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Teaching Children to Share with the World!

I can hardly remember the last time I opened up my Facebook without seeing an album entitled “missions trip”. Those Facebook albums filled with heart wrenching candids of malnourished children and families lined up outside of their straw-roofed houses gnaw at my heart and make me whisper a prayer of thanks, but does that change anything? Do my feelings and prayers of thankfulness change the reality of the lives those people in third-world countries are living in?

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The harsh answer is no, they do not. Still, I’m reminded that those heartbreaking feelings and prayers of thankfulness are the first step in fulfilling one of God’s greatest desires for our lives as followers of Him.

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It all starts with learning to share. As adults, we try to nurture this generous spirit when we ask our children to share Skittles with their sister, toy trucks with the neighbor, and a few bites of their ice cream with mommy. Teaching generosity and sharing is almost like teaching a habit, and the art of sharing takes practice before it can really become a part of our children’s lives. Even still, this “sharing is caring” spirit is limited to a small inner circle of people – neighbors, cousins, classmates, and so on. Sharing with the whole world, though? What does the Bible say about this? Can we make a difference in the lives of people we only see pictures of on the internet? The short answer is yes, and God’s Word has a lot to say about this resounding yes!

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Time and time again, God’s Word presents us with parables and stories of the simple practice of sharing our time, money, resources, and the Gospel. In Luke 10, the story is told of the Good Samaritan, a man who goes out of his way to rescue a Jew who has been robbed and beaten. Matthew 10:46 says that there is a reward for those who give even a cup of water to someone in need! Psalm 96:3 says that we should “declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all people.” Mark 16:15 says to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel…” Luke 12:48 says that God expects those who have been blessed with more to give more! God’s Word says we can make a difference by simply obeying His call to give; we can change the world through our sharing spirits!

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Here are some easy ideas to get your children motivated towards sharing with the world:

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SAVE PENNIES: Consider buying a family penny bank specifically for missions. Those pennies add up, and before you know it, your whole family will have contributed to the work of a missionary in a foreign country!

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HAVE A DONATION PARTY:

Spend one whole Saturday rounding up some old clothes, toys, etc. that could be donated to a church that is in need of donations for an upcoming missions trips. Make it into a “party” by inviting neighborhood children to be involved.

ADDRESS AN ENVELOPE:

There are many organizations that allow you to sponsor a child in a foreign country. Let your child take this opportunity to learn the art of snail mail, address an envelope, and gain a pen pal!

 

READ ABOUT IT:

Taking the time to read both Bible verses about giving (Phil. 2:4, Deut. 15:10, Proverbs 22:9) and stories about real-life missionaries, both past and present, will excite and inspire both you and your children!
EXERCISE THE POWER OF PRAYER:

If your home church has missionaries that they support, consider making a list of a few that you can pray for with your child. This would be an exciting addition to your child’s bedtime ritual, and will develop in them a caring spirit.

A Night in Bethlehem

Looking for a new, meaningful family Christmas tradition? Wondering how you can make this Christmas Eve more than just a night for putting Santa’s cookies and milk by the fireplace? Start a tradition they’ll never forget, and throw an authentic Bethlehem dinner party! Below is a step-by-step outline for turning this festive night into a tradition that lasts year after year, and what better way to immerse your family in the true meaning of Christmas than with “a night in Bethlehem!?”

a-night-in-bethlehem_internal-copyStep 1: Invite your Family!

What’s a party without an official invitation from Caesar Augustus himself? Present your family with a handwritten “royal decree” summoning them to the little town of Bethlehem. Complete with “Where, When, and What to Bring” section, be as creative as you like.

 Step 2: Create Bethlehem!

Making this dinner party as authentic as possible means no electricity! Light some candles and drape some sheets or blankets high above or around the table and replace chairs with pillows to give the room a tent-like feel. You may even want to have some instrumental music playing softly in the background. Nothing says “a night in Bethlehem” more than the sound of quiet harp music set to the sound of classic Christmas songs.

Step 3: Make the Menu!a-night-in-bethlehem_internal

            Now that you have created an atmosphere of Bethlehem, make your dinner party taste like
Bethlehem. Skip the Christmas cookies and eggnog, and only feast on what Mary and Joseph would have eaten during this time. Some ideas include chicken or fish, pita bread, honey, olives, grape juice, dates, and cheese to name a few!

 

Step 4: Let the Party Begin!

Once the invitations have been delivered, Bethlehem has been created, and the menu has been made, the party can begin! Start the night by reading Luke 2:1-7.

