Christian parents want their children to choose godly virtues, but training them to make good choices can be a challenge. Certainly the Bible is the ultimate tool, but how can we help kids focus on godliness when ungodliness is constantly vying for their attention? And how can we be effective in training with so many other demands on our time?
We Choose Virtues offers wonderful biblical tools that parents and grandparents can use to help kids focus on developing the character of Christ. Scripturally-based attention-getting cards, posters, and charts take very little time to use, but leave a lasting impression. My homeschool kit is on its way and I can’t wait!
The Most Powerful Way to Teach Virtue
Of course, talking about Christian values and even using We Choose Virtues is of no benefit if we aren’t leading virtuous lives ourselves. Generosity is a vital virtue to instill in our children. I wanted to help Tamara of School Days Gone By raise money for her brother and sister-in-law’s family as her sister-in-law is seriously ill. You can learn more by reading at the link above.
If you purchase We Choose Virtues through this, her affiliate link, you will be helping this hurting family and your own at the same time. Or enter the giveaway for We Choose Virtues at the end of Tamara’s post and you could earn a We Choose Virtues kit for free! If you’re a blogger, please generously share the link to Tamara’s giveaway and help raise funds in a fun way that can benefit families for generations. I have no affiliation with We Choose Virtues. I just think it looks like a great means of teaching godly character.
If you use We Choose Virtues, has it helped your children? What other tools besides the Bible do you use to instill godly character?
I wrote previously about family and personal devotions. Now I’d like to address how to motivate your children to enjoy studying the Bible for school.
I have mentioned two aspects of what we have used in previous posts: Answers for Kids and Memlok for Bible verse memorization. I’d like to share with you a few other resources we enjoy and what has been the key to making Bible time something the kids beg for.
I purchased the Family Bible Library a few years ago and absolutely love it. I was concerned because the text isn’t straight Scripture, but it offers so much more. This resource, together with Color Thru the Bible that we use to memorize Bible books, are the core of our curriculum right now.
In the past, we have enjoyed Firm Foundations (which we will return to soon) and the devotional A View from the Zoo, among many other resources. No matter which resources you choose, I believe you can make Bible time a favorite subject by employing principles that have been key to the resources we’ve chosen:
Start with Stories
There is a reason that children’s Bibles are almost always made up of exciting historical accounts from Scripture, otherwise known as stories. Even if you choose to use the Bible as your only text for Bible time, you’ll want to begin with Genesis–the book comprised of great stories.
When reading from the Bible or any other resource, I frequently look up and tell it like I would if it happened to people I knew. I use my voice and my hands to really bring it to life. If you don’t feel comfortable with my more dramatic style, let your children dramatize as you speak. My kids absolutely love acting out the stories. Yes, they get very silly, but I know they will remember what we’ve learned forever.
The Family Bible Library books include comprehension questions after each story, but I often make up my own when using our texts. Vary the kind of questions from facts to opinions. For example, ask if your child would have been afraid of the giant Goliath and why or why not.
The Family Bible Library includes Bible trivia questions which my kids are crazy about. I have also used the 365 – DAY BIBLE TRIVIA CHALLENGE to get them motivated to expand their biblical knowledge. While I recognize no winners or losers, the quiz aspect appeals to my competitive kids.
Participate as a Family
Bible time is one subject that the kids enjoy studying together. While my high schoolers have and will do their own Bible studies, their participation is a review and an inspiration to the younger kids. We also love it when Dad shows up in class to join in and see what we’re learning.
Part of family participation is using materials that you learn from and love. Because I love Bible time, our children do, too.
In an upcoming post, I will share how to help children memorize–something that also makes Bible time a favorite subject for our kids.
I was expecting my fourth child as a mother of three sons. At the time, I had a number of online friends who also had boys and only boys. One of them shared that she had prayed about the gender of the child she was expecting and her son then had a dream that she would have a girl. The ultrasound revealed that he was right. I decided to pray about my child’s gender, too. I knew I would be happy either way, but this time (for what I thought was for sure my last child), I wanted to know.
I prayed and opened my daily Bible to the date my ultrasound was scheduled. The passage for that day read:
And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.”
Now, I was pretty sure there wasn’t a passage in Scripture that said, “Guess what? You’re having a daughter!” But I was still so struck by the direct answer to my prayer that I believed come ultrasound day, I would learn that boy number four was joining our family.
The ultrasound technician confirmed what God had already told me through His Word.
That evening, I had arranged to go out for dinner with my Bible study friends to give them the news. They were dying to know and not long after we were seated, a family with four boys sat behind us. I just gestured to them and said that my family would look just like that. After my friends were sure that I wasn’t upset about not having a daughter, they began deciding what I should name our son.
