Training Children in Character

Here are some of my favorite resources for Training Children in Character:

  1. Godly preaching and seminars will help encourage you using God’s Word to listen and tweak or overhaul those weak spots in your parenting. They also help you see those areas you should continue in doing right. When we were new parents a free parenting seminar offered in our church by a local pastor over a weekend sparked our hearts for knowing we needed to have a godly aim in training our children. We enjoyed it so much we bought the CDs from our church bookstore and we still listen to them. (White CDs on book).
  2. The Child Training Bible helps us use God’s Word in preventing and dealing with problems. You can see one of the cards from the set sitting on the Bible. A friend sent this to us and we love it! It can be used as a more organized system of tabbing your Bible with color-coded tabs that match the colors on the card, but we prefer to keep the cards in the front of a Bible that stays on our bookshelf. The usefulness of this tool is easy access to Bible verses when you need them in a teaching moment. The card pictured covers the topics of: anger, complaining, defiance, discouraged, disobedience, fear, and fighting. It can easily be used as “preventative” devotional type teaching as much as it helps when you need to address a heart issue in parenting counseling. The cost is $9 (plus shipping) is a great deal for the time it saves you from individually looking up verses from a concordance.
  3. Bible-based Parenting Books by Christian people can be as good as direct one-on-one parental counseling because you can refer to them again and again. You have to be wise concerning advice often evaluating the spiritual background of the author, it is best to find authors who share the same Biblical beliefs as you do. The book God has directed me to pick up again, Raising Real Men by Hal and Melanie Young (book on the far bottom left of the photo). Their conservative viewpoint of helping parents build up boys to be masculine defenders who protect women and become godly leaders is helping me focus on our 11 year old and 10 year old sons’ needs. You can find their book at their website. *Note: Most of their Biblical references do not come from the KJV Bible and I use my Bible to read the verses.
  4. Reading the book of Proverbs is a regular way of helping children see and understand God’s view of the wise, simple, and scorners. Some people suggest reading a proverb a day to help gain wisdom. For our children we may only read 1-6 verses at a time and describe them in depth. S.M. Davis former pastor and creator of Solving Family Problems preached regular family revivals at our former church and we picked up a copy of the Picture Proverbs Deluxe DVD set he produces (DVD set seen on left middle of photo). On the DVD you view narrated slides of each Proverb complete with sound effects and many Biblical story pictures that can help the children learn a real application of the proverb being taught. He suggests watching one proverb a day with your family and looking up the Bible stories together as a family. There are some other free resources on his website that can be a blessing to you.
  5. Doorposts Resources are excellent for training children. In the photo you can view the Go to the Ant Chart and their book called “Plants Grown Up” which is a project book for helping sons grow into men. We also use their If-Then Chart in our home for rules and direct consequences. Go to the Ant Chart quickly refers you to common character problems that come up when children are supposed to be working and decide to come up with excuses or laziness. Just bring your child to the chart and point to the character issue and ask them to answer the question and then see a section of scripture that instructs them to do right. Plants Grown Up and its’ companion book for girls, Polished Cornerstones, contain projects on specific types of character to build on including memorizing scripture and community and home service. The topics include: virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity each with sub-topics to practically apply them. *Note: Not all of her resources are from the KJV Bible you have to do the job of checking the references. We have adjusted our charts to have a piece of paper cover the verses and have them written in KJV.
  6. Institute in Basic Life Principles Character Booklets are resources to use for family Bible time, individual study, or referencing when you see your child needs growth in an area. We currently have the first 6 booklets which cover: attentiveness, obedience, gratefulness, truthfulness, orderliness, and diligence. Each book highlights a specific animal God created and how its personal characteristics display the character trait being taught. My favorite part of each book is how it highlights how Jesus displayed the character trait when He lived on the earth. Then, each book teaches “how” you are truthful to different authorities in your life, your parents, your boss, civil authorities, etc. If you really want to go all out and make the character teaching really fun they have calendars, collector cards, coloring books, posters and hardback copies of the book sets.

What we have found is these character building resources really help us counsel our children in Biblical answers for character and sin problems. Many times our use of these resources is preventative, we believe in teaching before expecting specific behaviors. They are also corrective helping guides as we show the children when they have done wrong and help them see the problem from God’s perspective.

