Give the Gift of Odyssey Adventures!

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What’s on your children’s Christmas wish list? As excited as they might be about that new toy, as every parent knows, the thrill of the gift will eventually wear off. Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey have created the perfect gift for those who want to give their children or grandchildren a present that will provide year-round fun with eternal impact.

The Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) offers families 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) episodes in a safe online environment where children can explore and learn. Christmas really is the perfect time to tap into your children’s imagination while infusing faith and fun into their day . . . and every day of the year.

To celebrate the holidays this year, the OAC is offering free content for everyone, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts and Christmas stocking stuffer cards. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.

In keeping with AIO’s rich heritage of teaching children about biblical principles — such as the importance of giving — a portion of each OAC membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations. Here are a couple of examples of what has been accomplished through Odyssey Adventure Club members:

The Odyssey Adventure Club wants to reach beyond fleeting entertainment this Christmas, partnering with parents in helping their kids grow deep in faith and find their place in God’s story.

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Speaking of the holidays, you can prepare for Christmas with Thriving Family‘s 2015 Advent Activity Calendar — Tales of Christmas Past: 25 Inspiring true stories of the season. Assemble a beautifully designed Advent poster to help your kids focus on Christ this Christmas. Then read Scripture passages and stories that relate to individual flaps on the poster. You can also create easy-to-fold booklets for each story. Get more information about this year’s free Advent calendar at ThrivingFamily.com/Advent, or sign up to download it.

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit www.oaclub.org, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

10 Great Dishes for Kiddie Cooks

Kids in the Kitchen @ A Nest in the Rocks

My kids love to help out in the kitchen.  I started baking with them when they were very small, but it took a long time for me to feel comfortable having them “cook.”  I finally decided that it came down to the skills that they knew and the safety factor of the dish they were attempting. 

Cooking is great for kids for lots of reasons, but for beginner kiddie cooks, these dishes are perfect.  Your kids can make these dishes with only basic instruction, and since everything is cold, they can’t get burned.  If you handle the stove/oven parts, they’ll be able to (nearly) fully prepare a dish.

Here are a few dishes to get your kid started:

  • Lasagna:  This is a PERFECT dish for a young cook. I cook the meat the day before, so it is cold and easily crumbled.  I won’t promise a mess-free kitchen when your child is finished, but you WILL have a tasty dinner and a proud kid.
  • Green Bean Casserole:  Since you basically open cans and stir, this is great for kids.  Be careful of sharp edges on the cans – but other than that, this one is fool-proof.
  • Garlic Bread: If you soften the butter to near-liquid form and sprinkle in some garlic powder, then your child can stir and spread.  If you don’t have a pastry brush, a new, washed paintbrush works great!
  • Salad:  My Little Man loves to assemble our salads – and I do mean  assemble.  While he does use a veggie peeler on the occasional carrot or cuke, for the most part, I chop the veggies and leave them in piles on a big cutting board.  He stands on a chair nearby, and when I’m finished, he then arranges each salad on each person’s plate.  He gets a kick out of ‘making’ such an important part of our meal!
  • Goofy Cake:  This cake is completely scratch made and delicious – and it’s perfect for a young child to help mix up because it contains no eggs!  If your child is tempted by the chocolatey goodness and sticks in a finger, you don’t have to worry about salmonella.  There’s another kiddie plus to this cake, though – the acids and bases react to make a volcano in every cake!  Your kid will love to help you mix this one up.
  • Peanut Butter Apple Nachos:  The most dangerous part of this recipe is slicing the apples.  If you have a combo apple chopper/corer, your child may be able to do this alone.  If not, wash and slice the apples.  Your child can arrange them on a plate and add the toppings.  That’s really the best part, right?
  • Cinnamon Almond Granola:  Most kids love to stir and mix things up.  That’s what makes granola the perfect food for a kid to make.  Granola doesn’t have to be measured precisely, and the more you stir, the better!  This is our favorite kind.
  • Whole Wheat Pinch-Me Cake:  I remember making this with my mom when I was little, and now my kids love to make it, too!  The best part of the dish is pinching the dough off the rest, rolling it into a small ball, and then coating it with cinnamon and sugar.  It feels like the most important job in the world – and if you’ve ever eaten a good Pinch-Me Cake, you’ll know it is.
  • Circus-Inspired Snack Mix:  This recipe is fabulous for toddlers.  Nothing’s dangerous, needs to be cut, or needs to be precisely measured.  Just choose your ingredients, toss them together in a bowl, and pour into containers for snacking.
  • Whole Wheat Pumpkin Snickerdoodles:  Like the Pinch-Me Cake, these cookies need to be rolled into balls and dipped.  The dough does contain egg, so be sure to monitor those little hands.

