This St. Patrick’s Day, teach your kids about the real (mission-minded) Patrick

This St. Patrick’s Day, teach your kids about the real (mission-minded) PatrickAmerican holidays are a quirky thing. We celebrate turkey on Thanksgiving, Santa Claus on Christmas, green clothes on St. Patrick’s Day and bunny rabbits on Easter – even though each one has a uniquely Christian foundation.

What, you didn’t know that St. Patrick’s Day had a Christian theme?

Patrick was a real person who played a key role in the spreading of the Gospel in the 400s. He was a British teenager when, around age 16, he was sold into slavery and taken to Ireland, where he worked for about six years before escaping across the sea back to England. As Bruce Shelley writes in his book Church History In Plain Language, Patrick “would have gladly remained in England had he not had a dream one night in which the babies of Ireland pleaded with him to come back to their country and tell them about Christ.” He did that – and his work resulted in thousands coming to know the Lord.

So a man was sold into slavery, escaped, and then returned to tell those very same people about Jesus. What’s not to like about that story?

The story of Patrick is one we should be telling our children over and over, and what better time than St. Patrick’s Day? It’s a story of forgiveness, sacrifice, service and missions.

Want to know more? Read history professor Stephen Douglas Wilson’s column about St. Patrick. It’s told from a Baptist angle, but it’s applicable to all Christians.
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3 simple and easy ways to teach your kids to pray

3 simple and easy ways to teach your kids to prayChildren were a focus of Jesus’ ministry. He used the loaves and fish from a boy to feed the 5,000. He healed at least one sick child and raised another one from the dead. He told his followers to have the humility of a child. He even took children into his arms and blessed them when his disciples wanted to send them away.

I think about Jesus’ view of children often when my three children pray some of the most heartfelt, inspiring and even entertaining prayers I’ll ever hear.

Consider, for example, my oldest son’s prayers when he was 3.

When I told him we should thank God for everything in life, he took it seriously, even providing God plenty of detail.

“God, thank you for my train table and those two plates on the wall that are next to the smoke alarm,” he said one night while lying in bed, describing two colorful ceramic birthday plates that, yes, were right next to the smoke detector in his bedroom.

On other nights, he felt a bit more academic.

“God, thank you for the letter B, the letter D, and the number 3.”

And on some nights, he was feeling a bit theological.

“God, thank you for crushing Satan’s power,” he said, quoting, verbatim, what he had read in one of his storybook Bibles.

But there are plenty of times in which my children refuse to pray—when we go around the table at suppertime, finding no volunteers. Just like me, and perhaps you, too, they can be stubborn when facing spiritual matters. If we want our children to pray, we ourselves must first believe in the power of prayer (James 4:2-3)—and then set the example.

Here are three specific ways to do that:
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‘Dad, what does it mean to glorify God?’ — 3 ways to help your child understand life’s purpose

'Dad, what does it mean to glorify God?' Before they were 2, my children could answer the first question of the catechism – “Who made you?” – by pointing skyward and shouting in their respective sweet voices, “God!”

Soon they also were learning why God created them. My daughter had just celebrated her second birthday when she would respond to “why did God make you?” with an excited and precious “goalie!” – her best effort at “for His glory.”

Of course, she doesn’t know what that means, but many adults don’t, either.

The theme of God’s glory is spread throughout Scripture, but we too often walk away puzzled. And that, in turn, makes it difficult to explain the concept to our inquisitive children as they grow older.

One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Sounds great, but what specifically does that mean? How do we glorify God in everything?

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “glory” carries the idea of “greatness” and “splendor.” In the New Testament Greek it means “dignity,” “honor,” “praise” and “worship.” [1]

So, yes, to glorify God means to praise and worship Him, but we can’t stop there. That verse in 1 Corinthians tells us to glorify God in everything we do. But how? The answer’s actually quite simple, and we can draw a parallel to the relationship between a parent and child. How does a child please his or her parents? By loving them and obeying them. And that’s how many kids’ catechisms explain this difficult question: We glorify God by “loving him and doing what He commands” throughout the day.

We glorify God when we sing to Him and pray to Him and read His Word, but we also glorify God when we do what He tells us to do and when we love Him – in “whatever” we’re doing, as 1 Corinthians 10:31 says. John Piper defines glorifying God by saying it’s when we feel, think and act in ways that reflect His greatness, that make much of Him. We glorify God when we do that which we were created to do. Children’s author Sally Lloyd-Jones summed all that up by saying it’s when we “make a big deal” of God. I like that definition. It’s simple … and biblical.

How, then, are we to explain this to small children, without pulling out the theology book and putting them to sleep? My suggestion: Explain God to them in such a way that their only response is to praise, worship and glorify God. Here are three ideas:

1. Make a big deal about God’s splendor. Begin with creation, to which kids are naturally drawn. Teach your children that God made everything, that God owns everything, and that God is bigger than anything. At an early age tell them (excitedly) all the amazing things that God made – the animals, the trees, the oceans, the stars – and then as they grow older help them understand the infinite size of God. But keep it on their level. When my oldest son was about 4, I naively told him that God was bigger than the earth, the sun and the universe, when he turned to me and asked innocently, “Is God bigger than a mountain?” To him, a mountain was the biggest thing anywhere and to him, the universe’s size meant nothing. Now 6, he’s amazed that God knows the number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach and hairs on his head. Additionally, teach your kids that God owns everything, too – their house, their room, their toys – and that they’re merely tenants. Soon, they’ll see that this God must be a big deal.

2. Make a big deal about God’s holiness. It may seem challenging to teach kids about this concept, but it’s really not. Begin by teaching that Jesus never sinned – even as a child. I tell my children that Jesus as a boy never disobeyed His parents, that Jesus loved even the boys and girls who were mean to Him, and that Jesus never lied. Of course, the Bible is largely silent about Jesus’ childhood, but we’re not stretching Scripture by making these basic points. After all, we know He was a child at one point, that He never sinned, that He had parents, and that all children play with other children. My oldest son still finds it amazing that the boy Jesus never sinned. Stories like these are a great stepping stone to discussing a larger concept: God is pure and holy and hates sin.

3. Make a big deal about God’s love. Discuss regularly with your child all the ways God loves you and has blessed you, even when life is difficult. He gave you food and clothes and a place to live and (perhaps even) good health. That’s a lot on its own – and those are just the things we take for granted. I’ll often remind my kids that children in some parts of the world don’t have any toys, much less a batch for virtually each season. Of course, the central story in teaching about God’s love is the Gospel: That God the Father sent His Son to the earth to die on the cross for our sins, that Christ took the punishment we deserve, and that He rose from the grave. Tell them with a big smile that God loves them more than anyone does – that He loves us even when we sin, that he doesn’t give up on us, and that He’s constantly pursuing us. That’s an amazing kind of love — a wonderful love that should lead us, and our children, to glorify God.


Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes stove top popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public). Also, check out my video section

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5 reasons to tell children about the cross, from birth

5 reasons to tell children about the cross, from birthI won’t ever forget the first time I shared the Gospel with my oldest son. It was right after he spit up on my shoulder, and just a few minutes before I placed him gently in his crib. I don’t think he understood much at all that evening. He certainly didn’t ask any questions. In fact, I’m pretty sure he already was asleep.

He was an infant, about six months old.

I’ve repeated that routine every single night since then, and have now incorporated it into a bedtime song. For his twin brother and sister, I began telling them the Gospel message much earlier, right after birth.

Parents sometimes wonder when their children are “ready” to learn certain difficult concepts. The Gospel, though, shouldn’t be on that list.

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