How Family Devotions are Like Family Meals

** The following article was copied from thegospelcenteredfamily.com.

Family devotions are times “when family members come together for spiritual encouragement.” Patrick Kavanaugh, now retired director of the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship made this observation nearly 15 years ago in a little book titled Raising Children to Adore God. I encountered the book in 2007, just after our second daughter was born. Around that time, I also began my first full-time ministry job—working with kids. As a young dad and minister, Kavanaugh captured my imagination. He compared having family devotions to sitting down for a meal. Here’s what he wrote:

Obviously, a family meal is a time when the members of a given family eat together. Notice the many thousands of possible variations in a family meal. To begin with, the food will presumably vary day to day. The meal may be a massive Thanksgiving feast or it may be a quick bite. Someone in the family may not be present. At other times, friends or relatives may join in. Still other times will find a family at a restaurant or relaxing around a campfire. The only two factors that a family meal must contain are: (1) members of a family and (2) food. Everything else is quite flexible. So it is with a family devotional.

Kavanaugh’s parallel of eating together with practicing family worship rings true to me. I’d say the analogy is distinctly biblical. God wants us to nourish our faith just as we nourish our bodies. When God rescued Israel from Egypt, he gave them laws, ceremonies, and sacrifices to help them remember his great rescue. At the heart of this instruction was a meal.

“Family devotions are times when family members come together for spiritual encouragement. ”

When you read Exodus 12:26-27, it’s clear God expected families to recline around the Passover table together. The kids are there asking, “What is the lamb for, daddy? Why are we eating these bitter herbs and matzo?” God tells the Hebrew moms and dads to stand ready with the salvation tale on their lips (Exod. 12:27). This connection between physical and spiritual nourishment doesn’t end with the Passover festival. It’s likely Moses had in mind reclining to eat a meal when he told Israelite parents to teach while the family sat together at home (Deut. 6:7).

  1. Our families need regular spiritual meals. We all need to eat. If we’re going to feed our kids’ souls as well as their bodies, we must make regular times of family teaching a priority. This will look different in each family, because family schedules are as different as the families who set them. Some parents will pray and read the Bible with their kids each night. Others will have family devotions around the table—during the family meal. In other families, a parent will meet with their children individually to teach the Bible one on one. Whatever the format, consistency is key. It’s better to gather the family once per week than to exasperate your kids with failed attempts to meet every day. Young children respond best to a planned routine—something like Taco Tuesday that they can count on and look forward to.
  2. Meals are made for families, not families for meals. While family devotions should be regular, they should also fit your family’s life and personality. Some families will have an hour or two to sit down, read and reflect on a psalm, memorize a catechism question, and sing a hymn every week. But for most of us, that kind of feast is rare. I’m thankful the Bible’s vision for training our kids includes teaching them “along the road” (Deut. 6:7). The most consistent part of teaching my own kids has been the practice of quick prayers while we’re waiting in the carpool line or singing along (sometimes loud and silly!) to Seeds Family Worship and PROOF Pirates while we drive down the highway on a road trip.
  3. Make sure it’s digestible. The Bible gives us a developmental vision for growing up in faith. Christians move progressively from basic things to deeper truth—from milk to solid food (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:2). It’s especially important to remember this when teaching young children. Two and three-year-olds typically have an attention span of two to three minutes. Their vocabulary is limited to 200 to 1500 total words. Like a parent cutting up their child’s food into digestible chunks, it’s important to help our youngest kids learn a beginning vocabulary of faith—basic Bible words like sin, promise, prayer, and the name of Jesus—before moving to more abstract concepts like forgiveness. Many Bible storybooks are written with these developmental considerations in mind. If you’re just beginning a family worship time with your toddler, consider Ella Lindvall’s Read-Aloud Bible Stories, David Helm’s Big Picture Story Bible, or my The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible.
  4. Vary the menu to stretch your family’s palette. Just like family meals, family devotions have thousands of possible variations. Sometimes when I hear what other creative families do during family worship times, I feel overwhelmed and guilt-ridden, thinking, “I should be doing more!” I’m tempted to adopt practices that would be a bad fit for our family dynamics. But my wife is really encouraged by families who are a step ahead of us. She sees concrete ideas as an opportunity to stretch ourselves. Adding variety to our times of family worship helps them become times of discovery. So, don’t get stuck in the rut of simply reading stories. Act them out. Draw and paint. Let a sock puppet tell the story. If the lesson is about serving others, find a way to practice serving right away—like making cookies for your neighbor. You may find that mixing it up helps to keep your kids’ interest as well.

