Being a parent is rewarding—and challenging!
In our parenting articles section, you’ll find ideas and encouragement as you spiritually train children in your home or at church. Just click on a topic that interests you.
Additional parenting resources on the Awana website include:
- apPARENTly Blogging is a blog that equips parents and leaders in their efforts to raise Christ-following kids.
- Monthly parent helps articles focus on a different theme and offer practical tips for parents with kids of all ages.
- Daily parenting tips and resources are on Twitter at @AwanaParents.
- Free resources at Awana at Home® support parents in home discipleship.
- The parents landing page directs you to additional resources and information geared to parents with and without children in Awana.
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Help Your Child Memorize God’s Word
My 11-year-old daughter, Emily, loves to memorize Bible verses. Each week at Awana, she can’t wait for Handbook Time and the chance to recite her verses.
She recently told me about how God used a verse to bring her peace at school. Right before her math teacher handed out a test, Emily remembered Philippians 4:13: I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
It’s neat to see how God’s Word influences Emily’s daily life.
Chuck Swindoll wrote in his book, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life:
I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture … No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.
I think we’d all agree with the benefits of Scripture memory that Chuck mentioned. Learning God’s Word really does deepen and solidify our faith.
How can we help our kids memorize more of God’s Word?
I recently came across these fun ideas that might help. Some of these are great to do as a family:
- Play the popcorn game. Your child sits in a chair. Say a few words of a verse and then stop. Your child should stand up and say the next word. Continue with the verse. When you stop again, your child should sit back down and say the next word. Continue in this way through the verse until your child has it memorized. For fun, change places. Let your child say the verse while you stand up and sit down.
- Draw, or have your child draw, simple pictures or symbols for key words in the verse. Let her look at the pictures while she memorizes.
- Play verse charades. Take turns or divide into teams and act out the verses your family has learned, using standard charades rules.
- Write six to 12 different Bible verse references on the bottom inside cups of an egg carton. Put a button or piece of candy inside the carton, close the lid and shake the carton. Ask your child to recite the verse on which the button or candy lands.
- Sit on the floor with your child. Say the first word of a verse and roll or toss a ball to your child. Your child says the next word of the verse and rolls the ball back to you. Continue this pattern until the verse is completed.
- Share a verse with your child that you are currently memorizing yourself.
In what ways do you help your children memorize God’s Word?
Posted in Bible and Bible memory, Discipleship | 1 Comment »
Is Serving as a Family in Church Rewarding … or Revolting?
Three-year-olds are fascinating to observe – from a distance. Let me rephrase that – from a long, long distance away.
That may sound cruel, especially to those of you who work with pre-K children. But when my church asked me to teach a classroom filled with recent graduates of the “terrible 2s,” my first instinct was to say “No.”
As was my second instinct.
And my third.
After nearly two decades in grade-school and middle-school ministry, 3-year-olds were foreign territory for me.
But one unexpected option changed my mind.
My two daughters could join me as youth helpers. Neither had served before in church. This would provide them a chance to begin learning a valuable spiritual discipline, stretch spiritually and connect more to our church body.
So I swallowed hard and accepted the sentence, er, offer.
Three years later, a miracle has taken place. I’m still volunteering with this age group. In fact, I’ve grown to really love the kids in my care. I’m thankful God called me to this new season of ministry.
The two chief tools God has employed to keep me faithfully involved are my tween daughters. Serving alongside Jessica and Nicki has increased my commitment to our class. They have even kept me sane in the inevitably hairy moments.
Serving with them is such a privilege. As a parent, watching them learn and mature as young servants of Christ is extremely gratifying.
God is using my service to not only touch 3-year-olds’ lives but my daughters’ lives as well.
My story isn’t unique. I’m sure you know families in similar situations in your church. Maybe you serve with your spouse and kids in Awana.
Family members involved in ministry together is a “win-win-win” proposition. Families grow, the church benefits, and both church members and guests reap the rewards.
Do you serve in church with members of your family? How’s that going?
Posted in Church, Serving | 1 Comment »
Who Do Your Kids Really Love More: Jesus or Wii?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30
Jesus said this is the most important commandment. How does this verse play out in your family?
I know it takes intentional effort to balance all four areas and teach our kids how to best love God. It’s a challenge my husband and I regularly encounter as we spiritually train our two daughters.