I had given my three sons biblical names, so that made the decision easier for them. Names were written on a paper napkin and then the debate started. Finally, after much discussion, they told me his name ought to be Benjamin. As I considered this name, I thought about the Scripture God had given me predicting another son. When I got home, I read further in Genesis:
18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.
Of course, I hoped I wasn’t going to die in childbirth! But I knew that my son’s name would be Benjamin and that God had known him even before he was conceived.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Although I haven’t struggled much with personal devotion time, family devotions have been very difficult for me. Here are my struggles and solutions I’ve found that you may be able to relate to.
Husband Not Home
My husband works out of town some of the time and also is frequently gone in the evenings for sports. While I prefer to have him lead and participate in family devotions, I have had to accept that we are going to do family devotions even in his absence. That acceptance has made them much more consistent in our home.
Husband Not Leading
Even when my husband was home, he wasn’t leading. I discovered there were several reasons for that.
One, sad to say, is because I would butt in when he was leading. On one particular occasion, I blurted out something I thought the kids should know and he said, “I was just going to say that.” Whoops.
A second issue that has prompted my husband to be less interested in leading is his need for reading glasses. He is frustrated that he needs them now and honestly prefers not to read. Just because I am reading doesn’t mean he isn’t leading. He listens to what I read and then takes the lead in asking the kids questions and relating his own teaching on the subject.
A final issue that prompted my husband to be less interested in leading some types of devotions is that the materials he needed weren’t at hand. I realized that as his help-meet (See Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious by Debi Pearl), I could make sure all the objects for the lesson were in place. Then he could do what the leader does best. Imagine your pastor coming to preach and being expected to find his own microphone and stand. Not very conducive to good leadership! Now I make sure he is equipped to fulfill his calling.
Devotions are Too Time-Consuming
I have tried many different types of family devotions and the ones that have worked well are short. I have shared that our family has tons of fun already, so the devotions that are designed to get families having fun together aren’t essential for us. We like to get the heart of the issue and then go about our day. What we currently use and love is Character Building for Families (Volume 1). We are working through Volume 2 right now. I found one doctrinal issue presented that doesn’t fit with our faith, but the rest has been excellent for discussing what is most important to our family–godly character.
Devotions Don’t Become a Habit
A final problem we’ve had is that although we’ve enjoyed doing devotions together, we aren’t faithful in doing them regularly. I’ve discovered that this is because we haven’t paired family devotions with an anchor activity that we always do. I tried to schedule family devotions for weekend evenings for example. We never know what we’re doing then, however, so devotions just weren’t happening. We now do devotions at meal time. We always eat so unless we are bolting out the door immediately, we have devotion time. This video demonstrates how simple family devotions at mealtime can be.
Family devotions will likely be one of the memories our children and we cherish most–both for the fact that we learn from God and we are spending time together.
One of the most common questions I get from young mothers is how to find time for personal devotions. We all know how vitally important it is for having the energy we need to do all that we do, but when you’re up multiple times feeding a baby, awakened early by a toddler, and even chased into the bathroom by your kids, how can you find the time?
I’ve been there. But I had very little distress about my devotional life during that particular season of motherhood (my youngest is now six). Here’s why:
I Redefined Personal Devotions
Is devotional time an hour spent in your quiet spot reading the Bible, completing in-depth Bible study assignments, and praying over every need in neatly organized categories? Sure, but devotions can take many different forms.
Having devotions can also mean taking minutes, seconds even, to connect with the Lord. It can mean meditating on just one Scripture throughout the day. It can mean talking to God out loud while your children observe you. “Help me!” may be all you manage to eek out. It can mean forgoing formal Bible study during this season of your life. It can mean reading a brief devotion online while going through email. Devotional time can be praying with your husband at bedtime. It can be singing or playing an instrument. It can even be devotions that you share with your children. Susanna Wesley is said to have found time to pray by sitting amidst her children with her apron thrown over her head: Susanna Wesley (Women of Faith (Bethany House))
The best thing I can say to you tired, time-pressed mom is not to feel bad. The Lord knows you are in a season of your life that requires much of you. He is caring for you and hearing the Spirit groan for you on your behalf even when your lips aren’t moving.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26).
But What if You are Desperate for More Time?
Ask for help. Ask your husband to give you some time so you can read the Bible and pray alone. I hired our niece to come and help out one afternoon a week. A moms’ Bible study group I was in often hired sitters so we could study and discuss God’s Word without interruption.
Pray about it. Ask the Lord to give you more time with Him. He may get you up early, but not the littles! I firmly believe that He answers these prayers–just not always the way we expect.
Be content. I used to be frustrated that I couldn’t do more of the reading and studying I wanted to do. Now I have more time and I wonder what I fussed about. Even now, though, busy as I am, I pray and read one chapter of the Bible per day and then read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on it. This process takes me just half an hour. The rest of my devotional time is spent with my family and church.
Do you have other advice for young moms looking for ways to spend time with the Lord?