The best meals involve grace and laughter around the table. So it is with family devotionals. They’re an opportunity to model a life that craves the pure spiritual milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2), one that helps your kids to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). So, make a practice of inviting your kids to come to the table to feed their souls, along with their hungry stomachs.

Parent Network Podcast – Episode 08 with Danny Rogers

In Episode 08 we interview Danny Rogers, our New Bern Campus Pastor, about intentional parenting in his home.

 

 

How Family Devotions Are Like Family Meals

** The following article was copied from gospelcenteredfamily.com.

Family devotions are times “when family members come together for spiritual encouragement.” Patrick Kavanaugh, now retired director of the Christian Performing Arts Fellowship made this observation nearly 15 years ago in a little book titled Raising Children to Adore God. I encountered the book in 2007, just after our second daughter was born. Around that time, I also began my first full-time ministry job—working with kids. As a young dad and minister, Kavanaugh captured my imagination. He compared having family devotions to sitting down for a meal. Here’s what he wrote:

Obviously, a family meal is a time when the members of a given family eat together. Notice the many thousands of possible variations in a family meal. To begin with, the food will presumably vary day to day. The meal may be a massive Thanksgiving feast or it may be a quick bite. Someone in the family may not be present. At other times, friends or relatives may join in. Still other times will find a family at a restaurant or relaxing around a campfire. The only two factors that a family meal must contain are: (1) members of a family and (2) food. Everything else is quite flexible. So it is with a family devotional.

Kavanaugh’s parallel of eating together with practicing family worship rings true to me. I’d say the analogy is distinctly biblical. God wants us to nourish our faith just as we nourish our bodies. When God rescued Israel from Egypt, he gave them laws, ceremonies, and sacrifices to help them remember his great rescue. At the heart of this instruction was a meal.

“Family devotions are times when family members come together for spiritual encouragement. ”

When you read Exodus 12:26-27, it’s clear God expected families to recline around the Passover table together. The kids are there asking, “What is the lamb for, daddy? Why are we eating these bitter herbs and matzo?” God tells the Hebrew moms and dads to stand ready with the salvation tale on their lips (Exod. 12:27). This connection between physical and spiritual nourishment doesn’t end with the Passover festival. It’s likely Moses had in mind reclining to eat a meal when he told Israelite parents to teach while the family sat together at home (Deut. 6:7).