There you have it.  My top ten Great Dishes for Kiddie Cooks.  What would you add?

10 Adventure Stories for Elementary Readers

Disclosure Pic   10 Adventure Stories for Elementary Readers @ A Nest in the Rocks   My kids love to read adventure stories, and I love how enthused they get about reading when they find a good one.  There are also great lessons to be learned from adventure stories – lessons about being brave in the face of danger, of trusting God when the path is unknown, and of embracing new things, among others.   There are the character-building lessons and literature ideas you learn from these books, too. So for the past month I’ve read lots and lots of kids’ books to find the perfect ones for our book club meetings and school plans.  these yet, they should be added to your TBR pile immediately. 1.  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein  This story features middle-school characters but is I’ve tested out many more books than I’ve chosen, too, because I’m a picky reader, and I have high expectations for what my kids read.  The following list includes my most favorite adventure stories for upper elementary readers, though, and if you haven’t read clean and fun.  The characters are involved in a Survivor-like contest in a high-tech new library and must figure out an escape from a series of well-formulated clues to win an enormous price.  2.  Capture the Flag by Kate Messner  This is the first book in a trilogy about a secret society of people descended from the world’s greatest artists and whose mission it is to protect their ancestors’ work from  those who seek to steal or destroy it.  The main characters are  three unlikely kids, all with different skills and talents, who work together to bring down some serious art thieves.  3.  The Secret Island by Enid Blyton  This is another first-in-a-series, this time about kids who are living in poor foster situations and decide to run away together to live on an island in the middle of a nearby lake.  They build shelters, cook for themselves, store food for the winter, and otherwise survive on their own for months.  It’s a great story of survival skills and working together. 4. The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein  This Grabenstein book also features older characters and touts great literature.  How real are the things we imagine?  Can our imaginations fuel real change to our world?  These themes are explored when the main character writes himself into many classic stories and barely escapes with his life over and over again.  5.  The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone  This first book, and the three that follow it, follow two kids through adventures through time, righting wrongs and learning about history.  Their time travels are centered around the Sixty-Eight Rooms, a real exhibit in a Chicago museum.  Find out how to turn this story into a real learning adventure here.  6.  George Washington’s Socks by Elvira Woodruff  I’ve always had a thing for time travel, as evidenced by several of these choices, but that’s because it’s a great vehicle for bringing the excitement of history alive.  Woodruff does that in this story by sending a group of friends back in time to the night that Washington crossed the Delaware.  In the melee, they are helped by Native Americans, run into Redcoats, are captured by Hessians, and rescued by Patriots.  How much more excitement could you handle in one night??   7.  Honus and Me by Dan Gutman  While time travel is my thing, sports are not – and yet I love this series.  The main character, a tween boy, has the ability to travel through time with old baseball cards, and in each book of the series he travels to a different time and place, meeting the old greats and trying to correct wrongs – all while learning about the history of baseball.  Of course, things never go as planned, and he’s captured by mobsters, lost without money, chased by angry managers, and much more.   Find out how to turn this story into a real-life learning adventure here.  8.  Edison’s Gold by Geoff Watson  This is one of my son’s favorite books.  When Thomas Edison’s a-bunch-of-greats-grandson learns of his ancestor’s secret discovery, he and his friends race to find and save it – before the competition destroys his family.  With explosions, chase scenes, and neat science tricks, it’s a super fun story – and you’ll learn something, too. Find out how to turn this story into a real-life adventure here.

 9.  Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach  This story, and the rest of the trilogy, explore the mysterious past of a real mountain range in Arizona.  With legends abounding, as well as a race to find a lost gold mine, you won’t be able to put this series down.

 10.  Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett  This story will make you think, as the author combines history, art, and philosophy – but she does so amidst the biggest art heist in history, and when some kids discover the trail to the thief, adventures fly.  Find out more about how to turn this book into a learning adventure here.    

 

Do your kids like adventure stories?  Which are their favorites?  

Book Club: “The Lemonade War” Boys vs. Girls

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This month we broke all the book club rules and declared war:  The Lemonade War (The Lemonade War Series)""“>The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, in which a brother and sister make a bet about who can earn the most money by holding lemonade stands during a five-day period.  We took up the challenge.