We also firmly believe the aim is to help our children train the heart to love God and understand His Word, have a good relationship with Him, and learn to reconcile with others they have sinned against. We spend a hefty amount of time counseling, more than I ever expected, coming back to the Word over and over again (betimes) to reinforce our expectations have a root in God’s truths.

The biggest and best part of character training and having good resources is seeing the investment come out of our children into their every day living. When they respond or do right in a temptation circumstance it is a blessing. Honestly it has also helped us be more consistent as parents and grow in our faith, helping us to be faithful and try to avoid hypocrisy as our parenting is open before all their eyes.

I pray and hope if you are focusing on building the inward person of your child you will remember to encourage them and instruct them to salvation in Christ. Unsaved children will struggle in character issues because the Holy Spirit is not naturally guiding them. Keep encouraging them to see their heart problems are sin related and they need the help of the Saviour.

When and if they are saved remember the Christian life is a step-by-step process. Children will excel in many areas and fall back, they will react to life each differently and sometimes forget your instruction. Faithfulness in training and counseling will help you. Our sin and Christian life as parents can also have a profound effect in their attitude and success in character growth. Guard your heart and keep it tender as you teach others for yourself.

May the Lord bless you and help you in your parenting and guide you to the resources that will best fit your family.

(No affiliate links or anything throughout this post, just great helps and information for YOU!)

Old Drunk Sarah – Loving the Poor & Unlovely

Nicknames. Do you ever nickname people with a name that you call them when they’re not around? Well, we had a nickname describing a lady in our church when I was in my later elementary years. We called her “Old Drunk Sarah.” It’s kind of sad for me to think about now, but it was an accurate description of the woman we spoke to every week at church.

She stood taller than my mother and I. She wore plain dresses and church heels that were out of style. She had messy shoulder length dark hair pulled up partially in a clip and wore no make-up and dark glasses. Her eyes were a muted yellow color and she even had a womanly mustache I silently cringed over. Her seat was in the balcony of our church on Sunday morning near the exit. We sat a few rows ahead of her but every Sunday morning my mother greeted her and insisted we greet her with a smile and genuine courtesy also.

Old Drunk Sarah’s breath spoke before we heard her words and the smell of alcohol infiltrated our nostrils. She drank before she came to church every week but it never seemed to bother her consciousness. Her countenance displayed her pleasure that we would make the purposeful effort to speak to her. Mom would talk to her longer than my interest would hold but it wasn’t Sarah who stamped an imprint in my memory as much as it was my mother.

That’s just how my Mom was and is, she loves on people hardly any other church members care for. She was loving the alcoholic woman, being like Christ in loving the sinner. She made her feel welcome and spoke to her husband and son who were often stiff, and may have been embarrassed she came to church that way. Michael and Mike sang in the church choir and were involved even though Sarah just came and sat in the pew most of the time.

Reminiscing today I wonder what ever happened to her family.

So, how do you love the poor and unlovely when they’re so different?

Humble yourself.

Poor people will remember how you treat them. Prideful people may not remember you, but poor people will know your character by what you do.

The most basic thing we must understand when loving all people, especially those of “low degree” as the Bible calls them, is to see ourselves as equal. Humility brings us to the foot of the cross because every man must come before the cross the same way: with our sin needing to be forgiven.

I don’t know anything about Sarah except she was faithful to attend church Sunday mornings and her love of alcohol (sin) was apparent. I can simply guess that she loved the Lord even though she had a personal problem of runaway indulgences and bondage to the bottle. The difference in her sin was that it was obvious because the smell of it drifted off her breath.

When I go to church my sins are probably not as easy to point out because they’re hidden on the inside. Where someone’s sin may be glaring from their words, thoughts, and actions when it all comes down to it, we are no different. How foolish and prideful we are when we shun people who are displaying baser sorts of sinful practices and give them little of our time and conversation because of their lack monetary income and/or unrighteous life choices.

