Sunday, August 11, 2013

Soul Food Sunday #6: Stewardship continued...

This post was written by Nick Pridemore, College Pastor, Bloomington, Indiana. You can also find him at Werdguys blogging on all things faith and fatherhood.

Last week we began talking about teaching kids biblical stewardship. I spent most of that post discussing the bigger picture of stewardship; spelling out why this is something we should be intentional about. So this week we will look more at the specifics. I’m sure if you ask 100 people how they teach there kids about money you will get at least 87.392 different answers. I’m not saying what is listed below is the absolute end all on the subject. But these are some things we do in my house. Feel free to use them. If you have other methods and areas of focus then, by all means, pursue those. The point is…do something. Don’t assume kids will learn how to handle money properly in school or from culture at large.

I’ll start by reiterating something I said last week. Start teaching them about money before they are old enough to care about money. Use toys as teaching tools. We can teach them to be generous and not overly fixated on things using what is dearest to them, toys. Every few months we go through my kids’ rooms and pick toys to give away to kids who don’t have toys. We don’t mandate that they pick certain toys, or any toys for that matter. We simply explain how blessed we are and then give them the opportunity to pick some toys to share with others. Each time we do this I’m amazed that my kids don’t pick the shabby, torn up toys in the back of the closet. When they think about sharing with others they want to share the good toys. Kids are a lot more compassionate than we assume. Give them a chance to prove it.

Once actual money starts coming into the picture we have a few rules that we establish with our kids. First of all, we treat allowance as a paycheck, not a freebie. If they want allowance this week then they need to accomplish their chores. No chores = no allowance. That may sound harsh, but isn’t that how the world works? One of the problems I see quite frequently in our culture is that too many people have grown up getting something for nothing, and as adults think they are still owed something for nothing. Now, of course, when it comes to grace and fellowship with God we absolutely get something for nothing. But everything else is to be worked for. I don’t feel I’m doing my kids any favors by giving them an unrealistic view of the world. In fact, I feel I am loving them better by setting them up for success once they leave the house.

Next, as soon as we hand them their allowance they get their 3 banks out. For every dollar in allowance they get they take 10 cents out and put it in their Jesus bank, which goes to church to give to missionaries. Then they take another 10 cents out and put in their savings bank, which…is saved up. It’s not rocket science. The other 80 cents of each dollar goes into their regular piggy bank. That money can be saved up or spent. It’s up to them. Again, I’m amazed at my kids’ restraint and ability to save their spending money for a toy they really want. I would expect them to spend their 80 cents per dollar every single week, but they don’t. Kids understand saving better than you would assume. They just need a chance to prove it.

Another thing we do, or at least attempt to do, is model joyful giving. My wife and I want to be careful to not make this an issue of heavy obligation or burden. When we have a chance to bless someone else, or give to a project that we feel is really important, we bring our kids into the discussion about it. We want them to see us being excited about giving. We want them to see that giving is more fulfilling and rewarding than hoarding. So we let them know what we are doing and say things like, “Can you believe we get to do this?! Isn’t it so great to get to help                             like that?” Be careful to teach your kids that this type of rejoicing is probably something best done just as a family since it could come across as bragging if done too publicly.

I think these tips are a great start to teaching kids about stewardship. However, the thing that will influence them the most is the day in day out philosophy of money they see from you. So it’s important that you make sure you are not modeling greed and selfishness 90% of the time, and then trying to sit down and teach them about the joys of biblical stewardship. As with every post I’ve shared so far the most important thing is that you live what you want to teach.  So don’t rely on spending money to enjoy life or show love. Show them that love and enjoyment are readily available without having to buy things or go on expensive trips. Go for walks, wrestle, explore a forest, set an egg timer (do people still own egg timers?) and talk for a half hour without technology…the options are endless. Just show them what it looks like to not need more more more. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Soul Food Sunday # 5: Stewardship and your children; why is it important?!

This post was written by Nick Pridemore, College Pastor, Bloomington, Indiana. You can also find him on werdguys blogging on all things faith and fatherhood.

In what ways can we teach good stewardship of finances and the discipline of tithing?

Money. Bleh. There, I got that out of the way. I realize going into this post that money is one of the touchiest topics in faith. This is not necessarily without reason. It is true that many preachers are overly focused on money. The so called “prosperity gospel” has distorted Christianity into a false promise of riches and cushy living while ignoring the true gospel’s offer to “follow Me into death”.

