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The Very Best, Hands-On, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions: 52 Activities Your Kids Will Never Forget
by Tim Shoemaker
Learn More | Meet Tim Shoemaker
When my boys were growing up, I took them to a stock car race for a family devotional. Not a NASCAR race, just a regional event for weekend racers.
We did what most guys do at a stock car race. We each picked “our” car on the opening lap and cheered them on once they got the green flag. We totally enjoyed the races . . . the bumping, the action at the turns, and the dramatic finishes. We didn’t talk at all about spiritual things—until the drive home.
“Tell me what you saw tonight,” I said. “Boil it down. What was going on?”
I let them think for a moment.
“A bunch of men driving around in a circle,” one of my sons said. “Trying to get ahead of each other.”
“And most of the drivers ended up right where they started,” another added. “With nothing.”
I couldn’t have asked for a better, more perfect entrance ramp to the things I wanted to talk to them about.
“And that’s how most men live their entire lives,” I said. “They’re going around in circles, trying to get ahead of each other—but in the end they end up just where they started. With nothing.”
I let that sink in for a moment. “You have a choice. You can go the way of the world . . . and if you do, get ready for a lifetime on the oval track. But I want to encourage you to take the journey of life with God. He’s got a plan for you. A person for you to become. He won’t just lead you in circles.”
The same is true for your kids. As parents, we protect our kids, we provide for them, and we prepare them for the future. Teaching our kids spiritually is essential for all three of those things.
I want to help you get on track teaching your kids about God—and the principles he’s given us to live by. More than just get you on the road with this, I want to help you shift spiritual training for the kids into high gear. You can do this. As a mom or dad. As a couple. As a single parent. As a grandparent. You can effectively teach your kids spiritual truth. You’ll find it’s easy. Powerful. And best of all . . . unforgettable.
So buckle up, my friend. Let’s shift into high gear.
Ending the Stop and Start Syndrome
I live in the Chicago area, and every winter our roads get potholes. Hit one of those and you can lose control, knock the alignment out on your car, get a flat, or damage a rim.
Maybe you’ve hit a few potholes in your attempts to lead family devotions before. You started with good intentions, but somewhere along the line you end up on the side of the road—going nowhere.
I’ve hit my fair share of potholes and was “stop and start” with family devotions until I discovered how well the kids responded to object lessons and activities like you’ll find in this book. Ideally, once you start family devotions, you’ll want to be consistent. Let me race through fourteen tips to help you avoid some of the common potholes that can slow you down, make you suddenly swerve off course, or bring your family devotions to a stop.
1. Remember, these are devotionals—not Bible studies.
This book is packed with object lessons and activities—each designed to get a nugget of truth across to your kids. The whole idea is to do something with the family—relatively quickly—and in a way that both you and the kids enjoy. Resist the urge to draw these out into long “sit down and listen” lessons. The kids won’t enjoy them, and neither will you. If that happens, the likelihood that you’ll quit goes way up.
2. Follow up the activity with a brief tie-in to a biblical principle.
Generally, that tie-in can be done in five minutes. Go longer if the kids ask questions, but avoid the trap of getting repetitive. If you give a speech, you’ll lose them. The point is to stop before they get bored and you’ll be much more likely to do family devotions next week.
3. Have family devotions once a week, but make them good.
I know, once a week doesn’t sound like much. But that’s fifty-two nuggets of truth etched in their hearts and minds every year. If you try to do active, object lesson–oriented family devotions daily, you’ll likely run out of ideas or skimp on the prep, and the kids won’t get as much out of it. Either way, the tendency to burn out and quit is high.
If you’re already in the habit of leading the kids in some kind of devotional daily—great. Just add something active and visual, like what you’ll find in this book, once a week.
4. Pick a time that works best for their schedules.
If the kids are missing something important to them, it will be hard to hold their attention no matter what you do. If you don’t hold their attention, you’ll probably quit.
5. If the kids ask a question that stumps you, don’t let it stop your lesson.
Whatever you do, don’t just guess at an answer. Tell them you’ll have to get back to them. Then search the Scriptures, talk to your pastor, or whatever. As long as you get back to them, you’re fine. And remember, there are some questions only God can answer.
6. If the kids seem bored, don’t give up.
They may be rebelling on the whole thing a bit. Hang in there. Pick short, fun devotionals. They’ll come around.
7. If the kids have a hard time settling down, go with the flow.
Avoid ordering them to be quiet. There are worse things than your kids thinking that learning about God can be a fun time.
8. When tying in the lesson, incorporate food whenever possible.
If they’re snacking, they’ll be more patient. Less distracted. Their hands are busy, and so are their mouths. They’ll enjoy the lesson—and so will you. When everyone is enjoying the time, you’ll be more likely to keep going with weekly family devotions.
