3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

Every ministry kid needs a friend!  Did you ever have a pen pal? I had lots through the years when I was a kid and teenager. I even have a pen pal I have written for the past 3 years and I still love it.

I would encourage you to help your child find a child who is also in ministry or another Christian kid of like faith and practice. Ministry kids need to know there are other ministry children who are doing similar things they do in their family and in their church. I believe the common factor of similar beliefs alone will help establish a good friendship (but Ministry Mamas, we may have to help the kids be faithful to writing… more on that below!) Missionary children can also benefit from pen pals because it helps them be able to express themselves about their life and experiences on the mission field.

The truth of it is, they wouldn’t have to write a child but maybe a trusted Christian you know. A godly person with wisdom who would encourage and cultivate a good relationship with them that points them to Christ. Other people to keep in touch with might be: A Christian soldier who is deployed, a Bible College student, a youth pastor and/or his wife, a young adult on the mission field, or any other godly influence with time enough to sit and write.

 

3 Reasons Why Ministry Kids Can Benefit from a Pen Pal

  1. Writing to people keeps children connected to a broader world. There are lots of ministry kids who are lonely because they go to a church with very few children their age or missionary kids are in a foreign country surrounded by a different culture. Having a pen pal can connect a ministry kid with another child who lives like they do, serving God with their family.  Another lesson under this umbrella is that writing a person who is different lets your child understand variations in personalities and family preferences are common and that’s a good thing! When our children learn people can be different and still love and serve God the way they do then it helps them understand we do not have to be exactly alike to enjoy the company of one another.
  2. It teaches children about the joy of giving and receiving. To keep a pen pal relationship going there has to be reciprocation between letters — I send one, I receive one, etc. (This principle applies in so many aspects of life.) Receiving real mail is exciting! Letters have a mysterious element to them because you do not know its contents until you read it. Ministry kids who may be seeing or experiencing trials or personal struggles can benefit from the blessing of the letters from a friend and giving back. It can also help them look outside themselves by asking about the other person and being interested in their life.
  3. Having a pen pal teaches how to converse and encourage others. Reading letters can help your child learn to read tone and understand the feelings and heart of the other person. This practice of learning about the heart of another person can generate the qualities of empathy, compassion, and kindness. Children may open up to each other about their experiences and it can allow them to be able to have an opportunity to be a prayer partner with their pen pal and encourage them in life’s joys and struggles.

 

Helping Your Child Succeed as a Pen Pal

  1. Create a basket or kit that will have the necessary supplies they need to be able to write to their pen pal. Paper, pens, envelopes, and stamps are the very basics — add in stickers, gel pens, and stamps for more fun. There are great ideas for pen pal kits to send to your pen pal all over Pinterest, check this one out. It does not have to cost a lot of moolah, dollar stores have cheap supplies and cards. You can also teach your children to invest in buying the supplies for writing with money they earn.
  2. Help them with their writing skills. Teach them to write a letter and then teach them how to read a letter and respond with care. Teach them that writing a good letter can contain stories, descriptions, and questions. Writing without “I” as the main subject can be a challenge and should be attempted. Note: Boys may only have a factual type of letter exchange while girls may tend to share anything and everything going on in their lives and that’s okay! Help them spark their creativity with ideas and examples if they need it.
  3. Remind them to write when they receive a letter. There’s nothing worse than being a pen pal waiting desperately for a letter to arrive only to find out that you have been forgotten. It would be better for your child to write to their pen pal explaining why they will not be writing than no explanation at all. Before committing to a pen pal relationship consider the amount of time your child has. If they will be too busy to write it may be best to postpone having a pen pal until a better time.
  4. Be knowledgeable of the content of the letters if you can. Help them navigate even a pen pal relationship if they need help. Your job is to protect and nurture a good relationship. If the relationship goes south because of inappropriate content or the two pen pals are not a good match, then be willing to let that pen pal go. Be there for your child when and if those disappointments come. It is understandable people do change over time and so do their interests and not all pen pals are a good fit with each other.
  5. Spark their creativity! Help them keep the pen pal relationship interesting by being promoting thoughtfulness. Encourage your child to praying for their friend, include drawings, poems, whatever creative medium your child is good at doing. Or teach them to stretch themselves on the behalf of someone else just to be a blessing. You know your child best and can help them use their talents and gifts to be a blessing to their pal.

Hand writing letters is not for everybody so maybe pen pals won’t be for your kid– but what about Skype pals? or e-mail buds? Or phone calls? Or writing cards to missionary or church planter’s kids for their birthdays? There are other ways to “pen pal” and have our kids connect to kids in ministry (and others!) who may not be local.

