Family Lent Activities

Scripture
Select a scripture verse that everyone in your family can work on together.  Simplify the language for younger children, or add extra verses for older children and adults.  Write the verse down in a place everyone congregates daily.  Work on the verse together throughout the Lenten Season.

Paper Chain
Make a chain of 46 days (40 days of Lent plus 6 Sundays).  Commonly made of purple construction paper, with a black chain link for Good Friday, this activity is great for a variety of ages.  Each link can have a scripture verse, activity, thought, or just help count down the days to Easter Sunday!

Candle Lighting
Candle lighting is a common practice during Lent, similar to Advent.  You can use 6 white pillar candles, or purple candles.  Place the candles in a prominent place in your house where they will serve as a visual reminder of the Lent Season.

Table Talks
Pick a day of the week that you all eat a meal together and discuss these topics over dinner.  If there is a better night than Monday- switch it up!!!

Table Talk #1 Personal Reflection:

What is something in my life that I can work on during the Lent Season (i.e. being more thankful, better attitude about household chores, kindness toward siblings)

Table Talk #2 Family Compliments: Go around the table and give each person in your family a compliment

Table Talk #3 Serving Each Other: Pick someone in your family to help during the week.  Find at least 2 things you can do for them this week (i.e. do their chores for a day, help with homework, make their bed, pack their lunch, etc.)

Table Talk #4 We are Special: Go around the table and share your thoughts about this question: What is something special about our family?

Table Talk #5 What does Lent mean to Me?  Share with your family what Lent has meant to you this year, what you have liked about it, and how God has spoken to you or been with you.

Table Talk #6 Taking Care of God’s Creation: how can we as a family do a better job of taking care of God’s creation?

Worship & Game Nights
Schedule a special activity time for your family when everyone can be together.  Set aside 45-60 minutes of your evening to listen to some good worship music, or sing together, and play a favorite family game.  Make it fun & special.  Light candles, make popcorn, or do the activity in a family size fort!

Recipes
A great recipe for Hot Cross Buns can be found at: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/hot-cross-buns-i/Detail.aspx
A recipe for Soft Pretzels can be found at: http://www.faith-at-home.com/recipes/pretzels.html

Resources
40 Ways for 40 Days, 2001, Ligouri Publications
http://www.makingmusicprayingtwice.com/kids-activities/lent-activities

 

A Child’s Faith

I have wrestled in different seasons of ministry with this idea of when does a child’s faith become their own.  Those of us who work with kids in the church might not question the importance of our work because we are in it day in and day out, and we know personal stories of children who have been touched by God at an early age.  We know kids who follow Jesus.  We know kids who want to be disciples of Christ.  We know kids who worship and pray and share God’s love with people around them.  So what’s with the wrestling?

I regularly have the opportunity to hear adults’ faith stories.  Often [especially in the church], it begins like this (sorry to generalize): “I grew up in a Christian home, going to church, BUT it wasn’t until high school [or college] that my faith became my own”.  What is up with that?  My first question is why?

When I tell a child about the love of Jesus, when I teach basic Bible skills- like bible memory or  how to navigate book/chapter/verse, when I tell stories from the Bible that reveal God’s love for His people, I don’t do it in hopes that one day they will decide to follow Jesus as an adult.  No!  I want them to know Him now.  I want a child to believe that they can “own their faith” as a child, they don’t have to worship God just because their parents do.  But what does that mean?  Is a child capable of making that distinction between individual faith or, as James Fowler might describe it, the

imitative [faith] phase in which the child can be powerfully and permanently influenced by examples, moods, actions and stories of the visible faith of primally related adults.

What makes a child’s faith real?  What makes a child decide to worship God because they want to not just because they are told it’s the right thing to do?  Is there any way to help a child understand that even if they go through seasons of doubt, or seasons of struggling with sin and reconciliation, that the faith of their childhood is still valid?  I want to believe it is possible.

  • I see genuine faith in the 6 year old who sincerely wants to be baptized to share with his church family, that he loves Jesus.
  • I see faith in my 5 year old as he chooses to pray with his arms open, palms up as a way to posture himself before the Lord.
  • I see faith in the worship songs played by a 5th grader learning how to play the piano.
  • I see faith in the art of the 4 year old, drawing herself and Jesus hanging out in a garden under a colorful rainbow.

