Training Children To Sit and Participate in Church

Children can do some really funny things in church.  When I was teaching the five year-old Sunday school class I remember asking my students how we get to go to heaven. A little girl raised her hand confidently. Her answer?

Die.

That remembrance still makes me laugh!

Sometimes, though, the things children do in church aren’t so funny – especially if you’re the parent.  I’m not sure if there’s anything more stressful or humiliating for a parent than trying to teach their little one to sit quietly anywhere, but especially at church.  Your child gets fidgety and talkative just the time there’s a need for quiet, right?  We’ve all been there, and I want to encourage you that there is hope!

I’ve blogged about this before, but I just felt the need to rehearse a few ideas about teaching your child to sit through a church service.

  • Train them. Talk to them before you leave home.  Tell them what is going to happen when you get there.  Remind them that you’re going so you can worship God and learn more about him!
    • Will they be going to Sunday school?  Remind them that you’ll be back to pick them up.
    • Tell them what kind of behavior you expect from them while they’re in class.
    • Will they go to Pastor’s Pals or up front to sing with the children?  Prepare them for what you expect.
  • Fortify them. Feed them a nourishing breakfast to hold them over through the service time.
  • Equip them. Pack a bag to take to church.  Keep it only for church times and fill it with quiet books, crayons, etc. that will help them to listen if they’re old enough.  They could draw a picture of something pastor is talking about.  If they’re older, they might have a special book to write down important words he hears in the message.
  • Help them. Don’t bring or give them sugary drinks or snacks – you’ll only be making it more impossible for them to sit still!
  • Reward them. I read about one mom who played the “Seat game.”  After training her two children to sit quietly in church, their mom told them they could sit one row in front of the parents next week since they’d done so well.  Each week that they obeyed and sat quietly and obediently, they all moved up one row.  Eventually they were seated on rows two and three!  You obviously couldn’t do this with really young children, but it would might be a great incentive for school-aged children.
  • Discipline them. If your child misbehaves, don’t wait for it to get better and stay in the service where they’re causing a ruckus! Take them out immediately and deal with it, and deal with it in a way that they won’t want it repeated.  If they get to go out and run around the foyer, they’ll learn that this is more of a reward than a punishment!
  •  Model for them. Encourage worship.  By your example of engaging in the singing and worship, teach them to follow your lead!  Sing!  Pray!  Open your Bible!  Take notes!
  • Praise them. Be sure to review the service on the way home.  Applaud their good behavior and obedience!
  • Warn them. Deal with the disobedience and use it as a teaching tool for the next service and warn them about what will take place if this happens again.

Training, training, training.  This must be consistent and loving.  It also really, really helps if you attend regularly.  Sporadic attendance will lose any training!  When this is every week, several times a week, they’ll get it!

This takes time, of course, but you probably won’t be getting called to their classroom nearly as often for behavior issues!  Instead, the teacher will pull you aside to ask what you’re doing at home that’s made such a difference. Oh, she may also tell you about the hilarious thing your child said to her in class that day!

Stay at it!  You will make it!

With love,

Firm, Fair, Fun Parenting

This week I want to continue on with the parenting series in the form of some encouragement.  I know it can be difficult and wearisome when they’re small.  Teen years can seem to last forever with attitudes or questions about your choices.  Even the adult years of children can be challenging and stressful.  For that reason, we all need to have a biblical view of parenting – from the beginning to the end.  Let’s dig in and get some good advice from God’s Word to keep us faithful to this blessed call of building our children for the glory of God!

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Obviously parenting is a daily responsibility, and sometimes it can get overwhelming.  Other days it’s discouraging because the children don’t seem like they’re “getting it.”  We then fall into a disheartened mode which also influences the rest of our family.

May I encourage you on your parenting road today?

I heard a preacher recently say that in parenting you need to:

  • Be Firm
  • Be Fair
  • Be Fun

All three are needed.

Be firm – Say what you mean and then follow through.  Don’t promise a spanking for disobedience and then not carry it out when you get home.  That kind of neglect takes a  huge amount of effort to undo.  If you’ve set a curfew for your teen, expect them to honor it.

