As a parent, are you looking forward to your children returning to school or are you sad to see summer vacation come to an end? Personally, I am thrilled that the structure of school is just a few weeks away! Don’t get me wrong, I love the lazy days of summer, but it does lead to some annoying habits. My kids are quite use to eating breakfast at noon and snacking way past midnight. Summer has been fun and filled with extended time with family and friends, but I am looking forward to seeing my kids holding a book instead of a video game controller! I do believe in unstructured fun and carefree recreation – for a season. However, I do see a problem when these become a lifestyle, instead of a vacation. The Bible clearly tells us that we were all created for much more than fun and games.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Each of our children is purposefully designed! Now there may be times when we scratch our heads and wonder, but God is a master at using the ordinary to accomplish the magnificent. Your family is part of God’s master plan, but none of us will just naturally fall into our destiny. Left to our own desires, we may just lay around in front of the TV. This is where a healthy, structured lifestyle becomes so valuable. School is good because it systematically takes our children from babblers to graduates. What if we applied that same structure to our children’s spiritual development?
So as we enter the start of another school year, I encourage you to make God a structured part of your family. Certainly attending church on the weekend is one practical way for this to happen, but I believe that the bulk of our children’s spiritual formation will happen at home. For that reason, here are 5 easy ways to add some spiritual structure to your family this school year:
1). Pray a blessing over your children before they leave for school.
2). Place a weekly Bible verse in their lunch box or near your door.
3). Listen to Christian music on your way to/from school (K-Love is found at 94.3FM).
4). Gather your family together and experience our “Fun, Food, and Faith” Devotionals.
5). Volunteer together as a family (Community Care Center or TGA are great places to start).
As the Children's Pastor at The Chapel (www.chapel.org) I see our church as extended family. We exist to provide support and encouragement. Raising children is truly an adventure and one not intended to go alone. We are here to partner with parents as we all work together to carry out God's calling.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s Saturday afternoon and I need to go wake up my kids for breakfast…
I recently took my 10-year-old son down the block to “check out” a small wooded area near our house. He just learned how to make marshmallow shooters with PVC pipes and wanted to find a good location for a no-holds-bar war with his friends. Side-by-side we walked into a patch of wilderness that we drove by a thousand times. Our eyes were wide as we search for wild animals, specifically coyotes who are known for wandering much too close to our neighborhood. Sure enough, only a few yards into the woods, there were fresh coyote tracks. We looked closer and also found deer tracks on the same path. This led to a colorful description of the high-speed chase through the woods that could have happened just moments earlier. Our hearts raced as we walked deeper into the woods. We made loud noises to make sure the coyotes knew we were there. We didn’t want to accidently come across an angry mother coyote with a fresh litter of pups. In the middle of the woods we found two tree stands used by hunters. It was amazing that this “other world” was just down the block. I am still contemplating whether it is wise to unleash a multitude of boys arms with marshmallow shooters in this woods. My son even agreed that it may be a little too scary.
What I was most excited about happened on the way back home. My son just started talking and we ended up having a great spiritual conversation. On his own, my son brought up a Bible lesson he had heard many months earlier on a radio program. It talked about being a warrior for God; someone whose mission it was to secretly do acts of kindness. It was a short conversation, but a significant one. My boy truely wants to be a warrior for God and was working out what his faith looked like in action. So, what was it that gave us that moment of spiritual influence? Was it the excitement of the woods or the anticipation of a marshmallow war? I believe it was what has been coined “the be-with factor”. When we spend time, especially one-on-one time, with our kids moments like these naturally happen. Some parents may tremble at the idea of scheduling a formal Bible study with the family. But even those parents can have significant spiritual conversations with their kids using “the be-with factor”. These natural mentoring moments can occur any time you are with your family. Here are five tips for making the most of them:
1. Know what your kids are learning at church. If you have an idea of the spiritual truths that may be floating around in your child’s mind, you can be looking for ways that truth can be lived out. Take-home sheets for familes are included in all of our curriculum.
2. Ask your kids questions about what they are learning at church. What do they like? What don’t they like? What don’t they understand? Spend most of your time listening and asking more questions.
3. Share stories from your childhood. Your history is especially important and interesting to your children because it is their history too. Share some of the questions you had as a child.
4. Dream together about the future. What would they love to do? What are your dreams? What do you think God dreams for you future? Don’t worry about being realistic, just be real.
5. Admit your failures and apologize. Your kids already know most of your flaws, so when you own up to them, it increases your influence and respect. Let’s face it, some of the moments we spend together will not be pretty, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used by God to build up our faith.
Remember, one of your greatest influences is in your ability to simply “be-with” your family. Proverbs 13:20a (NIV) says, “Walk with the wise and become wise.” That verse should give us the motivation to get up and take our kids for a walk. Who knows, you may find yourself on an adventure involving ferocious coyotes or you may find yourself discussing something amazing about God’s creation. Either way, you’ll be making a memory and increasing your influence.