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Oriental Trading

Teach About God With Jack-O-Lantern Activity Mats

Teach About God With Jack-O-Lantern Activity Mats

There are so many fun ways to work with the holidays to teach Christ to our children. This October, I wanted something hands on for my kindergarten through third grade children that could work as a short devotional and activity parents can do at home AND something I could use to fill the time in children’s church when the preacher gets a bit long winded. I LOVE activity mats so I came up with a simple Jack-O-Lantern Activity Mat.

I will share verses from Colossians 3:9-10. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Then, we can dive into the devotional. I want our children to understand that with Christ, we get rid of our sinful self and become a new self. A self that loves God and is an example of him to others. We dig out of the pumpkin all of the gross insides. We make it clean just like Jesus makes us clean, free from sin. Now we are ready to really do God’s work! We will turn our plain old pumpkin into a happy Jack-O-Lantern!

It needs eyes to see those in need, a nose that’s not stuck up (it’s humble), a mouth to share the word of God, and even some ears to hear the word of God. A pumpkin that’s been cleaned out of all the seeds and yuck is clean and ready to serve. The light we put inside shines for God! Expound on each one and you’ve got a full lesson that kids can apply in their week.

Download a FREE copy of the Jack-O-Lantern Activity Mat here. (Use with play dough, play foam, wikki stix, slime and more. Laminate it and you could even use dry erase markers.) Already a subscriber? You’ll receive this in your email automatically!

BOOK REVIEW: The Pumpkin Gospel

BOOK REVIEW: The Pumpkin Gospel

Looking for a good book that brings the focus of Halloween back to God; after all, shouldn’t God always be our focus? Check out “The Pumpkin Gospel.”

I love children’s books. My kids are grown, yet I still find myself buying these fun little books. Thankfully, I work with kids in children’s ministry so I have a good excuse! As I was searching for new book, I stumbled across “The Pumpkin Gospel” by Mary Manz Simon. I ordered it off Amazon. (No one contacted me for a review.) It did not give me a look inside, so I was not sure what I was getting. I’m glad I got this one. It’s a keeper!

For starters, it’s a hard back book with hard pages inside too so good for young kids. The pictures are bright and colorful. I had this book laying on my desk the first night I got it When I turned the lights out to call it a night I was thrilled to see a glowing Jack-O-Lantern face smiling back at me. Yep, it glows in the dark!

There are 12 pages, six with pictures and six with words. This book is a poem with a stanza on each of the six worded pages plus a short and applicable bible verse. Now the part that really matters… what’s it about? It is a story of God’s forgiveness.

It’s a great object lesson! This book shares with us how the inside of a pumpkin is a bit like us, gooey and gross compared to our sins. BUT, we scoop out the gushy mess just like God cleans out our sin, God forgives. When the insides are clean, the Jack-O-Lantern wears “a smile” and shines it’s light from within just like we are “beaming” from God’s love shining from us. It ends with, “To glow like my big pumpkin and have nice clean heart, ask God to please forgive you. You’ll have a brand-new start.”

This is a simple book, “The Pumpkin Gospel,” that gets kids engaged in God’s message. We can expound from there. I think this is an excellent read before or after letting families make happy Jack-O-Lanterns. (I think we may try this in our small groups with families!)

If you enjoyed this, you may also like to read up on “The Pumpkin Prayer” craft- a popular “prayer” for the season!

And if you missed it last week, make sure to check out this article to download you “Scary Bible Stories to Tell in the Dark” with Lessons & Activities.

By the way, I am super excited to share with you that I’ve been working long and hard on two separate daily planners, planners missing from the marketplace (at least the way I want to use them). One is designed specifically for bible class teachers and the other for parents who want a little help getting organized to make GOD the focus of the family. I’m putting in the finishing touches now so if you’ve got some special requests, things you would love to see in your daily planner, send me a quick email (courtney@raisekidsforchrist.com). Like I said, they are almost ready for print, but if I missed something important, I want to make sure to get it in! I appreciate everyone’s thoughts.

The Bible’s Got It All – Even Scary Stories (Perfect for Halloween)

The Bible’s Got It All – Even Scary Stories (Perfect for Halloween)

Halloween is often a questionable holiday for Christians. Do we participate or do we abstain? I am not here to debate this subject, but to share how we use it.

