Category Archives: personal

an update and looking ahead

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Hello there! I haven’t been posting much here at Faith Passed Down recently!

Though I did just “back-date” a couple posts from December about our low-key Christmas in “survival mode.” I started writing them but never published until today (in February!), so if you’re interested, you can read them here:

We are joyfully expecting twin boys this summer and – after we got over the shock of hearing “twins!” – I spent most of the next two months doing as little as possible while I dealt with first trimester morning sickness.

Thankfully, that is behind us, and I’m getting caught up on housework, paperwork, and hopefully, continuing with some new posts at Faith Passed Down.

Coming Up…

I’m looking forward to sharing with you soon about:

  • Candle Time – Our Simple Daily Family Devotions  – This started a little bit by accident when Advent ended but have become a lovely, easy part of our family’s day.
  • Christ-Centered Valentine’s Day Ideas for Young Children
  • Step Into My Shoes – an update on Compassion International’s wonderful lessons to help families process poverty together.
  • an update on Little Passports, a great way to help our children explore God’s World – my 3 year old is a huge fan!
  • Ideas for Observing Lent with Children

So stay tuned!

What to Expect:

I wanted to let you know that as I took a break from blogging over the past few months, and as I look ahead to making the jump from two to four children (!!) and hopefully moving overseas soon after that… I’ve done some thinking and considering about some goals for Faith Passed Down in 2016.

I’m trying to simplify things here at Faith Passed Down as much as possible. I really want to continue writing, but my only commitment to myself and to all of you is to write what I am able, when I am able.

I hope this works for me, but also for you too – the last thing I want to do is make faith-building seem overwhelming or overcomplicated. I am hoping to focus on simple, doable ways to share faith with the young people in your life – without too much frills or fluff. 🙂

There likely won’t be a weekly newsletter (though for now you can still receive posts automatically once a week), and I’m giving up aspirations of a thriving Instagram account, stellar photos in every single post, thousands of readers, or lots of bells and whistles. 🙂

Also, it seems like most “serious” bloggers today are pursuing ways to make an income on their blog – and there is nothing wrong with that! But I’ve realized I simply don’t have the time to do it. So, aside from using some affiliate links from Amazon or other companies I love (which can bring in a tiny bit of a commission if you buy through my links), I don’t plan to sell my own ebooks, promote lots of other products, offer speaking engagements, or focus on way to grow a large audience… I’m just aiming to keep sharing some ideas for faith-building with whoever is listening. 🙂

For now, email, Facebook, and Pinterest are the best ways to keep up with Faith Passed Down. I’m not planning to write on a schedule, but will post as possible (and you’ll keep getting those posts by email if you are a subscriber).

Thanks for checking in with Faith Passed Down!

– Kelly

Leave a comment below: what have you been up to over the past few months? Any life changes, big or small? I’d love to hear from you.

Tips for Celebrating Christmas in Survival Mode

Tips for a Simple Christmas Season

As I’ve shared over the past few days, we’ve had a pretty low-key December as I’ve been in the midst of significant morning sickness, and there are many things we did not do this holiday season.

And yet, we’ve truly had a lovely December, we enjoyed a super-simple Advent season with our kids, and we celebrated a pleasant Christmas holiday with our extended family.

In hindsight, I’ve been thinking through some things that helped us this month.

I did not plan ahead for this month, but if we were hoping to have another super-simple holiday season, particularly one where I knew it would be extra-crazy, here’s some things I’d consider.

I hope that if you are looking ahead to a “survival mode” Christmas – maybe you’re anticipating a move, have a job that means the holidays are extra-busy, face sickness, or are expecting a new baby – these tips might help you, too.

How to Enjoy a Simple Holiday Season (especially in survival mode)

1. Identify what is #1 most important to you and your family members/loved ones.

Sit down and ask each person what is truly the #1 only thing that is most important.

For me, it would be singing lots of Christmas carols. For my 3 year old, she wouldn’t have been able to articulate this, but it’s been “decorating” (in her own way) by placing ornaments on the tree and also “decorating” our presents with ribbons. For the baby, it’s having not-stressed out parents. 🙂

Whatever the case, figure out what’s most important, and put those at the top of your list.

2. Similarly, identify what is not important to you or what is a big stressor.

Is there a holiday event you always go to, and it never ends well? The kids stay up too late, or you feel stressed out, or you have to provide expensive gifts for an exchange, or whatever? Consider skipping it (or just sending the people who actually enjoy it!)

For us, it’s sending Christmas cards. Growing up, my parents wrote the most clever Christmas letters each year, and it was a highlight of our celebration. Likewise, I’ve always loved reading Christmas letters/cards.

However, we now work for an aid organization where we already send out a monthly email update to most of our loved ones, and it seems that each year, sending even a simple family photo ends up taking hours as we try to take a nice photo and then stuff and stamp envelopes.

So this year, we finally opted not to send them out, at least not until the new year when life calms down a bit.

3. Pray and ask God to direct your plans to honor Him.

I don’t think everything on your December calendar needs to be religious in nature, but we do want to honor Him with all that we do, particularly as we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Is there anything on your list to remove?

4. Set yourself up for success.

Remember that list of #1 most important things?

  • Put any specific dates  into the calendar (like, “attend church choir concert on December 10 at 2:00 pm”).
  • Make a list of other items that can happen anytime (like, “make cocoa and watch a Christmas movie”) and stick on your phone, refrigerator, or somewhere obvious, so that when you have a spare moment, you can make it happen.
  • Set a deadline for certain items, especially the “maybes.” Though we knew it’s stressful, we actually did intend to still send out some simple Christmas postcards… until, the week before Christmas, we crossed the threshold of “even if we do them now, they won’t arrive before Christmas” so I took it off my list. If you have something you might want to do, set a deadline for it: “If we haven’t made homemade gifts by December 15, we’ll just go buy storebought.”

5. Identify what is easy and set yourself up for impromptu fun.

This has been key in our family’s Christmas celebration. We already had a few Christmas craft kits and activity books, so I threw those in an empty drawer and my 3 year old has been doing a few over the past few weeks.

Because we’ve had a pretty open schedule (I’ve just felt horrible in the midst of it), we’ve had the freedom to turn on a Christmas movie on Netflix or bake super simple cookies. I gathered up a small basket of Christmas books from our bookshelves and the library, and we’ve been reading them periodically.

None of these activities were planned more than five minutes before we began doing them! But I’ve tried to stay open to a few simple activities.

Some other ideas for facilitating impromptu fun are:

  • make a list of holiday events in your community, and refer to it if you find yourself with a free evening/weekend.
  • if your kids are looking for something to do, glance at a Christmas Pinterest board for simple crafts or ideas.

6. Delegate and ask for help!!! 

So many of the things we did this Christmas happened as a result of other gracious people in our lives.

Family members provided tickets to two holiday shows and arranged all of the food/activities for our Christmas celebrations.

My sister baked cookies, made icing, and invited us over to decorate them, with zero effort on my part (except enjoying the finished product!) 🙂

Even participating in Christmas Eve church was the result of the hard work of the pastors, choir members, and worship leaders! It’s been easier for us to attend events that others have arranged, rather than trying to put it together ourselves.

What We HAVE Done This Christmas Season – some simple ideas

Despite all that we’ve skipped, here are the things we have done, perfect for our current situation, that have resulted in a meaningful December nonetheless. You’ll notice that many of these happened as the result of delegation/other people helping us, or as the result of impromptu, spur-of-the-moment fun.