9. Keep this book in front of you when you tie in the lesson.
If you try to do a devotional lesson without the book, you’ll likely go long and still miss key points. Your kids’ focus will drift, and wham—you just hit a pothole. Also, if you try to remember everything, you’ll have to put in so much prep time that your chances of quitting go way up. Kids don’t mind if you use a book. But here’s the key: jot notes in the margins. Highlight sections. The kids need to know you’ve studied. Prepared.
If they think you’re looking at the chapter for the first time as you go over it with them, they’ll think the lesson you’re teaching isn’t all that important to you—or that you think they’re not smart enough to notice you didn’t prepare. Either way, you’ve just hit another pothole.10. Go with the kids you have.
If your kids have friends over, you can still have family devotions as long as you don’t embarrass your kids. Keep the devotional activity part fun and your talk time short. Most kids are really open to—even hungry for—some adult interaction in their lives.
And if one of your kids is out of the house for some event, do the devotions with the kids you have. Some weeks you’ll never have devotions if you wait until everybody is together. Just catch up later with the one who missed the devotions.
11. Beware of crazy schedules.
Sometimes the potholes are all the activities and sports we sign our kids up for. There’s hardly any time left to teach them God’s truth. You may want to rethink how many extracurricular activities you allow for the kids.
12. Reinforce the application throughout the week after devotions.
Be smart about it. Don’t use this like a club on the kids, such as: “Katy—talk nice to your sister! That’s exactly what we were talking about in our family devotions yesterday.” Too much of that and kids will think family devotions are just part of your agenda to modify their behavior. A better practice is to call it on yourself. “Hey, kids, did you hear how I just talked to Mom? That was wrong, and it was exactly what I was talking about yesterday.” Then tell your wife you’re sorry. The kids will learn by your example.
13. If you have multiple ages present, target the oldest.
This is critical. If you try to make sure you teach in such a way that your youngest understands everything, your oldest will think family devotions are “kid stuff.” You’ll have a really difficult time pulling the older ones in after that. Also, your older kids are closer to the danger, and you have less time to get through to them before they leave the house. For all these reasons, target your older kids with the content of your devotions and how you present it. You can always give a little extra explanation to your younger ones later—or, better yet, let your older kids help explain.
14. Be careful to put the Word into practice yourself.
If you tell your kids how important it is to follow God’s principles for living, be sure you’re striving to live that out in your own life—especially at home. If you get sloppy—especially with how you treat your mate, if you’re married—you’ll lose your kids’ respect. If they don’t respect you, they won’t receive what you tell them in family devotions time. You’ll sense that, and it will make it really hard to keep going with family devotions.
No matter how much you try to avoid the “stop and start” syndrome, likely you’ll run into weeks when life gets in the way and you skip family devotions. Don’t beat yourself up. Get back at it the following week.
Remember, leading family devotions is one of the greatest ways we can prepare, provide, and protect our kids in this stage of their lives—and for their future. Don’t let a pothole stop you.
OBJECT LESSONS and ACTIVITIES
THEME: Holy Spirit control / walking in the Spirit versus living in our own power
THINGS YOU’LL NEED
- Leaf blower— the more powerful the better, with an oval- shaped snout opening
- Extension cord (25 feet is ideal) and access to electrical outlet if leaf blower is electric
- 4-inch paint roller; pick the smoothest moving one you can find
- Duct tape— or for a very sturdy mounting, a drill, a bit, and two bolts with nuts to attach the paint roller handle to the end of the leaf blower snout
- Flat metal file if the paint roller handle is rounded
- At least six single- ply, thousand- sheet rolls of toilet paper
If you already have a leaf blower, great. If you’re purchasing one, make sure that the end of the snout where the air blows out is oval, not round, so you’ll get a more concentrated blast of air directed at the TP.
Buy a really free-wheeling roller. The cheap ones don’t spin as easily or quickly, and you don’t want anything inhibiting your demonstration. I went to a paint shop to find one. If the handle is rounded, it will be tougher to mount to the snout without it tipping from side to side. Take a metal file and flatten out a spot on the handle. That will keep the roller mounted square—which means the roll of TP will be held in the perfect position.
Now position the roller at the end of the leaf blower snout, and either wrap with duct tape to fasten or drill through both the handle and the snout. Slide the bolts through, snug down the nuts, and you’re ready to roll—or better yet, unroll!
Make sure the tube in the TP roll is nice and round for a free-flowing experience. It’s a good idea to make sure each of the rolls has been unrolled a few turns before you start. Generally, the manufacturer glues down the leading edge.