 It is true that many preachers seek power and excessively lavish lives by becoming masters of manipulation and guilt. However, it is also true that many people use these statements to justify ignoring biblical teachings on selflessness, responsibility and stewardship. To be blunt, we hate hearing biblical teachings on money because we love our stuff.

The reality is Jesus talked about money a lot. He talked about money more than heaven and hell combined. He talked about money more than any other single topic other than the Kingdom of God. Almost a third of the parables are about money.  Here’s the crazy thing; it was never about money. The frequency with which the Bible talks about money is not about God needing your money. God doesn’t need you to fund his kingdom.            

The reason the Bible mentions money so frequently is summed up in one statement Jesus made; “wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). God actually is concerned with our view and treatment of money, not because he cares about our money, but because it’s an indicator of where our heart is. For example, consider the biblical directives to help others in need (Prov 28:27, Matt 25:31-46, Acts 2:45), use your resources to further the kingdom of God (Romans 15:20-24, Phil 4:1-20), and tithe faithfully (Malachi 3:10, Matt 23:23-24). If you are a believer and choose to ignore these because you are unwilling to let your money go then you cannot genuinely say, “Money is not my treasure, Jesus is.” No, money is your treasure, but that doesn’t feel good to admit.

Therefore, we should practice and instill in our children biblical ideas of stewardship. We should start early. One of the biggest mistakes parents can make in this area (aside from modeling greed and selfishness) is to assume kids are oblivious to money and stewardship. Many parents operate under the “don’t worry about it, this is grown up stuff” philosophy. Waiting until kids are taking economics in high school to teach them about money is a mistake. By that time society has already been teaching them to grab everything they can and hold on to it with all their might for 15 years. Kids as young as 3 or 4 can understand ideas such as “we don’t need more toys to be happy, lets do something fun” or “we have so many toys, maybe we should send some to kids who don’t have toys”.

I’ve mentioned this same tactic in other posts; using toys and ideas kids understand to teach bigger lessons. Isn’t that what Jesus did with parables? He broke the Kingdom of Heaven down into ideas we can understand by re-contextualizing them in words and stories we can relate to.
This post never actually got around to answering the original question. For that I apologize. But before addressing how to teach stewardship and financial responsibility to children I thought it was important to solidify that we should teach such things. Next week I will give some tips on how we tackle such things in my house.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Soul Food Sunday #4: Serving with your kids

This post was written by Nick Pridemore, College Pastor, Bloomington, Indiana. You can also find him at werdguys blogging on all things faith and fatherhood.

How do you build a family who serves others consistently as Jesus instructed us?

There is no doubt serving others is a central theme in Scripture. To truly live the Jesus life is to serve others. Jesus said greatness is found not in accolades and fame, but in putting others ahead of yourself, then he used himself as the prime example saying even the Messiah came to serve (Mark 10:44-45).
Figuring out practical ways to serve others is an increasingly important topic to tackle. It’s not that the act of serving has become inherently more important over the years since Jesus said these things. However, it is true that our society is becoming inherently less oriented towards service. The culture in which we live is hyper-focused on autonomy and comfort. We don’t want to feel responsible for others or burdened with their problems. Because this mindset is so prevalent in our society even sincere believers have been coaxed into thinking they are fulfilling the command to serve as long as they give to charity, which facilitates other people serving other people. That is not the case. We are called to serve directly (Matt 23:11, Matt 25:40, Mark 9:35, Gal 5:13-14, Phil 2:1-4). We are called to get our own hands dirty helping others. Because the scriptural teaching and definition of serving will be counter-cultural to our children it is important that we teach and model biblical service.

Learning to serve others starts in the home. If my kids hear me teach on putting others first to our college group, but do not see me serving my wife they will assume it is not really important. So, personally, I strive to serve my wife, both because she deserves it and as an example to my kids. We also try to ingrain in our kids the idea that helping others should be your natural habit. So, for example, when my wife goes grocery shopping we all (including my 2 year old) stop what we are doing and help carry in groceries. There are countless ways to instill the idea of serving among your family. 

Then we start taking the idea outside our 5 person nucleus and applying it to others. Teaching kids about serving is most effective when its contextualized to them. Here's an example, we often go to other people's houses for dinner or to hang out or whatever. If a particular house has toys, my kids generally play with those toys. But they know when I say "We are going to leave soon" that means they start picking up the toys they played with. Its a great chance to talk about how we treat others. We discuss that it would be unfair to make a mess and expect someone else to clean it up. In fact, not only do we clean up what we have done we also do extra. We leave things better than we found them. Because they have this frame work in their heads when it comes to toys it makes it very easy as they get older to apply the same ideas to the rest of life. 