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The girls went first.  They met in the morning to plan the details of their stand, including choosing a charity to which they could donate their profits.  The girls chose St. Jude’s Research Hospital.  They made posters, detailed plans for added value, good customer service, and how to make change.  After that they ate a picnic lunch and packed up their gear.

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We set up their stand at the local Tractor Supply store, where the generous manager had given permission for us to work outside.  The girls stored their money in a toy cash register and traded jobs to experience all aspects of lemonade stand business.

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The boys met this week.  They followed the same routine as the girls, choosing Samaritan’s Purse/Nepal Earthquake Victims as their charity.  The boys determined to raise more money than the girls – and just like in the book, the girls refused to divulge how much money they had.

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The biggest difference between the two stands was the way that they handled themselves onsite.  The girls were fairly reserved, while the boys were outgoing. 

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They even made posterboards and danced down the sidewalk with them. 

In the end, the groups made more than $160 total for their charities – and I think they’ve learned a little bit about business and marketing, too.

Has your child ever run a lemonade stand?

For more business ideas, check out these great resources:

 

Fisher Bear Birthday Cake

 My Little Man turned eight a few weeks ago.  I’m still in shock over the whole thing, I think.  Where did my baby go?

He’s not the slightest bit interested in anything sentimental about birthdays, though – he’s too excited about the birthday fun!  Part of that is choosing a birthday cake.

Now, I *tried* as a young 4-Her to learn something about cake decorating, but one season of washing icing-covered beaters cured me of that dream quickly.  I wish now that I had stuck with it, but ….so it goes.  The kids don’t seem to my mind my lack of skill and just have fun laughing at the zany cakes we come up with.

After several years of choosing simple, easy cakes, this year My Little Man asked for a gummy bear fishing off of a dock in a lake.  He wanted a basket of fish, too.

Seriously?

The best part of these wacky cakes is breaking out the candy and trying to fit things together.

Fisher Bear Birthday Cake @ A Nest in the Rocks

We started with a simple sheet cake and covered it in blue and green icing.  (My mom’s the expert birthday icing maker.  I always mess it up somehow.)  I bought generic icing/glue-in-a-can to hold pretzel logs together and carefully stacked a ‘dock.’  I found large cinnamon gummy bears at Target, and after tying some thread around a toothpick, I stabbed it in the general vicinity of his hand.  The bottom of an ice cream cone became an out-of-proportionate fish basket, and Swedish fish were tossed in the basket and carefully poked out of the lake.

After all of that candy slicing and dicing, the cake still looked mournfully bare, so we went back to work.  Some fruit leather became simple tent with gummies sleeping inside.  Chocolate-covered raisins made a campfire ring, with more fruit leather for flames.  Another cone covered in icing and rolled in green sanding sugar became a pine tree.

In no way is this any sort of expert cake – in fact, it’s so far from that that it’s laughable.  What it is, though, is memorable – and fun.  Our kids love dreaming up these crazy birthday cakes, and they get a kick out of seeing their plans turned into sugar and bright colors.  I’m definitely no food artist, and by cake decorating time the birthday celebration has me lacking a LOT of sleep, but somehow that makes this creative process even more fun.  I’m not good at it, but the kids think I am; they dream and I build and every year we reminisce of cakes gone by.

Remember the crab cake?  His legs were so good!

Remember how Papa ran to the store just before it closed because the castle cake fell apart and we had to start all over – at midnight?  Remember how hard we prayed that it would stay together until the party  – and even though one tower slid, you never noticed?

Remember the gummies zip-lining across your cake the year that you first went to camp?

Any cake artist – probably anybody – could make a more professional and nicer looking cake.  It’s definitely not my forte; but no fancy cake could give us the memories and the laughter and the fun that we’re storing away by stretching ourselves and doing it together.

So your kid wants a ____ cake?  Break out the Gummies, the food coloring, the toothpicks and the candy stash.  You’ve got this.

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What are your family’s special birthday traditions?

Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “Callie’s Contest of Courage”

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You know a kid likes something when he asks for more of it.

That’s how this month’s book club came about.  My Little Man watched the girls have fun with Callie’s Contest of Courage (2)""“>Callie’s Contest of Courage works well for boys.  Callie may be a girl, but with a brother, boy cousins, and a good male friend in the picture, there are lots of male influences.  With a dad serving in the military and a love of animals and adventure, Callie is a great character for any child to read.

Since My Little Man was so determined to do the same activities as the girls, we did – but with some important boy-friendly modifications.  You can read about the girls’ event here and see which set might work best for you!