  1. Our families need regular spiritual meals. We all need to eat. If we’re going to feed our kids’ souls as well as their bodies, we must make regular times of family teaching a priority. This will look different in each family, because family schedules are as different as the families who set them. Some parents will pray and read the Bible with their kids each night. Others will have family devotions around the table—during the family meal. In other families, a parent will meet with their children individually to teach the Bible one on one. Whatever the format, consistency is key. It’s better to gather the family once per week than to exasperate your kids with failed attempts to meet every day. Young children respond best to a planned routine—something like Taco Tuesday that they can count on and look forward to.
  2. Meals are made for families, not families for meals. While family devotions should be regular, they should also fit your family’s life and personality. Some families will have an hour or two to sit down, read and reflect on a psalm, memorize a catechism question, and sing a hymn every week. But for most of us, that kind of feast is rare. I’m thankful the Bible’s vision for training our kids includes teaching them “along the road” (Deut. 6:7). The most consistent part of teaching my own kids has been the practice of quick prayers while we’re waiting in the carpool line or singing along (sometimes loud and silly!) to Seeds Family Worship and PROOF Pirates while we drive down the highway on a road trip.
  3. Make sure it’s digestible. The Bible gives us a developmental vision for growing up in faith. Christians move progressively from basic things to deeper truth—from milk to solid food (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:2). It’s especially important to remember this when teaching young children. Two and three-year-olds typically have an attention span of two to three minutes. Their vocabulary is limited to 200 to 1500 total words. Like a parent cutting up their child’s food into digestible chunks, it’s important to help our youngest kids learn a beginning vocabulary of faith—basic Bible words like sin, promise, prayer, and the name of Jesus—before moving to more abstract concepts like forgiveness. Many Bible storybooks are written with these developmental considerations in mind. If you’re just beginning a family worship time with your toddler, consider Ella Lindvall’s Read-Aloud Bible Stories, David Helm’s Big Picture Story Bible, or my The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible.
  4. Vary the menu to stretch your family’s palette. Just like family meals, family devotions have thousands of possible variations. Sometimes when I hear what other creative families do during family worship times, I feel overwhelmed and guilt-ridden, thinking, “I should be doing more!” I’m tempted to adopt practices that would be a bad fit for our family dynamics. But my wife is really encouraged by families who are a step ahead of us. She sees concrete ideas as an opportunity to stretch ourselves. Adding variety to our times of family worship helps them become times of discovery. So, don’t get stuck in the rut of simply reading stories. Act them out. Draw and paint. Let a sock puppet tell the story. If the lesson is about serving others, find a way to practice serving right away—like making cookies for your neighbor. You may find that mixing it up helps to keep your kids’ interest as well.

The best meals involve grace and laughter around the table. So it is with family devotionals. They’re an opportunity to model a life that craves the pure spiritual milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2), one that helps your kids to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). So, make a practice of inviting your kids to come to the table to feed their souls, along with their hungry stomachs.

Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults

** The following article was copied form thegospelcoalition.org.

Parents, don’t take the biblical proverb “train up a child” and treat it like a promise, assuming that if you do everything right in your parenting, your children will turn out right. Proverbs are general truths, not specific promises. Besides, when we consider the overall context of the Bible, we see how counterproductive it is to try to train our kids to trust in God if what we model for them is that we trust in our training.

But even though we place our hope for our children in God, not in our training, we recognize how this proverb teaches us to take our training of children seriously—both where we guide them andalso  how we shepherd their hearts. And part of that shepherding and guidance includes the effect of a family’s culture.

A new LifeWay Research study commissioned by LifeWay Kids surveyed 2,000 Protestant and non-denominational churchgoers who attend church at least once a month and have adult children ages 18 to 30. The goal of the project was to discover what parenting practices were common in the families where young adults remained in the faith. What affected their moral and spiritual development? What factors stood out?

You might expect that family worship services would play a major part, or the simple habit of eating meals together around the table. Perhaps you’d expect a Christian school kid to be more likely to follow Jesus than a public school kid. Everyone has ideas about what practices are formative on children.

The research (compiled now in the new book Nothing Less) indicated that children who remained faithful as young adults (identifying as a Christian, sharing their faith, remaining in church, reading the Bible, and so on) grew up in homes where certain practices were present.

BIBLE READING

The biggest factor was Bible reading. Children who regularly read the Bible while they were growing up were more likely to have a vibrant spiritual life once they became adults. This statistic doesn’t surprise me. God’s Word is powerful. The Bible lays out the great story of our world and helps us interpret our lives and make decisions within the framework of a biblical worldview. Bible reading is a constant reminder that we live as followers of God. Our King has spoken. He reigns over us. We want to walk in his ways.

PRAYER AND SERVICE

Two more factors follow close behind: prayer and service in church. The practice of prayer did not specify whether it was private or corporate, before meals or before bedtime, or in the morning. But prayer was present.

Note that the church-related factor is about service, not just attendance. It wasn’t just that parents took their kids to church (where “professional clergy” could feed them spiritually), but that the children were included and integrated into the church through the avenue of service. The habit of serving others in the church and community likely formed these young adults in a way that kept them from identifying merely as a churchgoing “consumer,” but instead as a contributor to the building up of God’s people. Down the list a little, church mission trips show up, another indicator of the power of active service.