  • We have done evening Advent wreath devotions at the dinner table about half the nights in December. This has been the #1 most meaningful thing this year. It requires virtually no preparation, other than having an Advent wreath with four candles. Most nights, we turn off the lights, light the appropriate candle(s), read one Bible verse related to the Christmas story, and then sing a verse (a capella) of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Often since we already have the hymnal out, we sing a few more carols – usually just the first verse of each one. Then we blow out the candles. That’s it! It usually takes about 5 minutes, and to be honest, several nights I’ve just stayed on the couch and hollered the songs from across the living room to my family at the table. 🙂 But it’s been so special to hear our daughter start to learn these songs, and I love singing as a family. (We have no future as the Von Trapp Family Singers. We’re often off-key and I inevitably start “Away in a Manger” too low so halfway through I can’t get the notes out. But it’s still fun, and I hope worships the Lord.)
  • We spread out all our Christmas ornaments on a table and let my 3 year-old decorate and redecorate our little two-foot (fake) Christmas tree. So far we’ve only broken one ornament!
  • We dumped all our kid-friendly nativity scenes into one tub together so the kids could pull out pieces and play with them.
  • My mom purchased a chocolate-filled Peanuts countdown calendar, and most days, we’ve pulled out a chocolate for our daughter.
  • We went to see the Nutcracker and Disney Frozen on Ice, thanks to extended family members who got tickets and made all the arrangements.
  • We strolled around a Christmas tree festival (where they decorate trees in different themes and people purchase them for charity).
  • Whenever Christmas comes up in conversation, we try to tie in Jesus as much as possible. We talk about how Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, and how some of the characters on the Christmas shows we watch don’t know Jesus yet.
  • I threw our children’s Christmas books into a box and have read them sporadically.
  • We purchased and wrapped gifts for our extended family members (about 10 people) + a gift to my daughter’s eye specialist and our apartment complex managers. Those are the only people we gave anything to, but this still felt like the most time-consuming part of our holiday season, especially since we opted not to buy gift cards but instead do pretty personal gifts. (But it ended up being fun to do this and feel a little accomplished. 🙂
  • I read a biography about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which was not Christmasy, but did help me focus on Christ throughout this season.
  • We have watched pretty much every Christmas cartoon on Netflix. 🙂 (Seriously!) We’ve also enjoyed watching White Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • My husband and daughter made super-simple chocolate chip cookies in Christmas shapes.
  • We attended church on Christmas Eve.
  • We went to my parents’ house for the entire week of Christmas, where we were spoiled with food, cable television, presents, and child care. My parents and sister planned and provided all the food/merriment for our actual Christmas celebrations.

In the end, we’ve ended up with a nice Christmas season, where we were able to spend time together and celebrate and remember Jesus’ birth.

And it’s not over yet! There are still a few more of the 12 Days of Christmas left… I’m hoping we still might get out to look at some lights or sing a few more carols before the season officially ends. 🙂

**Leave a comment below. What tips do you have for a simple Christmas season, especially when life is especially crazy?

Wrapping Up: 31 Days of Global Missions 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!

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

31 days ago, I woke up at 4:30 am so I could link up with the Write 31 Days challenge. Since then, I’ve published 31 posts about Global Missions with Kids!

This truly has been a challenge!

  • Two different times, I got off schedule due to vacation and sickness, but I’ve caught up and am so thrilled to have completed the challenge.
  • I had lots of high hopes for all the “extra” stuff I was going to do to promote Faith Passed Down, build a community of readers here, publish an ebook, and more, and truthfully, none of that happened. I’m just happy to have gotten the posts written, much less the extra stuff!
  • I have had so many health challenges in the past couple months, which is unusual for me! Back pain, migraines, nerve pain in my arm, the flu… it wasn’t the best timing for this challenge, but somehow I survived!
  • Spending this much time on this web site is too much time for my current reality. Though I was able to sustain it for a month (barely!), I’ve learned that as much as I love the ministry of Faith Passed Down, I love spending time following Jesus with my family even more! I need time to focus on them, on some ministry opportunities, and on living a peaceful, not-going-crazy life.

Starting in November, I’m going to be returning to posting just once a week or so, which I hope will be the right amount of time for my writing schedule and for not overwhelming Faith Passed Down readers.

In any case, I’m so grateful I tried something new, participated in this challenge, enjoyed fellowship with a great group of ladies on the Write 31 Days facebook group, and experienced God’s sufficient grace in giving me just the right amount of time (but not a second more!) to participate in this challenge.

More than anything, I’m glad to have a series of posts that I hope inspire, encourage, and equip adults to participate in global missions with the young people in their lives!

Global Missions with Kids: a Recap

Global missions is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ cross-culturally through words and actions, so that people from all nations will believe and follow Him.

First, we set a foundation for Global Missions with Kids, looking at the definition of missions and reasons to include children and teenagers in missions.

"And when Christianity is all about me, then the Church is all about me, and my life's purpose is all about me, too. It's hard to fit in missions when all I'm focused on is myself."

I confessed my own spiritual blindness in reading Scripture improperly and missing God’s heart for the whole world. We also explored the important question: do I have to move halfway around the world to do missions?

developing global awareness

Next, we talked about helping young people cultivate a heart for all nations by developing global awareness in children and teenagers and raising world Christians.

five ideas for global home decor

I shared some ideas for global home decor, including how to make a world map garland. I also shared a HUGE list of my favorite resources for global missions with kids, including the Perspectives Family Journey and some great resources for praying for the whole world with kids.

praying for the whole world with kids

 

After that, I shared over 15 different ideas for doing global missions with kids, wherever you are. Here’s a handy worksheet to keep from getting too overwhelmed by all the options!

how to pack a shoebox for OCC

From packing an Operation Christmas Child shoebox and purchasing fair trade holiday gifts to launching a backyard Bible club or befriending an international student, we covered all sorts of ideas.

Writing to Your Sponsored Child

We discussed sponsoring a child and writing to sponsored children, including using a free letter-writing template for people like me who don’t write very frequently!

bless and encourage

We also talked about supporting overseas missionaries through donations and other ways to bless and encourage them.

beyond prayer and donations practical ways to support refugees

One of my personal favorite posts in the series described practical ways to support refugees, beyond just prayer and donations.

bless babies and mamas around the world

We talked about ways to do global missions as an adult mentor, along with how to discuss and help poverty with kids.

Whether you want to help babies and moms or support the persecuted church, we talked about it!

The last few posts including going… going on a short-term mission trip as a family (and doing it well!)or sending your teenager on a short-term mission trip, or even considering living overseas as a missionary full-time.

Finally, we finished up, looking at some ideas for going Around the World from Your Living Room, along with taking a peek at some other posts about Global Missions with Kids from around the internet.

Did you enjoy Global Missions with Kids? Here’s what to do next:

Stay in touch. You probably have a preferred way to read blogs/web sites already! Here are the options for following Faith Passed Down… you can do one or all of them!

Read the whole series.

If you didn’t get to read the whole series, you can check it out here. That particular link will enable you to read each post in a row, without having to open 31 different posts.

I’m considering turning this series into an easy-to-read ebook form, where you could just read straight through from top-to-bottom. In my dream world, I’d even turn it into a real book. Would you read a book about Global Missions with Kids? Let me know in the comments below.

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

Lessons Learned in the Past 31 Days:

1. There are so many ways to be involved in global missions with kids! Even after talking about it for a full month, there are still topics we didn’t touch on! I’m encouraged and inspired to consider how my own family can listen to God’s leading for how to be involved more.

2. Busyness and overwhelm is a huge obstacle to doing global missions with kids – and to faith-building in general. How are parents supposed to do global missions when they are also trying to work, read to their kids, make sure their kids get a good education, feed healthy food, exercise, spend “me” time, go out with friends, enjoy quality time with a spouse, do daily devotions, clean, cook, enjoy a hobby… ???

It’s overwhelming just thinking about it, and an issue I encountered this month, as I struggled to actually do some of the things I suggested in the Global Missions with Kids series. This is still something I’m wrestling with… how can we intentionally participate in serving God and building faith without just making it another item on the to-do list?