After summarizing and discussing the book, we talked about some basic photography techniques, like the Rule of Thirds and Perspective.

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Then we set out to take some photos.  The boys brought digital cameras along, and they were eager to find and capture their assignment:  signs of spring.  Since it was a warm and beautiful, sunny day, I thought they’d find many things to take pictures of, and they sure did! 

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Isn’t this cardinal feather beautiful?

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

They were especially fascinated by these frogs in the pond.  There were at least three frogs, and maybe a snake.  Whatever else it was, something had the frogs all worked up, and there was a lot of writhing and thrashing in the water.  We stopped, watched, and took pictures for a long time!

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Next we returned home for our pie-eating contest!  The boys were all wound up about this and couldn’t wait to dig in.  Although the girls chowed down in the kitchen, we decided to move this potential mess outside -and I was glad that I did!

Book Club, Boys' Edition:  "Callie's Contest of Courage" @ A Nest in the Rocks

I think My Little Man enjoyed wearing his pie more than eating it.

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I think Check out these resources to get in the Callie mood!

 

Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “The 100 Year-Old Secret” by Tracy Barrett

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This month our boys’ book club read the same one as the girls:  The 100 Year-Old Secret” by Tracy Barrett.  That doesn’t mean that this club meeting was a duplicate of the other, though.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "The 100 Year-Old Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

 

In fact, this is about as close as we’ve ever come to doing the same thing, and yet the way that we did it was quite different.

We started out by discussing the book – by summarizing it and comparing the characters’ actions to how we thought we might handle the situation.

Then I sent the boys outside to find things in nature with texture – that were dead.

They totally loved that assignment.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "The 100 Year-Old Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

The boys couldn’t focus on their texture assignment until they darted off some energy, and they did that speedily – all over my yard.  They ran everywhere.  I’m sure that nobody would ever have guessed that it had rained for several days prior!

Eventually they got back to it, and then they found all sorts of things – dried grasses, sweet gum balls, dead leaves, stems, sticks, etc., and happily carried them into my house.

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There I added to their collections with dried pasta and string.  We gave them plates of glue and wide picture frames and told them to create textured, sculpted, artistic frames like the one that the famous painting was hung in in Barrett’s story.  They got really into it.

As they finished, I took their frames outside and spray-painted them metallic gold.  The boys loved that paint – and the fact that it turned my grass gold, too.

Then we talked about facial proportion – about how the tops of your eyes line up with the tops of your ears, etc., and I sent them off to make portraits of each other.  The boys did surprisingly well – they got really into it and did some great work.  I was very impressed!  They drew with pencils and shaded and sketched for quite a while.

When they were finished, they snacked on ‘biscuits,’ English-style, before dashing back outside.

The boys moved at the speed of light, but they had some great thoughts about this story, and I couldn’t believe how detailed and careful their artwork was.  They really took their time and put some effort into it.  Maybe one of their portraits will be in a fancy frame someday!

What are your kids reading now?

Xena and Xander Holmes have just discovered they’re related to Sherlock Holmes and have inherited his unsolved casebook! The siblings set out to solve the cases their famous ancestor couldn’t, starting with the mystery of a prized painting that vanished more than a hundred years ago. Can two smart twenty-first-century kids succeed where Sherlock Holmes could not?

Modern technology meets the classic detective story in this terrific new mystery series that will intrigue young sleuths everywhere!

 

10 Ways to Learn {Without a Textbook}

10 Ways to Learn {Without a Textbook} @ A Nest in the Rocks

When I was a kid we had a textbook for everything.  Grammar, reading, math, science, etc., even in first grade.

But when I taught in our local schools, we had only a math book and a curriculum.  I was on my own to teach everything else – and that’s when I realized just how many fun ways there are to learn the simplest information.

My absolute favorites, though, are when you leave the classroom – or the dining room table – behind and go out into the ‘real world’ to get your hands into the subject matter.  Fortunately, there are many places that are welcoming to homeschoolers – and to children in general – and will go above and beyond to share with them.

