The Mom Challenge: 7 Mini Challenges for Helping Kids pack God into Their Backpack as They Go Back to School
All Christian parents would like their kids to think about God in school – especially while facing temptations or fears or challenges. However, school and God seem not to go together in some critical ways. Kids find it difficult to think of God while in a crowd of their peers, and this is one of the reasons that school is such a breeding ground for gossip, bullying, and other unspiritual behavior.
Plenty of kids think about God and pray to God, and some kids even remember to thank God for blessings without being prompted. But most of them do so in the privacy of their homes or while walking alone. Because the best thoughts about God stream through in privacy and silence, school becomes a place of temptation and spiritual challenges.
Realize our Kids Are Incredibly Challenged
None of this is children’s faults. Even we adults will admit that we don’t think about God nearly as much at the office as we do at home. How much more challenging is it for our kids in school? At least adults who don’t know Christ are not in our faces; they’re not laughing at us for our choices or mocking us to get us to break laws.
What Do We Really Know About Their Schooldays?
Most Christian parents aren’t sure! We drop our kids off, and those who are honest admit they have very little idea what goes on all day inside. The answers of “fine” to “how was school?” are not the least bit helpful. We may even feel that God also is “dropping our kids off,” because the idea of them thinking about him inside those noisy, clamoring corridors seems unlikely.
Below are 7 mini-challenges for you to complete with your kids that will help them make Godly choices while in school and even call upon God for help in school. If you try to follow the things set forth in the challenges, even with younger children, you may find your kids able to come to you comfortably for advice”¦ or better, turn to the Lord, believing they will receive the help they need.
Mini-Challenge #1: Acknowledge to your kids that it is hard to think about God in school. It is hard, logistically speaking. Human beings are not inclined to think of spiritual matters while in huge crowds with lots of noise. Kids in school are engaged in the kids in the crowds and are focused on their noises. This is only natural.
Telling your kids that their focus in school is only natural may let them off the hook a bit. We should not imply to them that they should be behaving like monks in a convent when school is more like monkeys in the zoo. What we hope is that teachings from home and church and kid’s reflections when alone in the quiet will provide the decision making skills they need at the moments they need them in the crowds.
We also want to prepare our children for Christian adulthood. The adult Jesus always knew what God was doing and what God wanted of him. In John 5:19, he said, “”¦the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Jesus was often so pressed in by throngs and noise that he could barely move or hear. If we want adult children who can perceive the Father’s will for them, school is a great training ground. They are still required to make Christian decisions in crowds.
Mini-Challenge #2: Explain why it is hard to think about God in school. The reason is that the human brain can only do one thing at once. Multi-tasking is a bit of a myth. Moms can and often do change a diaper while talking to a boss on the phone. But afterwards, they attest to not being able to remember some of the details of either task.
As applied to Christianity, a kid should not be expected to think of everything his parents told him about being a Christian while six people are talking to him. We have to trust when we teach our kids that the information will stay in their hearts. It may not surface every day or even every week, but it should surface when they need it.
Tell your kids that they should feel free to go about the business of being kids during their noisy days. However, they should have an alarm bell in their hearts. When they are faced with a choice between gossiping or keeping silent, cheating or taking a test the honest way, or accepting or declining an afterschool invitation they know is wrong, that alarm bell should ring loudly.
Mini-Challenge #3: Impress upon kids that Jesus is just as strong inside school as he is outside. Kids can sometimes get the impression that they leave Jesus at the door of the school. Because they are not focused on him, they can subconsciously think that he is not focused on them. Therefore calling upon him seems odd or out of place.
The game with this mini-challenge is getting kids to have a picture in their minds of Jesus inside of school which they find trustworthy. Tell them, “You can call on Jesus in math or science or in the locker room or in the corridors. You can call on him in the library or on the way in the door.”
It’s also the game to get them to realize that just because they can’t sense the presence of the Lord as well in crowds, he can hear them just as well as he can when they’re alone in their bedrooms. Tell them, “He hears all and wants to help you out in school, because it is your most challenging stomping ground due to how much time you spend there. Imagine him standing right beside you all day, because that is essentially true.”
Mini-Challenge #4: Show Kids the “Jesus Beside You” way of resisting temptation. Imagining Jesus beside you all day can be very comforting to some kids but a bit disturbing to others! Kids who love to get away with something are not going to be comforted by that image!
Ask the Holy Spirit to help out with this imagery. He will direct your son’s or daughter’s minds to create that flash picture of Jesus beside kids when they are tempted to make a wrong choice – say something mean, copy homework, cheat on a test. How would a kid feel if he went to check his answers on a test by seeing what his neighbor had put down – and suddenly there’s the image of Jesus sitting in that chair?
Sometimes Jesus needs to be a bit discomforting, just like Mom and Dad do. And this is the type of prayer to which God will respond by becoming your best parenting mate.
Mini-Challenge #5: Show kids the “Jesus Beside You” way of getting help. It is quite comforting to think of Jesus in loud, noisy school halls and classrooms, for a child who is bullied or has stress or a nervous nature. To them, Jesus isn’t there to catch them at something – he’s there to protect them. It is always great to say to your kids, “Jesus is beside you. Anytime you need help, he is right there to act on your behalf.”
To have this comfort, kids need to understand that it is not God’s job to protect them from all tribulations. What he’s there to do is grow a relationship between him and your child, in which there are more perks than anything on planet earth. He’s there to build character and strength and reliance upon him. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation. Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus wants to mold those who can overcome, not those who can simply avoid.
Mini-Challenge #6: Encourage kids to find a “prayer closet” in school. This may sound like an over-the-top challenge, but it’s really just showing your kids how to get centered and calm in situations that are trying. School is an environment where kids need to hear God’s voice – when they’ve been hurt, disappointed, frustrated, or stressed. Their parents aren’t around, the teachers with 25 kids to watch can’t be expected to see everything.
A prayer closet is simply a place to be alone if kids need it. It can be anywhere from a bathroom stall to an unused room where the lights are dim. Ask you children to think through their heads for a room they generally see as empty or a bathroom that doesn’t see much foot traffic. Kids will attest that slipping into that place for a couple minutes, just to take some deep breaths and feel God’s presence, will center them again and make them able to manage their stress.
Mini-Challenge #7: Pray for your kids when they’re in school. There are some great prayers that God generally answers “yes,” because they are so much a part of his will. If you pray in these ways regularly, you will find that your kids manage to minimize their challenges.
Pray that your kids will use the “Jesus Beside You” imagery when they are tempted or in need of comfort.
Pray that God will provide a means for them to escape if they are tempted to get into trouble, such as is promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Pray that God will give you discernment. It is hard to tell when our kids are troubled by something when all they say about their school day is “it was fine.” But God can give you the ability to see in a look, a twitch, of minor change in behavior that something is wrong. He will sharpen your gut instincts, and after being in prayer about this, you can rely on your instincts with more confidence!
Do not pray that God will protect your child from all volatile or potentially stressful situations. It is hard as parents to watch our children struggle; however it is in times of struggle that he builds their character and strengths. Pray for character and strength in your child, and you can rest assured God will answer that with a resounding yes!
Lo, I am with you always”¦
What we really want is for school to do what it is supposed to – brighten minds, cultivate good relationships, and provide tools needed in adulthood. However we don’t live in a perfect world. It can only help to have your kids understanding that Jesus is in there all day every day, and he looks forward to watching out for our kids in noise as well as silence, in frustration as well as joy, in stress as well as peace. As Jesus promised his disciples in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age…”