Be fair – Too often we hit the first one strong and hard.  We’re firm.  “No!” “No!” “No!” at every request, every attempt the child makes, at every word they say.  But stop and ask if you’re also being fair.
What does “being fair” entail?  Being fair requires really listening. Proverbs 18:13 says,

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it,

it is a folly and shame unto him.

 Did you hear your child out completely before you answered them?  Do you understand where they’re coming from?  Or did you cut them off? If the teen was late for curfew, let them speak before you discipline.  Hear them out.  There may be a viable reason for their tardiness.   If we’re wise, we will obey the Scripture above and hear them out.  Let them know you care about what they have to say and that they are worth listening to.
Be fun – Lastly, we need to take time out for fun.  If things are stressful in homeschool, drop the books and do something just for fun!  If there’s been tons of stress in relationships, add a dose of something everyone will enjoy.
  • Go on a picnic for lunch.
  • Build a fort in the backyard.
  • Eat ice cream sundaes for supper.
  • Go shopping for sunglasses with your teen daughter and have lunch at her favorite place.
  • Learn to laugh – long and hard with your children
  • Isn’t it easy to scowl?  Let your kids see you smiling- and at them!

Firm, fair, fun.  If those words don’t describe your parenting, ask the Lord to help you incorporate the needed areas into your home today!

Which of these three areas is hardest for you?

With love,

Perfect Pork Tostadas

I love to take the leftovers from a great entree and turn them into something completely different – you know hide the fact that we’re eating leftovers!

I found a great way to use pork tenderloin this week that was so delicious and so different from the way it was originally served, that there’s almost no way someone would have know that Sunday dinner was being revisited (isn’t that better than saying, “leftovers?!”).

Enter the Pork Tostada!  I ask you – does this look like boring leftovers?

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Grilled Pork Tostadas

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 Cups Chopped Pork Tenderloin, cooked
1 cup peppers, multi-colored, chopped
1/2 Cup Red onion, chopped
Tortillas
1 1/2 Cup Mexican cheese
Toppings – lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes, cilantro, lime wedges, avocado

Combine oil, cumin and salt.  Pour half of mixture over vegetables to coat.  Pour  the other half over the meat, stir to coat.
Cook vegetables in small amount of oil until tender.  Add meat, cook until meat is warmed.
Brush tortillas with olive oil and place on baking sheet. Toast tortillas in 400 degree oven until crisp.  Top with vegetables, meat, cheese and return to oven and allow cheese to melt.

Serve immediately.  Serve with added toppings.

I served this with Spanish rice and fresh fruit and it was sooo good!!

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Roast a tenderloin and grab the remains so you can make these!

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Preparing a Child’s Heart To Know Christ

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I’m thrilled that gardening season is here!  Each day I enjoy going outside and tending to each potted plant, window box and flowering bed.  I pull off dead blooms, fluff the tender foliage so it will hang beautifully over the edge of the pot, and then give a gentle showering of water so it can soak into the roots, adding growth.  From time to time I also add Miracle Grow – a plant food that speeds up the growing process and makes sure the plants are healthy.  The results are beautiful!!

As we’ve talked all week about a child being saved, every one of the steps above, regarding tending a plant, could be applied to bringing a child to the place where they understand their need for Jesus Christ to be their Savior.  We need to harvest the garden of their hearts so it will be their early understanding that they are sinners who are in need.

Making the plant application, let’s look at a few practical ways that parents can help their children get to that point early on in life.

  • Pull off dead blooms – This involves seeing that something is in their life that shouldn’t be and literally “nipping it in the bud!”  =)  When they disobey, for instance, we don’t overlook it or redirect their attention to a “better option,” NO!  That sin must be dealt with in a biblical manner.  Even from the time they’re very young they should understand that obeying isn’t simply making mommy a happier person – obeying mommy means you’re obeying God!  Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Galatians 6:1  Teach them that simple verse by saying it each time they disobey you.

    “Disobedience is sin.  Each time you disobey Mommy, you’re sinning against God.  But God loves you.  Let’s ask Him to help you obey.”

    Using God’s Word as your guide, teach the child that what they’re doing is sin that makes God sad.  “You needed a Savior so God sent Jesus to die for your sin!”  You don’t have to preach a message, just those simple statements about God’s holiness (you didn’t say it that way, but that’s what you’re teaching) and His love, points them to their need for Jesus when they sin.