How do we train our kids to love Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength in a world that teaches them to love their iPod® and Wii® more? Maybe these few ideas will provide some direction:
Expand their hearts
Jesus Christ is the only One who can change a human heart. This happens through a personal relationship with Christ. Have your kids trusted Christ for salvation?
One way to explain God’s plan for salvation is to use the Gospel Wheel. By studying these Bible verses, you can share the gospel with confidence.
Deepen their souls
Two ways to encourage a healthy, vibrant soul are through prayer and worship.
- Pray for others. Keep a prayer journal of requests and answered prayer.
- Pray for your kids, too.
Stretch their minds
Reading and memorizing God’s Word will stretch your kids’ minds as they become more like Him. The goal: God’s Word will move from their head into their heart.
Reading God’s Word:
- Start family devotions at home. Use the Awana at Home® parent kits featuring DVD segments, discussion questions and Scripture teaching.
- Talk about the message and Bible verses taught at church each week
Memorizing God’s Word:
- Encourage your kids to memorize verses in their Awana handbooks. Practice verses over breakfast.
- Try these memorization tips.
Raise up servants
After Jesus shared the greatest commandment from Mark 12:30 listed above, His next instruction is found in Mark 12:31: The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
One way we can love our neighbors is to serve them in times of need.
- Stock a food pantry in your community.
- Visit a nursing home and bless the elderly.
- Make cards or crafts for someone in need of encouragement. Hand deliver your card or craft if possible.
How do you teach your kids to love Jesus?
Posted in Bible and Bible memory, Discipleship, Serving, Worship | 1 Comment »
Five Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Finish Their Awana Handbooks
For many kids, February to April is their most challenging time of year in Awana.
A lot of churches end their Awana ministry year in April. That means as of mid-February, their Awana students have about two months to complete their handbooks.
Is your child behind on his handbook? There’s no reason to panic. Perhaps the hurdle you need to clear is merely motivating him to do the work.
If motivation is what your child needs, here are a few keys to inspiring greater commitment that hopefully results in completing this year’s handbook and instilling life-defining biblical truths in your child’s heart.
Set goals with them
If your child is in Sparks or T&T, our Bookwalks are free resources that help you determine how many sections of her handbook need to be completed per week through the end of the club year for her to finish her book. Or ask your child’s Awana leader to assist you to figure out how many book sections your child needs to complete over the final weeks of the club year to reach this goal.
Having an end goal in mind and dividing up that goal into manageable chunks will help your child and you immensely in the process.
Work with them
Commit to practicing new Bible verses with your child each week. Make a schedule. For instance, spend five or 10 minutes a night before bedtime going over verses. If you’re morning people, work on verses during breakfast or in the car. Here are some Bible memorization tips that might prove helpful.
And consider committing to learning the verses yourself. This will further inspire many kids and provide accountability for them. Maybe even make it a weekly competition between the two of you if your child is at an appropriate age. Who can finish more sections each week?
Awana rewards handbook achievers with end-of-year awards. Many churches’ Awana ministries further reward kids with candy, prizes, Awana bucks or other external benefits.
But if you think your child needs an additional incentive, what would motivate him even further? Extra allowance? A gift? A special meal? A night out with Dad or Mom? This also communicates to your child that his Bible learning is important to you and to his spiritual growth.
As they finish a section and move closer to completing their handbook, load on the encouragement. This will fuel most kids’ fire to press ahead. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.
Prioritize their involvement
Learning God’s Word is essential to developing a strong walk with Christ. 2 Timothy 3:16 says Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Treat your child’s Awana “homework” the same as you treat her schoolwork. Our kids will pick up on this and take their handbooks more seriously.
How do you motivate your kids to finish their Awana handbooks?
Posted in Awana | 1 Comment »
Is Prayer Your First Response as a Parent?
I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.
I can’t take credit for this quote. Abraham Lincoln said it over 150 years ago. But the truth of his words applies to us today, especially as parents.
Parenting should drive us to our knees in prayer on a daily basis.
Does it? Is prayer the first thing you think of during a parenting challenge?
If I’m brutally honest, prayer is not always my first instinct. I mistakenly think I can solve a parenting problem or issue on my own strength, sinking into a pit of self-sufficiency. All along, God is waiting for me to surrender it over to Him and ask for His wisdom.
