Category Archives: pregnancy & babies (0-12 months)

Don’t Leave Jesus Hanging on the Cross

Don't Leave Jesus Hanging on the Cross: An Important Tip for Teaching Children

As we observe the season of Lent, I’ve been thinking about how careful we need to be to not “leave Jesus hanging on the cross” as we talk about His death and resurrection with the young children in our lives.

I’ve hesitated writing this post because the last thing I want to do is make someone feel self-conscious or sad about doing this in the past. Let me be the first to say that I don’t always do this perfectly! And, if you are someone who has never thought about this issue before, please don’t stress about it. Here’s just something to think about going forward: Don’t leave Jesus on the cross!

Here’s what I mean:

In the Church, especially around Easter, we have a tendency to focus on our sin and on the sadness and sorrow of Good Friday and the crucifixion.  Rightly, we want people to understand their sin and need for a Savior.

For example:

  • Talking about our sins and all the things we’ve done wrong and how Jesus died on the cross to redeem our sins.
  • Writing our sins down on a piece of paper and hammering them into a wooden cross.

But, we have to be careful with children to not “stay” in that zone, for two reasons:

  1. Children don’t have the same time concept as adults. My 3 -year-old still can’t quite remember the difference between yesterday and tomorrow. She can’t always recall a conversation I had with her earlier today. While this will obviously get better, even elementary school children don’t have a superb sense of time, in the same way teenagers and adults do.
  2. Until around age 12, children are not abstract thinkers. They need things concretely explained to them. When we do an activity like “nailing our sins to the cross” (by writing a sin on a piece of paper), they can’t retain that activity over the course of two days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. They’re not processing that symbolism the same way adults do.

So, here’s a general rule when working with children, I would say all the way up through age 12 or so:

Don’t leave Jesus on the cross. If you talk about the crucifixion, talk about the resurrection in the next breath. If you lead an activity about sin and death, wrap it up with a component describing His victory from the grave.

In our family, I try to make sure we always say something like, “Jesus died on the cross and rose again on Easter,” rather than simply talking about Jesus dying on the cross and leaving it at that.

After all, what’s the value of His death on the cross if we don’t remember He rose again on Easter morning?

I want the victory of Easter to be ingrained in the minds and hearts of the children I teach.

Here’s a wonderful post about Making the Most of Easter with Young Kids that explains more about not leaving Jesus on the cross.

What about Crucifixes?

I want to be sensitive to any Catholic Christian readers of Faith Passed Down. I understand there are reasons for crucifixes depicting Jesus on the cross, and I’m not trying to demean that practice.

Just make sure that as you view a cross with Jesus hanging on it with your young children, you point out that He’s not on the cross anymore – we can remember our sins and also remember that He rose victorious from the grave!

Christian Valentine Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Christian Valentine Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers

We’ve been having fun preparing for Valentine’s Day at our house, and I wanted to share some of the simple activities we’ve been doing plus some ideas I have for the next few days. I have a 3.5 year old and 1 year old – both girls.

I haven’t had to get special supplies or do much prep work for these activities, so I hope you might still be able to use some of these if you have toddlers or preschoolers, even though Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching!

The Purpose: “We love because He first loved us.”

I personally love Valentine’s Day – in fact, I shocked my husband recently by sharing that it might even be my favorite holiday. As much as I love Easter and Christmas, I’m always filled with so much angst over the way our culture celebrates (bunnies and candy and over-the-top gift giving) versus the focus of these holidays as Christians (Christ and His birth, death, and victory through resurrection!)

I don’t feel that same angst over Valentine’s Day – after all, I think we all agree that loving one another is a good thing to do, whether our spouse, family members, or friends!

With that said, I think as Christians, we can particularly make sure our focus at Valentine’s Day is on God’s love for us as the REASON that we love one another. As believers, we don’t just love because it’s nice or makes us happy or wins us friends.

We love because Jesus already loved us (see 1 John 4). This is what sets us apart from the rest of the world!

So, as I’m talking with my kids about love and Valentine’s Day this week, I’m trying to focus WAY more on the love of God than on teaching my kids to love others.

Sometimes I see Valentine’s Day turned into a moral lesson about how children should act, with lots of discussion of their kindness and service to others.

While it’s fine to use this time to teach how to love one another, we want to be sure that the emphasis is that God loved us first.That’s it. He did it. Therefore, we can now love one another. But that’s only after we remember His love for us first.

love Bible verses

Bible Verses to Use

Here are a few Bible verses we’ve been reading and discussing in our home (see the games section below for some ideas for how to do this). Though I typically like the NIrV version when working with children, so many of these verses are familiar to me in the NIV translation that I’ve been using that one.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 3:1 – “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

1 John 3:16a – “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”

1 John 4:7 – “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:8 – “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:9 – “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.”

1 John 4:10 – “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

1 John 4:11 – “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ”

1 John 4:12 – “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”

1 John 4:16 – “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

1 John 4:19 – “We love because He first loved us.”

Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”


We’ve been singing…

“Skidamarinka dink” – which is not at all “Christ-centered” but a nice way to remind my kids I love them. Here’s a cute little video if you’re not familiar with the song.

“Be Ye Kind to One Another” (the words of Ephesians 4:32)

Be ye kind to one another

Tenderhearted, forgiving one another

Even as God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven you

Do-do-dootle-ee-do, Ephesians Four: Thirty-Two

This is a song I learned from a college professor, but I can’t find the exact tune. Here’s a very similar one on YouTube.

“Jesus Loves Me”

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so

Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me,

Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

“How He Loves Us” by David Crowder Band <– click that link to listen

He loves us, Oh, how He loves us…

Valentine Cards

I like to have our kids send Valentines to our friends and loved ones, as an expression of “love one another.”  We made these hearts using this “shake up hearts” idea that I found on Pinterest.

splatter paper hearts

This was a fun activity using just some basic ingredients – paint, paper, and a plastic jar (thankfully I remembered we were running out of peanut butter so I used that one.) You can check out the directions at the link above.

The only warning I’ll give is that we used too much paint and it got pretty clumpy, especially after a few papers. So, if you’re planning to assembly-line 100 cards or something like that, you will want to wash out the paint periodically.

Bible verse homemade Valentine's Day card

After my daughters made the papers, I let the papers dry and later cut them into hearts. Then I wrote some messages and Bible verses on each one.

We’ll distribute some at a Valentine’s party we’re going to on Saturday, plus include some in our (much-delayed) Christmas thank you cards that I’m determined to send this week! 🙂

Valentine Crafts for Kids



These Silly Heart Puppets (also a Pinterest find) were a big hit, and required just a few simple supplies – paint, popsicle sticks, plus a thin cardboard box out of our pantry.

We decorated two into actual puppets, using googly eyes and pom-poms, but we also liked just the plain painted hearts.

Bible verse heart puppet

You could write some of the Bible verses above on these hearts! (In all honesty, we didn’t really do this, because by the time I had that idea, my daughter had already distributed them as gifts to all her princess dolls – I just made this one as an example).

handprint heart

We made handprint hearts and feet.


We made a Valentine’s Day sign using ripped paper. My daughter cut/ripped some pink paper, then together we glued it into a heart. (I actually intended for us to cut out paper hearts before realizing her cutting skills aren’t nearly that developed! So ripping the paper into pieces worked much better.)

Valentine’s Day Games

After making some crafts, I could tell we were all getting stir-crazy, so I came up with two very simple, no-prep-needed games.

love Bible verses

First, I cut out some hearts and quickly wrote a few Bible verses on them. (You’ll see from the photos I actually abbreviated some of the verses into 3-year-old language.) Alternatively, here are some printable hearts with verses that you could use.

Bible verse Valentine's Day Games for Preschoolers

Bible Verse Hide-and-Seek

Then, I sent my daughter into her room while I hid the hearts around the living room, taped onto the wall in various places. As she found each one, she brought it back to me and we read it together before she set out to find another.