SINGING CHRISTIAN SONGS

What may surprise you is how high up on the list was this factor: listening primarily to Christian music. Christian contemporary music gets a bad rap these days, usually for being more inspirational than theological (although I believe this stereotype is not true across the board). Still, we shouldn’t dismiss the truth behind Augustine’s ancient observation that we sing the truth into our hearts. When we sing together as congregations and when we praise God on our own or sing songs that fortify our faith, we reinforce the beauty of our faith. (Also noteworthy was the finding lower on the list, that listening primarily to secular music was an indicator that negatively affected one’s spiritual life.)

CULTURE, NOT PROGRAMS

For decades now, many Christians have assumed that certain church programs are the key factors in a child’s spiritual development: Vacation Bible school, youth group activities, Sunday school, and so on. But the research study shows that these programs make an impact when they are connected to consistent habits of prayer, Bible reading, praise, and service. It’s the culture of the family and church, and that they integrate children and young people into spiritual disciplines, not the how that matters most.

Also notable is the impact of the parents’ example of reading Scripture, taking part in service projects, sharing their faith, and asking forgiveness after sinning. In other words, the more the repentant, joyful Christian life was modeled, the more likely children were to remain in the faith.

THE POWER OF IMITATION AND ENVIRONMENT

Research shouldn’t be misused in a way that transforms children into blank slates. There is no perfect parenting formula, and as I mentioned above, no one should assume there’s a surefire formula or method to bring about the result of a faithful kid. Don’t overestimate your power. The Holy Spirit saves, not you.

But don’t underestimate the Spirit’s power to work through the environment you create for your home either. Nothing Less shows that there’s power in faithful, Christian imitation. Children are more likely to repent and ask forgiveness when they’ve seen parents do so, and when they’ve experienced grace in human relationships. Children are more likely to aspire to faithful Christianity when they see joyful service as a virtue modeled in the home.

What kind of culture do we want in our homes and churches?

What space are we creating for our children to flourish?

How are we rooting our families in God’s Word?

How are we modeling prayer and repentance?

What does faithfulness look like in our home?

What are the songs that are in our hearts and on our lips?

How are we fulfilling the Great Commission?

Let’s ask these questions and beg God to work in us and through us, for his glory and our families’ good.

A Faith of Their Own

** The following was copied from theparentcue.org.

I was the mom with the schedule. Feeding schedule. Sleeping schedule. Reading and playtime schedule. I even had a written schedule on my refrigerator that I followed so I wouldn’t forget anything. I’m telling you, I was the schedule queen. (I’m shaking my head laughing just thinking about it.)

Why the scheduling? I simply wanted what was best for my kids. I wanted to make sure they got what they needed. Somehow I got it in my head that if I did everything perfectly things would be, well, perfect.

Yes. Perfect.

The perfect playgroup.
The perfect meal.
The perfect bath time.
The perfect toys.
The perfect preschool.
The perfect life.

We all know perfect is not possible.

No person . . .
No day. . .
No circumstance . . .
No life . . .
is perfect.

And yet we “good” parents try. I tried. (And then felt defeated when it wasn’t.)

At some point along the way, during those early preschool years, I began to see that no amount of micromanaging will ever prevent my children from disappointment and hurt.

We live in a fallen world.

Pain and disappointment are inevitable.

I came to the conclusion that rather than drive myself crazy trying to do the impossible, my time would be best spent training my children to trust God no matter what and how they can respond to pain and disappointment in ways that honor Him.

I began focusing more on the heart, not the circumstance.

Rather than write letters requesting certain teachers for my kids at their public school, we prayed that God would give them who He wanted and help them honor Him in that classroom. Yes, a few times we got “that” teacher, and looking back, I wouldn’t trade the spiritual growth in my kids for anything.

When my kids get their feelings hurt by a peer, I don’t call the other mom. I encourage my children to have the hard conversation so they can learn how to become peacemakers, forgive, and love like Jesus.

When my son didn’t make the basketball team in middle school I could have had “the talk” with the coach or complained to fellow parents, but instead I encouraged my son to trust God, be the best water boy he could be, and cheer for his friends. He did. And I guarantee I was the proudest mom in the stands.

