Helping Kids Get Excited About the Bible

By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor

Woodland Hills Church

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I love reading the Bible, especially the stories of how God is always actively involved in the lives of His creation and humans. Throughout the Bible, people encounter God in amazing ways. From face to face, a whisper in the wind, a burning bush, angels, a pillar of fire, His prophets, Jesus, miracles, healings, divine interventions, and the Holy Spirit. He is a God who makes Himself known and has endless examples of ways to engage mankind. The Bible also provides several stories of people who made mistakes, who experienced God yet still turned away, and of people who followed God no matter the cost. So many good and bad examples, yet a common theme runs throughout the Bible: God loves us and wants to redeem what was lost.

So, how do we help our children get excited about the Bible?

The first place to begin is with you. Kids learn just as much from observing parents as from listening to their guidance. By reading and studying our Bibles, we set a great example. An improved understanding of what’s in the Bible helps you to share with your children as you teach them how to read and study their Bibles for themselves.

The Bible provides a ready source of wisdom and real life stories that are relevant to situations your family may experience. By connecting God’s Word to these situations, you help your children realize the Bible isn’t just stories but is God’s Word. For example, if your child is caught stealing, you can review what God has to say about theft, as well as the impact of His grace through Jesus. A quick search on Biblegateway.com can provide Scripture topics and references to share with a child.

Read the Bible together. Start when a child is little by reading a picture Bible, and then, as they get older, read from a regular Bible together. When your child becomes confident in his or her reading ability, celebrate by purchasing a Bible for them to own. Teach your child how to highlight or underline verses that are helpful to them. Take time to gather as a family and read a Bible story or chapter together and discuss it.

Have fun with the Bible. Reenact stories together with simple props. You can narrate while the kids act out the various parts. Encourage kids to retell a story on their own or draw their favorite part. Use crazy Bible trivia to point out some of the funny and strange things in Scripture. Print coloring pages from the internet, create a comic strip about a story, or try memorizing Bible verses together as a family.

Pull God’s Word into the rhythm of your daily life. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God provides a framework for teaching our children about His Word as a routine part of the morning and bedtime activities. Tie Scripture to elements of life throughout your day. When eating together at the table, talk about God’s Word or have kids share what they are learning from reading the Bible or church.

Ultimately, the best approach is just being intentional, looking for opportunities to connect God’s word to everyday life. Share your excitement about God’s Word whenever you can. Search for a consistent place for Bible reading to occur in your life and the life of your children. The result will be a living legacy where your kids seek God’s Word as their primary source of wisdom, life lessons, and grace.

I’m Scared, Mommy

By Paula Bowlby, Early Childhood Associate Pastor
Woodland Hills Church

When I was young, I lived in a little neighborhood in the country. We had neighbors but were basically out in the middle of nowhere in Southern Minnesota. I remember many summer evenings as we watched the storms roll in, listening for the weather radio to go off, and I remember feeling scared. Sleeping on the floor in my parent’s room was something I distinctly remember. I had an active imagination as a child, and fear naturally came with it.

This time of year, children can often be scared of the weather and storms. I think as a child, I had an advantage over kids today in the fear department – no Internet and no cable TV. In this day and age, kids of all ages see and hear frightening weather announcements while parents are trying to figure out if they should head to the basement. This got me thinking: What can we do to help our children with the natural and normal fear of thunderstorms? I have a few ideas I hope will help.

1. Discuss the thunderstorm – If you have a younger child, Purdue University suggests the books “Thunder Cake,” by Patricia Polacco or “Rumble, Tumble Boom!” by Anna Grossnickle Hines. If you have older children, you can discuss the science of a thunderstorm in simple terms. For example, lightening is hot and it cuts through the air. When the lightening cuts through the air, the heat causes the thunder.

2. Discuss safety measures such as staying inside and away from windows and talk through where to go in your home if the sirens go off.

3. Find beauty in the storm – Look at the clouds and see how they are moving. Watch the lightening and point out how fast it goes. Because lightening moves faster than the sound of thunder travels, you can figure out how far away the lightening is by counting. Every 5 seconds you count equals roughly a mile away. Notice how bright the lightening is and enjoy the beauty. You could also have your child rate the thunder and lightning by how bright it is or how far the lightening shoots across the sky. Ask them to listen to the thunder – Is it loud, does it make the house shake, does it sound far away?

4. Pray together. Remind children the Bible says God is right there with them. Some helpful Scriptures you can look up are Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:6-7, and Psalms 56:3.

5. If your child has trouble sleeping during storms, it might be helpful to have a sound machine, music, or a fan going to help drown out some of the storm noise.

6. Snuggle in with a book or a movie and have an impromptu family nigh, enjoying quality time together. It’s a good idea to have candles and matches on hand in case the electricity goes out so you’re not scrambling in the dark while your child is scared. You may also want to have a game on hand you can play by candlelight to help distract your child and pass the time together.

Fear of storms is a natural fear. We parents can help our kids through this and even help ourselves if we have had a triggering experience. Talk about the fears, lean on God, and enjoy the extra snuggle time.

5 Great Tips for Eating Healthy as a Family

As a parent, are you ever amazed at how your toddler seems to thrive just on granola bars and fruit snacks for weeks at a time? You know, when you think they’re supposed to be slamming down greens for nutrients, you find the only green thing they’ll eat is candy (or their boogers)? Yeah, I hear ya.

When we had our first daughter, I had this ideal picture of how she would eat – that I would make all of her baby food from scratch using only organic ingredients, would freeze enough to last for an entire month, and when she was ready for solids, I would incorporate green vegetables in every meal.Yeah,not so much.