Bible Verse Relay Race

For a more active version, I hung them all up on the door in our bedroom using tape (the only uncluttered part of the house at this point, so she wouldn’t trip). We had a starting line in the living room, and she ran to the door, picked up one heart, then brought it back to me, then ran to get another until she had collected all five. (We didn’t bother reading them aloud, though you could.) My one year old even enjoyed getting in on this one!

Activities and Other Ideas 

family date dinner

Family Date Dinner

For the first time this year, we’re going to have a “family date dinner” with our kids on Valentine’s Day. I was inspired by an idea I saw on my favorite Sorta Awesome Hangout facebook group.

We plan to prepare a festive dinner, decorate our table with some paper hearts and little decorations, and light some candles. We’ll all get dressed up and turn on some fancy music to listen to. I hope we’ll read and talk about some of our “love” Bible verses and have some special family time together.

(For what it’s worth, I’m not trying to neglect my husband on Valentine’s Day! He and I have an at-home date night every Tuesday so we are having some special dates this week and next week to celebrate).

Valentine’s Tea Party

For several years – even when our kids were just babies! – my sister and I have had a Valentine’s tea party with heart-shaped treats and activities. Whether you do this with cousins, friends, a Sunday school class, or just within your immediate family, it’s a fun way to celebrate with loved ones.

I’ve always loved reading about Jess McClenahan’s darling parties, which I think was the inspiration for our first party… you can read about them here: one  two  three  four

Serve Outside Your Family

Something we may do this year is put together some Valentine’s Day goody baskets for someone who could use some encouragement – maybe a “thanks” gift for people who help us, like our apartment complex managers; or sending a package to a friend across the country; or dropping one off at the local hospital or a nursing home.

If we do, we’ll probably just fill a basket with some items from Target, like some sweets and stickers, and then include a couple of our homemade craft items from this week.

Do you have any other ideas for ways to serve at Valentine’s Day? I’d love to do more of this.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Leave a comment below.

Read-Pray-Connect: An Introduction

Does your life ever feel overwhelming? Do I even need to ask? I’m guessing the answer is yes!

Sometimes, it seems my life is an ever-growing list of expectations and things I should be doing – be a “good” Christian with a growing faith, participate in a fulfilling marriage, teach my children to be functional human beings, be a good friend, take care of my own physical and emotional health, serve other people, keep our house from descending into a pit of laundry and dishes… it’s never-ending.

And when it comes to passing faith down to my children, it seems no different… I’m supposed to help them memorize Scripture, go to church, do family devotions, volunteer at church, play worship music, take them to Sunday school, do service projects…

I just don’t know how to do it all! And I’m not sure that we should be doing it all.

I want to get back to the basics of faith-building, and I want to invite you to join me! Rather than having a list of expectations that can never possibly be fulfilled, I want to choose just a few simple things to do consistently to focus on Christ in our home.

Today I’m beginning a monthly challenge to simplify our daily faith-building to just three things:

  1. Read the Bible.
  2. Pray for each other.
  3. Connect together.

Read Pray Connect - a monthly challenge

How It Works:

You commit to trying to read the Bible, pray, and connect with the young people in your life each day. That’s it.

No other expectations, except as they fit into that framework. (Read below to see how church fits in, since I do believe participating in church is important!)

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with all those other faith-building things… it’s just that I’d rather do a few things well, rather than try to do 10 things, and not do any of them because it’s too overwhelming.

Each month I’ll share a post about Read-Pray-Connect… in the future, I’ll post before the 1st of the month (not nine days into the month, like today!) See? Life is overwhelming!

You’ll be able to download a calendar for the month with spots to check off Read-Pray-Connect each day. There will also be a reminder image that you can use as a phone lock screen, or print out and tuck in your planner, refrigerator, or car dashboard.


What do these three terms mean?

Read = Read the Bible aloud with your children/teenagers.

You can choose a children’s Bible story book or the “real” Bible.  You can read one verse or an entire chapter… whatever works for you! You can even listen to an audio Bible together.

The only stipulations…

  • do the Bible reading with your children (not just a personal devotion time for you).
  • read aloud. There is value, even for adults and teenagers, in reading aloud together. If you really, really, really can’t do it aloud, you could read your own Bible silently side-by-side your older children/teenagers.

Pray = Pray for each other, together, aloud.

You can say the whole prayer, or your young people can pray too. (If you are saying the whole prayer, go ahead and pray for your own needs for yourself).

The length or time of day doesn’t matter. This can be a short two-sentence prayer before dinner, or a lengthy prayer time at the beginning of the day.

You can ask your children for requests, pray a general blessing over them, or use a prayer guide for a new topic each day. Here’s a free printable How to Pray for Your Children calendar from Inspired to Action, if you want some ideas.

Alternatively, The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian has daily prayers on 31 different topics, and the prayers are already all typed and ready to go, so you don’t even really have to think about it… just read the prayers. (There are even fill-in-the-blank spots for your child’s name.)

It may feel awkward praying aloud… it certainly feels that way to me sometimes. I encourage you to just go for it!

I find that praying before meals or at bedtime seems more natural/easier for me than just saying, “Okay, we’re going to pray now!!” I can take the mealtime prayer, thank God for our food, then pray for a few moments for each member of my family, and it doesn’t seem so weird. So you might try one of those time slots first.

november on refrigerator

Connect = Connect together with your children in a meaningful way.

Sometimes I get to the end of the day and realize that while I spent much of my day with my children, we didn’t really connect much. The day can fill up with activities, running errands, doing chores, or watching TV, and there’s not much connection time.

I want to spend at least a few minutes every day “connecting” with my kids in some meaningful way… but I know it doesn’t need to be complicated, doesn’t necessarily require any advanced planning, and doesn’t have to cost money or take up much time.

Here are some ideas for ways to connect:

  • Read a book together.
  • Play a board game.
  • Sit down together and have an after-school snack.
  • Print out a “grown-up coloring page” and color alongside your child.
  • Bake brownies together.
  • Go on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner.
  • Linger for awhile longer than usual at bedtime, talking, scratching backs, or reading stories.
  • Enjoy a family movie night together (though I do encourage you not just to default to TV/movie time as your “connecting time” every day… it’s so tempting!)
  • Go to church together.
  • Play catch with a football or baseball.
  • Respond with “yes” when your child says, “Will you play with me?”
  • Get out art supplies and make a craft together.
  • Take your teenager out for a coffee shop drink or a smoothie.
  • Participate in a service project together.
  • Attend an event together, whether a church activity, library storytime, or an art show at school. Stick with your child and participate together.
  • Go play at the park together.
  • As you are doing jobs around the house, teach your child to do the chore with you.
  • Eat a leisurely dinner together as a family.
  • Tell your child, “I’d like to spend some time with you tonight. What would you like to do?”

If you have more than one child, your connection time may happen individually (like reading a book with one particular child) or it may happen as a family (like playing Frisbee in the backyard all together.) If you are married, your spouse can certainly join you, or not… anything works!

November lock screen on phone


What if my child refuses to participate in Read-Pray-Connect? 

If you’re feeling discouraged because your child refuses to read the Bible with you or doesn’t want to spend time together… I’m so sorry.

I want you to know that it’s normal for children and teenagers to feel contrary to whatever we want to do! Also, sometimes when we set out to do God’s purposes, and encounter resistance, there are spiritual forces at play, trying to prevent us from serving Him.

If you’re encountering trouble with your children participating, here are some ideas:

  • Keep going. Don’t be swayed just because one day he didn’t want to play with you, or because your baby screamed through your whole bedtime prayer yesterday. I encourage you to try to Read-Pray-Connect every day for a month. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the month, it’s much easier as you’ve established a habit.
  • Explain your motivation to your child. Share why you want to Read-Pray-Connect with them. Explain your heart.
  • If your older child is not interested in Jesus, emphasize the “connect” part first. You may just want to focus on “connecting” before trying to do the other two steps.
  • Pray for your child silently. If your child is resistant to being prayed for, just commit to praying each day on your own.

What if I don’t Read-Pray-Connect every day?