Encouraging godly relationships is always good for us because we never know how God will use those things in our lives later on down the road! Just recently my husband was reunited with an old acquaintance he attended church camp with in junior high, and it seems they will be working on some upcoming projects together. God’s paths often intertwine in the most unusual ways.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article about how I’m involving our oldest boys in pen pals and for a free printable with themes for boys to write about or gifts/exchanges to make with their pen pal!

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Marks of a Joyful Mother Part 2

In the previous blog article we discussed how Christian motherhood should be joyful. There were so many ideas on my list that I personally did not want to cram them into one long post so here’s Part 2! Motherhood is more than being a mother of small children, kids grow up and teenagers need Mamas to remain joyful despite their own peaks and valleys. Joy is so closely associated not as an emotion but actions reflecting the heart. Don’t expect your kids to be happy to be in your family if joy is lacking in your heart and expressions of love toward them. Let’s push through our own fluctuations of emotions and allow God to shine through us no matter the age(s) of our children.

marks-of-a-joyful-mother-part-2

Reading and singing with your children. My most special moments as a mother have centered around reading books together and singing together. I have grown myself in reading books to our children. The Bible is a special book to read together, don’t neglect those opportunities to open up God’s Word and read it together. Family devotions are special but so is simply sharing those things God has been speaking to you about.

Singing hymns and spiritual songs is a favorite past time we enjoy. Occasionally we set out singing as I cook breakfast just singing song after song that we can think of or going around and singing each child’s request. It always lifts our spirits to sing of our Saviour and dwelling on spiritual truths together. The best joyful entertainment you can have is in reading God’s Word and singing praises to His name!

Asking for forgiveness and granting it to them. After months of a parental struggle with one of our children I was asking my mother-in-law for advice and she simply said, “Well sometimes you just have to forgive your children.” Duh… It struck me that I may have been the one who was keeping our relationship from moving forward because I could not let go of the repeated action(s) that were occurring. I did forgive him and we began connecting again.

On the flip-side I have been the offender who has needed to humble myself and ask my children for forgiveness. So far, when I do it genuinely from my heart, our children have been quick to grant forgiveness and quickly want to give me a hug to demonstrate things are right between us. Joy is hindered when we don’t keep things right between our children.

Laughing together (and sometimes at each other’s mistakes). My children love it when I mess up, whether it is answering a knock-knock joke wrong or mixing up my children’s names, they like to laugh. Create an atmosphere of comfort about being laughed at sometimes. You Mamas who are a little tighter wound, let your hair down a little and tell your kids funny stories from your childhood…i.e. Your most embarrassing moments and stuff like that. Kids are quick to catch the funny and the witty. Keep joke books around, listen to good clean comedians (Donald Davis is our favorite funny storyteller), and whatever else it is that tickles your Christian funny bone. Joy and laughter go joke-in-joke, I mean, hand-in-hand.

Teaching and learning from one another. One night while we were living with my in-laws (last year) my husband asked his mother about certain keys of music. In a matter of moments they took a  trip to the baby grand piano in their living room and in playing and discussing together his question was answered. She quickly helped him comprehend the subject matter.  It just shows it’s never too late to keep investing in your children.

Stay humble enough to realize that with all the knowledge out in this world, you simply cannot know it all, and your children will be growing and learning in different areas and may have some great insights and information you can also learn from. Joy comes in being able to reciprocate a transfer of knowledge one to another.

Praying for their heart’s desires and burdens. Somehow God can link what our children are going through straight to our Mama hearts (probably because of that link when they were living inside us). Good communication allows us to know what our children are wanting to do and those things that are weighing heavy on their hearts. Many parents suggest that tucking your children in at night will allow you the time to discuss things that their hearts may not tell you in the busy activity of the day. Yes, even at those older ages a stop by their room before bedroom can help!

Praying together helps to carry those things, both happy and sad, together to the Lord. Taking the time out of your day to pray with them can be very meaningful. It teaches them how the most “trivial” things can be brought before the Lord because He cares about our hopes and dreams as much as He does our  hard times of life. Praying about these things in their presence is a heart-connecting activity. Peaceful inner joy fills the hearts of mothers willing to pray with and for their children because while the answers to the prayers may be unknown, you have security in knowing the Lord is listening.

I am no perfect parent, and I wish that I was as beautiful as a Mom as so many others are. I battle in these areas but am finding each specific thing God highlighted in these articles are what makes my motherhood joyful. When I am doing these things in our life, then I have a joyful spirit. and our kids have a different type of Mama: one who cares about them more than herself and is cultivating a love for wholesome godly living. My goal is to encourage the nurture and admonish of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Your joyful motherhood may look differently than mine, and that’s okay…whatever areas that makes your family life better and makes you Mama Joyful is what you need to keep doing. My suggestions and observances are not dogmatic scriptural musts, but just little gleanings through experience. I trust in your journey in motherhood you will have some pretty special gems of joyfulness to look at and cherish.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, may you be filled with joy and growth in your relationships with your children! Happy Mother’s Day Ministry Mama!