Getting kids to eat healthy is hard. Really hard.I find myself amazed at the verbal game/gymnastics/manipulation/desperation I play at meal time to get my girls to eat a decent meal, like not just eating the rice but also the ‘icky onions’ and ‘gween things’ and ‘mushy beans’ as well. Ideally, I should be firm at every meal time so that they know what to expect and have no way around it. But let’s be honest. We all have our ideals, and we’re often reminded of the ideals by (hopefully) well-intentioned people, but life’s not ideal. There’s reality, then there’s the ideal, and we have to be willing to work within our own realities towards our ideals.

And the thing is we all have our own ideals. One family will define ‘healthy eating’ differently from another family. So, each family figures out the best way to implement it for themselves. The important thing isn’t to live by someone else’s ideal, but by your own goals within your family’s reality. This can be hard for parents, particularly for us moms, as we are well-acquainted with the good ol’ comparison game. It’s easy to feel embarrassed around other families who seem to have the ‘eating healthy’ thing down, when you’re happy if your kid just eats something, anything. Finding ways to have your kids eat healthy is slow and messy with plenty of compromise and setbacks, but we believe the effort is worth it.

So as you and I struggle through parenthood together, I thought I’d share a few things our family does to try give you some ideas and encouragement on your own journey towards healthy eating as a family and increase your chances of having more healthy and holistic foods in your family’s diet.

1. Try to eat seasonallyBy eating seasonally, you will add new flavors to your palate regularly, as well as save money, support local farmers, and put less demands on the Earth. Just start small. Eat produce that grows in a particular season and incorporate them into your meals: in summer – tomatoes, berries, spinach, green beans; in fall – kale, Swiss chard, cranberries; in winter – parsnips, rutabagas, cabbage; and in spring – asparagus, rhubarb, spinach. You’ll find yourself enjoying certain foods in each season and longing for the return of favorites throughout the year. The anticipation leads to celebration, which makes one happy household! (You should hear our 4 year old when berry season rolls around – she is all giggles when we finally get to eat fresh berries!). I highly recommend a seasonal cookbook titled Simply in Season, which made eating seasonally and locally a lot easier.

2. Plant a garden – It can be a garden in your yard or potted herbs indoors. Start small, and then go bigger as you feel comfortable with the process and work. There’s something so rewarding about planting a seed, watering it, watching it grow, and then eating from it! Children become especially excited when they get to see food grow right in their own backyard. They’ll ask all sorts of questions and love taste-testing as the food ripens. Watching our daughters devour cherry tomatoes and snap peas straight from our garden is one of my favorite times of the year.

3. Shop at a farmer’s market – Not only will it be a fun experience, but you will save money (produce in season is so cheap at farmer’s markets), support local farmers, and enjoy an array of taste samples. Farmers are also more than happy to answer questions and give you ideas on how to incorporate certain produce into your meals.

4. Try to incorporate one new food item a week – My first year and a half as a new cook, I quickly realized how few foods I was aware of, much less knew how to prepare. So I challenged myself to buy and prepare one new vegetable every week. Some of the new foods I tried were beets, parsnips, rutabagas, broccolini, ramps, and watercress. I really enjoyed learning about new foods, discovering new flavors, and finding certain ones become a staple in our home. This benefits the whole family as they too discover new dishes, new flavors, and possibly new favorite foods.

5. Let your kid(s) help prepare a meal – There are days where the last thing you want is to have a toddler in the kitchen trying to help you make a meal. Look for opportunities to invite kids to join you, let them help you where appropriate, and enjoy their excitement as they watch random ingredients come together as a tasty meal. I have found that when our toddler helps with cooking, she takes ownership of it and is more likely to eat it as a result.

And if all else fails, make a smoothie. Throw in a banana, some berries, a couple handfuls of spinach, and any seeds (hemp, flax, chia) for a nutritional boost, some milk (or even water), raw honey, and voila! The bonus is, your kids are getting nutrition, you can add virtually anything, and they won’t notice!

Hopefully these tips encourage you and give you some new ideas. Feel free to pick just one tip and see how that works with your family and lifestyle. The goal isn’t to become perfect healthy eaters overnight; rather, it’s to make progress in your family’s working definition of healthy eating. Start small, go slowly, and enjoy the process.

Here’s to you and your family’s health!

Nikole Mitchell is a wife, mother, and aspiring pastor, who is passionate about living simply and loving creation through a zero waste lifestyle (see zerowastehome.com). She has written for Red Letter Christians and Sojourners and can be followed on Twitter @mitchellnikole.

Love Thy Neighbor

Thinking back to my childhood, I am remember my summertime experiences. I remember playing outside, running free and being with my neighborhood friends. It’s got me thinking recently about summertime and how I could use the nice weather to connect with my neighbors and community. I started thinking about ways we could model God’s love and Kingdom living to our children and others through simple acts. Simple acts of service and love to connect and bless others. That sounds fun to me! So, I started to research, and I found some easy and attainable ways to bless neighbors and others in our communities. Check out some of these simple ways to connect with your neighbors and your community:

  1. Go outside
  2. Smile at people on the street
  3. Plan a block party
  4. Hold the door for someone
  5. Carry someone’s groceries
  6. Offer a ride or a place to stay
  7. Give up your seat to someone else
  8. Volunteer at a school, a church, or a shelter
  9. Pick flowers and give them to someone who is sad
  10. Offer to watch a friend’s kids and give him/her a break
  11. Ask you neighbors how they are doing and really take time to listen
  12. Pick up garbage and clean up a park
  13. Tell others you appreciate them
  14. Share what you have
  15. Give lots of hugs

Simple ways, simple things, and simple to teach and do. Share in the comment section your ideas for loving your neighbors.

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