Of course, there are going to be unusual days where Read-Pray-Connect doesn’t happen… that’s totally normal. Don’t be discouraged! Just cross that day off the calendar and start fresh the next day.

I do want to encourage you to be creative, though!

  • On a business trip? “Connect” via FaceTime or send a greeting card in the mail (or by email).
  • Busy day of soccer practice and piano lessons? Pray together as you drive in the car.
  • House is a mess and you can’t find your kids’ Bible? Tell your own version of the story of David and Goliath instead.
  • Does your teenager have tons of homework to do? Make some hot cocoa for both of you and spread out on the dining room table together… while he does his homework, you can work on a project too. Pray for him silently as he works.

What if I’m an adult mentor, not a parent?

If you’re an adult mentor – perhaps a youth ministry volunteer, a grandparent, or a family friend – I encourage you to adapt Read-Pray-Connect for your own situation!

I suggest that you commit to Read-Pray-Connect only on days when you see your young person.

  • Are you a teacher at a Christian school? Commit to read the Bible, pray as a class, and connect personally with some of your students… but only on school days. Obviously, it would be too tricky to do this on the weekends.
  • Do you lead a weekly small group for high school girls? Commit to Read-Pray-Connect just on Wednesday nights when you get together. Perhaps it seems obvious that you would do these three things at your small group meeting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are times when small groups get together and don’t read the Bible or pray… so make a commitment to do it every time!
  • Are you a grandparent? Whenever you see your grandchildren, make an effort to Read-Pray-Connect with them. You could read the Bible together during an after-school snack, play a game together to connect, and then pray for them before they leave your home.

November RPC goals

This seems pretty basic… I already do these 3 things every day.

Great! Perhaps, then, this challenge just isn’t for you.

Or, perhaps, you’d like to grow in these particular areas.

For example, in our family, we do actually pray before practically every meal, and usually that includes at least a brief mention of each other’s needs. So, technically, I’m already doing “Pray” each day. But, I realized I’d like to either download that prayer calendar or get the Power of a Praying Parent book, and be more specific with my prayers beyond just, “Help Elle obey and help Ava sleep well today!” 🙂

Perhaps you already read the Bible together each day, but you’d like to read it more systematically (like a Bible in a Year plan), or you want to not just read it but discuss it afterwards.

Or, maybe you play lots with your kids (Connect), but you want to read aloud more together, too.

As you can see in the photo above, at the top of each Read-Pray-Connect calendar, there will always be a little section to record your goals for the month, so if you want to “increase” your goal, you can write it down there (if you print it out).

Didn’t you just spend the past month telling us we need to do global missions with our kids? How does that fit in? And what about all the other things… memorizing Scripture, going to church, family devotions, singing worship music, taking them to youth group or Sunday school, doing service projects… that I’m supposed to do with my kids?

I did! In fact, writing the Global Missions with Kids series is one of the things that inspired me to simplify part of my Faith Passed Down message. Because, yes, I think Global Missions with Kids is absolutely vital!

But, I don’t think it’s going to happen if we’re frazzled or have exceptionally high expectations of our family faith-building. Plus, the concepts of “Read-Pray-Connect” are pretty foundational before we can do any of the other stuff.

As far as Global Missions with Kids, I encourage you to see how that fits into Read-Pray-Connect. As you read a Bible story, talk about how it shows God’s love for the world. Or as you pray for your own family, pray for your sponsored children as well. As you consider a connect time for the weekend, keep in mind a project like packing an Operation Christmas Child box.

As for the other activities, first, see how they fit in to Read-Pray-Connect. For example, going to church can easily be a “connect” time as a family for that day. 

Then, consider whether those activities stress you out or not, and if they’re worth trying to continue.

For a long time, I had this vision of doing a weekly family worship night after dinner, with songs, Bible reading, prayers, and activities. However, it rarely happened. It just didn’t work with our schedule and it wasn’t very meaningful when we did do it.

Instead, I switched to just doing a morning Bible reading with my kids (Morning Time). We can do it anytime during the morning, rather than trying to squeeze it into a small, stressful window between dinner and bedtime.

If you have too high of expectations, they’re never going to happen, and you’ll just feel discouraged. If you’re having trouble getting all the faith-building time you hoped, I encourage you to step back and focus on Read-Pray-Connect for a month or two, then see how you can fit in some of those other activities.

Read-Pray-Connect Downloads

Nov RPC calendar

Click here to download the November Read Pray Connect calendar.

Click on the image below to download a lock screen for your phone or print and tuck into your planner, stick on your refrigerator, set on your car dashboard...

November lock screen

Will you join me to Read-Pray-Connect?

Leave a comment below if you want to participate.

Also, I would love to see photos of you participating in Read-Pray-Connect. Share a photo of you reading the Bible with your kids, praying, or connecting in a fun way and use #ReadPrayConnect. Next month I’ll share your photo in the December Read-Pray-Connect post!

Around the World from Your Living Room: Peru

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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Around the World from your living room - Peru

The other night after my husband came home from work, our family gathered around the table and ate a simple Peruvian dinner of chicken, rice, potatoes, and salad.

Together with our two little girls, we talked about the nation of Peru, learning some basics about their culture. We located Peru on a map (it’s in South America!) and listened to a song in Spanish. (We may have danced along with it!) Then we prayed for the people of Peru before heading to bed.

It was a sweet, meaningful, and simple time, and I’d love to empower your family to do the same.

Today I’m thrilled to share the first installment of a new resource called Around the World from Your Living Room.  It’s a simple series that I’ve put together providing resources for a meal, activity (like a craft or game), and prayer for different countries.

south america

Here’s how it works:

Your family (or small group, or Sunday school class, or whatever) gathers together for an hour or two to focus on a country.

  • You’ll prepare a simple meal together from that country, using easy-to-find, real food ingredients.
  • As you eat, you’ll learn about the country.
  • Then you’ll do a craft or play a game originating in that country.
  • Finally, you’ll gather together to spend a few moments praying for the people there.

Today I’ll be sharing a guide for Peru, and in the months to come, I’ll share about several more countries. I have traveled to Peru twice, so I was especially excited to share about Peru with my family and all of you!


Around the World from Your Living Room: Peru 

Learn about Peru:

Peru location

First, talk with your children about Peru. Look at some of these facts together. You can also view some photos of Peru from National Geographic… I particularly enjoyed the “Faces of Peru” slideshow.

Overview: Peru is a beautiful, mountainous country with a rich history, known as the seat of the Incan empire in the 1500s. Peru is famous for housing Macchu Pichu, an ancient palace for the Incas, located high in the mountains near Cusco. Most Peruvians face poverty, though for the past years they have had a good economy under good government.

Location: Peru is on the coast of South America, bordering Ecuador, Brazil, and Bolivia.

Population: 30 million people

Capital: Lima

Language: Spanish is the most common, but a small population speaks Quechua.

Major Religions:

  • 81% Roman Catholic Christians
  • 12% Evangelical Christians

Weather: Near the coast, Peru has mild weather, with warm summers and cool winters. In the mountains, it can be very cold, though there is rarely snow except on the very top of the Andes mountains. Peru is located south of the Equator, which means summertime happens in December/January/February and wintertime happens in June/July/August.

(Many of this information was found at the CIA World Factbook).

A Simple Meal: Chicken, Rice, Fries, and Salad

peruvian food

Peru is known for many delicious foods, but a typical every day meal includes chicken, rice, potatoes, and salad… plus perhaps some Inka Cola soda to wash it down.

Roasted chicken. You can make a roasted chicken yourself (a whole chicken or just parts like the legs and thighs). Here’s a recipe I like (but you can skip seasoning it two days ahead).

We purchased a whole chicken from El Pollo Loco (a fast food chain in our area), or a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store works, too.

French Fries  

Did you know potatoes originated in Peru? (Not Ireland!)

Here is a recipe for baked French fries.

I sliced two potatoes lengthwise into “French fry” shapes, tossed them in some olive oil, then put them in the oven on 400*.  But, I had to go pick up the chicken… so, I just turned off the oven a few minutes into cooking, and let the potatoes sit inside for 30+ minutes while we were gone. They turned out great!