Sticky Faith, it’s a book on my shelf, waiting to be read, and seriously calling my name late at night when I crash in my bed at the end of a long day.  I love the idea of kids catching a sticky faith early on in life.  How can I lead kids into a life of faith that’s sticky…a faith they don’t have to wait until college to own, a faith that they don’t have to wait until going through their “rebellious” years to turn to.  A faith that calls them to serve the church at a young age, and a faith that keeps them coming back to the Word, to Christian community, and to the feet of Jesus without a long absence.  A faith that sticks with them through the ups and downs of childhood, teenage years, college days and early adulthood, and chases them to the porch and rocking chair.

Just in: My GROW adventure with God!

A couple weeks ago, we introduced some exciting new materials called, “My GROW Adventure with God”!  This resource was created by our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, for teachers, parents, mentors and kids.

As parents, we want our children to not just know who God is as they grow up, but we want them to really seek a relationship with Jesus.  But often, our fear of ‘shoving religion down our kids throats’ leaves us hesitant to courageously proclaim the gospel to our kids.  So what can we do?  We don’t want to force our beliefs on our kids, but we want them to freely and personally choose to live their lives for Christ.

The best advice I [Katey] received as a parent has come from other parents around me who model Christ love for their kids, in ways that teach the child the ways of God, and invite them to join the journey of obedient living for Him. Because our faith is just that.  It’s a journey.  Sure there is a ‘correct’ path, which we all can stray from, but there is much that is unknown about this faith journey.  Only God knows what is in store for each of us.  We know our kids will stray, just as we will, but  God is always present and waiting for us to return to Him. So when we mess up we learn from it, and guess what?  We grow as we go!  As parents, we fill our imaginary backpacks with ‘tools’ that can help us and our children along the journey.  We live our lives as God-honoring as possible, and we invite our kids to walk alongside us.  And hopefully, to grow with us.

This is one of those tools that should be in every parent backpack.  It provides a framework for meaningful conversations between adult and child; it provides examples of ways we can grow in our faith; it helps us to reflect on our relationship with God, to share our stories, and can provide regular reminders of our adventure with God.

G.R.O.W.
God’s Word- shaping our action and our lives
Relationships- nurturing our growth
Obedient Living- using our gifts in witness and service
Worship-  interacting with and experiencing God 

If you missed the Sunday class on the GROW series, contact Katey to pick up your family’s materials.  This and other great spiritual parenting tools are available to you.

 

What’s a tool in your parenting backpack?  How do you encourage your child in their faith journey?

Your David & Goliath

by Minhee Cho
I am a Sunday school teacher for toddlers. Our lesson this Sunday was from 1 Samuel 17, which is one of the famous stories: David and Goliath.
I found out more about Goliath and David when I read whole chapter.
Goliath: He is 9 feet tall (our Sunday school toddler’s room is only 7ft high), wearing 5000 shekels (125 pounds) armor, helmet,bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back, his spear shaft like a weaver’s rod, its iron point weighted 600 shekels (15 pounds) and a shield!
David: He was a boy, no armor, no protection, his staff (looks like stick), smooth stones, shepherd’s bag and sling, and believe in the name of the Lord Almighty.
And David said to Philistine,
45  “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.
 This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel…” (45-46)
When I was reading this, God made me think about what is my Goliath? in my life…maybe my lack of confidence? guilty feeling toward my kids? laziness? fear of harm on my kids?
And also I began to think about what my kid’s big, giant Goliath in his/her life. Competition? Temptation? Loneliness? Jealousy? Anxiety? Lack of confidence? Failure?
I want to encourage you, that you can pray for your child’s confidence which God gave to David. We can pray for Confidence in God…He is with ______________ (each kid) all the time. And with His Almighty name, we can defeat our fears, worries, and temptations of life.
We remind our kids “the name of the LORD Almighty” is in their lives. And please remember that Goliath protected his whole body with soldier’s equipment, but he didn’t have God and confidence from Him.
Do you believe the name of the Lord Almighty? Do you send your kids into the world with that faith? And can we pray for kids’ trust, confidence and belief in the name of the Lord Almighty?

