Creating experiences that shape our kids’ faith

Posted on Nov 26, 2012 in Family

Crafting life-changing experiences for our kids' faith journeyOne year while I was growing up my parents attempted to enforce a “Thank You Jar.” Throughout the year, whenever something happened that me or my siblings were (or should be) thankful for, we were to write it down on a piece of paper and drop it in the “Thank You Jar.” A couple notes were, “Thank you for helping me find my red truck,” and, “Thank you for helping mommy feel better.”

Then, at our Thanksgiving meal, we opened the jar and read through all the notes from the past year. While I was semi-annoyed by the project overall, I remember sitting at the Thanksgiving table that year thinking it was pretty cool to be reminded of all the specific things we were thankful for. It was much more than the generic family, friends, and food we were usually talked about at Thanksgiving.

As lame as I felt that exercise was throughout the year, I think it was that year when Thanksgiving shifted from being about a meal with relatives to being about a time to remember what we’re thankful for.

Ideas That Shape Our Children’s Faith

52 Creative Family ExperiencesWe all can probably think back to experiences as kids that shifted our perspective on relationships, faith, ourselves, and traditions. That’s why I picked up Timothy Smith’s book, “52 Creative Family Time Experiences: Fun Ways To Bring Faith Home,” because I want to be intentional about creating those experiences for my kids, too.

How It Works

The book outlines 52 teaching experiences you can re-create for your family, mostly geared toward children between 6-11 years old with suggested modifications for both younger children and teens. Each experience requires a little bit of preparation and lasts anywhere from 10-30 minutes making it pretty easy for a weekly family get-together. I especially like that the experiences are intentionally geared for various learning styles and focus on utilizing touch, sight, sound, hearing, smell, and taste.

Each experience starts with an opener of some kind, leads into a scripture passage, shifts to a few discussion questions, and culminates in an activity that illustrates and reenforces the main point of the passage.

Will It Work?

Will I use this book with my family? I’m not sure yet. At 2 and 3 years old, my children are still a bit young for this book, but I imagine I’ll use it for reference and ideas as they grow older even if I don’t go through the book word for word.

The hesitation for me going through the book as it’s written is that each of the experiences seem to revolve around a good moral value we all want our kids to learn. For example, some main points listed are, “Sometimes our selfishness causes fights,” and, “Healthy families are truthful.” Obviously I’m not opposed to them learning these good moral values and others, but the approach of the experiences in this book triggers my “behavior modification” flag. It feels like we’re starting with the behavior we want to address, finding scripture to support it, and using it with an activity to reinforce the rule.

I realize that whether or not this is communicated to the kids will depend a lot on how the parents present and lead their family through the experiences, but as a general rule of thumb, when I teach scripture to my kids I prefer not to use scripture as a rule book to support the rules and principles I put in place for them. I sense this could lead to a view of scripture that lends itself to being a restrictive “kill joy.” Instead, I’d rather teach my kids the story of scripture — that our story starts with creation and culminates in a re-created earth in Revelation 21-22 — and that we live with our sights and hope set on that coming city, not on a list of dos and don’ts as outlined by daddy and backed up with scripture.

I don’t know. Maybe this is the perspective of a nieve and inexperienced father, too, which I know I certainly am. I’d love to hear in the comments below any input you guys may have for me in how I teach my children and create experiences that will shape their faith.

QUESTION: How do you create experiences to shape your kids’ faith?

About the author,

Tim is a dad who is imperfectly pursuing his wife and children while ultimately trying to pursue the Lord's vision for his family. He's written a few books and dabbles in online video, mostly to support his primary ministry at home.

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