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(You might want to take a moment to reflect on the details of this passage. For example, explain how Mary and Joseph were summoned by Caesar Augustus, just like their invitations said! Consider how far they would have had to travel and what they might have been thinking or feeling during their long journey.) Gathered round your beautiful, Bethlehem feast, say a prayer, thanking God for the gift of His Son and the gift of the joyful, Christmas season. While the true meaning of Christmas might get more and more distorted, let this new family tradition bring your family back to the Bible – back to a little town called Bethlehem!

 

Honor Your Child’s Positive Character Traits

Parents, what are you doing to honor the positive character traits you see in your child/ren?

Whether they are brave enough to voice it aloud, or if it’s the question that runs silently through their minds, every grade-school boy and girl wonders: “Am I good enough?” … “Am I good enough for my parents? For my teacher and friends?”

The way they answer this question will shape their confidence for years to come. Child development by definition is the process of growth. And as parents, we have the main responsibility in guiding and informing that process.

Proverbs 31 begins with

“The sayings of King Lemuel – an inspired utterance his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1)

King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, held dearly in his heart and into his old age the words his mother had spoken to him throughout his life.

If we would see the power our words have over our children, and if we answered their silent cry with a, “yes, you are more than good enough!” there is no limit to the good that would fill their young souls!

The challenge at times is the need for genuine words. Children of this era desire truth and can see right through hypocrisy. I realized this when in praising my “special” eight-year-old son he replied, “Thanks mom. But aren’t we all special?” Stunned at his wisdom I began to describe what about him was special and was forced (in a good way) to articulate his uniqueness and positive qualities. I saw relief in his eyes. He understood I truly meant it when I called him special. I, too, was relieved and was enjoying a “proud mommy moment,” until my younger daughter who was listening asked, “And what about me?”

What makes Proverbs 31 a commonly cited passage of Scripture is the specifics it provides. It describes the character of a noble wife in every unique area – family, work and spirituality. It doesn’t just call her “noble,” it articulates the how, when and where and paints a clear picture about her.

This is what our children long to know – the specifics and uniqueness about them that we as parents have the front row seat in discovering and identifying. And when we voice it to them with authority and love, we shape a healthy esteem and sense of purpose.

The Bible commands us to “…encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). God’s Word is specific. Its vocabulary is ample in describing a Christ-follower who is full of the Spirit in the way he or she thinks and acts.

To help you in this journey, we’ve created two sets of downloadable certificates to guide you in recognizing and building up the unique character traits in your children. Highlighting their positive qualities, and seeing their value through God’s Word will not only answer their question of “Am I good enough?” it will change the course of their destiny!

Honor Your Character Traits | Experience the Story | OneHope

Download positive character trait award certificates:
  Perseverance, Obedience, Courage, Peacemaker, Forgiveness, Good Attitude, Honesty, Fairness, and Good Choice

 

Honor Your Character Traits | Experience the Story | OneHope

 

Download the Fruits of the Spirit award certificates:
Goodness, Faithfulness, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Self Control, Love, and Gentleness


Related:

Owning the Spiritual Growth of Your Child
4 Drucker Principles For Better Parenting
Your Child’sName in Bible Verses

40 Verses to Pray Over Your Kids

Praying Scripture over our kids is incredibly powerful! As we pray for them, we are reminded of how deeply God loves them and wants them to know and trust Him. He is very clear about this in His Word!

The Bible is packed with demonstrations and declarations of God’s love, faithfulness, and power. We know that God honors His Word. It is alive and active Hebrews 4:12, and as we align ourselves with what God has spoken, our prayers are permeated with strength and truth. Our own faith increases as we agree with God’s Word over our children’s lives!

Here is a preview of the 40 verses to pray over your children:

Undeterred.net | Prayer Downloadable

 

 

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111116977276274.cXIsYg4oxbn2wurCqtcO_height640Danielle Dykert is the Vice President of Product Development at OneHope. Since joining the OneHope team in 2010, she’s had the privilege of designing countless Scripture engagement products for children and youth, including books, films, curriculum, websites, and apps. Danielle has a BA in English Literature from Taylor University and a Master of Nonprofit Management from Florida Atlantic University. She is passionate about excellence in design and engaging children and youth around the world with God’s Word.

Thanksgiving activity guide

Whether they’re in diapers or dorm rooms, you can take advantage of Thanksgiving to point kids’ hearts in the direction of thankFULLness. We’ve compiled powerful stories, great parenting advice, and even activities to do together that inspire a biblical attitude of gratitude.

Use Thanksgiving and this great FREE resource to help young people focus on what they DO have instead of what they don’t.

Download your Thanksgiving activity guide here!