 We also look for chances to serve in everyday life. My son loves holding the door for people at the store. We help people pick up things they drop. We stop and see if we can help the person stranded on the road. My kids choose some of their own toys a few times a year to give to kids without toys. I hope these examples are not coming across in a braggy tone, because that is not my intention. There is nothing to be impressed with here. The realty is these are all very easy ways to demonstrate the attitude of a servant. And that's the key; instilling an attitude of service in my kids. I don't want to force them to serve others. I want them to see me enjoying serving others and then follow suit. This is not to say we only serve others when it is easy and immediately enjoyable. We should strive to serve others even when it is costly and painful. Especially when it is costly and painful. But even those times provide opportunities to discuss the sacrifice of serving, Jesus' sacrifice for us, the ability to feel satisfaction in doing what is right even when it is not fun and other important lessons. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Soul Food Sunday #3: Teach them how to pray! Part I

This post was written by Nick Pridemore, College Pastor --Bloomington, Indiana. You can also find him at WerdGuys blogging on all things Faith and Fatherhood.

How can we teach our children to pray and how does that look over the course of their childhood, babies to school age?

Part 1

Teaching your child to pray is something that should happen naturally and organically, yet also requires a great deal of intentionality. By that I mean it should be something you are purposefully teaching them through discussions and looking at scripture, but it should also be something that you do often enough on your own that your kid would learn a great deal without you meaning for them to. Joshua sat outside Moses’ tent and listened to him talk to the Lord (Exodus 33:11). Samuel learned to interact with God through the explicit instructions of Eli (1 Samuel 3:1-10). Both are important, instruction and example.

The most poignant scripture on learning to pray is in Luke 11 when Jesus taught his disciples with The Lord’s Prayer. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that Jesus had been praying on his own, which prompted the disciples to ask how they also should pray (11:1). So step number one is for you to prioritize prayer in and for yourself. I touched on this last Sunday in discussing how to lead your children to the cross. Really, it’s a leadership principal that isn’t limited to spiritual matters. You cannot lead someone somewhere you have not gone yourself. My children may understand what I tell them about prayer, but they will practice what they see me doing with prayer.

Another key is to start early. When my wife was pregnant with each of our kids I loved to get close to her basketball-belly and talk to my kid. The idea that my son or daughter would be born already knowing the sound of my voice was incredibly meaningful to me. So I would often lean in close and pray for them. Also, pray as you spend time with them as infants. Obviously, they will have no real idea to whom you are talking or what is being said for many months, but pray with them anyway. I love to hold one of my kids, walk around the house and just talk to God. When the concept of prayer starts to make sense to them I would much rather their thought be, “Oh, so that’s what Daddy is always doing” than “Oh, that sounds weird”.

The next step of learning to pray in our home is nightly family prayer time. My wife and I take turns saying the first prayer. We always start by telling God we love him and how thankful we are for different things. Then we pray for each of our kids individually, and then for the three of them together. A very abbreviated example would be “Jesus, we love you. Thank you for loving us first and saving us. Thanks for great weather today. I pray for Calvin. Help him to do well on his spelling test. I pray for Adi. Help her ouchy foot to feel better. And I pray for Amelia. Help her to learn to obey and not throw fits. Help all of my kids to know you and love you. I pray that they would bring you glory and point other people to you. Amen.” Again, that’s very abbreviated.

After the grown up prays each of the kids pray. It’s amazing how much of their personalities come through in their prayers. Calvin is the king of memorization, so his prayers usually sound very similar and always follow the same format. Adi, our artistic princess, can pray for a VERY long time. Her prayers usually meander around in a freestyle conversational tone in which she is sincerely conversing with Jesus. Something like, “…and help all the birds to have homes and food. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow so please let all the animals in the woods find a dry place. And help Rashel (a boy we support in Bangledesh) to have food and water and toys. I hope he has lots of apple juice. Well, that is if he likes apple juice. Maybe he doesn’t. So maybe you could get him lemonade…” Yeah, it’s pretty sweet. And our youngest is only 2, so we still help her pray in a repeat-after-me fashion. There are other things that we consistently pray for as a family (friends and family, missionaries, local and world events/tragedies, etc), but that gives you a rough idea of what family prayers look like in our house. The point is, they hear us pray and then they get to pray.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sonny Saturday #4: Read & Build

Today I wanted to highlight a toy that Anthony and I are really excited about incorporating into Max's life when he starts building. Blocks are one of the biggest selling boy's toys around, mostly from the Lego company. I love Lego and really love the problem solving, instruction following, and developmental play that they provide. As you probably know, Lego has a brand underneath them for smaller kids called Duplo. We have already bought Max a bag of Duplo blocks ($5.00 at Black Friday last year) for regular building experience.