As a teen at times we were pretty “poor.” I wore cheap Wal-mart shirts to school or the wrong type of shoes to play basketball in. Do you know who I look back on in those years with fondness? The people at church who loved me and treated me like a “normal” person, not a poor person. The people at church who came out to talk to my mom in our junker of a station wagon. The youth pastor who helped move our stuff after my mom was getting a divorce. The church people who drove all the way out to the boonies to pick me up for a church activity. People who valued my soul and person, not my mother’s financial or marriage situation, and even later who didn’t shun me for my bad choices.

Think about the soul, not what you see.

In a sermon a missionary who told a story about a time when he did not want to tell a beggar about Christ at first. The Holy Spirit convicted him about it. Then, when the man came back around the parking lot he witnessed to him and the man was saved! His heart was smitten because he did not want to give a tract to him because of what he looked like. and in his sermon he said to the congregation,

“Jesus doesn’t look at the person, He looks at the soul.”

Jesus knows everything about every person but He still cares about that soul sincerely without reservation. We applaud the “bravery” of missionaries going to foreign fields to share the gospel with unreached people groups and awe at the photos of missionaries in third-world countries building churches from cannibals and others in bondage to witchcraft, etc. Yet, we do not hesitate to blankly walk past any stranger or grab the hand sanitizer when a dirty-looking person shakes our hand during the church service.

We need to have a sensitive heart like the Good Samaritan who reached out to the injured man and did not ignore his wounds and spiritual state. It takes spiritual maturity to look past the strange outward exterior or crude behavior, no matter what it may be, and look into eyes and see a soul who needs Jesus.

Remember where you could be… 

Have you spent time lately asking  yourself the “what if” questions?

You can go down a waterfall of endless questions asking: “Where would I be if…?” “If God had not worked in my life what would have happened?” “If that person who told me about Christ had passed me by how would my life had been different?” “What if my marriage ended, I ended up in bankruptcy, or my flesh was weak and I chose to live in sin?”

An investment of asking honest questions and seeing how good God has been in your life should make you turn in compassion toward other people and love the poor and unlovely.

Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit

I remember a story of my grandmother in her 60’s who passed a hitchhiker on the road. As she drove by the Holy Spirit nudged her to go back and give him a ride. She turned around and took him where he needed to go and then handed him a church tract and went on her way. She kept it a secret knowing how many people would look down on her risk of picking up a stranger until her pastor unexpectedly dropped it into a sermon. He said he knew someone in the church had been being a blessing to other people in the community and dropped her name out in front of the congregation. She gasped aloud saying, “That was supposed to be a secret!” Apparently the man had contacted the church asking for help and telling the pastor how she had helped him.

My purpose of telling that story is this: You do for the poor and unlovely what God prompts you to do. It won’t be feasible for you to always give out money, physical items, or  even sustain a family you know is struggling. My encouragement is to remember when people have helped you in the past. Then, when God has provided the means and the Holy Spirit speaks, do what He wants you to do for that poor and unlovely person.

Conclusion

Our world is full of Old Drunk Sarah’s who come to church and those who don’t. Your heart should be softened by humility to look at their soul and person like Jesus does. Don’t pass by, don’t cringe, be a friend and a real neighbor to them rather than just passing by in your perceived social stigmas. Love them in their poor and unlovely state for you never know how the Savior will transform them into a rich receiver of His blessings and change their soul to be beautiful.

Is Sunday School Boring? Change the Environment

This is the quote I saw today,

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Alexander D. Meijer

Many times as ministry women and families we can easily pinpoint problems or “sins” within the lives of other people. Discernment and experience allow us to figure out why they aren’t growing spiritually — we can see maybe that it’s their home life, or it is that they are not dedicated enough to the things of God, etc. But I will propose today that maybe it is not always the plant…

I want to highlight a specific part of ministry, one where you might have a larger influence, the Sunday School class. Not all women will have that influence because I know you serve where you’re needed or where you’re gifted, maybe you’re not a Sunday School teacher. I think that the idea and many of the basic principles can apply with this theme. Apply to any situation where you’re the teacher. If your church has grown stale and the people and flowers are not blooming it can be the environment of the church as much as it could be the environment they are cultivating in their own lives.

Boring Sunday School classes create bored students. If things are not going well in your class, it may not always be the students, it may be the environment.