If you read my guest post on over-commitment, you won’t be surprised that I’ve been overwhelmed lately. My vacation was restful, but I returned home to a number of tasks I had put off until I got back. Another problem was that while on vacation, I fantasized about all the things I wanted to accomplish this summer. As I considered all my options, I had no idea what to do first.
Options for Prioritizing When You’re Overwhelmed
I thought about using Mark Forster’s the Final Version or Smart Pad to work through my to-do’s, but my anxiety wouldn’t let me. I thought about using Covey’s Quadrants, too, but I still felt the number of tasks to complete would be too large. I Googled “how to prioritize when you’re overwhelmed.” Mostly what I found was the usual advice–make items with a deadline a top priority, delegate when possible, yadda yadda. Nothing clicked until I found a post from Just Ask Kim (note: some cursing here) who said that we don’t have to decide the priority of everything:
Don’t worry about the rest of the list, it’s not even worth your time to number them. All you care about at this moment is knocking out #1.
She goes on to say that when we’ve identified our number one task, we have to focus on it like a laser.
Just One Thing
Kim’s post reminded me of a well-known Bible account, but made me think about it in a whole new way.
40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42)
I had always thought the lesson here was that Jesus is what we ought to be focusing on. Rather than trying to get things done, we ought to be spending time in Bible reading and prayer. This interpretation is very hard on poor Martha who is understandably concerned with eating! The traditional interpretation cannot be the whole meaning of Jesus’ words, however. Scripture makes it clear that we are not to give up working and just wait on Jesus’ return. Of course, our number one priority is always to serve the Lord, but isn’t that what Martha was doing? So what was the problem?
Jesus tells Martha that she is worried and upset about many things. Boy, can I relate to that! How about you? I’ve been worried and upset about the many things that I need to get done, or even that I’d just like to get done, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling. Like Martha, I can get mighty crabby. So what’s the answer to Martha’s and my dilemma? Just pray more? You can never pray too much, but you’ve got to get to work, too! What struck me as similar between the Just Ask Kim’s comment and Jesus’ response to Martha is just one thing being needed. My aha moment was this:
When we focus on more than one thing at a time, our productivity, peace, and patience will be diminished.
My Experience With Just One Thing
A couple of years ago, I wrote about my decision to quit using a to-do list for all but the time-sensitive tasks or things that I would otherwise forget. I remember that time as one of the most productive and peaceful of my life. I started using a typical to-do list again because I was starting a new job (that I no longer have) and figured that I had so much to do that I had to use a to-do list. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t do myself any favors. When I wasn’t using a comprehensive to-do list, I focused on just one thing at a time. I didn’t worry about what I would do after I finished a load of laundry or get upset when my husband made a request that wasn’t on an arbitrary list. I just went about my day doing the one thing that was needed at the time.
I have been re-experiencing the benefits of focusing on just one thing and I can’t rave enough. My productivity, self-discipline, sense of well-being, and family relationships have improved dramatically. Before you decide to give it a try, you might want to consider the following:
Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you ignore your calendar or time-sensitive to-do’s. Checking your calendar will be one of the “one things” you do.
Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you chuck your routines or your schedule. In fact, I’ve been better able to stick to my routines as I’m not thinking about all the other stuff I have to do.
Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you have to throw away your project lists if you need them.
Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you can’t delegate. You may recognize one thing that needs to be done and can decide to assign it to your child as a chore or ask for personal or professional help in completing it.
Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you can’t plan. Again, planning may be the one thing you are choosing to focus on.
Focusing on Just One Thing doesn’t mean you don’t work on goals or projects with a future deadline. Again, it’s one of the “one things” you will focus on.
Focusing on Just One Thing means that you do not worry about what you’re going to do after the one thing you’re doing. The only exception to that is if you’re planning. Otherwise, enjoy your meal, your conversation, your family, and even your work without the angst about what comes next.
Focusing on Just One Thing means you do not have to prioritize your to-do’s. You don’t even have to write them all down! Just ask yourself what the “one thing” is and do it–even if that’s checking your list of tasks you would otherwise forget. It’s not necessarily doing the most important thing, because who knows what that is? Barak Rosenbloom blogged about this low-stress approach to using a calendar on Time Natives.
Focusing on Just One Thing means that you’re open to something else taking over as the one thing: your child gets hurt, someone comes to the door, or your husband needs you.
Focusing on Just One Thing means you are sensitive to the Lord’s leading. As I’ve been focusing on just one thing, I have heard the Lord saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.” What a blessing to know that I’m not too distracted to hear Him for a change!
Are You a Mary or a Martha?
I used to think Mary was the “spiritual” one and Martha was a control freak. Not anymore! Mary has learned the blessing of focusing on just one thing and Martha needed to learn it. Which one are you? Do you know any Mary’s?
If you give Just One Thing a try, I’d love to hear your experience!