3. The most important thing is: just. start. I was reminded of this principle as I tried to write blog posts day after day – the idea is often more daunting than the task itself. Once I started writing, or putting together pictures, or whatever, it wasn’t so bad… the tough thing is resisting the urge to procrastinate because it seems overwhelming.

Likewise, as we seek to build faith in young people… just start! It’s easy to feel like things need to be perfect, but if we wait for the perfect moment, it will never happen. Just get started!

In November, I’m hoping to introduce a simple initiative called Read-Pray-Connect to help us just get started… stay tuned!

4. God is faithful to bless our efforts to build faith. I’ve been reminded lately that even in the midst of busyness, sickness, and my desires to just throw in the towel… God blesses our efforts.

This month my three-year-old has just blossomed in asking regularly for Bible stories, reciting Psalm 23 from memory, and talking about how “Jesus lives in her heart.” Don’t get me wrong – at the same time discipline issues are at an all-time high, and I’ve been feeling extra-stressed and overwhelmed!

But I see this as His gracious reminders that this work is valuable and important, and He is the One who is doing the work… not me!

5. I only want to post once a week. Prior to do this 31 Days challenge, I was considering aiming for 3-5 posts a week. I’ve realized, however, that while perhaps I could write that many posts a week, I can’t possibly double-check them, make graphics, and share those posts on Pinterest or facebook so others can read them.

Not to mention, I’d like to still read other blogs and take part in the “blog community,” plus respond to comments from my readers!

I tried to do that all this month, and it was simply impossible, even though I was spending most mornings and evenings working on this series.

So, starting in November, my goal is to post one new post every Monday, plus send out a weekly newsletter every Friday. I’m hoping this will allow my full attention to writing quality posts and interacting with others, while still enjoying time with my family, actually carrying out these faith-building concepts in my own life, too!

In addition, I hope this keeps Faith Passed Down from being too overwhelming to you, dear reader!

6. I like to write lots of words. Unfortunately, I definitely take after Proust more than Hemingway. 🙂 Most of the posts in the Global Missions with Kids series were 1500+ words. It is in my nature to be thorough and comprehensive, wanting to share every resource and every item I’ve thought of.

I realize most people don’t read every word, and I try to honor that by using bold type and bullet points to make it easy to skim. Still, I’d like to consider honing my writing so it’s concise for today’s busy readers.

7. I have to be okay with imperfection. I was an English major in college and worked in our campus writing center, but seven years after graduation – with little formal education or writing during that time – I’m a little rusty. I struggle with knowing whether to use “less” or “fewer.” I catch myself making silly grammar mistakes.

Not to mention my photos that are a bit too dark, or formatting that doesn’t look quite right, or graphic designs that I’m sure break all the rules for true graphic design.

The reality, however, is that I’m trying to pull this blog together with snippets of time here and there, before my kids wake up or when my husband graciously takes over for a few hours. I don’t have time for perfection, so I am learning to try my best and accept that there might be a few errors… but something is better than no post at all!

8. I have so much to learn! The Write 31 Days challenge was a great exercise for me to remember that I still have so much to learn… but I am figuring it out!

9. It feels so good to complete a task. I am usually a 90% kind of girl. I do most of the work, but never actually complete it. I clean out my closet but never actually donate the clothes I want to get rid of. I make all the plans but never actually execute it. I stay on budget till the 25th of the month and then blow it in the last five days.

Lately I am trying harder to do 100% of the task, and I love that feeling of actually being complete! Or, I set a deadline and if I’m not done by the deadline, I just determine it wasn’t that important anyway, and strike it from the list.

I love not having loose ends hanging over me quite so much and experiencing the success of a completed job!

Plus, I hope I am building character by sticking with a task and not giving up at the first sign of trouble!

Hundreds of writers participate in the Write 31 Days Challenge each October.

31 Series I Want to Check Out Next:

There are so many 31 Series on the Write 31 Days web site that I want to read in the next month or two!

I put together a larger list on my 31 Days Pinterest Board here, but a few of my favorites that I thought might be helpful for the Faith Passed Down community include:

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

**Did you participate in the Write 31 Days Challenge? What was your favorite series to read? Leave a link to your series, or one you’d recommend, in a comment below.

Living Overseas as a Missionary

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!

Maybe You Can Move Halfway Around the World! Living Overseas as a Missionary

living overseas

My Story

I’ve shared already about my childhood interest in the persecuted church and my mission trip experiences as a teenager. Along with this came a developing desire to move overseas in some way.

As a senior in high school, I pursued entrance into two colleges on the East Coast (American University and Seton Hall) known for their international studies programs. I envisioned myself serving as a U.S. Foreign Service Ambassador or working for the United Nations. But when those universities proved too expensive, even with scholarship opportunities, I began to look toward some Christian universities closer to my California home.

concordia

I ended up attending Concordia University in Irvine, California, and I am so thankful. It was a perfect fit for me, and it turns out that though moving across the country seemed glamorous, I ended up loving coming home some weekends to do laundry and hang out with my family!

I loved my Concordia experience, but at the time, there were few options for international involvement. (Now, they have a program called Around-the-World Semester which is amazing! Students travel to ten-ish different countries to study and serve).

Without any viable options for international studies, I entered a wonderful program to become a Director of Christian Education, which is roughly the Lutheran church’s equivalent of a youth pastor (but not actually a “pastor.”)

I took classes in youth ministry, children’s ministry, adult education, world missions, teaching strategies, church leadership, and theology. I thought perhaps this would be a good tool to serve overseas as a missionary.

countries

After graduation, DCE students are expected to complete a one-year full-time church internship, and the leaders of the program assign you to an internship. Students stand up in front of a chapel service and they say, “Kelly, you are headed to…”

In the months leading up to the chapel service where I would find out my future, I had hoped to be assigned to a location overseas, perhaps in South America. However, a few weeks prior, I learned that wouldn’t be an option – all assignments would be within the United States.

Looking back, in my heart, I closed the door on serving as an overseas missionary at that time. I figured God wasn’t sending me overseas, so I would just work at a church here, leading short-term mission trips, and that was that.

cross

When the day of the chapel service rolled around, they said, “Kelly, you are headed to First Lutheran Church in El Cajon, California.” I was pleased, and prepared to move to San Diego at the end of the summer (2008). (But only after a last-hurrah trip with some girl friends to Europe to be tourists and also participate in a mission trip in Hungary).

I didn’t know it at the time, but my assignment was truly life-changing. I had met this guy, Jay, a few months earlier when he visited Concordia – he was a friend of a friend. Turns out he was a member at my new church in San Diego. Since the church didn’t have many young adults, we naturally started hanging out as soon as I moved there. One thing led to another, and we’ll celebrate six years of marriage next week! 🙂

wedding

For some time, I worked at First Lutheran, happily leading our youth ministry, organizing some mission trips, and helping with ministry to refugees in our community.

But soon after Jay and I got married (November 2009), we both started to feel a gentle call to serve in overseas missions. He is a pilot, and we knew of an organization that uses pilots to serve isolated people in remote areas of the world.

We began looking more into this organization. As we read blog posts by current overseas missionaries, talked to a recruiter, and prayed, we felt God’s leading to begin preparations to join the organization.

It was a lengthy process, since Jay needed to receive his airplane mechanic’s license  – a two-year process, along with some other requirements like more Bible training. We took the course Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, which was wonderful preparation, too!

airplane

Eventually, we were ready. Shortly after our daughter, Elle, was born (June 2012), we traveled to Idaho and spent two weeks being evaluated by the organization. We passed, and a few months later (January 2013), our family had joined as official members of the organization.

We both serve them, though technically, my husband is the “employee” and I am the “accompanying spouse,” meaning most of the time, he is the one working full-time and I just assist as possible in the midst of my role as stay-at-home mom.