Minutes before I saw the quote about flowers, as I was scrolling through Facebook, an advertisement asking parents and adults “Why do 75% of children quit going to church by the age of 18?” The premise of the advertisement said that the reason was because children learn the same Sunday School lessons year after year even into junior high and high school. Their curriculum was a topical lesson series that was meant to answer common questions children have about God and spiritual matters.

The advertisement almost made me laugh because our children actually have had this happen between 3 churches we have attended in the past 3.5 years. When we were serving in ministry on staff they learned about Samuel and went through the book of Judges. When we joined the church plant the teacher curriculum was also in the book of Judges. Then, this year when we followed our pastor to a new church (it’s a special story I hope to tell down the road) guess where the Sunday School teachers were in their curriculum series!? You guessed it! Judges. And we’re talking about three different curriculums, classes, and teachers.

Our kids had mentioned they were bored and I explained there must be some important lessons for their life right in that part of the Bible. Can you see how church could have been really boring if they were not engaged in their classes with good teachers giving different life applications over the past 3.5 years? Or they only went to church on Sundays? Or what if we did not talk about spiritual things at home? You can see how that there might be a possibility of becoming bored with church if this was the case.

Changing the Environment

While I realize it’s not our jobs to “entertain” per se’ in the church, but we should be making our ministry work appropriately engaging. Sunday School is no exception, it is a significant opportunity for children to hear Bible teaching on their own age level.

Classroom Environment

  • Cleanliness of the room should be maintained.
  • Seats that allow the child to sit with their feet close to the floor. Tables that allow them to comfortably do their work or play.
  • The walls should have neat decorations that are not a distraction. Decorations should change too and compliment the purpose of your lessons and class or at the very least, the seasons.
  • You also want to have a window or the door to public walkways to allow accountability and prevent accusation, especially if you do not have a classroom helper.
  • Do the best with what you have — maybe you’re using one-size metal chairs and they’re you’re desks for filling out Sunday School papers too, or you’re in a classroom that was not really designed to be a class, then you can only fix and work with what you have.

Sunday School Teacher Environment

The receptiveness of the spiritual message of the lesson is dependent upon the teacher’s effectiveness to communicate God’s intended purpose for the lesson. The heart of the teacher is the key to competent teaching. The character of your actions before and during class also will dictate “success” in teaching.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you preparing enough in advance to study the lesson and allow God to work in your heart?
  • Have you prayed for the Sunday lesson time and the children of your class?
  • Do you have flexibility when things do not go as planned, to be able to come up with new ideas that will create interest or deal with problems?
  • What is your personality in the classroom? How do your students perceive you? Which fruits of the Spirit are you exhibiting or should you incorporate?
  • Are you engaging the children through eye contact and appreciation of their responses?
  • Do you have sins exhibited in the classroom? For example, do they see impatience or anger when you deal with difficult people and situations?

Lesson Environment

Through time often as teachers we can begin to rely on specific methods that we are familiar with and get into a routine of using the same types of methods of teaching. I’m going to encourage you to spice it up and try something new.

  • Preparation of materials and supplies should be done ahead of class time.
  • Utilize visual aids – Eyes and brains are connected, if you’re engaging their eyes they will more than likely be listening. A friend suggested engaging children by using the five senses, use a number of visual aids that will help them see AND experience the lesson.
  • Use your voice – No monotone! Whisper, speak with excitement, use voices to portray characters. Read the Bible in an interesting way.
  • Plan more activities than you will think you need. Always have time fillers whether they are little simple games, conversation starters, or simple coloring sheets, etc.
  • Rotating through lessons systematically by grade levels (each age level is doing something different). Joyful Life’s curriculum has a great way of rotating the age groups through different parts of the Bible and not repeating year-to-year.

When I was teaching regularly I would write out a classroom schedule including the songs we would sing, rules and expectations I had for the students, the lesson, review games, any other activities if we ended up going through the lesson faster than expected. Preparation and planning both the inside of you and the working parts of the classroom time can be a make-or-break element to a good learning environment.

 

 

While in no way are any of these lists exhaustive, we are always in a need to liven up our skills and sharpen ourselves to effectively educate the younger generation about the truths of the Bible.  I pray and hope that there will be an idea that you can use to be able to bring life to the environment of your Sunday School class.