**While I do love all of these options, we enrich as many of them as possible with books.  Not textbooks, but storybooks.  Non-fiction books.  Also documentaries, Youtube videos, websites, and the like, mostly because these amazing community members get the kids so fired up that they can’t wait to find out more.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Classes offered by special-interest clubs, extension services, and community organizations.  My Big Helper is taking a beekeeping class right now, and it’s intense!  She’s learning a great deal about honeybees and their care, as well as  the environment.  With a college lecture-style format, she’s been busy taking and reviewing her notes, researching related topics online, and preparing to receive her bees.  It’s been a fantastic opportunity – and not one that could be simulated with a textbook.
  2. Library programs.  Libraries often offer really neat classes, and they bring in cool experts.  Check out what your library has to offer, and don’t be afraid to make suggestions.
  3. Restaurant owners.  Many restaurant owners, especially those of smaller, local businesses, are happy to share their expertise with you.  It may mean coming in at an odd hour to suit their schedule, but the wealth of information they have to share is well worth it.
  4. Small business owners.  These people have a vested interest in the community and in your children.  They want them to succeed and do well, and they want you to have a good opinion of their product.  Most are happy for the chance to tell you exactly what makes their product or services so special, and in the process, your child can learn about research, development, marketing, and the work ethic behind running your own business.
  5. Museums.  Many museums run special programs just for kids, and these often allow them to get their hands dirty, so to speak.
  6. Historical sites.  This is one of my favorites.  Historians love their craft and usually love to share it.  They’ve got all the awesome info about how people used to live – all the nitty-gritty details that make history so exciting – and aren’t usually found in textbooks.  They can give you the skinny on what mealtime might’ve smelled like when nobody had showered for 10 months and deodorant wasn’t invented yet.  They can teach you to make brooms and candles and milk a cow.  Fun stuff!
  7. Sporting arenas.  You might think that a baseball game is just that, but sports are big business, and it takes a lot of people – and a lot of work – to pull off these big events.  Touring these spaces and speaking with representatives can teach you about the business behind what you might see on TV – and sometimes they have curriculum information to share, as well.
  8. Authors, artists, and other experts.  These people are professionals, and they know about a specific thing that many others don’t.  Having them share is invaluable and inspiring.
  9. Parks.  Local, state, and national parks offer some really great programs.  There is one near us that has orienteering classes each summer, as well as survival, wildlife identification, canoeing, and crafting classes each summer, and for a very nominal fee.  Check around and see what might be offered in your own area. *I also read this morning that President Obama is giving all fourth-graders a free pass to all of our national parks for the next school year!  Be sure to check that out in the coming months – it’s not quite live yet.
  10. What would you add?

For more ideas, check out the Creative Learning tab above.

Bible Journaling with Kids: Going Deeper

 Bible Journaling with Kids: Going Deeper @ A Nest in the Rocks Going Deeper

Last week we talked about Getting Started with Bible Journaling with Kids.  If this is something you’re considering, you may want to go back and read that post.

But looking forward, after you have some supplies in place, what do you do?

I think this can go one of two ways.

First, you could let your child go it alone.  Let him/her see you reading and studying your Bible and branching out artistically from that time, but don’t do anything else.  Let your example lead.

That has worked for us in multiple things, including creating a desire to read the Bible originally.  Both of my kids wanted their own Bibles to read at young ages because they saw me reading mine.

If you have especially young children, this free rein approach could be great for encouraging art exploration and Bible expression.

If your child is old enough to learn how to study the Bible independently, however, a specific, joint journaling time could have the added benefit of teaching ways to study scripture. 

There are great curriculums out there for this, as well as neat methods like SOAP and such; but here are some simple ideas that you can do with ordinary stuff to dig into scripture deeper – and enhance that Bible journaling experience:

  • Journal a story or series.  Not sure what to study?  Use stories of Bible heroes or major Biblical events, like the creation story or the story of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt.  Plan to journal only a few verses at a time, and use some of the following ideas to take your journaling experience deeper.
  • Use a dictionary.  Look up the definitions of words that seem important or that are standing out to you.  Be sure to ask your child which word(s) that is for him/her.  Discuss these words together.  Put the definition of the word into the verse for clarification.
  • Map it.  Most Bibles have historical maps in the back.  Trace traveling routes on the maps.  Figure out the distances traveled, length of time on the road, and maybe even research climate conditions.  Would this have been a winter journal or a summer one?  Hot or cold?  Was it a safe one?
  • Read the footnotes.  Study Bibles have all sorts of information at the bottom of the page.  Read the notes out loud to your kids.  Talk about what that additional information means.  Often it can help put the scripture into the appropriate cultural and historical context.
  • Use the concordance.  If your Bible has additional verses listed, look’em up.  I recently had a great conversation with a group of kids about the ‘underwear of truth’ while we were learning about the ‘belt of truth’ discussed in Ephesians 6.  You never know where it will lead you!
  • Use all your senses.  Think about what it must have felt, looked, tasted, smelled, or sounded like.  Remember that this was before running water, flush toilets, deodorant, or vaccinations!  It might seem silly, but I’m betting that life had an earthier quality to it than most of us Americans can imagine, and thinking in those terms might help us see the scene more vividly.
  • Ask questions.  Many Bible stories have elements that seem outlandish to me.  Why was a plague of frogs thought to be so bad?  Was Eve surprised when the serpent started talking?  What would I have said if some angel popped out of nowhere and told me I was going to have a miracle baby?  What would I have done if….?  Encourage your child to ask questions,  because their natural curiosity is in there churning them up.  Then take them a step further:  what can I do about it NOW?  How can I help people shocked by disease?  What can I do for that new mother at church?  The Bible isn’t a dusty book whose only inspirational actions are past; it’s now.  Allow those questions to spark discussions and journal pages about how to react to scripture and real life situations now – and then go and do.