We spent our first year (2013) support-raising – a process called “deputation” in missionary circles. The process was long and we were impatient to finish and get overseas, but looking back, that was a wonderful year. We witnessed God’s provision and met so many lovely, Godly people who generously provide the financial support, prayers, and encouragement we need for our service.

Jay and I were able to work together on deputation, and he was home for the whole year as we worked from home and traveled a lot to visit supporters… which meant he was a significant daily presence in one-year-old Elle’s life. (Something we miss now that he works a typical 8 to 5 job).

But, we didn’t realize all that at the time, because it was stressful to work together and we were living on a small monthly salary and therefore living with family to be able to afford to be in California, which has a very high cost of living. So when January 2014 rolled around, and we received 100% of the monthly support needed to move overseas, we were ecstatic.

idaho

We headed to Idaho for two final months of training, and planned to move to Asia in June 2014.

We were crushed when a few weeks into our training, we learned that safety concerns in our country of service meant we couldn’t go right away. In the meantime, we learned we were expecting another baby!

Life seemed so topsy-turvy. We had already been packed up and ready to go overseas, and instead, we were facing several more months in the United States.

and then there were four

We regrouped and made plans to stay in Idaho until the baby was born. We did language study, spent time with some teammates from Asia who had returned to the U.S. because of the concerns, and enjoyed a peaceful, faith-stretching time in Idaho. It ended up being a very hard year, but also a very good one, as we felt we were truly depending on God to sustain us through all the changes we were facing.

But it wasn’t over! As issues calmed down in Asia, we made plans again to head overseas after our daughter was born.

baby

Our sweet Ava was born in October 2014, and within a few hours of her birth, we learned she was born with microphthalmia, a condition where one of her eyes never really developed – essentially, it’s as though she is missing that eye.

There’s no known cause, and we were relieved to quickly learn through an MRI and eye exam that everything in her brain is fine, and her other eye has normal vision. (Something confirmed by her present-day ability to pick up the tiniest of crumbs off our kitchen floor as an afternoon snack!!)

Thankfully, she was eligible to receive a prosthetic “glass” eye (they’re actually made of silicone!), so by the time she was six weeks old, we had started the process. It’s been painless for her – just a lot of doctor visits to insert a slightly larger prosthetic into her eyelids to stretch her eyelids and encourage growth in that area. A year later, it’s impossible to even tell that she’s wearing a prosthetic – it looks wonderful!

Some of the clear prosthetic shells Ava has worn...
Some of the clear prosthetic shells Ava has worn…

But, the frequency of these appointments (every one to four weeks) meant that yet again, our overseas departure was delayed. So, we continue to live in the U.S. (We actually relocated to California to be closer to medical treatment, since there was none available in Idaho).

We hope to head overseas in 2016, as her eye treatment gets more established and we can wait several months between appointments. It’s tough when we have willing hearts and a love for the people of our intended area of service, but we can’t actually go yet! But we know the Lord is at work, leading and guiding us through every step of this crazy journey!

 

revelation 7

Hear from Missionaries Overseas

Since I don’t have any overseas experience to share, I wanted to point you toward some wonderful missionary blogs I enjoy reading. For my husband and me, reading blogs was one of the first steps God used to get us thinking and talking about mission work.

I encourage you to check out their blogs! Many of them also have an option to sign up for newsletters. (Also, if you are still looking for a missionary to support or encourage, here are some great options! Each of these people are supported by donations of a team of ministry partners.)

All of these missionary families have children – so as you envision global missions with kids, they are great examples of how to do it!

  • Marla and Gabe Taviano  serve in Cambodia, serving in photography ministry, working with trafficking victims, and doing whatever God calls them to. 🙂
  • Lisa and Matthew Lind serve in DR Congo, after recently completing language school in France. I like their blog because they write very frequently, so there’s always something new!

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Resources for Missionary Wanna-Bes

 

  • Perspectives on the World Christian Movement is a top-notch class offered all over the world or online. It is not just for missionaries, but it covers Biblical, historical, strategic, and cultural factors of missions in a well-done way. Perspectives offers a free at-home Family Journey.
  • A Life Overseas is a blog for missionaries and other overseas workers, with high-quality, thoughtful posts from variety of authors. Most missionaries I know read this blog. 🙂
  • Urbana is a missions conference for college students that takes place each year – the next one is coming up in December 2015. If you know a young person interested in missions, Urbana is considered the best! (Unless you attend a Concordia University, in which case, go to Beautiful Feet!)

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

**Do you have any questions about overseas missions? Have you ever served as a long-term overseas missionary? Leave a comment below.

Go and Make Disciples… in Two Weeks?

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!

Mission Trips as a Family?

Have you ever been on a short-term mission trip? If you have children, have you ever considered taking them on a mission trip with you?

I’ve been on many mission trips through the years, to places like Peru, China, Poland, Hungary, and Mexico.

Though we plan to move overseas ourselves, we have not yet taken our kids (ages three and age one) on a mission trip… though we’re talking about a weekend trip to Mexico in a few months (just a few hours from home, we figure we can make an early exit if needed!)

I’ve been inspired by reading stories of families online who have taken their children with them, including:

I’m not sure that there are any hard-and-fast rules about taking your children on a mission trip… so much will depend on your particular children, where you are going, and what you’ll be doing.

If you have a specific question, feel free to leave a comment below and I’m happy to let you know my thoughts.

So, today I want to talk about just some general thoughts on short-term missions. I’ll warn you – this post is quite long. I’m intending it for those who might be very interested in thoughts about mission trips.

If you’re not interested, no problem! Check out some other ways to be involved in global missions with kids here.

go and make disciples

Should We Go on Short-Term Mission Trips?

In recent years, some have criticized short-term mission trips, wondering their value and whether they cause more harm than good.

I’ve been one of those critics – during my final year of college, I did an extra project all about short-term missions, questioning  whether we as Western Christians should keep doing them. Spoiler alert: I think we should still do short-term missions.

 

A fifteen year old girl, camera and bag of souvenirs in tow, walks out of the secure area of the airport and into the arms of her parents, anxious to see their daughter after her two-week mission trip to Africa.

They ask her about her experiences, and she describes, “It was wonderful! I held this little boy at an orphanage for two whole hours, and I can just tell that his life was totally changed because of me.  It was kind of hard because I don’t speak their language, but my group and I learned how to say ‘Jesus loves you,’ in their language, so I’m sure that lots of people learned about Him from us. 

Also, my group went on a safari, and we saw elephants and giraffes. I got to try eating ants, too.  It was a great trip.  I just feel so on fire for God now, and I really bonded with the other people on my team.” 

Scenes like this occur at airports around the United States throughout the year, as short-term mission trip participants of all ages return home and tell others about their experiences.  Their testimonies make short-term missions sound godly, adventurous, and fun, and partly based on their stories, people continue to participate in short-term mission trips.

Unfortunately, these reports of short-term missions frequently focus on or even overestimate the positives without considering some of the negatives.  There are numerous reasons or goals for short-term missions, and it is not always clear if the goals are being accomplished.  Some wonder whether short-term missions is truly as effective as many claim it is, while others question who should be the focus of short-term missions: the participants or the recipients.