Chop up some iceberg/romaine lettuce for a salad. Top with shredded carrots and tomatoes.

For dressing, you can make this cilantro avocado dressing… or if you go to El Pollo Loco, just ask for a side of their avocado dressing – it’s very similar!

Alternatively, look for a bottled avocado and/or cilantro dressing (Trader Joe’s carries a cilantro dressing in their refrigerated section.) Or just use ranch!


Make a batch of white rice using your normal method. We use a rice cooker.

If you are willing to spend a little more time on it, this simple recipe for Peruvian white rice with garlic and lemon juice sounds delicious.

Even if you usually eat brown rice (we do!), I highly recommend white rice so it’s a more “authentic” experience.

Optional: Inka Cola

Your local grocery store may carry Inka Cola, especially if you live in an area with a larger Latino population. I found some at Target.

Inka Cola is a staple of Peruvian culture. It is a caffeinated, BRIGHT yellow soda and tastes just like bubble gum.

We didn’t buy any for our dinner because my husband hates bubble gum flavoring and our girls are too little for soda yet. But, it will definitely give your meal a genuine Peruvian flavor!

Alternative: Check if you have a Peruvian restaurant in your town… many communities do!

Hands-on Activity: Nazca Line Pictures

nazca spider

The Nazca lines are a famous location in Peru featuring incredible, huge sand drawings of animals and shapes, somehow created by an ancient civilization. To learn more about the Nazca lines, click here.

The Nazca lines were likely made as an offering to ancient gods. You could talk with your children about how we worship the One True God. You could talk about creating your art project to worship God, our Creator.

nazcalines craft directions

Inspired by this site, we made sand pictures in honor of the Nazca Lines.

  1. Look at photos of the Nazca Lines. You can look at this page for examples (or just google “how to draw the Nazca lines” and view the images that appear.
  2. Have your child draw a picture with a pencil or marker. Younger children can draw any shape; older children may want to draw an animal that looks like the Nazca lines.
  3. Trace over the drawing with glue. (You may want to do this on behalf of younger children.)
  4. Sprinkle sand (of any color) over the glue, then shake it off into a trash can or a piece of paper.  Let dry.

Tip: We didn’t have any sand, so I actually used unsweetened Kool-aid mix instead. It worked at first, when it dried, it “melted” a bit. My preschooler wasn’t picky, but an older child may prefer the precision of colored sand.

peru coloring page

Alternative: you could just print out this cute llama coloring page and color it.

Pray for Peru:

praying for Peru

As a family, spend a few minutes praying for Peru. If you have a globe or world map, locate Peru and have each family member place a finger on (or near) the country. You can lead the prayer, or invite each family member to pray about a specific request.

Your prayer time does not need to be lengthy! Don’t feel intimidated by thinking you need to pray for 10-20 minutes or more. Just a couple minutes focused on these requests, or others that come to mind, is fine.

  • Economy: The economy in Peru has been improving, but 25% of Peruvians still live in poverty, surviving in shanty-towns without electricity, running water, or other basics. Pray for job opportunities and for hope for the people there.
  • Religion: Many Peruvians are Roman Catholic Christians, but not all are actively practicing in their faith. Pray that Jesus would be a real, daily presence in their lives.
  • Health: Malnutrition rates in Peru have been dropping, thanks to government campaigns to teach good hygiene and provide clean water. Pray that this continues!
  • History: The Quechua are a native tribal group (you might think of them as “Native Americans” or “American Indians.”) Missionaries have worked hard to translate the Bible into their language and to bring Christ to this group, and God is transforming the Quechua! Pray that He would continue to be known among them. (I found this request on Operation World).
  • Ministry: Pray for local Peruvians who are reaching out within their own country, offering physical and spiritual support. Pray for the ministry of Krochet Kids as they provide jobs making knit hats and help support a community among the women who work there.

For additional prayer requests, visit Operation World.

Additional Resources and Ideas:

  • The Goodfellow Family works with Krochet Kids in Peru. Their blog has many pictures about their life in Peru, both every day life and their travels around the country.
  • Listen to Spanish worship music. When I visited Peruvian churches on a mission trip, I loved these two songs: “Te Alabare Mi Buen Jesus” and “Tu Eres Todopoderoso.” If you know basic Spanish, you will probably understand part of the songs (Alabare = worship/praise & todopoderoso = all powerful). I highly recommend dancing along. 🙂

Tell me about your experiences!

Did you spend an evening focused on Peru?

I would love to see your photos or hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below or share your photos using the hashtag #AroundtheWorldfromYourLivingRoom.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

Bless Babies and Mamas Around the World

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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Babies and pregnant moms hold a special place in my heart. There is something so precious about new life coming into the world!

Today I want to share some ways you and your children can bless pregnant moms and/or babies around the world. Most children seem to naturally enjoy babies, and many of you who are parents may find this fits in well with this stage of life as you raise your own babies or experience your own pregnancies!

bless babies and mamas around the world

Donate to a Compassion Child Survival Program

These centers focus specifically on moms and young children, offering mentoring, check ups and assistance with birth, baby and toddler supplies (diapers, clothes, etc.), emotional support, clean water, healthy food, and spiritual guidance.  Child Survival Programs are located in places like Haiti, Bolivia, Indonesia, and Tanzania.

My family’s goal is to have a Compassion sponsorship on behalf of each member of our family. We have a girl who shares my husband’s birthday and a boy who shares my birthday. When firstborn was a baby, however, we decided to sponsor a child survival program on her behalf, since it benefits children her own age (0 to 3), prior to them being able to be sponsored individually. Though we don’t send any letters, we’ve appreciated the updates about the program! (It’s also a little cheaper than a regular child sponsorship!)

Pray for ladies at the Heartline Haiti Birth Center.

I’ve loved reading about this birth center where women’s practical needs are being met and lives are being saved as women and children receive great medical care in child birth.

I remember reading that many women in Haiti don’t believe in breastfeeding, because they see formula cans with chubby American babies on the front, and believe formula is best. However, not being able to afford formula, they’ll just crush up cookies and mix it with (likely unsanitary) water, which makes the baby sick, and causes them to lose weight. Heartline offers breastfeeding support and helps moms after birth.

Tara Livesay, who works at Heartline, posts photos of mamas to pray for at the birth center. Also, they keep an updated wish list of supplies that can be purchased and mailed to North Carolina so they can be delivered to Haiti… it would be fun to shop with your kids and pack a box together! Last week, Heartline was the recipient of an awesome “Love Flash Mob” – you can read the encouraging posts about what happened here and here! Amazing!

Support the work of your local pregnancy care center.

Contact a pregnancy care center in your area and see how you can help. They may be in need of diaper donations, translators, volunteers, baby-blanket-makers, or counselors. While your children may not be able to participate in all of these activities, find out if there’s a way you could work together to support a pregnancy care center.

Put together baby care kits to send overseas.

Lutheran World Relief offers instructions for sending a variety of kits overseas, including baby care kits. I’ve never put together these kits before, but it seems like with a little preparation, this would be a hands-on way to bless little babies (and moms!) overseas… great for putting together at a Sunday school class, scout group, homeschool group, or even a birthday party!

The kits include baby clothes, inexpensive cloth diapers, pins, and soap.

Alternatively, blogger Adriel Booker has info on birth kits you can send overseas. We tried to make these for Mother’s Day last year, but I flaked and never got the stuff for it! 🙁 Check out the instructions… I’d encourage you to email Adriel to make sure she is still accepting kits.

Check out the Love a Mama Initiative.

As I was looking at info for the birth kits above from Adriel Booker’s blog, I found this whole page of ways they have helped love moms, particularly around Mother’s Day. Such wonderful, practical ideas!

Honestly, I’m not sure whether she’s still doing any of these endeavors, but if one of them captures your heart, I’d contact her! I don’t know Adriel personally, but I know she works with YWAM, which is a highly respected missions organization, and I love her heart for helping moms!