Marks of a Joyful Mother Part 1

Christian motherhood should have marks of joyfulness! It is a responsibility of the souls God has placed in your possession the pursuit to help build and nurture the hearts of babes, children, teenagers, and adult children. Each stage of childhood encapsulates a new set of needs and adjustments that we must be in tune to and minister to according to what the Lord desires.

We know it’s a tough job, because there are unknown outcomes and personalities that may not respond to the last solution we used to help them. Parenting can be a hair-pulling experience when you desire desperately to raise your children for the Lord and you cannot figure out answers and worry they will not respond correctly to each situation that comes in their lives. With all the work involved the Bible explains in Psalm 113:9 God desires that we be joyful mothers. When God blesses the womb (or arms!) of a woman, He gives her a task to take care of that child, keep her home, and be joyful!

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.” Psalm 113:9

Throughout my life in experiences with other mothers and being a mother for eleven years now, I came up with this list of marks of Christian motherhood. I know that I am not an angelic mother with squeaky clean goody two-shoes. I am a P-Rex (Parenting Rex) that at times follows my children barking orders, lecturing about their poor manners in the social situations of the day, and being a big party pooper. Of course a little of that comes with the territory, but my desire is that our children have those precious memories of Mama when they think of me. That their thoughts will not be “Man, Mom yelled at us a lot,” but rather, “Mama was a tough cookie but she showed us she loved us every day and it was great to be a part of our family.” I’m just going to share with you some thoughts and ideas I have gleaned about being a joyful mother.

Greeting your children in the morning. Not barking at them or correcting them first thing out of your mouth, but welcoming them and speaking kindly. (Even to those who are lazy bones and like to sleep in). Gentleness should be a part of your morning to help the spirit of your home peaceful as long as you can. Gentle joy can have an effect on the whole day!

Getting up and being ready to serve your children.  How many times do we determine the tip of a waiter on their performance in service? Would you make any extra “tip money” if your children gave you a tip for your excellent servant-spirit for them? Don’t be a doormat, but realize that you as Mama, do have responsibilities that should not all be shoved over on your children. God convicts me at times when I am asking my children to do things that I should be doing for them. They are not supposed to be my little gophers getting every little thing that I want. If we truly believe our motherhood is a ministry and a service to our children then we should be ready to serve our family as an example of Christ’s love. When we’re old will our children serve us like we served them? Joyful motherhood comes in serving our children. 

Listening with focus and attention. When you hire a babysitter you expect they would have their phone put away, not staring at a screen answering texts, watching videos, or playing games. You would expect they would have their attention on your children so that they are alert to their safety and taking care of their needs. Listen Mamas, don’t expect more out of the babysitter than you expect out of yourself in the area of giving attention to your children. They have precious things to say, things to inform you about in terms of who they are and what they are thinking of, and even prayer requests.  Do whatever is necessary to stop what you are doing and listen to them when they are interrupting you during the mundane tasks or while you scroll away. Your children cannot be enjoyed when you are distracted.

Planning ways to spark their interest and keep your heart strings connected. Whatever family rut you are in, get out of it and find some fun things to do. Peruse Pinterest, check out the local deals for cheap activities, or invest some time buying new grocery items and make a new recipe. You can delve into their desires and interests if they are properly managed and learn about the things they are talking to you about. If it requires you do some research or introducing them to a person who knows more on their interest do it! Your hobbies, home business, and ministry should not get all of your creativity! Joy comes when we are able to connect with our children in enjoyable activities.

Celebrating and acknowledging little achievements of progress. In child training it can be easy to focus on the negatives, trying to train them to get them to do things “right” and correcting our children endlessly. The old saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy then ain’t nobody happy…” but we can tweak it a little, “If Mama ain’t thankful, then ain’t nobody happy.” Take time to learn to train yourself to praise and acknowledge that you are seeing improvement in their struggles and personal goals. You don’t have to go overboard with prizes or rewards; to give a special hug or compliment alone can encourage them. A word of thanks can go a long way! For those of you with older children who “expect” them to get everything right because they already know what to do and how to do it, give them a pat on the back for all those jobs completed. Encouraging our children should bring joy to our hearts. 

We have such an impact on our family, let’s be plugged in to our actions and rely upon God’s guidance to help us continue to have those heart-to-heart joyful connections with our children. There are more suggestions on how to be a joyful mother in Part 2 of this article, be sure to look for it here on the blog very soon!