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Positives of Short-term Mission Trips

  • The Bible indicates that God’s people are called to show His love and do His work cross-culturally, and short-term missions is one way (but not the only way!) that can be done. 
  • The Gospel of Jesus can be spread through mission trips. Through drama and puppet presentations, day camps, distributing hygiene kits, or operating a soup kitchen, teams can bring the message of Christ to the people they encounter.
  • Mission trip participants can improve the welfare of people they meet. They may focus on housebuilding, medical missions, or food distribution.  In many regions of the world there is a need for relief or poverty alleviation, and many short-term teams are able to help with poverty issues in powerful ways through their work.
  • Christians of all ages can grow spiritually and emotionally through a short-term missions experience.
  • Many long-term missionaries are recruited through short-term experiences.
  • Even if they never return to the foreign mission field, short-term mission participants can be excellent informers and supporters of missions back home. Participants have seen first-hand what needs to be done, and their stories can often reach friends, family, and church members much more effectively than a long-term missionary who does not have the same direct connection to a congregation.   They are able to tell their congregations how to pray, because they have specific names and needs rather than simply a vague, general prayer request for a career missionary on the church prayer list, and they are also able to encourage others to continue to support missionaries and their work financially.
  • Short-term missions enables laypeople to be directly involved in carrying out the Great Commission. It does not require extensive training for participants.  The short-term missions movement has been extremely empowering for laypeople by showing them their role in the priesthood of all believers, meaning that all Christians, not just professionally trained ones, are able to serve God’s kingdom. In short-term missions, nearly any Christian can be a participant in mission work.
  • Short-term missionaries can encourage long-term missionaries and help meet a specific need. Short-term teams can meet a specific need for a long-term missionary, like providing the manpower and funding to build a new church fellowship hall or running a Vacation Bible School program.  Long-term missionaries can also find great encouragement in simply having someone visit them from their country of origin and show that someone cares about the missionary’s work; in a ministry where discouragement and loneliness is prevalent, this can be a huge boost in energy and enthusiasm for the continued work of the long-term missionary.
  • Mission trips carry out the “mutual encouragement of believers” described in Romans 1:11-12.mexico 2

Concerns regarding Short-term Mission Trips

  • Sometimes short-term mission trip participants overestimate their spiritual impact. They often don’t have language ability, they don’t have long-term commitment, and they may not know the culture of the people they are reaching. Cultural barriers can be hard to deal with in a lifetime of mission work, and infinitely more so in a short-term setting.
  • Unfortunately, short-term teams do not always do necessary or effective work as they seek to improve the welfare of others. Sometimes, mission projects are initiated by the participants, rather than nationals within the country. Westerners think they know how to help, so they think they are bringing a valuable economic resource, like a new home, food, or toiletry items, when in truth, the people living there did not want or need that economic resource.
  • Westerners can have a patronizing attitude, thinking we’re the great American saviors, without respecting the culture we’re meeting.
  • Short-term missions experiences can result in a spiritual “mountain-top experience” where participants come home with aspirations of a changed life, but typically don’t end up making many changes.
  • Short-term mission participants often are unequipped, receiving zero-training before their mission experience.
  • Sometimes, mission trip participants go because they just want the adventure, rather than out of a sense of service to God. There is nothing wrong with travel and adventure, and Christians can be encouraged to go on vacations and see the world, but if the purpose is adventure, and not missions, then it should not be called a “mission trip.”
  • Short-term mission teams likely mean more work  for the long-term missionary hosts.  Along with their encouragement and enthusiasm, short-term mission teams can bring grumbling first-time travelers, people naturally insensitive and unaware of cultural issues, and the need for the long-term missionaries’ time.
  • Short-term missions can be too focused on the participants rather than the receivers.
  • Some wonder whether the cost of a mission trip (flights, hotel rooms, food, passports) would be better donated directly to the people being served.poland 4

 

Practical Recommendations for Short-term Missions

1. Train short-term mission participants before their trip. Training should include education about culture in general and the destination culture in particular. Training can help participants nurture their spiritual growth and teaches people about missions.

Depending on the situation, training can take place in different formats, for example, as a weekly class for several months before the trip, or as a three day intensive training session at the beginning of the trip.

I recommend at least 10% of the length of your trip be spent in training beforehand. So, a 10 day trip should include at least one full day of training beforehand. A 10-hour day trip to Mexico should include at least an hour-long training ahead of time. Note: this is training, not just information about what to pack or what to expect.

2. Partner with nationals in the receiving country.

Some of the problems with short-term missions, like the existence of unnecessary work projects, stem from a lack of relationship between the short-term mission team and a national church in the country where the short-term mission is taking place.

There  needs to be a partnership between the short-term mission team and national churches in order for effective short-term mission work to take place.  Ideally, national churches should be at the forefront, and they should be the ones suggesting a short-term mission team be involved in some way.

3. Pursue meaningful missions experiences during the trip.

Rather than settling for repainting a freshly painted church, mission trip leaders should intentionally pursue missions experiences that are meaningful for both the recipients and the participants.

Trip organizers should work with their national church partners to develop projects that will benefit the receivers, rather than simply inventing something that may or may not actually help them.  This not only serves the recipients, but the participants as well, as they see that their presence is truly making an impact in the lives of others.

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4. Implement an ongoing missions ministry rather than simply taking once-a-year trips.  

Some churches label a two-week section of the annual church calendar “short-term mission trip,” and ignore missions the rest of the year.  Churches should pursue an ongoing missions emphasis throughout the year through Bible classes, missions presentations, debriefing sessions for past trips, and support of missions through church ministries.

Likewise, as a family, participating in missions year-round, rather than just during a mission trip, is key. I know of some great ideas for how to get involved in missions wherever you are!

5. Participate in missions wherever you are, both in your own community and overseas on a mission trip.

While there are certainly people in need, both economically and spiritually, all over the world, there are also people in virtually every community in the United States that need to hear the Word of Christ and need to experience His love.

In order to truly serve missions as a whole, Christians should be involved in missions both far away and close to home.

6. Debrief after the missions experience. The same 10% rule can be applied here – a 10 day trip should result in at least one day of debriefing… not just a rest or vacation day, but a time specifically devoted to thinking through the mission trip and praying about changes to make back home.

7. Seek excellence in short-term missions.

In order to improve the quality of short-term missions, the people involved need to continue to aim for improvement.  This involves diligence and dedication to doing short-term missions well.

Seeking excellence requires time, and trial and error.  It might mean writing goals for the short-term missions experience.  It means evaluating motives.

Before they begin, participants can ask themselves why they are going on this trip, and leaders can ask themselves why they are leading.  They can evaluate if it is because of a sense of adventure, or because everyone else is doing it, or if it is because they want to serve God and others through their experience.

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Yes, We Should Continue Short-term Mission Trips!

In an “updated” version of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters concerning short-term missions, Frampton Fox speculates about a conversation between two demons, in which Wormwood, one of the demons, says, “We must inspire more indigenous scholars to criticize [short-term] missionaries for their colonialism to the exclusion of the considerable damage that their sacrifice has done to our interests.”

The demons go on to discuss how enough criticism might stop short-term missions altogether (something they view as positive, of course).

The demons’ comments provide an important reminder to those that closely examine short-term missions: the negatives of short-term missions should not cause people to become discouraged and disillusioned and give up.

mexico 1

Yes, there are flaws in short-term missions.  Inexperienced trip leaders go without the right preparation, and participants join the team for the wrong motivations.

Short-term mission teams make cultural blunders, complete unnecessary construction projects, and do not speak enough of the native language to say much more than “Where is the bathroom?”

Teams embarrass their long-term missionary hosts and exhaust the national churches trying to work with the short-term participants.

Participants spend far too much time thinking about their own needs – including needs for photos and souvenirs – than they do thinking about the people they are trying to serve. Although they return back home vowing to change their lives as the result of their short-term mission experiences, their lives are back to normal within a few months.

Yes, there are flaws in short-term missions, but in spite of all the mistakes that are made, God works anyway.  Participants have the wrong motivations, but God uses them.

Someone goes on a trip primarily because she wants to see the Great Wall of China, and God changes her heart to love the Chinese people.  Leaders are unprepared to lead a short-term mission trip, but the team arrives home safely and happily at the end of the trip.

As God’s people, let us strive to do His will with diligence and in a way that glorifies Him as we do short-term missions.  Let us use our knowledge and intellect to study short-term missions and develop ways to touch people, using the knowledge He has given us.  But in the meantime, let us not stop doing short-term missions.