Sometimes I find it helpful to pray specifically for my two girls. Several years ago, I came across this list of 31 biblical virtues to pray for my kids. Perhaps it will encourage you to pray each day for your kids’ spiritual development.
1. Pray for a spirit of humility.
The willingness to submit—James 4:10
2. Pray for a spirit of reverence.
The fear of the Lord—Proverbs 9:10
3. Pray for a spirit of purity.
A desire to be clean—Matthew 5:8
4. Pray for a spirit of purpose.
A wisdom to set goals—Proverbs 4:25
5. Pray for a spirit of simplicity.
A lifestyle uncluttered—Romans 12:8
6. Pray for a spirit of commitment.
A dedication to the “cause”—Joshua 24:15
7. Pray for a spirit of diligence.
A willingness to work hard—2 Peter 1:5
8. Pray for a spirit of servanthood.
The ministry of helps—Galatians 6:9-10
9. Pray for a spirit of consistency.
The quality of faithfulness—James 1:8
10. Pray for a spirit of assurance.
A depth of faith—Hebrews 10:22
11. Pray for a spirit of availability.
A willingness to go—Isaiah 6:8
12. Pray for a spirit of loyalty.
A zeal for fidelity—Ruth 1:16
13. Pray for a spirit of sensitivity.
Openness of heart—Luke 10:30-37
14. Pray for a spirit of compassion.
Love in action—Mark 8:1-2
15. Pray for a spirit of tenderness.
A willingness to weep—2 Kings 22:19
16. Pray for a spirit of maturity.
The capacity to grow—Hebrews 5:12-14
17. Pray for a spirit of holiness.
Christ-like behavior—1 Peter 1:16
18. Pray for a spirit of reliability.
A depth of dependability—1 Corinthians 4:2
19. Pray for a spirit of revelation.
Learning to listen—Ephesians 1:15-18
20. Pray for a spirit of denial.
A sacrifice to surrender—Luke 9:23
21. Pray for a spirit of confidence.
A baptism of boldness—Philippians 4:13
22. Pray for a spirit of integrity.
The quality of truthfulness—Romans 12:17
23. Pray for a spirit of repentance.
A willingness to change—Luke 3:8
24. Pray for a spirit of trust.
A fearless reliance—Psalm 125:1
25. Pray for a spirit of submission.
Choosing to yield—Ephesians 5:21
26. Pray for a spirit of teachability.
A quality of meekness—Titus 3:2
27. Pray for a spirit of prayer.
A longing to wait—Isaiah 40:31
28. Pray for a spirit of unity.
A respect for others—1 Corinthians 1:10
29. Pray for a spirit of restoration.
A ministry of healing—Isaiah 61:1-2
30. Pray for a spirit of authority.
A capacity to command—Matthew 16:19
31. Pray for a spirit of generosity.
The desire to give—Matthew 10:8
How do you pray for your children?
Posted in Prayer | 5 Comments »
Four Keys to Teaching Boys to Memorize Scripture
For several years I taught the Journey curriculum to a group of lively high-school kids. Five older boys dominated the discussions in a good way. They listened well and thought through the challenges I presented to them.
And they were a lot of fun. Anytime I asked one of them to quote a favorite verse or a verse that had special meaning to him, I knew the answer would be Proverbs 21:9 – Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. We’d laugh and then he would get to a verse that really did have meaning for him – and he would have a lot to choose from. Four of the five earned their Citation Awards and the other one was just a book or two behind.
None of these boys grew up in a typical Christian family. They didn’t have generations of Christian ancestors paving the way for them. Their parents weren’t in Awana as kids or in youth Bible studies as teens or alumni of prestigious Bible colleges.
So, what was different about this group of high-school kids? Why did these kids have so much success when other boys struggled with memorizing?
Here are some things I observed.
1. They attended a church where memorization was cool. Not only did kids memorize, but adults memorized, too. Leaders finished books. Each month board members learned a verse of their own choosing and quoted it before the next board meeting.
2. The pastor became their friend. He had nicknames for them. He took time to talk with them. He answered their questions and let it be known he would be glad to answer even more questions. He stressed the importance of memorization from the pulpit. Citation Award achievers were honored as much as someone who made a winning basket or a soccer goal.