  • Fluff the tender foliage.  Encourage any tenderness the child shows towards their sin.  Let them cry, but then comfort them and remind them that God loves them and so do you, and God wants to help them NOT sin.  Any time they want to move forward in an invitation, or they ask questions in family devotions, encourage that!  Listen.  Answer their questions. Be supportive!
  • Give a gentle showering of water to encourage growth.  Sprinkle truths about God, His Word and the application of it through everything you do each day.  It’s far more meaningful to see a mom live out the Gospel each day and share out of the overflow, than to occasionally get a “lecture” every now and then from an inconsistent life.  Consider:
    • Let thankfulness be in your words about God’s provision for your groceries, your home, your clothing…everything you have.
    • Point out the beauty of God’s creation when you are outside.  Speak Scripture – “The heavens declare the glory of God – Hey kids, how does that sunset tell about God’s glory?”
    • Speak about what you learned in your Bible reading and how it applies to what’s going on at that moment.
    • Whenever there is a need, stop and pray.  Show your child that you’re dependent on God in every situation. – If you see an ambulance or a car accident, why not pray for those involved? If they’re anxious about a test they’re headed into school to take, stop and pray before they get out of the car.
    • Be living out the Gospel by sharing it with others when you’re out, when people are in your home and at church.  Your children need to see your example of a Christian who is a follower of Christ.
    • Read Scripture with your child.  I love the idea of reading the psalm of their age every night of that year!  Most psalms in the early chapters are very short, so I imagine that both you and your child  will have it memorized before the year is out!
  • Add some Miracle Grow – Make sure your child is regularly in places where they will receive extra doses of the Gospel outside of your home – Sunday school, church services, revival meetings, Youth group, youth activities, and Christian camp.  Don’t send your child to church services – go with them.  Then send them on their way to the extra outings, praying that the Gospel will be proclaimed and their heart will be tender.

Tending to my plants is messy and daily.  My hands end up covered with dirt, and if I neglect their care, you can only imagine the ugly results!  The same also applies to the tending of our children’s spiritual needs.  It’s a daily discipleship that is often messy and inconvenient, but the results aren’t just for a summer of glory – it’s for eternity, and it’s such a blessing to be a part of that! This is our heart as parents, is it not? ~

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  III John 1:4

God is the One who will bring the fruit.  We just need to be faithful to plant and water, then leave the results with Him.

What are you doing today that will point your child more towards Christ? 

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What If Your Child Doubts Their Salvation?

You get in bed after an exhausting day and just after you get all cozy, your front door pops into your mind and you can’t remember if you locked it or not.  What will you do?  If you’re concerned about your security, you will step out of your comfortable spot to get up and check the lock.  It’s normal; we may have all done it at one time or another.

Your child was in your home and their young heart realized they were a sinner and they needed a Savior.  While your heart beat wildly with joy, you opened your Bible and showed them the verses in Romans about their sin,God’s love, what they deserve, and how to gain eternal life.  Then, in simple, child-like faith they prayed to receive Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf so they would have a relationship with God and a home in heaven.  And you never forgot that day because it was one you’d prayed for since the day they entered your world!

However, one day, in their teen years they went to a Bible preaching summer camp and heard a message about salvation that Christ offers, and about hell for those who refuse.  They have a foggy recollection of that decision they made when they were very young, but they’re unsure, and who wants to wonder if they’re ready for heaven?  They walk the aisle and make a decision to be saved.

Photo Credit – The Wilds

When they get home from camp, they share their decision with you and you’re startled.  What should you do?

  • First, remember the need for security and assurance.  If they had a doubt about their salvation, wouldn’t you rather they “check the lock” than to wonder about it all their life?
  • Rejoice with them.  Assure them that that’s the wisest decision to make because eternity is too long to regret.
  • Humble yourself and resist the urge to say, “I was the one who led you to the Lord!” Or, “I know you’re saved!”  It’s easy to feel a punch to our pride and feel wounded that we didn’t do a good enough job, but we must think the truth – we don’t do the saving!  Christ does!  If they’re doubting their salvation, then they don’t remember it.
  • Encourage them to record this decision in their Bible or journal.
  • Follow through with teaching them verses on security – for example,John 10:28 and  I John 5:13. Also teach them I John 1:9 – that when they sin, they haven’t lost their salvation, but they’ve lost fellowship. They need to confess the sin and forsake it to regain fellowship with the Lord.