Let us not throw our hands up in the air and think, “If I can’t do it well, I shouldn’t do it at all.”  Instead, let us continue to seek improvement, but let us remember when we do not do short-term missions well, that God “chose the foolish things of the world” and “the weak things of the world” to serve Him.

 

For further reading…

** What are your thoughts and experiences on short-term mission trips? Leave a comment below.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

Support a Christian Missionary

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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Today we’ll be talking about how to financially support Christian missionaries. Tomorrow we’ll be talking about other ways to help missionaries, like praying, sending letters and care packages, and encouraging them.

It feels a little funny to talk a lot about how we shouldn’t put overseas missionaries on a pedestal and how you don’t need to be a missionary to do global missions… and then tell you to go support a missionary! 😉

But, I stilbelieve it is important to support missionaries – though I’ll confess I’m biased since I am a “missionary” myself! (Our family lives in Southern California right now as we handle some medical treatment for our daughter, but we currently work for a missions organization and plan to move overseas as soon as she is done with her treatment.)

As a “missionary,” I want to share with you first-hand what a tremendous blessing it is to receive financial support from a wonderful team of family members, friends, churches, and even some strangers.

Every month we take a day to write thank yous, look at financial gifts from the past month, and communicate with our ministry partners, and seriously, that day is always emotional for me because I am so moved by the sacrificial and kind partnership of these people.

It is such a joy and a true blessing to partner in ministry and know we’re not doing this alone. (And if you’re one of our ministry partners and you’re reading this post – thank you, thank you, thank you!)

support a Christian missionary

Why Support a Christian Missionary?

Missionaries need your support.

You may not be aware that most overseas missionaries raise their own support through personal connections with friends and family members.

While a few missionaries are funded solely through other means (like their individual congregation, denomination, or direct donations to their organization), the vast majority have to do support-raising (often called “deputation”) prior to departing for the mission field.

Missionary support provides a great connection for your family to global missions.

Most missionaries send out prayer newsletters via email or regular mail to share about their ministry. They may post photos on facebook, blogs, or other social media showing their work, asking for prayer, or simply sharing about life overseas.

These missionaries on the field can provide a first-hand resource as you seek to teach your children about the world and teach them about mission work.

If you can’t go yourself, you can send others.

There are many people who would love to serve as overseas missionaries, but can’t. Supporting a missionary provides a way to still be “in the game.”

As our own family currently is in the United States temporarily, unable to serve overseas for medical reasons, we are so grateful that we’re able to support some other missionaries and have a hand in God’s work overseas through them.

Our organization calls our financial and prayer supporters our “ministry partners,” and we truly consider them our partners, standing side by side with us serving together all over the world.

Global missions is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ cross-culturally through words and actions, so that people from all nations will believe and follow Him.

How to Find a Missionary to Support

If you don’t already support a missionary, here are some ways to find one. 🙂

Consider your own friends and family members.

Do you know any friends or family members serving as missionaries? Ask them for more information about their ministry and find out if they need financial support. Don’t worry about bothering them.

I can’t imagine any missionary would be unhappy to receive an email, phone call, or facebook message saying, “I’m interested in financially supporting a missionary. Do you need financial support? Could you give me some more information about your ministry?”

Check if your church supports any missionaries or has connections with any missionaries.

Contact your pastor or missions pastor to see if your church supports any missionaries.

Even if there are no missionaries currently supported by your church’s budget, they may be able to recommend someone who has previously made a presentation at your church, or is a “friend” of your congregation.

Contact an organization you support and ask if they have any missionaries in need.

Do you already have connections with a mission organization?

Call the organization and see if they have any missionaries currently beginning their support-raising or who are under-supported. The organization can provide a recent newsletter or contact information for the missionary.

Look online at mission organizations web sites.

If all else fails, you can just go on the web site for a mission organization and look at their list of missionaries.

We’ve done this a couple times before, when we wanted to support a particular organization but didn’t know any missionaries who worked with them. It was fun to know we were blessing a totally random family (and the family reached out to us and is now our facebook friend.)

Here are a few organizations you could check out:

love1

Think outside the box.

Did you know that other countries send missionaries, too? Here’s an interesting article (a little outdated) that shares about some of the countries that send the most missionaries, including Brazil, South Korea, India, South Africa, the Philippines, Mexico, China, Colombia, and Nigeria.

You’ll notice many of these countries battle extreme poverty, and I’m sure their churches lack much funding to send missionaries… but they do it anyway!

For years, there have been missionaries to China, India, and parts of Africa… wouldn’t it be so neat to support someone from one of those countries serving as a missionary himself?

Honestly, I’m not sure how to put you in touch with a missionary sent from another country, but supporting one of these missionaries from another country is certainly something to consider.

Perhaps if you know someone serving internationally, you could see if they could put you in touch with a local missionary who needs support.

thank you

What Missionaries Want You to Know

Based on my experiences and from conversations with other missionaries, here are a few things we want you to know:

Please start giving or make a commitment to donate even before the missionary moves overseas.

We have been so blessed by people who faithfully donated to our family’s ministry while we were actively support raising, and continue to donate even though we’re not overseas yet (we are actively involved in full-time ministry here in the U.S.)

Don’t feel like you need to wait till they actually go. If you know someone who is support-raising, ask if you can start donating right away, or at least offer a commitment to donate as soon as they move overseas.

By starting your donation now, you’re helping the missionary as they make final preparations to move overseas… a time typically filled with lots of extra expenses and stresses.

Please donate to missionaries who are doing ministry in the United States, too.

Though we do hope to serve overseas soon, we know so many missionaries who permanently work here in the U.S.

They are doing such valuable work planting churches in multicultural communities, working with international college students, aiding refugees, or serving in support roles for organizations that serve overseas.

Yet it can be so difficult for them to raise support since they don’t live the “glamorous” life of a missionary serving in an exotic location overseas!

Please consider supporting a “state-side” missionary (or a missionary in your own country, wherever you live).

Please tell the missionary when you first make a donation. Even better, ask if there is a preferred way to donate.

If this is your first time donating, or if you’re giving a special gift, it’s a great idea to send an email or facebook message to the missionary to give them a heads up.

That way, they can send a thank you note promptly, and they can make sure it goes through properly for their support.

(If you give a monthly/recurring donation, it’s not necessary to communicate this every time).

Likewise, if you need to stop a regularly donation, tell them that too! It might seem awkward, but this enables the missionary to thank you for your past gifts and to be sure you really intended to stop giving, rather than wondering whether you forgot or just changed credit cards.

Missionaries are so grateful for your financial support and couldn’t do it without you! Thanks for your faithful giving! Truly, every missionary I’ve ever talked to is grateful for the support of our ministry partners. Sometimes life gets busy, or we just can’t come up with the words to adequately convey that thankfulness. So if you are someone who supports an overseas missionary, please let me say “thank you” on their behalf!!

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

**Do you support any missionaries? Leave a comment below to share your experience.

Writing a Blessing for Your Child

Writing a Blessing For Your Child

One of the best things we get to do as parents and adult mentors is bless our children. Sometimes this happens informally, through simple words of affirmation, but sometimes we can do it more formally, through a written blessing.

Blessings are a Biblical concept – Aaron and his sons receive instruction to bless the people of Israel in Numbers 6, and we see several parents blessing their children, like Jacob’s blessing his sons in Genesis 49.

In our family, we’ve chosen to bless our children as babies through a written blessing. You can read the blessings here:

We found this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Oh Amanda, and I talked about it a little in 6 Ways to Introduce Jesus to Even the Youngest Baby, but today I want to share some ideas for actually writing the blessing.

What Is a Blessing?

We have written a blessing for each of our children: a page of prayers and intentions for our little one.

Certainly, it doesn’t need to be written down – a spoken blessing is wonderful too. The benefit of writing is that you can prepare your words ahead of time, and it’s recorded for the future.

