of the greatest ways to obey Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel, by starting with reaching out to our own Jerusalem.

While putting a primary emphasis on reaching out to the lost is imperative, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our VBS efforts to encourage the spiritual growth of those who are already saved.  That can also be a very worthwhile goal.

However, it’s crucial to remember that you’ll probably have more unsaved kids at VBS than you’ll ever have at one time on a given Sunday.  And with a field as white for harvest at that, we just simply can’t afford to make the spiritual growth of “our” kids our only focus, at the expense of reaching those who need the life-changing message of Jesus the most.

An outreach-focused VBS needs to be focused on OTHERS!  Secondly, our VBS has got to be…

2.  Focused on JESUS

The only hope for the world, whether it’s kids or adults, is Jesus Christ!  One of the greatest mistakes that many churches make with their VBS programming is a failure to make the gospel of Jesus a central and intentional daily focus.

If we’re potentially reaching more un-churched kids and families during this one week than any other all year, why wouldn’t we want to be giving them the one thing that has the power to give them both hope for now, and eternity forever?

I’m not against doing any and all of the fun things that accompany VBS, but while cool crafts, exciting games, and awesome prizes are a lot of fun, they won’t take anyone to Heaven.  Unfortunately, our enemy knows that, and would love for us to shift our primary focus on those things.

Satan could want nothing more than for us to send kids away from a week of VBS with cool stuff in their hands, but nothing life-changing in their hearts.

Regardless of what theme or curriculum you choose to use this summer, make sure it’s more about Jesus and the gospel than it is about anything else.  Kids need to leave having heard the clear gospel, which is the only power of God unto salvation.  And in addition to that, make sure that there’s an opportunity for them to respond to it, with counselors prepared to answer their questions and pray with them.

VBS needs to be a gospel-centered and gospel-driven event, because more than kids need entertained for a week, they need Jesus for an eternity.

Lastly, if our VBS is going to reach out to it’s full potential, it’s got to be…

3.  Focused on FAMILIES

VBS provides a way to reach families unlike anything else I’ve ever seen.  There are many effective ways to do this, but I’ve never found any that work as well as having a grand finale service for the entire family.

The way this might look for your church could be a Family Carnival or a Family Fun Fest on the final night with games, horse rides, inflatables, a dunk tank, face-painting, and free food, etc.  We promote the Family Night all week long with the kids and promise them a prize if they bring mom or dad (or any adult) with them.  We start with an opening rally time that includes a clear gospel presentation, then we allow the kids and their parents to enjoy a time of games and activities that follow.

It may sound simple, but it’s proven to be the most effective thing we’ve ever done to get more new parents through the doors of our church than anything else we’ve tried.

Having an unformatted time like the carnival has also allowed us to have a casual environment to meet the parents and introduce ourselves, while at the same time giving them information about our church, getting to know them personally, and even praying with them about needs that they may have.

This is a great time to build a personal connection with parents as well as increase the success of your future follow up efforts.  (There’s just something special about them knowing you by name when you show up on their door-step, or make an “appearance” in the mail, to thank them and their kids for coming!)

Whatever it is that you choose to do, make it a priority to incorporate some type of outreach to families, because kids are not the only ones who need to be reached, and reaching their parents will actually increase your long-term chances of reaching them.

“Apart from helping them personally come to Jesus, the greatest thing you can ever do for an unchurched child is reach their parents.”

So… it’s time to evaluate your strategy!  Are these three things a focus in the execution of your VBS plan?  Which one do you need to work on incorporating the most to ensure you are primarily reaching those without Jesus?

Let’s move beyond ourselves this summer and make sure the biggest “outreach” opportunity we have is really about what matters most – REACHING OUT!

Thanks for your investment into the hearts and lives of kids this summer, and thanks for sharing this with others!

Andrew

  • I’m currently on the road conducting VBS for local churches.  If you’d like to see the curriculums that we’ve written and use that have been intentionally developed with these three strategies in mind, you can check them out by clicking here.
  • Portions of this article were first published in the 2015 VBS Showcase edition of KidzMatter Magazine.

Why VBS?

Is VBS still worth doing?

I love VBS!  I love the excitement that it generates in our church and community.  I love the passion for it that builds in my own heart leading up to it.  I love the fun and craziness and chaos that comes along with the week of VBS.

WhyVBS?

There’s just something totally energizing to a children’s pastor about pennies in buckets, pies in the face, and points on a scoreboard.  But the one thing that excites me most about VBS more than anything else is the potential it provides for bringing new kids and families to Jesus!