Here are a few blog posts worth reading:

It is worth poking around her site! 🙂 A few projects that caught my eye include:

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**What other ideas do you have for blessing babies and moms around the world? Leave a comment below.

Discussing Poverty with Kids

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

Today’s topic is short,because honestly, I’m not an expert on talking about or helping poverty on my own, much less with kids.

Every time we see a homeless person, I’m torn over whether we should give him a dollar, buy him lunch, send him to the closest shelter, or ignore him completely. It’s even worse when I’m visiting another country and see even more begging and poverty!

So, I don’t feel like an authority on this topic by any stretch, but here’s what I’m going to do to learn more and try to tackle this issue… I encourage you to do the same!!

1. Check out this excellent post about 4 Ways to Help Kids Engage with Poverty Issues. Read the comments too, they are great! (Incidentally, it’s a guest post on another site written by Adriel Booker, the one whose blog I loved when we talked about babies and moms!)

2. Get the Step into My Shoes curriculum from Compassion International. They sent me a free copy of it to review here, and it is amazing!!!!!

I’m not quite done with it yet, so I’m going to do a whole post about it next month… I’ll be sure to link back here about it! – but I can confidently say: get it! It’s worth it.

I swooned over just the directions for a couple days because they are so well-written and they thought of everything, even adjustments for preschoolers and for teenagers (so appreciated!)

3. Read When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor – and Yourself. I’ve started this book a few times but have never finished it… it’s just so good, I feel like I ought to savor it!

This book is highly respected in the missions world, and I have a feeling it would give me the answer to my question about what to do when I see a homeless person.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**How do you address poverty with your children? Leave a comment below.

How to Befriend and Serve International Students

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

Wouldn’t it be great…

  • to build friendships with young people from all over the world, even people from countries where Jesus is totally unknown or even outlawed?
  • to befriend the world’s future leaders – the children of top business leaders, government officials, and even royalty – from around the world?
  • to do this right from the comfort of your own community, without ever spending a night away from your own bed, and without ever packing a single suitcase?
  • if your children and teenagers could easily join you, meeting young people from another country and developing a global mindset in the process?

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, all these things are possible through ministry to international students!

international students

What is an international student?

An international student is a young man or woman who leaves his own home country and comes to the United States (or another country) to study. Most are university students, seeking an undergraduate or graduate degree, but some may be high school students or even elementary school students.

Some international students come for just a single semester or year (similar to how we might participate in a “study abroad” program, while others remain to receive their full degree.

Are international students really that important?

According to several speakers from International Students, Inc…

  • Last school year (2014-2015), there were over 1.13 million international college students in the United States.
  • International students come from places like China, India, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand, Nepal, Iran, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Taiwan.
  • 60% of international students come from the 10/40 window – this is the area between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude that contains the majority of the world’s spiritually unreached people. In other words, most international students are coming from areas where most people do not follow Christ.
  • 40% of current world leaders were international students in America.
  • These are highly competent students whose families have the capacity to send them overseas. They will return home and be the “movers and shakers” in their homelands.

What can I do?

The key word for international student ministry is “friendship.” You are aiming to build a friendship with an international student… in fact, many people involved in ministry to international students call themselves “friendship partners.”

Some ways you could serve in international student ministry include…

  • inviting an international student to your home: for Thanksgiving dinner, for pizza on a Sunday afternoon, for a midweek meal… any of these options work!
  • serve as a conversation partner, speaking in English with an international student for an hour or so each week over coffee, dinner, or a walk around campus.
  • participate in international student friendship parties or special events. Many international student groups sponsor get-togethers, holiday parties, and field trips. You could join the group for one of these special events, or help with logistics like providing food or offering transportation for students.
  • picking up an international student from the airport when she first arrives here (you’ll need a minivan/SUV/truck to hold lots of luggage!)

How can my children and teenagers participate in international student ministry?

By nature, this ministry is a very easy way to include your own children or teenagers of any age.

They can join you in befriending an international student, welcoming the student into your home for a meal or meeting students at a friendship get-together on campus. Your kids can show love to the international student the same way they’d show love to anyone: drawing pictures, playing games together, and praying for the student.

I just recently heard about a group of women that gets together once a week at the state university in our city. They are the wives of international students who have come to California to receive a graduate degree – so many of these students are a bit older than a typical student, and have wives and families. Each week, they connect with friendship partners for fun, fellowship, and sometimes, a field trip.

I’m hoping to participate, since it would be a simple way to get to know some young women from other countries. As their own children run around, I know my kids will be welcome too!

Keep in mind…

  • The only exception to including your children would be formal English language lessons. While your children would obviously be welcome to practice English with an international student at home or a fun event, if you are getting together for a formal time to practice English as a conversation partner, I would leave your kids behind so they are not distracting.
  • Beforehand, talk to your children about any fears or concerns they may have. Discuss that you may encounter new smells or new tastes. Your child may not be able to understand every single thing the person says – remind your child to speak slowly and clearly, as possible. Talk about some ways to meet new friends, like saying “hello,” shaking hands, and offering to play a game.
  • I would imagine that most international students would be thrilled to meet your children!! In many countries around the world, children are highly valued. A student who is caught up in the stresses of studying and acclimating to a new culture will likely welcome the relief of a sweet child who wants to play a game, build with Legos, or color a picture. So, don’t feel bad about including your children – this is a great way for them to be involved in meeting someone from a new country!

How do I get connected with international students?

First, find out if your own church has a ministry to international students.

If not, there are several groups with full-time staff dedicated to international student ministry. Click on the underlined links to learn more about these groups:

If none of those options work, you could just contact the International Student office at your local college or university. Let them know you’d be interested in building a friendship with an international student, and ask if they have anyone to recommend.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Have you ever been friends with an international student? Leave a comment below about your experience.

How to Start a Backyard Bible Club

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

As I shared yesterday, for four years I was involved in a lovely ministry called Afternoon Blast, where leaders from our church operated a weekly children’s program on the lawn of an apartment complex about a mile away.

Today I’d like to share the practical how-tos of organizing an Afternoon Blast-style program in your own community. The typical term for this type of program is a “Backyard Bible Club,” which can refer to either a weekly club or a week-long VBS program during the summer.

In this post, I’ll mostly talk about the weekly club, but these concepts will also apply for a VBS program, and I’ve added some additional tips for a summer program at the end of the post.

how to start a Backyard Bible Club


4 Reasons to Start a Backyard Bible Club

1. You want to be involved in cross-cultural ministry to children. 

Though your Bible club doesn’t have to be aimed at cross-cultural ministry, it’s a great opportunity to try. Even if your church is not located in a cross-cultural neighborhood, you can launch your club in an area where there are a variety of other cultures.

2. You want to be involved in ministry to your own neighbors.

Many people host Backyard Bible Clubs in their own home or neighborhood. Here’s an example from Smartter Each Day, and I loved that she invited moms and kids in her own neighborhood to attend.

Whether you already know your neighbors and want to go deeper with sharing Christ, or whether you want to get to know your neighbors, a Backyard Bible Club is a great way to be involved in ministry from your own home.

3. God is reminding you of His call to “go and tell,” not just “come and see.”

It is easy for churches to fall into a mentality that “We’re here! If anyone wants to know Jesus, they can just come to our church!” We forget the call to “go and tell,” doing more than just inviting people to attractive events at our own church.

4. A Backyard Bible Club is simple and economical to lead.

After the initial start-up, our Backyard Bible Club took little weekly preparation and was practically free, with just a few expenses for supplies (soccer ball, crayons, clipboards) and the occasional snack – but most snacks were donated by church members.

afternoon blast 1

All about Our Backyard Bible Club

Our Backyard Bible Club was called Afternoon Blast.

Who Was There:  Usually it was me, one or both of our church’s children ministry leaders, and one to four other adult volunteers.

We had anywhere from 10 – 40 kids on any given Tuesday. They were mostly elementary-school-age, though a few were in middle school (and often brought homework to do), and a few were younger. For awhile we had a little one-year-old who just ran and ran and ran the whole time… he kept us busy!! 🙂

What We Did:

We would bring the supplies in the trunk of our car.  I usually organized the craft/coloring page area, so I had a tarp (in case the ground was wet) with a blanket to spread on top, a tub of clipboards, a box of crayons, and coloring pages stored in manila envelopes.