In our blessings, we’ve recorded some hopes for our children, including specific ways we’ll pray for each of them and some encouragement for them as they grow up.

It can be any length. Ours have both been about a page, typed, but your blessing can be just a few sentences, or much longer.

When to Give a Blessing to Your Child

You can share a blessing for your child anytime.

We are members of an LCMS Lutheran church, which practices infant baptism. So, we’ve shared the blessing on the morning when each of our daughters have been baptized (both were about seven weeks old on their individual baptism days.)

For babies, you could also share this in conjunction with a baby dedication, when they are born, on a milestone “birthday” like 3 or 6 months old, or just on any old day – it doesn’t have to be a super-spectacular event!

For older children and teenagers, some appropriate times might be:

  • birthday
  • Baptism day
  • Confirmation or First Communion Day
  • onset of puberty
  • entering a new phase of school (like beginning of junior high or high school)
  • receiving driver’s license
  • first date
  • moving out of the house
  • wedding day

 

Questions to Inspire Your Blessing

If you’re interested in writing a blessing, I would encourage you to pray first for the Holy Spirit to give you the right words to say.

Then, here are some questions to help you think:

  1. As you envision your child in the future (in 5, 10, 20, 50 years), what do you hope will be true of your child? What are three or four qualities you hope he or she will possess?
  2. What does your child’s name mean? Why did you choose it?
  3. Is there a particular Scripture that is meaningful to you or your child? Why? Could you turn this Scripture into a prayer of blessing for your child?
  4. What are some qualities your child already exhibits, both positive and negative? What are some significant events from her life so far? How can you pray these will be a blessing in her life?
  5. What are some prayers you’ve already had for your child? Is there a general theme you’ve prayed over and over again for him?

Questions to inspire a blessing for your child.

 

What to Do with Your Blessing

Choose a time to share with your child. This can be private, just with your family, or public. For our daughters, we shared one blessing within the actual baptism church service, and another at her baptism party afterward.

We printed our blessings out and put them on the wall of our daughter’s room. For a long time, we were reading a small section of our preschooler’s blessing to her every night before bed, and she loved it. We have fallen out of that habit though… maybe we should begin again!

Certainly, it would be nice to share regularly, perhaps on an annual basis, like a Baptism birthday or normal birthday. A short blessing (more like the Numbers 6 Benediction, which is just a few lines) could be shared very regularly, even daily!

**Have you ever written or spoken a blessing for your child? Leave a comment below.

all about God’s Little Explorers for preschoolers

In the past few months, I’ve been having so much fun with my three-year old daughter, Elle. We’ve set up a tent and eaten pretend s’mores, gone on nature walks, made crafts, baked an apple pie, acted out the 10 plagues of Egypt, made flowers and butterflies out of fruit, and read lots and lots of books.

Because I’m such an awesome mother? Not quite!! Left to my own devices, our playtime would probably be pretty boring.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

This is all thanks to a little gem of a program  that I found a few months ago for 3 and 4-year olds called “God’s Little Explorers.” Though it’s called a homeschool curriculum, I think it works for all parents to use, not just homeschool parents – I’ll explain this more below. We’ve been using it for a couple months and I am delighted by the quality time, learning, and focus on the Bible that has come out of it!

Today’s post is an extra-full one, chock-full of info about God’s Little Explorers. I’d like to…

  • introduce God’s Little Explorers, in case you’re not familiar with it
  • tell you why I love this curriculum so much
  • provide ideas for how to adapt if you’re not a homeschool parent
  • share some tips and tricks for doing God’s Little Explorers
  • offer some encouragement to not seek perfection in God’s Little Explorers

Don’t have any young children in your life? This post probably won’t apply much to you… but you might enjoy this “Day in the Life” of a parent of teenagers post that I read this week – the author has some good tips!

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

WHAT IS GOD’S LITTLE EXPLORERS?

free preschool curriculum written by Stacie Nelson from MotherhoodOnADime.com. There is also an option to purchase an easier-to-print version of the curriculum for $17 (all proceeds go to support a charity in India, which is nice!)

There are 28 weeks, covering the 26 letters of the alphabet (plus a couple review weeks, too). Each letter corresponds to a Bible story, and the Bible stories go in chronological order, which I love. Along with the Bible story, there is a theme for each week, offering fun activities.

For example, week 2 is the story of Creation (G is for Garden). We read the story of Creation and made a Creation book, then did some activities connected to gardens and flowers. They all sync together since the Creation story involves the Garden of Eden. Then the fall of man (A is for Apple), then Noah’s Ark, (Z is for Zoo), and so on.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!
This week we’re learning about “Q is for Quail,” with the parting of the Red Sea and God’s provision of manna and quail for the Israelites.

The curriculum is designed to be done for about 45 minutes a day, four days a week. We aim for this, but sometimes don’t do it four days a week, in which case we might just skip activities, or might spend two weeks on one lesson.

Keep reading for adaptations for parents who do NOT stay home/homeschool during the day!

Please note – I’m not connected to God’s Little Explorers in any way – just a fan!

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

10 REASONS I LOVE GOD’S LITTLE EXPLORERS:

1. It supports intentional time with my 3-year old. Without an intentional plan, it would be easy for her to play for quite awhile by herself while I do chores or my own projects. While that’s okay occasionally, I also want to enjoy some quality time with her every day. (We try to do God’s Little Explorers while my younger daughter takes a morning nap.)

2. We are reading through Bible stories chronologically and “studying” them together. In the past, it has been tricky for us to read through her children’s Bible systematically. Even if we start with Creation, we get sidetracked after a few days, or lose the bookmark, or she requests one of Jesus’ miracles, or whatever, and there are stories we’ve never read. Plus, even if we do read systematically, we’re just spending a couple minutes a day reading the Bible storybook.

Going through God’s Little Explorers has helped us focus on these stories in an age-appropriate way. Elle is learning about faith heroes like Noah, Abraham, and Moses. She can identify a picture of Joseph in his colorful coat. I love this, and it’s totally thanks to God teaching us through God’s Little Explorers!

3. It’s flexible and easy to customize. I have seen other kids’ programs out there that are expensive or the structure is very rigid. I find God’s Little Explorers to be a great balance of providing ideas, but not being overwhelming. I don’t feel like a failure if we skip a few activities (in fact, the author encourages adapting as needed!)

And I don’t find that there is a lot of prep work or materials to prepare. We are already reading books together – they may as well fit with the theme! And we are already looking for something to play… it may as well be a fun activity that teaches the Bible or just life in general!

4. It’s free! (or VERY reasonable for the easier-to-print version)

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!
an art project from the story of Abraham – T is for Tent

5. It encourages us to do creative, fun activities together. I totally believe in giving kids some free time to play however they want. However, it’s also fun to do some new activities, rather than defaulting to our typical blocks-Legos-princesses-coloring routine.

6. The themes and activities are not a stretch. The themes (i.e. colors) and Bible stories (i.e. Joseph and the coat of many colors) really connect well. Everything makes sense and is very thoughtful. There is a strong correlation between each Bible story and the theme for the week. Also, the themes are pretty typical of preschoolers: food, water, camping, colors, desert, birds, etc. These are nice concrete things for kids to explore.

7. It uses supplies I already have or can access easily. 

8. The activities are simple and hardly require any preparation – often the only prep I’ve done ahead of time is printing off the lesson and perhaps reserving some books at the library (which is optional). For some activities, it might be helpful to pick up a few extra supplies at the store or prepare the components of a craft ahead of time.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!
hard at work studying the 10 plagues – also, just want to show our “real life,” with dollhouse out, unmade bed… we are not striving for perfection here! 🙂

9. There are sections for life skills and a service project. We don’t do these every week, but we have a few times. One of my favorite life skills activities was getting out different seasonal clothing and asking Elle to choose what she would wear when it’s cold, or raining, or hot.