There is No Perfect Parent [insert shock and awe here]

No.  Not shock and awe.  How about a big sigh of relief from all the parents?  A “woo-hoo” and a “HALLELUJAH”!

It begins the moment your child arrives.  The deep and supernatural need to provide for, protect, love and sacrifice everything for your beloved child. Whether this child is born from you, adopted by you, or given to you by some other means, when you become a parent something changes inside of you.  We want to be good at what we do.  We want to be successful.  We want to be proud of what we contribute to the world, including our children. And we have this natural ability to compare our kids to other kids…it’s quite a talent we excel at right? [okay, maybe I’m speaking for myself].

This privilege and responsibility can weigh on us like a burden rather than a joy though.  We fight the “Terrible Twos” (and threes in our household) like we can somehow conquer them, rather than embrace the delight inside of them.  We tell when-I-was-your-age stories, and say the things our parents said that we promised we would never say (“Because I said so!”, for instance).  We proudly display all the brilliant things our kids say and do, all over our facebook pages, or the walls of our homes, but quickly delete or throw away the ordinary or not-so-great momentos.  We scrub up and dress up, and accessorize our children so that their outer appearance reflects what we long for on the inside- a well put together, properly behaving, kind and mindful child, oh and don’t forget smart, intelligent, moderately genius with a heart of gold and faith like Peter.

Well, to my great delight a year ago, I discovered that while I wrestled with some un-identified personal expectations (as named above), there was another way to live as a parent.  A co-worker handed me this article, “The Myth of the Perfect Parent”, by Leslie Leyland Fields and it was like a breath of fresh air for me.  I recognized a desire to strive for perfection in parenting, that was a desire I did not need to have.  From personal experience, I will share it is quite freeing to accept that I will not be a perfect parent, nor have a perfect child- and that is a beautiful thing.  There is no one-parenting-method that works for all, nor do I have cookie-cutter kids who fit into my “parenting style”.  Rather with humility and sincerity, I call on my Heavenly Father, the Ultimate and truly Perfect Parent- to guide and direct me as I love and serve, teach, and nurture each of my children, individually, to help them experience their own path to God.  I am thankful for this passage of scripture that speaks of both power and love, but does not expect perfection from me, and  reminds me of forgiveness, grace, and mercy when I fail.

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

As I am freed to live life not striving toward perfection in parenting, I am more aware of my need for God’s love and Christ’s presence in my life.  The only way I can now parent is by extending that love to my children.  No matter what my kids do, say, or how they act- I can love them through it, despite of it, and because of it.  I cannot solely rely on my ability to mold their behavior, teach them what is proper and what is not, educate their minds, and get them enrolled in the best schools, clubs, sports, etc. to help shape them into the man or woman they are called to be.  It is in experiencing the hi’s and lo’s of daily life- getting back up when I fall down, going to my knees for help, and giving love from the outpouring of my full heart- that I learn how to parent, and my children learn how to live. I cannot be Jesus for my children, I can only point them to Jesus (Fields).  So I am proud to say at the top of my lungs, “I AM NOT A PERFECT PARENT!”, what about you?

 

Why do parents pray for children?

Contributed by: Minhee Cho

It has been almost 12 years since I had my first baby. During pregnancy with her, I prayed for my baby since I did not know what she would be like. I prayed for her health, personality, and her gender (with my preference). I also prayed for a fast and painless labor. After my daughter was born, my prayer changed. I prayed that she could sleep through the night! My prayer was all what about my basic need-sleep. Well, God was so gracious that He did not answer my prayer how I expected. Instead, He showed me what my daughter went through. My husband and I found out that she had severe eczema and food allergies. While my daughter cried every night- I learned that people felt extreme itchiness right before sleep- I prayed for good sleep for myself. I remember that I needed to sit by my daughter whenever she was awake so I could prevent her from scratching. I felt so helpless and exhausted, and I cried out to the Lord, “Lord, what are you doing? Do you see me and my daughter? I can’t do anything. I’m just watching her. Please heal her and help me!” And suddenly, God showed me a picture that He sat by us closely. “Minhee, when you are sick and feel lost, I sit right next you and hold you.” God was right there for us and held us tight. As I depended on God, God comforted me and God promised that He would take care of my daughter.