3. Although these boys didn’t come from typical Christian homes, their parents were now Christians (some coming to Christ after their children were in elementary school) and the parents were now very interested in seeing their kids know God’s Word. They knew what it was like not to have a foundation of Scripture and took time to make sure their kids (even their teens) were getting it. They would ask me how their kids were doing (not in a helicopter-parent way, but in a truly caring way) – much like a Cubbies parent checks up on his or her child.
4. The dads memorized themselves. These kids had the best motivation possible – they saw their dads embrace memorization – either as board members, Awana leaders or simply because they loved God’s Word.
Along the way, as these kids moved through club, leaders had consistent and motivating competitions. But along with the fiercely fought contests was the sense that God’s Word was important. Large Group Time lessons focused on why the Bible is relevant in our lives. Parents emphasized that at home.
Looking back and analyzing those five seniors, I would say their success was a great example of parents and church working together to encourage them to know, love and serve the Lord.
And with that strong force behind them – they did just that.
Posted in Awana, Bible and Bible memory, Fatherhood | 3 Comments »
Using Car Time to Grow Together
Do you feel like a taxi driver? If you have kids, the answer is likely “Yes!”
Getting my daughters to their activities takes lots of time each week, from guitar lessons to volleyball practice to church. The list goes on.
Instead of letting time in the car just slip by, I’ve been thinking of ways to intentionally use these moments to grow together relationally and spiritually.
Show interest in your child’s life by talking. Take advantage of the captive audience in your backseat. Try to limit talking on your cell phone and engage with your child.
Ask open-ended questions that require more than just a yes or no answer.
Consider a few of these:
- What is your favorite time of day? Why?
- If you sat down next to Jesus on a bus, what would you talk about?
- If you had one day to live over again, what day would you pick? Why?
- What would you do with $1,000? A million?
- What is the best and worst thing about your school? Your church?
- What is your favorite Bible verse?
- Would you rather lead or follow? Why?
- What’s been the highlight and lowlight of your day (or week)?
- What would be your favorite thing to do on an unexpected day off from school?
- Who is your favorite person in the Bible?
- Would you rather have many friends or one good friend?
- What do you think heaven is like?
- What are three things you’re thankful for right now?
Talking is an important aspect of building a deeper relationship with my children. But it’s also vital to listen and let them talk. I also can control and influence who and what we listen to.
In the car, I choose to listen to:
- My children: Often after picking up one of my daughters from an activity, she is eager to tell me every detail. This time is priceless to just listen and let her share. I learn so much!
- Their friends: Some days I also drive other girls home. That’s also an amazing time to listen. I have a front-row seat—literally—to hear what is happening at school, in pop culture and with other friends. It’s a gold mine of information that can lead to further conversations with my daughters.
- Worship music: playing a worship CD or turning on Christian radio helps all of us focus our minds on Christ. Car time can be used to worship the only One worthy of our praise. If your kids are in Awana, visit the Awana Store for kids’ praise CDs.
How do you use car time to spiritually train your children?
Posted in Family time, Parenting | 2 Comments »
What Would I Have Done Differently as a Parent? Wrong Question
The blog topic assigned to me this month was: What would you do differently if you could raise your kids all over again?
I had to smile. I recently was asked this question on a parenting panel and my answer was that I would’ve gotten up earlier and happier. Not that I was grouchy in the mornings, I just didn’t like talking all that much. Fortunately, my husband was a morning person so between my silent-getting-the-cereal-on-the-table-automation and his ability to communicate at that hour – the kids did get out the door for school.
The thing is – we do what we want to do. Midway through my kids’ college years, I started working here at Awana headquarters. The problem was I lived in Wisconsin and Awana is in Illinois – which meant I had a 70-mile one-way commute. Let’s just say I had to leave VERY early to get here on time. (This was before working at home was an option.)
I knew a 6 a.m. drive on a busy four-lane highway required alertness. I needed to be awake. So, I started going to bed earlier to get a good eight hours sleep. Within a few months, I had trained myself to be a morning person – something I could’ve done back when the kids were in their early elementary years.
But otherwise? Well, sure there are things I could’ve done differently. Hindsight is better than foresight even in kid-raising. The reality is we don’t get to have do-overs in life. We can sit and feel sorry for ourselves and think of all the “what-ifs.” Or we can look at our life in the present and decide to make this very day worthwhile.