10. The activities are really simple. This is normal, old-fashioned fun with my kid. There is nothing glamorous or picture-perfect about these activities. We’re not doing anything super high-tech or ultra-educational… just playing and helping her learn a little!

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

ADAPTATIONS IF YOU’RE NOT A HOMESCHOOLING PARENT

I stay home with my girls during the day, and my daughter doesn’t go to preschool, so we typically do God’s Little Explorers on weekday mornings while my husband is at work.

BUT, I think you can do it even if your child typically is in preschool or day care!

I would guess most Christian parents are looking for quality time and a simple way to teach the Bible to their children, and God’s Little Explorers offers that!

While it will certainly take some intentionality, I think you could easily find a couple hours a week to do this with your preschool-age child, even if you are not home during the day with your child.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!
making strawberry butterflies for “I is for Insect”

Activities to Choose

First, when you look at the lesson (click here to see week one for an example), realize that if you are trying to do this as a working parent or if your child is at outside-the-home preschool all day, you probably are not going to get everything done (simply because of the amount of time in the day). That is okay! (We skip quite a bit, too, even though we are home).

If your goal is quality, spiritual time with your kids, I would focus on the sections of the curriculum labeled: Bible, Theme, and Life Skills. Then if you have extra time, you could choose a fun activity from ABC & 123 and from the Book Bag section.

For time sake, I would recommend skipping the “extra” activities in the right sidebar, like the musician and artist studies. If your child is already going to an academic preschool, you also could just skip the letter/number/shape activities, unless one of them looks really fun.

Also, the Learning Bags ideas are totally lovely, and might afford you some time to make dinner or something, because they are mostly for independent play. But, they do require some extra materials and preparation. So that is your choice. (So far, we have skipped making these).

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

When to Do God’s Little Explorers

Then, consider when you would have some time to devote to doing God’s Little Explorers with your child. Here are some possibilities:

late afternoon

Do you have any time in the evening after preschool? Perhaps there is a window of time in the late afternoon before dinner, or between dinner and bedtime? I could see a family coming home from preschool around 3-4 pm, having a snack (could even be a suggested snack from the curriculum), then doing 30-60 minutes of reading, play, and crafts from God’s Little Explorers, then preparing dinner.

bedtime

Or, you could read the Bible story and sing the song at the dinner table, then do one or two of the activities before getting ready for bed. There are usually several suggested books to read together – these could become bathtime or bedtime stories.

weekends

Or, do you have any time over the weekend? Maybe Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon? Even just two solid blocks of time would be enough to get much of the God’s Little Explorer lesson completed, and then during the week, you could still read the Bible story, sing the songs, and read books as part of your normal routine.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!
our treasure map – each week we add a new letter to remind us of our studies

adult mentors

Adult Mentors – are you a grandparent or another adult mentor to a preschool-age child? You could certainly use this curriculum with the child! Do you see them once a week?

Just pick and choose your favorite activities to do together for an hour or so!

at church

There is a special edition of the curriculum that is a little more expensive ($35 right now) that allows you to use it for a group…  I think this would be usable as a Sunday school curriculum with a little tweaking!

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR GOD’S LITTLE EXPLORERS

As I’ve gotten started with God’s Little Explorers, here are some tips that have made things easier for me.

How to Prepare at the Start of the Program:

  1. Print out the lessons. You can access them for free through this link, but it is pretty time-consuming to open each individual file. If you purchase the curriculum, I believe it downloads as one file, which would be much faster!
  2. Gather the lessons together in a 3 ring binder or accordian folder. I keep them in a 3 ring binder, with a post-it note stuck to the current lesson so I can find it easily. HELPFUL HINT –> if you hole-punch the first page of each lesson plan on the “wrong” side (the right side of the page), it will allow you to see a spread of the entire lesson plan for the week at one glance (see example in photo above).
  3. Gather your supplies. During week 1, you will put together an Explorer’s Kit (a box to hold crayons, scissors, glue, etc.) and a Treasure Box (a box to collect completed artwork and pages). There’s also a time to create a treasure map for the wall to remember each letter each week.
  4.  Optional:
    1. You could go through each lesson and highlight any special supplies needed, or books to put on hold at the library. (I keep meaning to do this, but we haven’t done it yet.)
    2. Make a schedule for the year. If you start the lessons in the next couple weeks (September), and do one lesson a week, you’ll get to the story of Jesus’ birth around Christmastime, which would be fun. We started in June but have not done a lesson every single week… up until now I just was moving on to the next lesson as we felt like it. I just recently made a schedule to take us through next spring.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

Preparation for Each Lesson:

Like I mentioned, sometimes I do zero prep for the week ahead, but of course, it works out a little better if I do.

Usually the night before, I look at the printed lesson and circle a few of the activities I want to do the next day. That might just be all the Day One activities, but sometimes we are missing a supply for a Day One activity, or I’d just prefer to do a different one. Circling the activity makes it easy to reference in the moment. Then after we’re done, I cross it off so by the end of the week, I can see what we have and have not done yet.

I put together a hymn book of all the recommended hymns so those words are accessible to us. You can print the hymn book here: Hymn Book – God’s Explorers  We usually sing during our Morning Time.

Stacie Nelson (the author of God’s Little Explorers) has a blog post for each lesson, with photos. I try to look at this blog post for inspiration, and there are easy links to the directions for the activities. Sometimes I look through it with my daughter, and she helps decide which crafts we should do, based on the pictures. For example, this week looking at the picture of eggs in a nest inspired us to make that for snack.

Ideally, I’d look ahead a week or two and put books on hold at the library for a week or two ahead. In the beginning, I was doing this a lot. Lately, I’ve been behind the curve, which is unfortunate, because it is really nice to have those books at the right time.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

Imperfection is okay!

Finally, I just want to encourage you that sometimes it’s better to just start doing something, like God’s Little Explorers (or any activity with your child), rather than seeking perfection.

In my house, if I looked for the perfect moment, where I could 100% focus on my daughter, and the house was clean, and I had done all the prep work for the lesson ahead of time, and all the books were checked out from the library… we would never actually do God’s Little Explorers.

So I’ve been trying to just do it anyway. I try to put the baby down for her morning nap, then immediately start God’s Little Explorers… even if there are breakfast dishes on the counter, or I’m still in my PJs, or I’d really rather use the computer for a few minutes while Elle played by herself. (Of course, there’s still a day or two every week when I give in to my own desires to tidy up or get ready right away).

This is the only way that God’s Little Explorers is actually happening – my choosing to do it even though it’s not perfect.

Sometimes I’m throwing together the next activity while Elle finishes up the current one.

Sometimes we don’t have all the right supplies so we have to improvise.

Sometimes I’m looking at the lesson for the first time with Elle next to me (like I mentioned, looking at the pictures online with her is kind of helpful because then she can choose what we do!)

A good reminder that sometimes the only way good things happen is by my choosing to do it even though it's not going to be perfect.

The other day I snapped this picture to show what the rest of the house looked like while we did the 10 Plagues activity. It was a mess! (Though I do promise that is clean laundry, at least!)

And frankly, after we finished doing God’s Explorers for the morning, I felt like I spent the entire afternoon cleaning up the house (and was pretty cranky by the end of it!)

But when Elle requested “the new Moses story” as her bedtime story a couple nights later, and was so excited to read about God’s power and the plagues, I felt like it was worth it.

Tips and tricks for God's Little Explorers, a free Christian homeschool preschool curriculum from Motherhood on a Dime. Includes a free hymn book download!

I hope you will check out God’s Little Explorers! Please comment below if you have questions or thoughts!

**What are your favorite activities to do with your preschooler? Leave a comment below.

You’ll find me linking up with Mom 2 Mom Monday, Mama Moments Mondays, and  Modest Mondays.