My prayer is that we reach every child with the word of God and raise them with a strong foundation in Christ so that they not only keep their faith through adulthood; but continue to grow. I want kids to hear and read scripture seeing God’s word as exciting, spooky, encouraging and everything else they find in the secular world (that is good and God approved).  Holidays are a great opportunity to reinvigorate our kids and reach out to others.

I created this book “Scary Bible Stories to Tell in the Dark” in 2018 and was surprised to hear a few people ask why I wanted to scare kids. It wasn’t from the masses, but regardless, I thought this was an interesting take. The goal was never really to scare kids, but to show them that God’s word has it all, even scary stories that are perfect for Halloween.  Kids turn to all kinds of secular stories, movies and costumes. They want to be a little spooked, just not so afraid that they can’t sleep alone at night. Maybe my kids were the weird ones, but they’d see previews for scary movies and beg to watch. Of course, we’d use our judgement on which were okay and which were not. They’d have sleep overs and pull out the flashlights in the dark telling each other “scary” stories. This is all during elementary AND middles school years. So I say, bring on the spooky with a little scary!

It turns out there are plenty of “scary” stories in God’s word. We don’t need to check out books with ghost stories we are supposed to believe are real. These bible stories are scary and true. And they have a good ending- with God, we don’t need to worry about any of these scary things. Legion may be scary, but not for long. The Holy Spirit lives in me so demons can’t touch me! God said not to get involved in sorcery or witchcraft and we see what happens to King Saul when he calls up the ghost of Samuel so stay far away from voodoo, Ouija boards and the likes. There are so many scary stories with valuable lessons.

Let’s help our children see that God has it all.  Move over Disney, God’s got this!

Last year I shared my e-book with coloring pages. This year I’ve added to it! Now there is a lesson with an activity to go with each “scary” bible story. They are all simple and perfect for a bible class, a small group lesson, family night or story and activities at a Trunk-or-Treat type event. And it’s all FREE- No Strings Attached. I’d love to hear how you use these to help build excitement for God in children. Email me your experiences at courtney@raisekidsforchrist.com

If you’d like to read this later, please save it to Pinterest.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like: Easy Pumpkin Craft and Creative Storytelling: The Witch of Endor

A Relationship, Not An Acquaintance

A Relationship, Not An Acquaintance

Johnny, a very bright 5 year old, told his daddy he’d like to have a baby brother and, along with his request, offered to do whatever he could to help. His dad, a very bright 35 year old, paused for a moment and then replied, ” I’ll tell you what, Johnny, if you pray every day for two months for a baby brother, I guarantee that God will give you one!” 
       
      Johnny responded eagerly to his dad’s challenge and went to his bedroom early that night to start praying for a baby brother. 
       
      He prayed every night for a whole month, but after that time, he began to get skeptical. He checked around the neighborhood and found out that what he thought was going to happen, had never occurred in the history of the neighborhood. You just don’t pray for two months and then, whammo- a new baby brother. So, Johnny quit praying. After another month, Johnny’s mother went to the hospital. When she came back home, Johnny’s parents called him into the bedroom. He cautiously walked into the room, not expecting to find anything, and there was a little bundle lying right next to his mother. His dad pulled back the blanket and there was — not one baby brother, but two!! His mother had twins! 
       
      Johnny’s dad looked down at him and said, “Now aren’t you glad you prayed?” 
       
      Johnny hesitated a little and then looked up at his dad and said, “Yes, but aren’t you glad I quit when I did?” (http://jokes.christiansunite.com )

This was too funny not to share. My mind has been on prayer a lot lately. Last week I released “My Prayer Journal” for children and youth, a guided prayer journal to download, print and start praying. I want so much for kids to understand that God is always here and wants a relationship with each one of us. He doesn’t want us sitting on the sidelines just waving now and again. It’s easy for all of us to put God on the back burner and forget he’s there. When you can’t see Him and get an immediate answer to our questions or troubles, we sometimes turn to other people instead of our Heavenly Father. No one has the power or wisdom that God has. He will always choose to do what is best for us. Now… we just have to get this message across to the kids in way it sinks in. We will need a lot of repetition for sure.