We will always be parents. We never get tired of hearing our parents tell us how proud they are of our accomplishments or how much they love us. So our kids will always appreciate us letting them know how much we care.
No matter how old our kids are, we can be encouraging to them. We can pray for them. We can listen when they want to talk with us. We can tell them “thanks” for being who they are. And we can be supportive of our grandchildren. Sometimes this might mean being the ONLY spiritual influence in our grandchildren’s lives. At other times, this is backing up what they are hearing from their parents (our kids).
Parenting is tough, and we don’t get to practice, but we do get a handbook – God’s Word, the Bible. We need to give our kids our time, our love and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Sure, we can look back, but how much better to look at today. What can we do today that will encourage our kids?
- Remind them of a favorite verse?
- Tell them that we love them?
- Encourage them in some endeavor they’re undertaking, like a new job, class or hobby?
- Write them a quick note or e-mail saying “thanks” for being my child?
The challenge is NOT to look back several years and think about what we could’ve done differently. The challenge is to be the best possible parent today so we won’t look back tomorrow and see a missed opportunity.
What can you do today that will encourage your kids?
Posted in Parenting | 1 Comment »
37 Practical Ways to Improve as a Parent
Parenting is my biggest challenge. It’s likely yours, too. One author says it is akin to “having your heart go walking around outside your body.” And it really doesn’t get easier with age!
What can we do about getting better at parenting? A Michael Hyatt blog post on an unrelated topic prompted me to brainstorm a list of practical ways all of us can improve as parents. Emphasis is on practical. Small steps will get you to the same destination as one or two large steps. Truth be told, most of us are small-step kinds of parents, aren’t we?
The list is not meant to be thorough. Considering incorporating one or two entries into your parenting this month.
In random order:
1. Pray for your child in her presence at the start and close of each day. Keep it brief.
2. Tell your child you love him at least every other day.
3. Hug your child often (even if it’s just a shoulder hug for teens).
4. Give her a short note of encouragement at least monthly.
5. Spend at least 30 minutes of one-on-one time with him each week, and turn off your cell phone and PDA beforehand if you own them.
6. Leave an age-appropriate joke in your child’s lunch box or coat pocket occasionally.
7. Tell her you’re proud of her. Be specific why.
8. Surprise your child with a small gift that you know he’d appreciate.
9. Read the Bible or a devotional lesson together at least weekly.
10. Play a board or card game with your child.
11. Take your child out for breakfast or lunch at least monthly.
12. Take off work early to cheer him on at an after-school activity.
13. Give your child an encouraging card, e-card or e-mail message.
14. Leave an inspirational quote on your child’s pillow before his bedtime.
15. Learn a Bible verse or passage together.
16. Hug your child and tell her “I love you” after disciplining her.
17. Watch one of your child’s favorite TV programs together.
18. Praise your child in front of his teachers or peers.
19. Teach her a new skill of yours.
20. Make a meal of his choice with him for dinner.
21. Serve with your child somewhere in your community – such as a nursing home, homeless shelter or hospital.
22. Ask your child to forgive you for something you did to her recently, such as losing your temper.
23. Pray for your child for five minutes every day.
24. Pray often for God to grow you as a parent.
25. Join your child in doing a random act of kindness for a neighbor.
26. Play catch with him.
27. Rent a funny movie, pop popcorn and laugh hysterically together.
28. Help your child with homework. Commit to being very patient!
29. Hold a family faith night – do a fun activity, read a Bible passage and pray together.
30. Prioritize healthy eating and exercise habits for your whole family. Reward your kids when they achieve milestones.
31. Plan a fun weekend or day trip away for the two of you.
32. Take lots of pictures of your child and your family.
33. Devote yourself to only disciplining your child in love. This may mean delaying discipline for a few minutes while you collect your emotions and pray.
34. Put a picture of her in your wallet or purse. Look at it and thank God for something about her daily.
35. Give your child something from your childhood that was valuable to you. Explain why it was valuable and why you’re giving it to him.
36. Celebrate your child’s successes with enthusiasm.
37. Be the first one to encourage your child when she experiences pain or failure.
Question: What would you add to the list?
Posted in Fatherhood, Parenting | 1 Comment »