Place the tube on the roller. It won’t fit snugly—you’ll need to hold the blower on a bit of an angle so the TP doesn’t fall off. The end of the paper should roll off the tube away from the leaf blower.
Okay—give it a try. Your kids are going to love this as much as you do!
Running the Activity
The TP Blaster should be plugged in and ready to go, but drape a towel over it to keep it hidden for now. Now call the kids over.
Hand a roll of toilet paper to one of the kids, explaining that they’ll be in a race to unroll the paper. They can use their two forefingers as an axle to twirl the paper off the tube, or they can use one finger as an axle and use the other hand to pull the paper off the tube. If they choose the second method, explain that if they rip the paper three times they’ll be disqualified. Demo this for them so they know exactly how to do it.
If you have enough kids, mention that one of them will work together with you, but you’ll have to unload two rolls instead of just one—and you’ll use a different method to do that.
Now give the kid unrolling the TP by hand a head start. Once they begin, uncover the leaf blower and hand it to the kid helping you. Load a roll of TP on the paint roller, and show him or her how to hold the leaf blower at an angle so the TP roll doesn’t slide off. Now you’re set . . . turn on the leaf blower.
Get the next roll ready and pop it on as soon as the first one is done.
Teaching the Lesson
The one unrolling the TP by hand was working as hard as they could, trying not to become disqualified. This is how many people try to live the Christian life. Sometimes we’re working so hard, just trying not to mess up.
- To be the kind of Christian we should be
- To be the kind of son or daughter we should be
- To be a good brother or friend or student or whatever
The truth is we don’t feel we can do much more than we are doing now. And sometimes even when we try our best, we still mess up—or think we could have done better.
But that’s where we need something beyond ourselves . . . the power of the Holy Spirit to help us. The modified leaf blower represents the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. You didn’t expect that we’d have something like this leaf blower to unroll the TP—and probably didn’t have any idea it would be so effective. And that’s how it is with the Holy Spirit. When we give the Holy Spirit control in our lives, he does the unexpected. The unforeseeable. Often, he changes our hearts.
If we really desire to give the Holy Spirit control so he can change us and help us be the person we should be through all circumstances, we need to let him lead.
- Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of
our lives. (Gal. 5:25 NLT)
Letting the Spirit lead is often as simple as asking him to lead . . . and then following when he does.
Why don’t we follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives? Sometimes it boils down to us wanting to do whatever it is we want to do.
- If we’re in a bad mood, sometimes we don’t want to change.
- If we’re mad at someone, we don’t really want to forgive them.
- If we’re lusting after someone, we don’t want to turn off the fantasy.
- If we’re doing something wrong, sometimes we don’t want to stop.
All of these examples are old nature things—the very things the Holy Spirit wants to help us overcome. If we want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, often it means we need to exercise some self-control as well. Sometimes that means controlling ourselves enough to ask God for help.
- A person without self-control
is like a city with broken-down walls. (Prov. 25:28 NLT)
Think about ancient times and a city with broken-down walls. How safe was someone who lived in a city like that?
People living in a city without walls were vulnerable to attack. To raiders that would come in to steal and destroy. How are you vulnerable to danger when you don’t practice self-control? Can you think of an example?
Sometimes self-control itself is hard. Sometimes we feel we have so little self-control. God can help us with that as well. One of the fruit of the Spirit, one of the things the Holy Spirit produces in our lives, is self-control.
- But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
(Gal. 5:22–23 NLT)
Living the Christian life to the fullest isn’t something God intends for us to do on our own, solely with our own power. He has given us the Holy Spirit.
Summing It Up
We need to give the Holy Spirit permission to work in our lives. To change our hearts. Our desires. To give us more self-control. And we need to exercise self-control ourselves. This is a real key to helping us live more like a Christian and keeping us out of danger. Without it, we’re vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.
- So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make
the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand
what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will
ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 5:15–18 NLT)
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. (Gal. 5:16 NLT)
God isn’t looking to rob us of fun. God gives us the Holy Spirit to rescue us from things that are wrong, from things that can hurt us, from things that come from our enemy, the devil and his demons.
God gives us his Holy Spirit to make changes inside us, in our hearts. He uses the Holy Spirit to do things in and through us that we could never predict. Things that would be impossible on our own.
So when we’re struggling with our attitude, or with sin in any way, let’s remember to exercise a little self-control . . . and let’s remember to give the Holy Spirit permission to make changes in us. As we do that, we’ll find that our walk as a Christian will get stronger.
- We won’t mess up as much.
- We’ll have fewer regrets.
And each time we give the Holy Spirit control, we’ll be growing more and more into the person God wants us to be, so we can accomplish the good plans he has for us.
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