Should the fact that a teen or adult might need to check the security of their decision urge us to discourage a young child from being saved?  Of course not!  It shows their tender heart.  They may never doubt their decision!  But if they do, let them “get up and check the door!”

One more thought here – let’s imagine that the doubting comes to your child at home and he asks you about it and wonders if he is really saved?  What should you do?  Rather than telling him what YOU remember about he day he trusted Christ, I would encourage a child in that situation to go ahead and make sure.  It won’t hurt to let them pray again!  Then, again, as above, teach them about eternal security we have in Christ, and remind them  of all Jesus did for them on the cross and His resurrection that assures us of ETERNAL life.

Has any reader needed to check your salvation’s security? 

Have these posts brought up any other questions about bringing your child to Christ?

Lovingly,

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What’s Wrong With With Waiting Until a Child Is Older To Be Saved?

“My five year-old has been asking us so many questions about salvation, and about asking Jesus to forgive their sins, but we’re putting him off right now, because we want to make sure he’s ready.”

I have heard that statement so many times and I can’t tell you how it saddens my heart.  I understand that the parent is fearful that the child won’t remember what he has done, and may have doubts later on, but as I mentioned in an earlier post here, I don’t have a problem with that at all.  Read the post to understand why.

However, I have three reasons why I believe it IS right to allow a child to pray to be saved when they bring up the need to you.

  1. Jesus said, Suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not. Can it get any clearer?  Don’t hinder them from coming to Christ!  Bring them!  Encourage them to do so. You will be obeying Christ’s command.
  2. A child’s heart is soft when they ask to be saved, but it will harden as they get older.  Why run the risk of them turning away from the Lord?  What a tragedy it would be for a parent to put a child off who is asking to be saved, and then the becomes desensitized towards their spiritual need!
  3. The sooner a person comes to Christ the longer they have to serve Him!

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Think of two candles, one very long and the other very short.  The long candle represents a child and the short, an elderly person.  Often when we have an older person saved in a service we have a huge time of rejoicing, which is definitely worthy of joy to see this heart finally yielded to Christ!  But when a little child gets saved, it’s often given a little nod.  But think of those two candles.  That short candle, representing the older person only has a little time left to “burn” for Christ.  The child, however, has their whole life to make a difference for the Lord in this world!  That reason in itself should make us realize the urgency in bringing little ones to the Savior!

I trust this helps every adult who can influence a child to have a heart for little ones coming while they’re young!  Let’s obey Christ’s command, do it while their heart is soft, so they can use their whole life to serve God!

If you know a parent with little ones who might need this encouragement, feel free to share this article on your Facebook account or Twitter.

Lovingly,

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How To Tell If A Child Is Ready To Be Saved

Recently while reading through an old journal, I read some memories of when my girls were little.  I read stories like :

  • the funny account of the day one of my girls told me my dresser had a rash…she was looking at the dust on its surface!
  • The day she emptied a jar of face cream and spread it all over my bedspread and herself.
  • Both my girls loved helping in the kitchen when I was baking.  What fun we shared as they helped stir in ingredients for cookies, or roll a little pie for their daddy.
  • Feeling frustrated at discipline – trying to figure out how to reach the child without breaking her spirit.

Parenting is full of fun days, hard days and days when you have NO IDEA what to do.  It’s for that reason that I’ve chosen parenting as the next topic in my summer series.

What a joy it is to have children given to us by God to raise for His glory – and what a huge responsibility it is!  As Christians, it must be our daily goal to point those little ones to Christ in everyday ways, in intentional ways and in ways that will prepare them to trust Him as their Savior as soon as they can understand.  But that’s where we get hung up – we wonder how much do they need to understand to make a real decision to be saved?  I’ve written several posts about that and I’m going to repost those this week, because it’s just a burden on my heart.  The bottom line is this – Jesus said to suffer the little children to come to him and forbid them not.  If a child is saying they want to trust Christ, who are we to say they don’t know enough?  Jesus loves them.  So, let’s start in, shall we?

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Trusting Christ as a little girl has created in me a love for talking to children about God’s gift of salvation.  I can relate to them because I remember how it was for me all those years ago when I knew I needed to receive God’s gift of salvation for my own!