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Other great resources:

 

How to Raise Generous Children

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

-Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer [1]

If God’s Word told us to live one way but Jesus did the opposite, we would be confused and wonder what was truly important. Can you imagine if Jesus did the opposite of what He told us to do?

The Bible tells us to be patient people, but what if Jesus was consistently impatient with others? The Bible tells us to be tenderhearted and kind, but what if Jesus exemplified the opposite and was both coldhearted and mean? What if the Bible said to honor our parents, but Jesus was always disrespecting Mary and Joseph? What if the Bible told us to be generous with our time and money, yet Jesus seemed selfish and distant?

We wouldn’t consider any of those virtues or characteristics valuable. It is no different when it comes to our children and what we say versus what we do.

As parents, we long to be role models for our children. If we truly want to be their example, we have to make Jesus our example. The apostle Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” When it comes to raising generous children, we must simply give more and take less, then watch our children follow our example. God’s desire for us as parents is for our character to influence our children’s lives by our example.

Father and little girl playing on the beach at the sunset

While children will surely be influenced by the way in which their parents live, they obviously need lessons, reminders, and practical applications in the area of generosity.

A recent episode of a popular sitcom showcased a father’s determination that a generous spirit be cultivated in the heart of his daughter. A young girl is having a temper tantrum in the kitchen over a slice of mango that is given to her sister. The father in the show pays no mind to her protests of unfairness and uses her temper tantrum to teach her a valuable lesson.

Did she want a slice of mango because she really loved mangos? Or was her protest simply a result of her sister having something she did not? This wise father recognized his daughter’s true desire and, instead, offered her impressionable little heart a lesson in generosity.

“Look,” he says, “turning toward her and leaning down to meet her eyes, “the only time you need to worry about what’s in your neighbor’s bowl is if you’re checking to make sure they have enough.[2]

Our heavenly Father taught us, His children, this lesson in generosity through the life of His Son. Jesus gave up His very life to ensure that we would have “plenty” – eternal life and a relationship with the Lord. What a beautiful, sacrificial example Jesus was!

We, like the father in the television show, need to take advantage of teachable moments that spur our children on towards generosity. At the same time, determine to exemplify generosity in order to cultivate it in your children’s hearts. Matthew 1:8 says, “…freely ye have received; freely give.”

Leaf Project

As the holiday season approaches, there are many different fun and creative ways to get your children involved in “freely giving” activities! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Host a pie party! Here’s how it works. Invite your neighbors/friends over, and ask everyone to bring a dessert pie. You provide the main course, which could be a pizza (pie) or a shepherd’s pie; get creative!
  • As the leaves change color and fall from the trees, offer to rake an elderly neighbor’s lawn. Suggest the idea to your children; they’ll be excited to help!
  • Make a family affair out of cleaning out your closets. Donate winter clothes, jackets, shoes, etc. to a local charity.
  • Have a family discussion about the poverty in which children in third world countries live. Introduce the idea of financially supporting one of these less fortunate children, and watch your children’s faces light up!

You will also like:


[1] Schweitzer, A. (1975). Albert Schweitzer: Thoughts for Our Times. Mount Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press.
[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christian-piatt/louis-ck-looking-in-your-neighbors-bowl_b_1964151.html

3 things to spiritually lead kids: Talk, Pray, Do

One of the things we have to do in family ministry is do a better job of defining to parents what we mean by being the spiritual leaders of the home.  I have heard many sermons and have had many conversations around the concept of parents being the primary spiritual leaders. I totally agree and think these conversations need to continue. The question I have asked myself and other family ministry leaders is, “what does the practical out working of partnership with parents look like?” We really get the problem and the need, but the solution isn’t one size fits all.

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Our family ministry team had a conversation around the idea of the expectations we have of ourselves and the expectations we have of parents in order to work out the implications of partnership demands. I’m so grateful for all the helpful resources out there that give a framework to guide this process. Our family ministry team came up with a tool to help us visualize what we are trying to carry out.

The first thing we did was decide on our three objectives for each age environment. Because we use Orange’s curriculum and Reggie and his team are amazing at creating memorable bottom lines, we used material from “First Look” and “252 Basics” to get us started.

Secondly, we defined what spiritual leadership by parents in our context looks like. Far too often, we can set the standard of parental involvement around the “nuclear family,” but what does spiritual leadership look like for those who are new to faith or perhaps for a single parent working full-time? We came up with three things we feel that every parent can do to start the journey of spiritually parenting their kids.