Our children’s ministry leader would bring some kind of game/sport (a soccer ball, cones for relay races, Frisbees, a soft Nerf football), along with a children’s Bible for our Bible story.  She also brought snack.

We followed a very simple, loose schedule:

  • 4:00 – 4:10 pm Arrival & get set up
  • 4:10 – 4:40 pm Activities: games, coloring/crafts, hang out
  • 4:40 – 5:00 pm Bible story & snack, departure

We sometimes followed a curriculum, sometimes just did random Bible stories.

For awhile, we were following the lessons that our at-church children’s program did during their weekly event. This worked to some extent, though sometimes the lessons were a little harder for this context.

One year, we used The Jesus StoryBook Bible to plan out a whole schedule. I liked this a lot. Each week we covered a new story. Prescheduling which story we would do each week helped because we could plan coordinating activities as possible.

I usually selected coloring pages or a craft that coincided with the story, and sometimes we could find a fun game that worked too. Sometimes we just read the Bible story (truthfully, The Jesus Storybook Bible was a little long for our context), and sometimes we planned out a lengthier Bible lesson… this one about the paralytic man was one of my favorites.

Snack time was always a highlight – every week we distributed some kind of prepackaged snack: often fruit snacks, pudding cups, bags of chips or Chex mix, but sometimes a special treat like homemade cookies or Popsicles. Typically, these were donated by church members who picked up an extra box at Costco, but occasionally paid for out of the children’s ministry budget.

We did have to make a rule that “we only give snack to kids who are here” because most children would want to take several so they could give one to their siblings, parents, or best friends.

When & Where We Met:

We met most Tuesdays from 4 to 5 pm at small lawn on an corner of the apartment complex. Children from the complex attended our program, including many refugee families.

We live in California so it was possible to meet outside year-round. I know this is a gift not everyone has! (Do you have a home or apartment community room where you could meet during the winter?) If it rained, we would just cancel till the following week.


For one or two summers, we also hosted VBS at the Afternoon Blast site (more on that below.)



Challenges we faced:

  • discipline among children, particularly 8-12 year old boys.
  • keeping attention during the Bible story
  • recruiting leaders to help. At our church, there was excitement from our members that someone was doing Afternoon Blast, but few wanted to join us to participate. Nearly everyone involved was a paid church staff person, or the spouse of staff.

If you haven’t already, read my post about refugee ministry for more about Afternoon Blast.

afternoon blast 6How to Get Started with a Backyard Bible Club

  1. Pray! As with any ministry, but particularly with this new-to-you style of ministry, prayer is vital.
  2. Form a team of leaders. Gather together to pray and discuss some of the following issues (purpose, location).
  3. Determine your purpose. This is key and will help you make some other decisions in this planning phase. Is your goal to disciple your own church’s children? To meet new families within your same demographic? To engage in cross-cultural ministry? To aid children of a certain ethnic group or economic status? To invite families to attend your own church? To expose families to Christianity for the first time? To get kids to become interested in your church so they’ll ride your church’s Sunday school bus to church each week?
  4. Choose a (potential) location. After you’ve determined your purpose, use that information to help choose a location. For example, if you want to engage in cross-cultural ministry, you’ll want to choose a location where people of other cultures live. If you want families to attend your own church, you don’t want to choose a location 30 minutes from your church.
  5. Prayer walk. I highly encourage you to prayer walk in the neighborhood of your potential location. Walk around with your team of leaders, and pray aloud as you walk. Pray for future ministry and for any people you see. Ask God to set up some opportunities for you to talk with people who live there!
  6. If needed, seek permission for your location. If your program is taking place at your own home, this is simple. However, if you hope to meet at an apartment complex or community room, you’ll need to meet with management. Pray ahead of time! Set up a meeting (or just drop by) and explain your goals. I’d focus on why this is good for the complex: keeps kids out of trouble, selling point for potential renters, you’ll pick up trash afterwards, etc.
  7. Think through legal stuff. Your church’s insurance should cover events that occur outside your church property, but you’ll want to double check the terms. Make plans to carry a first-aid kit with your Backyard Bible Club supplies.
  8. Invite children and families to participate. Walk through the neighborhood, handing out flyers and talking to people you see. Consider advertising with posters on community bulletin boards or  flyers on doors, if permitted (but don’t make a lot of trash! Maybe come back the next day and clean up any that have fallen to the ground). Personal invitations are really key, so if needed, walk through the neighborhood several times. Pray for an advocate within the neighborhood who will catch a vision and invite their friends and neighbors to participate.
  9. Plan lessons. Plan a few months of simple lessons – games, crafts, Bible stories, snacks, or whatever else you want to include. Keep it simple. Being outside or away from your home “turf” can be exhausting! You’re having to transport your supplies and figure out a new environment. So, choose fun stuff that will keep the kids engaged, but keep it as simple as possible.
  10. Start small. Don’t be discouraged if only a few children show up the first day. Put up a banner and balloons (or something to draw attention to yourself) and be prepared to invite anyone who walks by when they see you! (Even if they don’t have kids, tell them to invite any kids they know.)

afternoon blast 5

Additional Tips for a Summer VBS-style Backyard Bible Club

When I googled “Backyard Bible Club,” it seemed like many churches hosted Backyard Bible Clubs that only happened for one week in the summer, like a VBS program.

We did this with Afternoon Blast for a couple years (in addition to our weekly program) so I wanted to share some extra tips.

  • Schedule for a shorter amount of time and fewer days than your typical at-church VBS. If you are outdoors and not on your home turf (or, you’re actually at your own house and have to clean every day in preparation for Backyard Bible Club!), it will get wearying to do all five days of a typical VBS program. Skip a day or two of the curriculum and meet for three or four days. Also, schedule for less time than you meet at church. So, if you meet for three hours at church, schedule your Backyard Bible Club for just 1.5 – 2 hours. You won’t need to spend nearly as much time transitioning between stations, and you will likely not spend quite as much time on each activity.
  • Do a test-run at your own church first, if possible. We did a three day VBS at our own church the first week, then a second three-day VBS at Afternoon Blast the following week. It was good to have the kinks worked out at our own location first.
  • Host an event for the whole family. We didn’t do this with our summer program, but I wish we would have. We easily could have gotten a bunch of pizzas and concluded our final day of VBS with a pizza party for everyone. (Of course, BBQ would have been an option but would have required bringing grills – too much work!) Looking back, this would have been a great way to meet parents.
  • Think about how you’ll follow up. Will you use this to begin a weekly program? Or, do you already have a weekly program that could use more volunteer leaders? We had a few leaders who participated in VBS and then continued volunteering through the following school year.

afternoon blast 4

How to Involve Your Own Children and Teenagers in a Backyard Bible Club

For each post of this Global Missions with Kids series, I’ve been trying to point out specifically how to involve your children and teenagers… but this one seems pretty obvious. 🙂

Just bring your kids! They can play and participate just like any of the other children. If you have older children or teenagers, invite them to come along as leaders. Give them a purposeful and age-appropriate job to do.

Even after I stopped working at our church when my daughter was born, I remained involved in Afternoon Blast, often bringing her along with me. She would stay in her stroller or portable car seat, or I would put her in the Ergo carrier… the kids loved tickling her feet (though, they also loved handling her pacifier and sticking it back in her mouth! My new-mom-fears freaked out, but she never got sick!)

More questions? Want prayer?

If you are wanting to lead a Backyard Bible Club, please leave a comment below or email me (kelly{at}FaithPassedDown{dot}com.) I would be honored to answer any questions and pray for you and your ministry.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**Have you ever been a part of a Backyard Bible Club? Is it something you’d be interested in doing in the future? Leave a comment below.

Practical Ways to Support Refugees


Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

Click here to subscribe to emails!