Do you see where I’m going with this? When we focus on trying to control the circumstances in our kid’s life, all in the name of “wanting what’s best,” we put ourselves where only God should be—in control.

Without meaning to, we teach our kids to look to us rather than to God. We teach our children to depend on us to fix every thing, rather than trusting that God will allow, do, fix whatever is best.

We teach our children that nothing bad should ever happen to them. And if that’s not a set-up for disappointment down the road, I don’t know what is!

I can honestly say, after 18 years of parenting and three teenagers later, I experience more joy watching my children respond to trials with wisdom and faith than watching them live life trouble free.

So, keep the sleeping schedule, and make sure you provide lots of great books to read and healthy things to eat, but when it comes to circumstances that God allows in our lives—into your kid’s life—don’t ask, “How can I change what is happening?” Train yourself and your kids to ask, “How can I respond to this in a way that will make God smile?”

Nothing is more important than helping your children develop a faith of their own, for the day will come too soon when mom and dad can’t fix it.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28, NIV

Parent Network Podcast – Episode 07 with The Ashcrafts

In Episode 07 we interview Mike and Julie Ashcraft just after our recent Parent Network event.  They’ll share a little more about how to create a healthy family culture and answer a few questions from the night.  We also talk about upcoming Parent Network events.  You can listen below, or subscribe to the Parent Network Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.  Enjoy!

 

 

Series Links

Looking to check out one of the series that were mentioned at the recent event with the Ashcrafts or on the podcast?  Check them out below.

Hot Heads

Freak Out
Parents Just Don’t Understand

PARENT NETWORK EVENT – WATCH

Interested in watching our recent Parent Network event with the Ashcrafts?  Click here (and settle in for little while!).

EVENT RECAP – Parenting – It Might Be Less Than You Think with the Ashcrafts

Being Intentional as Parents

By Mike & Julie Ashcraft
With Madison Ashcraft Goslee & Michaela Ashcraft

It’s not about being a perfect parent!

Encounter.  Formation.  Expression.

The culture of the home is an incubator of character. The culture is what actually happens in your home. Ask your kids what your home’s culture is. Ask, listen and then start talking. Kids are made to be great. They need to know that you care about them. What are we doing to foster this?

 How did you see us integrate faith into our household?

            Michaela- I saw what you did in our home to cultivate your faith, and I learned how to have a relationship with Jesus.

            Madison – We behaved as normal teenagers, we weren’t “churchy”.  You simply modeled love in your relationship with me, and told me God loves me even more than you do.

A Pressure Free Home – a place to grow and feel safe

Our home is not perfect, but we strive to make it a place of immense enjoyment, safety and connection. One key component to creating a thriving culture in your home is to reduce pressure on your kids.

 

 Being a pastor’s kid, how have you dealt with pressure?

            Madison – You created for us a pressure free home. We were told that whatever the world sees in us doesn’t matter, only what God sees in us.

            Michaela – We didn’t have pressure to be anything that we weren’t created to be.

Being a Grace Filled Home

We resolve conflict by offering grace to each other. Talk through what happened and don’t wait to apologize.  Julie reminds us that the last thing a child hears when they walk out the door, they will remember. So meet kids where they are AND in that moment. We even restart and reset our day if necessary. We have the security in our home to be mad and then retry again  – the day is not ruined. Whatever is going on, just remember – it is just a season, it’s going to change

Words of wisdom from Julie

  1. Always iron your clothes
  2. Choose to wake up in a good mood
  3. Always celebrate, there’s always a reason for a party
  4. Love each other

Love Your Kids Uniquely

There is six years difference between our girls. They are unique and we have realized our parenting needs to be unique too.

Tell us about the driving contract.

            Madison – When I turned 16 I had to sign a two page legal-like contract. I felt like they didn’t trust me.  But we talked about how I felt, and then went over each item.  I could express my feelings and they showed me why they care.

            Michaela – I didn’t have a driving contract J But, we do talk about my driving privileges and I know that you always want me to be safe and what is best for me.  And we can compromise and work it out.