Here’s what I remember about myself at that time

  • I was a sinner.  Oh, I was a “good girl.” You see I wanted to please and obey my parents and others in authority.  But even at seven, I remembered lying, disobeying, being sassy or disrespectful.  All that was sin, and I knew I was guilty.
  • I knew I wasn’t going to go to heaven because of my sinful heart.  It had separated me from God.
  • I knew Jesus loved me so much that He took my punishment on the cross, and that what He did made it possible for me to be forgiven by God.
  • I knew that all I had to do was receive God’s free gift of eternal life by calling on Him to save me.

That’s pretty much it.  There was a TON I didn’t know.  But I knew enough about salvation to do the calling. Along with my love for telling children about Christ, I’m also passionate about us as adults not making it hard for a child to be saved.  It’s as though we feel they have to be on an adult level of understanding before they can really trust the Lord. I heard a preacher say recently something like this,

Often when a child talks to us about salvation, we ask adult questions they cannot answer,

and we say they’re not ready to be saved.

Then when an adult needs to come to Christ we tell them to just have

childlike faith!

There was so very much I DIDN’T know about the Lord, His Word or my eternal destiny.  But you know what?  That didn’t change my decision to receive Christ that day!

I hear many adults wonder about their child and say, “What if they’re not ready?”  Then don’t push them, but if they’re asking you questions, just lead them to Jesus!  Will you regret that they came too soon, or that they needed to make it sure later on?  No!  Bring them to Him!  Then continue to guide them and teach them.  Make it easy for them to find Christ!  Don’t put them off because you wonder if they are really ready.

Another question is, “What if they don’t really understand?”  I ask a child questions.  Here’s what I may ask:

  1. Why did you raise your hand in class?  Even if the invitation was so very clear – “Come see me if you want to know how to have Jesus as your Savior and have your sins forgiven.”  Sometimes a child will shrug their shoulders and not have a clue.  Maybe they came because a friend came up.  I’ll just pat them on the shoulder and say, “That’s okay.  Thanks for coming to see me!”  End of discussion.
    If they say, “I want to talk about Jesus…” then we go forward.
    If your child is talking to you and others about needing to be saved, then it’s obvious the Holy Spirit is working in their heart.  You might ask them, “Why do you think you need to be saved?  When should a person ask Jesus to save them?”  As a parent, use every discipline time as another reminder of their sinful nature and their need for Christ.
  2. Have you ever sinned?  If they say, “yes.”  I’ll ask what sin is and why is it a problem.  If they say, “No!!!!”  It’s usually also the end of the discussion.
  3. What did God do for us because we have sinned and we cannot enter heaven with sinful hearts?  I have them read with me John 3:16 and Romans 6:23.
  4. What do we have to do to receive a gift?  What do we do to receive God’s gift of eternal life?
  5. Are you ready to pray and receive God’s gift of salvation?
  6. I have them pray out loud – not so I can grade their prayer, but to make sure they’re not praying for their Papa’s surgery or their gold fish that died.  (Trust me, it can go there if the child isn’t really serious about salvation at this point.)

If you can keep a child on point through those brief questions, that in itself is also a good indicator that they’re really thinking about their need for Jesus.  Once I had a child respond at an invitation and when I started asking them questions they went off on conversations about their toys, their dog and vacation time.  It was obvious to me they didn’t come because they were wanting to receive Christ.
If, however, the child prayed and admitted they were a sinner and asked Jesus to come in their life, then rejoice with them and remind them that the angels in heaven are also rejoicing!!!

It grieves my heart to hear a parent say to me that their child has been asking to be saved, but “We don’t feel he’s ready.”  To me, that’s a scary place to be.  Don’t stand in front of the cross and hinder them; move aside and join them on your knees as they, in their childlike faith pray to be saved!

My girls were saved at a very young age, and both have said they never doubted their salvation.  Neither have I.  I knew God would keep His promise when He told me I would have eternal life!  I believe that’s the very essence of child-like faith!

How about you?  Do you have a certainty that you will go to heaven when you die?  This is an excellent video  (left side of screen, click to enlarge) about how you can have a relationship with God and eternal life with Him.

Because Jesus loves the little children,

P.S. I got saved while attending Sunday School. You might like to read this post about the value of Sunday School and what it did for me!