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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

Why I Brought My Tortoise to Bible Class

Why I Brought My Tortoise to Bible Class

Change things up now and then. Some of my kids in bible classes saw the picture of my baby pet tortoise on my phone. It’s my screen saver. Of course, they begged me to bring him. After several months of pleading, and one crazy Sunday morning trying to get the kids to pay attention, I finally used the tortoise. I promised them that if I could see and hear them singing praises to God with all their hearts, I’d bring it the next week.

Guess what happened… They all chimed in and sang the best I have ever heard them sing before! All it took was a little bribery, I mean incentive. That week, I think they all had a bowl full of sugar for breakfast, but the promise of a visit from my baby tortoise got their attention. Then the next Sunday, I kept my word and brought Rowdy the baby tortoise. Everyone got to sit in a circle and watch him move around. They got to take turns holding him for just a minute. They were thrilled and did well that Sunday too. We tied the tortoise into our lesson and it worked like a charm!

This got me to thinking. Every now and then, we need to change thing up, surprise the kids. Offer a perk for participation, memorizing a big set of scriptures, bringing friends to church… whatever the goal, this is a great way to encourage kids to participate. And think about it, it was so simple. All I did was bring my pet tortoise.

What are some ways you can get the kids excited and participating like never before? For a quick and easy one, just bring a bunch of balloons. If they get to end class with a balloon bash, they won’t be able to contain themselves looking forward tot he next week. Blow up a bunch of balloons, put them in the middle of the room, then tell kids they have to use only their feet to get the balloons into a specific area. They have until the music is up. You play bible music you want them to learn or have stuck in their heads all day. They’ll love it! (Side note: You may want to invest in an electric pump. I bought an electric balloon pump and it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made! They are loud though.)


God Uses Our Weakness

God Uses Our Weakness

“Middle school? No thank you.” Famous last words of mine.

I mainly work with kindergarten through fifth grades; but recently took on a small group of middle school girls on Sunday afternoons. It is definitely different! To be honest, I had NO desire to work with the age group. They drive me insane… too much drama; but there was a need. Parents of kiddo’s who had moved from my children’s program into middle school were sharing their concerns. Their children were struggling with the pressures of middle school. Sure, they know their bible stories, but they didn’t know how to apply them to their lives. They weren’t ready for the serious application lessons in elementary, so what was I do? Well, I began teaching a middle school small group and it has been an amazing experience so far! Their interest and enthusiasm are contagious.

I am not suggesting everyone run out and add middle school to your plates. It’s something that needs addressed in some way to prepare your children for the real world, but there are multiple ways to handle it. I actually wanted to share what I’ve been learning. As I teach these kids, I am reminded of some of the basics that are so important.

Our first week we talked about being made in the image of God. We talked on a deeper level about each of us being made unique, flaws and all. It’s amazing looking back at life to see how God uses our strengths and our perceived weaknesses for his glory. For me, I see my ability to teach a strength. God blessed me with the ability and the desire to teach; so here I am, teaching kids about God… for his glory. Then I combine that with a weakness. I am short. I mean short! Five foot on the dot. Growing up, I embraced my shortness, but I really wanted to be taller. No matter how hard a prayed, it was the thorn in my side that God was not going to change. As I look back at my life in children’s ministry, I see that God had a plan all along. The kids are immediately comfortable when they come into a room with me because I’m a lot like them. I am short and small; so I do not intimidate them at all (although sometimes I sure wish I did). God combined my strength in teaching with my weakness of shortness and uses me to build his church through children.

This may be a strange example, I know; but it made me think about other areas in my life and those around me who have weaknesses that we let stand in our way. Instead, we should give those weaknesses to God and let him do his work. Look what he did with Moses who had trouble speaking, David who was a little boy when he faced a giant, a bunch of fisherman and tax collectors. God uses our weakness for his glory if we’ll just let him. I would like to challenge you to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Pray about them. Has God been working through you or do you need to let him in?

Interested in reading more articles? Here’s a few you may like:

Teach them to Serve Like Jesus

Overcoming Obstacles

Looking for a good gift for kids/youth who have been baptized? I combine a prayer journal with a rubber bracelet reminding them of God daily. (Our youth already get a nice bible.)

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!