 

Boys & Other Things

We tell them it isn’t a right to privacy, we will respect your privacy. We have rules and one of those rules is the girls cell phones are ours too. We check their phones often and anything on their phones we will look at. We also had the rule that they could not date until they were 16.

How did you feel about these rules?

            Madison – I wasn’t happy about them, but I was okay with them.  I didn’t feel like I had anything to hide because you were always available and willing to talk. I could come to you about anything because you had created a safe environment and we trusted you. If it was on my phone, you knew about it already.  And as far as dating, you                               were always willing to sit down and talk about the rules and expectations so we came to a level of trust.

            Michaela – We could always talk about the rules. I felt heard, and always listened to. We had conversations about dating and what dating would look like, so I had understood all our expectations. 

Don’t Freak Out, Find Out

Awkward conversations… you have to have them! They are weird and imperative. Kids want a place to process, so give them that space. Another key component to creating a thriving culture in your home is to ask your kids questions and talk with them. We want to preserve their innocence. If we don’t do this, no one else will.

Know each other

You have to get to know your kids, and they have to get to know you.  Make sure the expression on your face matches theirs. If they are excited about something, join with their excitement. If they are hurting, join with their hurting. Don’t confuse vision (the hope of what could be) with expectation (what is required).  We tell them to do your best verses be the best. And make sure they are contributing to the family and they understand what their contribution means.

Everybody wants strategies to make kids behave the way we want them to behave – this is foolish.  What we need in our homes is a culture to thrive!

 

Potential Sermon Series to Review:

  1. Hot Heads
  2. Freak Out
  3. Parents Just Don’t Understand

 

 

 

 

 

6 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Christmas

** The following article was copied from www.allprodad.com.

“Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.” – Linus

How many of us have felt like Charlie Brown about Christmas? Creator Charles Schultz was onto something long before it became the reality it is today. The birth of Jesus has become more about greed, consumerism, and a jolly fat man in red. Charlie’s sister, Sally, sums it up pretty nicely when she demands, “All I want is what I have coming to me…all I want is my fair share!” Christmas has turned into an entitlement.

The birth of Jesus represents the hope of mankind. “Born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” the Angel of the Lord proclaimed. This purpose of this article is not to say it is wrong to celebrate Christmas in the cultural way we do, but don’t miss the true meaning. To help with how to go about doing that, here are 6 meaningful ways to celebrate Christmas:

1. Advent Countdown

Ordinarily, we may give our children a small gift in the 24 days of December leading up to Christmas Day or perhaps small candies. You may want to craft an advent countdown of scripture verses that explain to the kids who Christ is and what he represents such as John 3:16. However, a little candy will probably go over well too.

2. Christ in the Center of the Family

The birth of Christ is our pathway to unification with the Creator. Without him, we are separated from God. This Christmas season begin the process of putting Christ in the center of your family or work to strengthen that reality. One way to do this is to hold a family bible discussion each day during the season. Pick a part of the Christmas story and create a dialogue with your children.  You may want to read to them about the journey of Joseph and Mary on the way to Bethlehem. Discuss how our own lives parallel that rocky and dangerous trek but, with the protection and  blessing of God in our lives, we will successfully fulfill our purpose.

3. Service Based on Scripture

In his words and actions, Jesus stressed over and over the importance of the body to serve. John 13:12-14 – “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Go serve people.

4. Silent Worship at the Altar

Before the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve service hits your church, ask for permission. Perhaps create a special night for a silent altar worship during the week before Christmas Day. Take with you a single candle to light, and kneel before God in prayer and humbleness. Give each member of your family their own candle and keep it completely silent.

5. Reconcile our Relationships

God came to us in human form to reconcile our relationship with him. His birth, death, and resurrection represent this reconciliation in the person of Jesus Christ. Consider doing the same in your own relationships this Christmas season. Reconcile with and forgive those that have hurt you and, for those that you have hurt, seek forgiveness by sincere apology. Nothing could be more Christ-like at Christmas.

6. Family Prayer

This is the easiest and most purposeful way to celebrate Christmas this year. Lead your family in prayer every night and end with the Lord’s Prayer as we were taught to do by Christ. Have your children recite it with you until they know it. Merry Christmas!

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