Bible journaling is a fun and creative practice, but in the end it’s not about the art – it’s about the Bible and the One who inspired it. 

What are your favorite ways to interact with scripture with your kids?

Do Ministry Leaders’ Kids Get Special Privileges?

Do Ministry Leaders' Kids Get Special Privileges? @ A Nest in the Rocks

I co-lead a children’s program at church with a friend.  We plan and lead events for the elementary children of the church, including opportunities for the kids to serve the community, invite people in, and do mission projects.  Recently that friend received a complaint because another adult in the church saw one of our younger children accompanying us during a regular program night.  She was upset because her too-young child couldn’t come to the event and was angry because another was there.

Basically, she was saying that the kids of the ministry’s leaders – our kids – were getting special privileges.

Is she right?

I can’t speak for my friend, but do my kids get special privileges at church because I help lead their youth group?

YES.  THEY DO.

What are those privileges?

I can’t speak for other ministry leaders’ kids, and I can’t imagine what PK’s lives must be, but here are some ‘advantages’ my kids get because I volunteer at church:

  • They get to come to most events several hours early.  No, there’s nobody at church to play with, and they’re not at home with their toys, and it’s often too cold to be outside, so they pack books or puzzles and hang out, when they don’t have to…
  • Help me move furniture.  Somebody has to get equipment and materials set up, so that’s us.  If I did it by myself, we’d have to come even earlier, so they help.  They’ve become expert table- and chair-movers.  They know where everything goes, including traffic ones.
  • They place and put away traffic cones.  Because the parking lot is between the playground and the church, block off part of it with traffic cones for the kids’ safety, and that job usually falls to my kids.
  • They eat a packed dinner at church, alone, before the event starts.  There’s no time to eat as a family when we have to be at the church to set up before the DH even gets off from work, so the kids get a packed dinner and they eat in the kitchen while I get materials ready.  Usually this involves frozen burritos that I make in big batches ahead of time or sandwiches and fruit.  There’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s a healthy meal, but I feel guilty leaving them to eat alone before each event.
  • They get assigned special jobs at most events.  Church leaders always need greeters and door holders, and since my kids are always the first ones there, they usually get one of those jobs handed to them.
  • They (sometimes) know in advance what’s happening – and so the surprise is gone.  Sure, they get ‘inside info,’ but they also don’t get the big surprise reveal that the other kids get.
  • Clean up afterwards.  It’s not enough to set up, but we have to put everything away, too.  That might include washing tables and chairs, moving furniture back, or running the sweeper.  They help with whatever needs to be done.
  • They get to go home last.  Of course, we can’t leave until everyone has come to pick up their kids, and for other moms and dads that’s a fun and social time.  After that, then, we  (see above) go to clean up the room, so we often head home about an hour after the event ended.  Combine that with coming 1-2 hours early and an event lasting 1-2 hours, and you’re looking at 3-5 hours of being away.  No, it’s not horrible, but it means later bedtimes, sleepy kids, and a schedule that must take all of this into account.

Are there real advantages to being the kid of a ministry leader?  I hope so.  I think that means that our kids know that we’re trying to be obedient to Jesus.  That we’re willing to work hard to serve others.  That sometimes we do those hard things even when we’re tired or other people aren’t nice.  That people are important because Jesus loves them and wants us to love them, too.

In the end, it’s not always easy being the kid of a ministry leader.  Please remember that they’re only kids, and in the case of my friend, he was a kid who was trying hard to behave during an activity that was geared for older kids.  It wasn’t easy for him, and it’s often hard work.

Those are the privileges my kids get.  Would you be jealous?