After my college graduation, I moved to San Diego and began a full-time youth ministry internship. I was 22, excited to have a real job doing church ministry, and looking for things to do, so when our children’s ministry leaders invited me to join them in leading a program called “Afternoon Blast,” I gladly jumped on board.

For the next four years, every Tuesday afternoon from four to five o’clock, you’d find me on a postage-stamp sized lawn of an apartment complex in our town.

afternoon blast 2As children from the apartments gathered on the grass, we’d pull out hula hoops and Frisbees, bubbles and crayons.

I manned the coloring station, spreading out a blanket with clipboards and coloring sheets. I would color for about 40 minutes with my little friends, chatting as we determined whether Cinderella would look better with brown or pink hair. (This was years before the current adult coloring craze! Maybe I was a trendsetter! 😉

afternoon blast 6

After a sufficient amount of playtime, we’d rally the troops for a Bible story and snack before heading home.

Over the course of more than four years, these children – mostly ages five to ten or so – became my friends. As they grew up, I delighted in seeing them, chatting with them about school and their families, and occasionally talking with their parents. It was one of the highlights of my week!

Nearly every child who came to Afternoon Blast was a refugee from Iraq.

Usually, our coloring conversation was about normal kid stuff, like favorite foods, an upcoming field trip at school, or how much homework they needed to complete that night.

But sometimes it wasn’t.

Sometimes our conversation was about bombs. Or the murder of an uncle that caused the family to flee the country. Or their experiences waiting for years in refugee camps in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, or Greece.

The children learned English as a second or third language, so sometimes I would help them find the right word to say. It is a strange moment when you are asked the English word for the object they are describing, and you have to answer “grenade.”

Most of the children were Iraqi Christians who had fled Iraq during the war of the early 2000s. Interestingly, these Chaldean Christians perform their church liturgy in Chaldean, which is the modern version of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke.

I vividly remember one day when we discussed a recent attack on a Chaldean church back in Iraq.

The children knew some of the people who were killed in the attack, and explained to me that people from a certain religious group were responsible for the killings.

One girl responded: “I hate them.”

I was unsure of how to respond to this, but before I could even consider my response, another girl said, “We can’t say that. We can’t say that we hate them, because they are people, just like we are.”

How I wish our country, and our Church, could have that same response to those who are different than us, including refugees.

I was so blessed by my friendship with these refugee children, and I’ve continued to be involved in refugee ministry since then.

I’ve even been able to include my daughter in a few of these activities, so I’m excited to share how to be involved in serving refugees, especially with your own children.

beyond prayer and donations practical ways to support refugees

What is a refugee?

“Under both international and U.S. law, a refugee is an individual who

  • has fled his or her country of origin 
  • because of a credible fear of persecution
  • on account of their race, religion, political opinion, national origin, or social group.” (We Welcome Refugees).

If you are looking for a longer explanation, We Welcome Refugees has an excellent page put together answering basic questions about the difference between refugees, migrants, immigrants, and asylum-seekers. I learned a lot from reading it, and especially appreciated the section, How Does the Bible Inform Our Thinking on This Situation?

The United States and other Western countries typically welcome a designated number of refugees each year. The main thing to remember is that a refugee has a credible fear of persecution.

A refugee is not simply seeking monetary gain or a better life – they are seeking safety and security.

The Current Refugee Crisis

I’ve been thinking about this 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series for months, and have had “talk about how to help refugees” penciled into this outline for a long time. Then, within the past several weeks, the news has erupted with discussion of the refugee and migrant crisis happening in the Middle East and Europe right now.

If you are looking for something to do right this second to address the crisis, there are number of excellent posts on other web sites to check out regarding the current refugee crisis of fall 2015:

Certainly, I hope that as Christians, we will respond to this particular moment moment in history. Our family has, primarily through donations to refugee organizations that are serving “in the trenches” in the Middle East.

However, I hope we won’t just settle for briefly addressing this crisis and moving on.

I also know most people who are wanting to respond to the crisis are wanting to do something in a hands-on, tangible way, with a direct connection to refugees.

I’d like to to encourage you to consider ministering to refugees already living in your own country. These refugees have gone through horrors of their own and are just as “deserving” of our help.

I also believe that our work to help successfully settle refugees here now paves the way for more refugees to be successfully settled in the future.

So, keep reading for a few ways you can help refugees in our country now.

Ways to Minister to Refugees Already Living in Your Own Country

  1. Get Connected to a Resettlement Agency

The best resource for getting connected to refugees is local resettlement agencies. All refugees in the United States are resettled by one of nine different agencies. (I’m sorry to those readers outside the U.S. because I’m not familiar with your systems, but I imagine you may have a similar agency in your country!)

If World Relief works in your area, they are wonderful – try to get connected to them first. My husband and I volunteer with them, and they are doing wonderful work.

If not, here is a list of all nine resettlement agencies (each name is linked to the web site of the agency):

2. Minister to Refugee Children in Your Community Tomorrow I’ll be sharing more about how to set up a program like Afternoon Blast for children in your community (the more common name is “Backyard Bible Club”). Of course, the program doesn’t need to be limited to refugees – anyone is welcome!

Your own children could easily be involved in this program. After my daughter I was born, I used to bring her to Afternoon Blast and the little girls loved cooing to her. Older children could participate in the games and activities.

3. Welcome a Refugee Family into Your Extended Family

Though you may be wanting to welcome a refugee family from Syria to stay in your guest room right now, the reality is that with legal red tape and limitations on who can enter the country, it’s probably not realistic.

But, you can invite a refugee family who is already living in your community to be a part of your “extended family.”

If you don’t already know a refugee family, contact a resettlement agency in your community, or find a church that works with refugees. Ask them to get you connected.

Then, invite the refugee family to your home for a meal or some kind of get together. Welcome them for holiday meals or a Sunday afternoon watching football. Ask them to teach you to give you a cooking lesson so you can learn how to make one of their favorite ethnic dishes. Offer to help fill out paperwork or find a doctor.

Your own children could – and should! – certainly be present for these activities! This is a natural way to involve your children in ministering as a family.

4. Give Christmas Gifts to Refugees

For several Christmases in two different states, my family has partnered with other families in our small group to buy Christmas gifts for a refugee family.

Like I mentioned above, contact a local resettlement agency to see if they can get you connected.

If you know of an area with lots of refugees, you could also see if the local public school has a social worker who might know of a family in need. (In San Diego our school’s social worker was wonderful at getting us connected.)

Ask the family for a list of wants and needs, then arrange a time to deliver them to the family.

Your children could help you choose gifts, assist you with wrapping, and then deliver the gifts with you.

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**How have you responded to the current refugee crisis? How would you like to respond in the future? Leave a comment below.

A Fair Trade Holiday Gift Guide

Welcome to the 31 Days of Global Missions with Kids series! You can view all the posts in the series here. Please remember that the goal isn’t for you to do ALL these projects, but rather pick one or two. You can download a printable worksheet here to guide you through discerning which project is best for you and the young people in your life.

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“A present? For me?”

These are some of my daughter’s favorite words, and I would imagine that’s true for the children in your life, too.

As I consider what presents I’d like to give my children for birthdays or holidays, and what gifts I’d like to purchase with them for our other friends and family, I’d love to try to give fair trade gifts as much as possible.

While I’m not sure that buying fair trade qualifies as actual “global mission work,” as I envision children participating in loving God’s whole world, buying and receiving fair trade gifts seems to fit in hand-in-hand. It’s hard to love His world when our purchases our causing people to work in terrible conditions.


lots of fair trade gift ideas for this holiday season

Why Fair Trade?

My heart breaks when I realize that the cheap toy or inexpensive t-shirt I buy for my daughters might have a dark past.

Unfortunately, the reality is that many of the products we purchase, particularly those sold at a low price (my favorite!), are produced in horrible working conditions where workers, sometimes children, are treated poorly and paid extremely low wages for very long hours.

So while the product may have a low financial cost for me as the consumer, the workers who produced the item paid a high cost by suffering through its production.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of fair trade, you can visit some of these helpful posts to learn more:

Companies that produce fair-trade products have committed to avoiding these horrible working conditions by providing fair wages, offering an acceptable working environment, and caring for their employees.