There can be many purposes for a church’s summer outreach, and there can even be many different approaches that can be used other than VBS.  But no matter what you do or what you call it, the most valuable benefit that “VBS” provides is the opportunity to move outside the walls of your church and reach out to your community in a big, personal, and eternal way.

VBS is an awesome and dynamic outreach opportunity, and it needs to be outreach oriented for a good number of reasons. Here’s a few:

  1. For most churches, VBS is the largest children’s ministry event all year long, and the best opportunity to reach more kids at one time with the life-changing message of Jesus.  Even compared to other ministries in the church, Vacation Bible School is often one of the most consistently effective and productive of them all.
  2. Many kids will come to your VBS that may never otherwise come to your church.  Don’t let this discourage you, let it encourage you!  VBS naturally brings out new kids and families who might otherwise never darken the doors of your church, because many kids whose parents would say ‘no’ to church, say ‘yes’ to VBS!
  3. VBS shows parents that you really care about their kids and allows them to get a first impression of your church and ministry.  With new kids comes watching parents. They’re watching to see how friendly we are, how organized we are, and whether they even realize it or not, how much like Jesus we are.  The impression they have of our church will probably be in direct proportion to the way we treat them and their kids.   And the truth is that if parents know that we love their children, we’ve just built a connection and potentially opened their heart’s door to the gospel.
  4. VBS gives you five days of repetitive influence and gospel exposure!  Most churches do VBS for as many as 5 days in a row.  Think about it… The influence that would normally take 5 weeks of regular church programming to accomplish can be done in just 5 days!  And in addition to that, a clear presentation of the gospel can be given 5 days back to back!   That’s a huge window of opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work.
  5. Kids get saved and make life changing decisions for Christ at VBS!  Oftentimes, if a VBS is evangelistic in it’s outreach, there will be as many or more salvations in that one week than the rest of the entire year of children’s ministry.  And with 85% of people coming to Christ before the age of 13, no doubt multiplied thousands of those have made their decision to follow Christ during VBS!

VBS has great potential, but it really needs to be an intentional outreach opportunity, reaching the hearts and souls of many we may never otherwise be able to reach.

While these points address why VBS needs to be outreach oriented, next week, I’ll be giving you some practical ways for how to make sure your outreach is actually ‘reaching out’ to those who need it most.

Are you all in for your church’s VBS or summer outreach?  If so, please like, comment, or share!

  • For the next couple of weeks I’m on the road conducting VBS for local churches.  If you’d like to see the curriculums that we’ve written and use, you can check them out by clicking here.
  • Portions of this article were first published in the 2015 VBS Showcase Edition of KidzMatter Magazine.

40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Here are 40 simple Bible statements/principles to teach your kids.

Bible Statements Graphic

You might find these worthy of putting on your fridge, using as a springboard for devotional ideas, or even committing to memory.  Whatever you choose to do with them, they are great foundational thoughts for your kids to know and believe.

  1. “In the beginning God…” Genesis 1:1
  2. “God is not a man, that he should lie.”  Numbers 23:19
  3. “There is no man which sinneth not.”  2 Chronicles 6:36
  4. “We will not forsake the house of our God.”  Nehemiah 10:39
  5. “For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” Psalm 11:7
  6. “I will love thee, O Lord.”  Psalm 18:1
  7. “As for God, his way is perfect.”  Psalm 18:30
  8. “Who is God save the Lord?” Psalm 18:31
  9. “But as for me, I will walk in my integrity.”  Psalm 26:11
  10. “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8
  11. “Trust in the Lord, and do good.”  Psalm 37:3
  12. “I will be sorry for my sin.”  Psalm 38:18
  13. “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness.” Psalm 45:7
  14. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
  15. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” Psalm 48:1
  16. “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.” Psalm 97:10
  17. “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”  Psalm 138:2
  18. “Great is the glory of the Lord.”  Psalm 138:5
  19. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee.” Isaiah 41:10
  20. “I am God, and there is none else.”  Isaiah 45:22
  21. “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Mark 7:10
  22. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Luke 1:37
  23. “Love your enemies.” Luke 6:27
  24. “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  Luke 6:31
  25. “He that is least among you all, the same shall be great.”  Luke 9:48
  26. “He that is not with me is against me.”  Luke 11:23
  27. “Ye must be born again.” John 3:7
  28. “God is true.”  John 3:33
  29. “This is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”  John 4:42
  30. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
  31. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”  John 14:9
  32. “I am the vine, ye are the branches… without me, ye can do nothing.”  John 15:5
  33. “This is my commandment, that ye love one another.”  John 15:12
  34. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:37
  35. “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34
  36. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”  Acts 16:31
  37. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men.”  Acts 17:26
  38. “God… commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” Acts 17:30
  39. “Our God is a consuming fire.”  Hebrews 12:29
  40. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”  Revelation 22:13