We ran into something pretty awesome at the store though when we were looking for the younger side of Lego. We found these!

They are meant for the 1.5-4 year old class of kids and are a story book that comes along with the bricks to build characters or items from the story. I have seen this one (Let's Go! Vroom!) as well as Busy Farm, Jungle Animals, Grow Caterpillar Grow, and various others. Each page has a bit of the story as well as small pieces of building instructions so that your kiddo can build as they read about the character. I loved these as they incorporate literacy with fine motor skills. You could also challenge your little one to build something new with the blocks once they have mastered the character in the story and use their imagination to build onto the story. These are a great idea for a new reader or even a little bitty that you want to start to appreciate story telling and building at the same time. This is a great way to involve a boy in book reading because of their active natures. It is easier to sit and listen to a story if you have something to do with your hands to incorporate their energy.

Anyway, I thought these were great and wanted to recommend them to all of you with little guys!

Happy Play time!

--Anthony, Erica, & Maxwell--

Friday, July 12, 2013

Family Friday #3: Embracing each other's hobbies

Update on goal: Our goal that we set was to get out of debt by 2015, I wanted to update you on our progress over this last week. Anthony has been busy looking for a second job that he could do part time in order to add a little income to our home and little output to our debts. He has had a few interviews so please keep him in your prayers. I have also decided to take on becoming a Thirty-One Consultant starting in August. I am hoping it is a profitable idea for me and it will also help me organize the house at a fraction of the price since I buy the stuff anyway! Also, I have been in touch with the financial assistance departments of Indiana University Health as well as Norton Hospital in order to find some reprieve from the medical bills. I have a few more hospitals to contact but I have paperwork printed for the two I mentioned above and am gathering documents to apply for the assistance. Please keep us in your prayers for grace!

Now, today I wanted to talk about something we do as a family that helps us spend time together and to really bond as a family. I am an avid reader and Anthony is a movie lover! We would like Max to be exposed to both things with appropriate boundaries of course. Since we love these things, we have started to do certain things together to foster that love in each other and in Max. First of all, Anthony and I always are reading a book together. We read a chapter each out loud at night so we can have a story brewing together to discuss. I value this time so much as it bonds us together and helps us have tons of stuff to talk about and chew up (depending on the book) It is not always a learning book but sometimes it is. Right now, we are reading a horror book actually and really enjoying it.

We also do this with movies, however...we spice it up a bit. We usually will theme a night to a movie including what we have for dinner. For example, if Lady & The Tramp is in store, we are having spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner. If (for a more adult theme) we are watching Forrest Gump, we are having Shrimp! This fun activity always has us thinking of movies we can theme to dinner and let's us enjoy a great movie together and foster Anthony's hobbies.

Sometimes, an even better thing we have done is read a book together and then, if the book is made into a movie..follow it up with movie theme night! It shows us both that we corporately enjoy story of us is just visual and the other more verbal. This is a very cost-effective way to spend time with your family for sure. We use the library to pick our books or Inklings (a used bookstore locally) and with movies we usually use our Netflix account (at $8.00 a month) or use a free rental code for redbox and I just budget the groceries around that idea.

What are your cost effective ideas to get your family together? I love new suggestions!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thankful Thursday #3: New Relationships and development

Thursdays are dedicated to Anthony and I and our thankfulness in regards to parenting. Today, we wanted to talk about one that has come up recently. We are very thankful that parenting has stretched our relationships with others and also brought new relationships into our lives. When we did not have children, it was really hard to understand some of our friends who did have children and it certainly caused us to not be able to hang out as much. It also made some people a little bit inaccessible to us.

We are building new relationships constantly now that we have Max. We have new relationships with our doctors who take care of Max, people in our lives who treat him like family, and other sources that we would never have looked into before children. Also, our relationships with our friends (with children) are changing and growing and I'm able to go to my girl-friends who are moms and get advice and Anthony is able to go to his guy-friends who are dads and seek the same. It has been a beautiful new experience of being parents. Some of this can be difficult as relationships change with our friends who do not have children, but we know that those will grow in different ways.

Do you have more friends or less friends since having children? Did your relationships grow due to children? Let us know!

--Anthony, Erica, & Maxwell--