There are so many examples of prayer in the bible. Our we teaching our children how to pray, how often and what for? Our we teaching them who we are praying to and what our attitudes should be? In scriptures, talking to God is not some flippant conversation. And when anyone was in the presence of God, they were full of fear and reverence. Our children need taught to truly respect God while understanding that he truly cares for us.

If you’re interested, I created a Play Dough Mat to teach The Lord’s Prayer. Download a copy here. It keeps things simple, in a way they understand while they have fun so they want to do it again and again. I love it when kids enjoy learning about God!

Cleaning Up the Classroom

Cleaning Up the Classroom

I walked down the hallways and into the classrooms as an overwhelming feeling came over me. It all needs so much attention! The artwork down the hallway is pictures of students, which I like except that the pictures are of students that moved on to middle school a few years ago! The bulletin boards are falling down. The supplies on the shelves are in disarray. One classroom has a broken lamp while another has a vacuum in a corner. This isn’t good for anyone; not the kids that come every week or the visitors here for the first time. We need a classroom clean up and organization overhaul soon.

Yep! It is definitely time for a thorough cleaning and some updating! Being back to school season works out great since everything’s on sale. I may not be able to paint the rooms right this second and do a major complete overhaul, but I can certainly clean up, get organized and give the rooms a fresh look with some simple decorating. I made a checklist for myself that you may find helpful too. Click here to download and print for free.

Start downloading and cutting coupons, find the sales and go shopping! Your classrooms probably need fresh crayons (use the old ones in a melting project down the road to make shaped multi-color crayons), pencils, glue and more. For mine, we do hands on lessons every week so I noticed my Play-Doh drying out and Play Foam was not sticking together so well anymore. Add some colorful organizers for take home papers, folder games and more. This is a FUN part of the job; it’s just a matter of making the time (which I find myself running out of these days). When you do this, please send me pictures! I want to see the before and after’s!!

If you found this helpful, subscribe to stay in the loop! When you subscribe, you immediately receive an email with a link to download printable “Cootie Catchers” to use in your bible classes. Each week, you’ll receive an email with articles and resources to help Raise Kids For Christ.

Sermon Notes Pages to Engage Children in the Pulpit Lesson

Sermon Notes Pages to Engage Children in the Pulpit Lesson

It’s a new school year and a great time to develop new good habits. At my congregation, everyone is together for the first half of services. We sing and pray together, then take communion. Following this, our K-3rd graders are dismissed to Children’s Church. But what about my fourth and fifth graders, or even the middle school kids? I looked around the auditorium disappointed. Kids galore were playing on digital devices, some wearing headphones and others simply had the volume muted. They were not learning about God nor were they learning how to behave properly in a worship service during a sermon. Granted, the sermon is above their little heads, but it still a great time to learn how to listen. What to do about it…

Not everyone is on board yet, but I will keep working on it with both the kids and their parents. I saw a number of “sermon notes” options for kids but none that hit all the areas I really wanted to zoom in on. I want kids to listen for scriptures, for things they don’t understand and things they think are interesting. I developed sermon notes pages just for them that I’m happy to share with you. Each week I print out new copies for them to pick up before services. I’ve even got a 3-hole punch next to the forms in case they would like to keep these notes in a binder. I plan on asking our preacher to remind them to pull these out when it’s time to pay attention. By directly talking to them from the pulpit, they are included and will feel important. I’m hoping this helps get them involved.

Now for the part that is required to get participating in something they really don’t want to- incentive! Honestly, I don’t like this part, but it’s important. Think about it. You are starting a new diet. You want to lose weight or get fit but it’s never easy in the beginning. By incentivizing yourself with a small treat at certain points, you work hard to meet that goal. It’s part of being human… we will chase the carrot if we want it badly enough. Back to the kids. After the sermon, we have an invitation song. During that song, kids who have completed their sermon notes form can be the first to exit to the foyer where they find me with prizes. They can choose from pencils, trinkets, gum and more. I keep these things very inexpensive. (Another thought is playground time. They would have 5 minutes on the playground with friends while services wrapped up and parents pick them up.)

I would love to hear ideas of how you get kids listening and learning how to worship. Comment hear or feel free to send me an email at courtney@raisekidsforchrist.com