As an added convenience, here’s a free user-friendly graphic that you can download and print to share these statements with your family.  40 Simple Bible Statements To Teach Your Kids

Bible Statements

 

Oh No, Jesus Was a Step-Child!

Help & Encouragement for Step Parents & the Church

Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Matthew 1:18

baby

Imagine with me for a moment, Jesus, the only Son of God, was:

  • The child of an “unplanned” pregnancy.
  • Conceived to an unmarried teenage girl.
  • And raised by another man other than His biological Father.

Sound familiar?

In our society today, it’s a common occurrence for children to be raised in a step family or with a step parent.  And while it may have never been God’s original plan for the family, God is using churches today that are full of step families to accomplish His work and raise up the next generation for Christ.

“In 2011, the Family Research Council found that only 46% of children in the United States will reach the age of 17 living in intact homes with both biological parents.  This same statistic was reflected in 2014, when the Pew Research Center also found only 46 percent of children were currently living in a home with both biological parents.”  

While those statistics are unfortunate, they are reality.  And this raises a very legitimate question for the church…  If over half of families today are made up of something other traditional biological families, how is that reflected in the people we are reaching in our churches?  Are we reaching, welcoming, and helping these step families that enter our doors?  Because nearly half of families who visit our church will fit into that category.

May we never look down upon them, judge them, or treat them differently than any other family in our church.  Have they made mistakes?  Yes.  Would they go back and do some things differently?  Probably.  Can they reverse time and change the past?  No.  Is there baggage that has to be worked through?  Oftentimes.  Can we love them unconditionally right where they are?  Yes.  Can they be used in ministry to advance the kingdom of God? Absolutely.  Are their children any less important to God?  No.

And may I say this very clearly and understandably – broken homes, step families, and the children of them, ARE NOT second rate to God, and should not be treated as second rate in the church.

What is the church about?  Well, it’s a place where broken people get restored, sinners are given second chances, and all are allowed time and space to heal… from their sin, their past, and their failures, no matter what it involves.

Consider a couple of note-worthy things about step families from Jesus’ family:

  1. Jesus’ step-father was a godly man who loved the Lord and loved Him.  Joseph raised Jesus like He was his own.  He trained Him, taught Him, loved Him, and no doubt helped Him to become the man’s man that He was.  Joseph was the picture of what many parents portray in the church today – godly men and women raising kids not their own, and absolutely killin’ it in the process, raising some amazingly God-loving kids.
  2. A pregnant teenage girl gave birth to the Son of God.  God works in mysterious ways, and oftentimes through seemingly bad circumstances. The same is still true today. Remember this, “A mistake on the part of a parent never makes their child a mistake in the eyes of God.”
  3. A step-parent raised the only perfect kid ever.  Certainly, Joseph had a slight advantage, raising the only perfect Son of God, but he proved that IT IS POSSIBLE to parent successfully as a step-parent.
  4. God used a step-child to change the world.  While the surrounding circumstances were certainly different than in families today, consider this thought… God used the child of a pregnant teenage girl, and who was raised by a step-father… to save the entire human race.  And God is still using kids from all family types to make a difference in His kingdom today.

If you are a member of a Bible-believing church, I hope that these thoughts will remind you to be aware of both the needs and potential of the step families within your church.

And if you are a parent with a broken marriage, a second marriage, or filling another parent’s shoes as a step-parent, I hope that these words encourage you.  I also hope that they challenge you, and remind you that God’s greatest work ever accomplished in the world came through an “untraditional” family – a family that was yielded to Him and committed to the process of godly parenting, regardless of their circumstances.

No doubt, what God has called you to in this season of your life has its own unique set of challenges that some of us may never fully understand, but please know that I am praying for you today.  Praying that God would give you strength, stamina, and the spirit of a Joseph or a Mary for the specific situations that you face.

God loves you, the church loves you, and we desperately need your help to raise the next generation of world-changers!