And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. -Ephesians 2:22

I had two more children after my first born, and I began to pray for their health and safety every day. When they were toddlers, I did not need to pray for them much since they were with me most of time. After they began to attend school, I asked more about God’s presence and protection over them because I realized that I could do anything over them. When I felt helpless, this thought came into my mind. “Minhee, these are my children. I sent them to you so you can love them and pray for them. They will learn about Me through your love and prayer.” The children were getting older and they faced different challenges from school, teachers, friends, and self. Thus, I started to pray for teachers, school staffs, friends, their families and myself who take care of them daily basis. I prayed for God’s daily bread through different people so my children can have their needs met and grow with God.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” -Matthew 3:17

One single mom found comfort in daily listening to God: “In my situation the best answers to the sense of helplessness and frustration came through my early morning quiet time when in prayer I would seek God’s guidance for my son” (Thomas, 1994). Now my first daughter is 11 years old and she is still fighting with skin problems and food allergies. Last summer was extremely hard because my daughter had so much pain on her skin. She was hurting from the inside out because she began to question God’s reasons for her pain.  We all cried whenever we prayed and put Vaseline on her body. It hurts me immensely when I am watch my lovely girl go through pain. I wish I could take that pain. While I prayed with her and by myself, God intervened for my daughter through different people. My child learns how to pray to God whenever she feels sad, or happy, disappointed or thankful. And she trusts in him, talks to him and listens to him. We keep praying for God’s healing over her. As a mother, my prayer has changed into listening to God more about how He guides and leads my each child, so I can follow His plan. I believe that prayer is the action of love. As you know, love is long suffering. I know that there are no parents who want to watch their child go through hardship. But what I have learned while I pray for my children, is that God shows me how to trust Him as my child’s Father in Heaven and God set me as an interceder for each child and He reminds me that I am His beloved daughter who also needs the Holy Spirit as my interceder.

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. -John 14:10

Bookshelves or Flowers?

Contributor: Brian Bantum

As a father of 3 boys I have found myself being perpetually surprised at the people my sons were becoming. In their getting older, I have come to a conclusion about parenthood that is both daunting and freeing, my children are not bookshelves. Let me explain. In the early days of my parenting I did as so many parents did, dutifully consulted What to Expect When Your Expecting, anxiously interpreting my wife’s pains and any slightest tremor. When my first child was finally born I graduated to What to Expect the First Year trying to orchestrate my children’s feeding schedules, learning habits, all of the small details I was sure were crucial to my children’s proper development into successful people. I tried to seek out instruction wherever I could and follow those instructions dutifully.

In truth I was not parenting but trying to build bookshelves. As an amateur carpenter I would collect books, follow instructions and carefully build up something that was both beautiful and useful. What I came to find is that my children are not pieces of wood that respond predictably to a certain progression of acts. As much as I wanted to believe if I only did things the “right” way my children would turn out okay, I came to realize they were turning out okay even in the midst of my mistakes, in the midst of my repeated and utter lack of knowledge.

What I came to understand in watching my children grow and flourish is that they were more like flowers than bookshelves. They were  living breathing beings who existed in a world that was both essential to their well being and contained real dangers to their life. Given this reality, I have come to understand my role to be one of a caretaker, a gardener of sorts. As flowers in my garden I am to become a student of these tender flowers, attentive to what makes them flourish and what makes them wilt. They are my children, but they are only mine for a time. But in all of this it is not my perfect planning, or knowledge, or skill that determines my children’s growth, but God. It is to my wife and I that these flowers have been given while they grow in God’s gracious sunlight and nourishment.

This realization is scary because in many ways it works against our contemporary culture’s assertion that our lives are completely in our control, that if we work hard enough, complete all of the necessary steps, our endeavors will be successful. But on the other hand, the realization that I was not the one building my children was also freeing because if my children are flowers, their flourishing relies not on the perfection of my words, but on a presence that is faithful and attentive.