Talk Pray Do

Defining our goals for partnering with parents allows us to think through what it will take for us to achieve those things. We are constantly in the midst of an ongoing conversation about what program or resource would be needed to accomplish the three things we are trying to do and the three things we are asking our parents to do. We are still working on what those things should be so much of that section is a work in progress.

Here is a PDF of our Family Ministry Strategy form as it stands Family Ministry strategy

A couple years into us doing “TALK/PRAY/DO,” we have learned a few things that are typical of any endeavor: it takes consistency and clarity. As simple as it might seem, this is “something else” for our families to do. But we try create opportunities for our families to identify what they are already doing and celebrate that, instead of following a formula.

I do catechism lessons and read books to my kids but don’t think that’s what every parent should do. When parents tell me how they have talked to their kids or engaged them spiritually, I celebrate that with them because Talk/Pray/Do is more of a guiding philosophy than a program.


 

Sam LuceI have been a pastor at Redeemer Church in Utica NY for the past 18 years. 14 of those years serving as children’s pastor. Currently I am serving as the Utica Campus Pastor and the Global family pastor.

I am currently a contributing editor to K! magazine, serve as chairman of  INCM, co-authored “The Eric Trap”,  have been involved in several book projects, and been blogging here since 2007. I have spoken at conferences and have done some consulting and coaching. My real passion lies in preaching the gospel, building and strengthening the local church in any way possible because I believe in creating environments where life change can take place. I truly believe that the local church is the hope of the world.

I have been married to my beautiful wife for 16 years together we have 4 beautiful children ages 10, 7, 5 and 1. We currently live in Upstate New York.

 

Bring God’s Word to Life with Kids

“It is a sin to bore a kid with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Jim Rayburn, Founder, Young Life

“How much longer?” Kids of all ages (and adults too!) are prone to asking this timeless question in class, during homework time, while waiting for their favorite TV show to start, and especially on road trips. For some parents, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. For others, it’s an invitation to find new ways to engage. They make up songs to sing. They turn what’s boring into games. They share their own childhood survival success stories. They play along to pass the time in meaningful ways. They listen to what’s draining to kids and redirect the momentum. In so many ways, they are able to take on the challenge to bring life back to the journey.

Following Christ is a marathon expedition and our discipleship “field guide” is a very dense book. The Bible is filled with amazing biographies, true adventure stories, life-guiding principles and eternal life-giving promises. It describes what a relationship with God is all about, demonstrates the power of unconditional love and defines what matters most both now and forever. Unfortunately, too many people never get past asking “How much longer?” to find this out for themselves.

Jesus said He came so we would “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10) and that His words are “full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). Relating to God through His Word is intended to bring life not deplete it. Boredom can be overcome more easily if a clear bridge gets built between the world of the Bible and today’s world. When kids start losing interest, kid-influencers and parents can bring God’s Word to life with kids by modeling these three ways to be fully engaged with Scripture.

Be creative.

Jesus regularly used parables and object lessons to help His followers understand truths about their heavenly Father. I remember sitting with a group of three year olds near a pile of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head parts. Untitled-2-02Honestly, I had no idea what to talk with them about but then “the Body of Christ” came to mind (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). I quickly plugged all the holes in one of the toys with arms and another with only eyes. The kids laughed and told me how silly that was. I asked them some questions about why we need our different body parts and then mentioned how the Church family is like this too. We worked together to rearrange these puzzle people. We engaged with God’s Word, learned timeless truth and had fun doing it. No one asked, “How much longer?” In fact, more kids suddenly started swarming us. Sprinkling in a bit of creativity can go a long way to bring God’s Word to life.

Be personal.

In the eyes of children, the Bible is just a book and you are a real person. It is hard for kids to make the connection that God relates to His children through words on a page. Recently I took my 12-year-old son to the gym. As we got ready to work out, Aaron jokingly asked me if the Bible had anything say about exercise. He was quite surprised when I quoted verses in 1 Corinthians 6 and 9 about who our bodies belong to and the importance of self-discipline. My son was so surprised he said, “Who reads Corinthians? Who memorizes Corinthians?!” I went on to share with Aaron my lifelong struggles with diet and exercise. I talked with him about how God’s Word has the power to change minds, hearts, and actions if we are receptive to what we read. By being personal, you and I have the opportunity to make real-life connections for kids between the world of the Bible and the world where we live.

Be involved.