Many of the companies I’ll share today have gone a step further to provide not just acceptable but wonderful working environments, intentionally partnering with their workers.

A Caution: How to Avoid Burnout

I’m excited to share some fair trade gift ideas with you, along with some ways to talk about fair-trade with your children. But, here’s my caution: don’t go crazy trying to buy fair-trade everything all at once… especially if you are new to “fair-trade.”

A few years ago, I heard about fair-trade products for the first time. I learned the reasons why they’re necessary, and I was crushed to realize the horrible working conditions some people experience.

I went ALL out. I started buying only fair-trade clothing. I took my copy of The Better World Shopping Guide with us on vacation, and my husband and I tried to only do fair-trade sanctioned things… like eating copious amounts of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. (But only if the carton was labeled fair-trade, of course!) We bought all our Christmas gifts that year from Ten Thousand Villages.

Then I got burnt out. After our daughter was born, I quit working outside the home, so our budget decreased. It was trickier to spend money on slightly more expensive fair trade items.

But even more than that, I just got tired of it. I like going to Target and picking up random items off the shelf without worrying about whether it’s fair trade or not. I like the taste of the non-fair-trade coffee available at the coffee shop around the corner.

So I quit hunting for fair-trade items, and returned to my old spending habits.

Rather than going “all out” with passion for shopping fair trade, I encourage you to find a middle ground and gradually ease your way into fair trade shopping.

Eventually, I began shopping fair trade again, this time, a little bit at a time. We have some local coffee shops we like to frequent that support fair trade coffee. This year, our Christmas gifts will be about half fair-trade items. I’ve found some favorite beauty products that are fair-trade, and try to select these ones when I need to make a new purchase.

Plus, I’ve also tried to incorporate some other ideas for avoiding “sweatshop” items, but without having to shop for truly fair-trade stuff… you can see these ideas below. This has made it easier to shop ethically and in a way that supports a love for all nations… without burning out.

Fair Trade Christmas Gift Ideas

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase after clicking one of the links, I may receive a small commission to help support this site, at no additional cost to you.

As Christmas approaches, I wanted to provide a resource for some fair-trade gift ideas.

Some of these are gifts to give to your children, and some are gifts you and your children could select for your loved ones (like grandparents or other adults).

The Mercy House and Fair Trade Friday

The Mercy House Shop offers lovely jewelry and household items that support women’s maternity homes in Kenya. They also have a program called Fair Trade Friday which is “a monthly membership club that delivers high quality fair traded items to your door. The items in the box are fairly traded and provide employment to women all over the world. Plus, they are really cute! … “100% of the proceeds from each product go toward the empowerment of impoverished women as an avenue to introduce them to the Gospel.” (from Fair Trade Friday web site). They have a new box for kids, and young women might especially enjoy the earring of the month club.

hats from Krochet Kids

Krochet Kids offers stylish, trendy hats, bags, and other accessories made in Uganda and Peru. I love these animal hats for kids. I’ve long followed the story of a family who served with Krochet Kids in Peru, and I love their business model and how they’re partnering with women there to create cute hats and provide jobs, education, and community for their workers.

subscription boxes and yummy treats from Trade as One

lots of delicious edible treats from Trade As One. If you are looking for a healthy, clutter-free gift, these are pricey but practical, as everything would be consumed. Every time I look at the Trade as One site, I get hungry 🙂

comfortable “punjammies” pants

Comfy pants and cute tee shirts for kids and adults from Punjammies. 

Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages has a wide assortment of fair trade items from all over the world. I’ve purchased Christmas gifts from them in the past and have been pleased by their unique, well-priced items. They also have some physical storefronts.

If you’ve found some of the other Fair Trade companies listed here to be too expensive, Ten Thousand Villages is a good option, as some of their products are just a few dollars each, like Christmas ornaments, small toys.

I also like that Ten Thousand Villages carries a large variety of different items… so if you’re trying to do all your Christmas shopping in one place, this is your best bet to find something for everyone on your list.

NoonDay Collection

Jewelry from Noonday Collection. They have stylish, beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories.

Fair Indigo

Toys and Clothes from Fair Indigo. I purchased clothes from them a few years ago, and they were very good quality and reasonably priced. I don’t recommend drying in the dryer – my clothes did shrink.

Timbali Crafts

Cute handbags, doll clothes, girls’ aprons, home decor, and apparel from Timbali crafts

I was impressed by the good prices and unique items available from Timbali!

Equal Exchange chocolates

chocolate and sweets from Equal Exchange or the Christmas treats from Sjaaks Chocolate. The organic dark chocolate caramel crunch with sea salt from Equal Exchange sounds delicious!!

Gadanke Christmas card journal set

handmade journals from Gadanke. I love the Christmas card holder journal! Gadanke’s journals are all customizable, as you can see in the photo above, so you can add or remove pages as desired.

She has such creative ideas, like a mother-daughter journal, lots of baby book ideas, and guides for recording family recipes. (These aren’t specifically “fair trade,” but are handmade in Montana by a lovely lady.)

Wild Dill

Wild Dill offers a variety of fair trade children’s products, especially cute dolls. I just stumbled upon their site this week, and they seem like cute options for kids! The little donuts pictured above are baby rattles! So cute.

Still looking for more? Here are a few compilations of other fair-trade companies:

Fair Trade Alternatives

Want to avoid supporting harmful working conditions, but can’t find a reasonable fair trade option? Here are some other Ideas:

  • Shop second-hand. When you purchase items at a thrift store, garage sale, or on Craigslist, you are not perpetuation any poor labor conditions – this item was created long ago and your purchase isn’t stimulating any new production of items. You can even buy online through a second-hand shop like ThredUp or through ebay or Etsy.
  • Make something. Consider creating a craft or baking a food item as a gift. (Though, of course, you’ll still want to consider your materials. You could use repurposed goods, or purchase organic/fair trade ingredients, as possible.)
  • Buy organic. If you can’t find a food item with a fair-trade label, try to buy organic, if possible. Fair trade and organic certification are two different things, but they are usually mutually beneficial – fair trade practices help the environment, and organic conditions usually help the workers (since they’re not breathing in pesticides and work conditions are more strictly regulated).
  • Give an experience. Tickets to a baseball game, a theater production, or a children’s museum would be fun, clutter-free, and “fair trade.”
  • Shop locally. Often, independent/local shops will have first-hand control of their own products. For example, we frequent several coffee shops where they know the growers of their coffee beans and roast their own beans. Generally speaking, working conditions in the U.S. are better than overseas (though of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes materials are coming from overseas.)
  • Give an intangible gift by donating in honor of the recipient. Organizations like Compassion and Samaritan’s Purse offer the chance to select an item to donate to someone in need, on behalf of your loved one. They will usually provide a decorative card to wrap up explaining the impact of the donations. In the past we’ve given pigs, malaria nets, and beekeeping kits as a gift. Ann Voskamp has a lovely post here with links to non-profit organizations that offer Christmas gift catalogs.

How to Talk about Fair-Trade with Your Children

  • Show photos of people who produce fair trade items. You can check out @Fair_Trade_Friday on instagram or visit the “Meet the Ladies” page on the Krochet Kids web site. Talk about these people: what is her name? where does she live? what does she do? what is her life like?
  • Get two examples of the same product – one that is fair trade, and one that isn’t. A chocolate bar is a pretty inexpensive (and fun!) example. Show them to your kids, and talk about how they may taste the same (go ahead, offer a sample of each!), but they were produced very differently.
  • Personally, I don’t recommend showing photos or videos of sweatshops and poor working conditions until your children are 10 or older. Instead, I would focus on talking about good practices from companies that are doing the right thing, like some of the ones listed above.

Other Resources:

This Global Missions with Kids series is full of thoughts and practical ideas for serving Christ alongside your children and teenagers.

**What other fair trade companies do you recommend? How do you talk about fair trade with your kids? Leave a comment below.