For six years I took my kids to week long father-son camps in the upper peninsula of Michigan along the Tahquamenon River. Swimming is a daily activity there. I’ve been to camp 12 times and the water is never warm, so when Avery or Aaron calls out “Dad! Come swim with me!” my first instinct is to stand and wave. I’m not proud of this gut reaction, but I’m not alone. Parents too easily forget the importance of playing, of getting their hands dirty and their hair wet. When children see kid-influencers say they are involved but don’t see it in action, there is a discipleship disconnect. God’s Word teaches that love is a verb (1 Corinthians 13). It’s others-focused and action-oriented. Actually reading the Bible must follow telling kids that reading it is important. Actually serving people must follow instructing kids that selfless sacrificing matters. Standing on the sidelines with Scripture is an option, but it doesn’t bring God’s Word to life with kids (or in you!).

Changing the question

As I write I’m aware that 1 Corinthians is a theme running through each of these ways to engage with the Bible. There is no end to what can be learned in Scripture. I would love for kids and parents to shift from asking “How much longer?” to “Can we dive deeper?” By being creative, personal and involved, you and I can help bring God’s Word to life with the kids He places in our path.

THIS WEEK, WHAT IS ONE WAY YOU WILL HELP BRING GOD’S WORD TO LIFE WITH KIDS?


Dan LovagliaDan Lovaglia | Awana® Director of New Ministries & Parent Engagement

As Director of New Ministries and Parent Engagement at Awana (awana.org), Dan Lovaglia and the team he leads are finding fresh ways to equip kids, families and ministry leaders to know, love and serve Christ. He brings 15 years of discipleship ministry experience to the table and a passion for life-changing teaching, training and team-building. Dan and his wife Kate live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with their two fantastic teenage sons, Avery and Aaron. Follow Dan’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram @DanLovaglia or his blog at danlovaglia.wordpress.org.

 

Learning About God while Learning to Read

Learning to read is a milestone in every child’s life—it’s a big deal and something to celebrate! When children begin to read on their own, the world of knowledge and fantasy becomes their playground. And when children start to read, Christian parents want their kids to read good stuff! The words and stories kids read can influence their ideas and also their beliefs. The sooner parents get good books into the hands of their children, the better.

Here are some ways to develop good reading habits for your children while filling their young hearts and minds with the truth of God’s Word:Be an example

  • Be an example. When my four-year-old son saw me reading my Bible every morning he said, “Mommy, may I have a Bible too?” We went to the store that afternoon and bought his first Bible with lots of pictures!
  • Establish routines. Have devotions together as a family. Read Bible storybooks or a devotional book at mealtime or bedtime. Be consistent and make reading part of your daily routine. If you do, your kids won’t let you skip! If you have children who can read, let them take a turn to read a page or two—and be patient as they sound out the words.
  • Don’t stop reading. Even when children begin to read on their own, it’s still very important to read to them and have family devotions together. Children love to be read to and need to be read to—even through the elementary school years. Reading books to my children often resulted in meaningful discussions about God, the Bible, and what it means to be a Christian.
  • Find good resources. Choosing the right resources can be challenging. If your children are not interested in a particular devotional book or Bible storybook, try something else until you find something they like. Besides Bible storybooks or devotional books, picture books that address biblical and spiritual themes can be enjoyable and spiritually meaningful. They can teach important lessons while using a kid-friendly format.
  • Devotions for Beginning Readers. My newest book,Devotions for Beginning Readers (Thomas Nelson) is exactly what the title says. It’s written for kids who are learning to read, either independently or with the help of a parent. Each page includes a Scripture verse, a 60-70 word devotion, a prayer, and a vocabulary word under the heading Today’s Word. Short sentences and easy vocabulary words allow for reading pleasure. Not only are the words carefully selected from the approved sight word list for beginning readers, but the ideas are also carefully chosen and presented in a way that young children can understand them. The truth of God’s Word is not watered down, just explained with age-appropriate language. The devotions are uplifting, encouraging, and delightful as they draw young children to a deeper understanding of God’s love and presence in their everyday lives.

When children learn to read, they begin a life-long journey of acquiring information, wisdom, and knowledge. Planting seeds of truth from the best-selling Book in the world, is the best gift parents can give their children for this journey. Read to your children often, and let them read to you. Enjoy these days of seed planting as you equip your children to walk hand-in-hand with their heavenly Father.


Crystal BowmanCrystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of over 80 books for children including The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers, My Grandma and Me, and J is for Jesus. Her newest release is Devotions for Beginning Readers (Thomas Nelson). She also writes lyrics for children’s piano music and stories for Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. She is a Mentor and speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and teaches workshops at writers’ conferences. Whether her books are for young children or older children, her desire is to teach kids that God loves them and cares about them very much. Crystal is a mother and grandmother. She and her husband live in Florida where she loves to walk on the beach. www.crystalbowman.com