It has been almost two decades since my grandfather died. He was elderly, but his death was sudden. I remember getting the call and, somewhat stunned disbelief made the journey back to the family farm for his funeral. Many emotions accompanied that trip, but of all the things that stood out to me, what I remember most was his Bible. I remember wandering through his house, looking at all the things that reminded me of the summers I spent there as a child. I knew that his passing would change our family in ways I would miss.
I remember sitting in his favorite chair, and right next to it was his Bible, whose leather cover looked much like the worn leather of old farmer hands. I picked up his Bible. Inside was his daily devotional that he had read neatly tucked into the book of the Bible that his devotional directed him to read that particular day. As I look back on almost twenty years of missing him, what I remember most was the Bible he read and the way he would fold his hands and belt out “How Great Thou Art.”
The reality is that one day I won’t be here anymore. I will be absent in body but present with Christ. How do I want to be remembered by my grandkids? What do I want them to think of when they think of me? I hope that my life will be small, and He to whom I point will be large. A few years ago, my Grandfather’s Bible inspired me to leave my kids each a Bible of their own filled with notes and thoughts I had based on the passage I read each day. I do this for three years for each of them and will give it to them when they graduate from High School. I usually read in front of them as they eat breakfast. I want them to see me read the Bible and then one day read what I was saying to them all those years ago. I pray it will be a reminder of the supremacy of Scripture above all else.
So far, I have partnered with several publishers, most recently working with PersonalizedBibles.com. They have a large selection of high-quality Bibles that you can add the name of your child or favorite passage of Scripture to the front. These Bibles would be great for graduations, baptisms, or the traditional first Bible.
Personalized Bibles gave me a leather journaling Bible that I will be journaling in for my oldest daughter. The leather is beautiful, and the craftsmanship is excellent. Her name is engraved beautifully on the front. I would highly recommend you take a look at the Bibles they offer.
One common question I get from parents is around cell phones and screens. Parents want to know how much time is too much. They want to know how to filter content and protect their kids from harm. Their concerns are valid. In fact, parents who are concerned about the onslaught of social media and wired devices are the exception. Most parents today did not grow up as digital natives; they remember what the world was like before it became digitized.
The concerns around screen time are not only valid but are more severe than first realized. The empty streets that used to be filled with kids playing sports and riding bikes to stave off boredom are apparent all around us. The evidence of our kids sitting in front of screens is seen in the rise of childhood obesity. What is a newer revelation for parents is the connection between social media usage, screen time and mental health. A recent study has shown that “High users of screens were also significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Fourteen to 17-year-olds spending 7+ h/day with screens (vs. 1 h/day) were more than twice as likely ever to have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. High users are also twice as likely to have been seen by a mental health professional and to have taken medication for a psychological issue.”
So what do we do? In this ever-connected age, we feel helpless to fight this wave of connectedness. That, in reality, is producing a generation of kids who are more connected than ever but filled with more anxiety and loneliness than ever.
What do we do? Delay, Filter, and Monitor.
Delay – giving them a phone
You should delay giving your kids a cell phone for a bit longer than you feel comfortable. The benefits of waiting outweigh the convenience of being able to reach your kids whenever you want to reach them. I initially thought we would wait until sixteen when they start to drive. We ended up changing to 13 when they began taking long bus rides to sporting games for school. I didn’t want our kids looking on with other kids watching whatever their neighbor was watching. I wanted to be about to filter and monitor what they were consuming digitally.
Delay – letting them on social media
Kids who have a cell phone have texting and calling at their disposal. In the study I referenced earlier, the majority of the anxiety and depression seem to be linked to the use of social media. Kids need to be kids. Kids don’t need the anxiety of knowing they have been left out. Or be on the receiving end of comments on their Facebook or Insta that are hurtful. They don’t have the maturity to know that what they post is not private, and it survives forever even when they “delete” it from their wall.
Filter using iPhone settings.
Anything that requires a plug to a wall has a backdoor to the internet. Apple has made some excellent improvements to keep your kids safe. From the “Screen Time” section of your child’s phone, you can control who they talk to, set limits for apps, set downtimes when phone access and app access is limited. You can also share their settings to your phone. From your phone, you can then control the restrictions of your child’s phone from anywhere.
Adding restrictions to an iPhone a brief guide
3. Once in screen time, you will see options for each of the ways you can restrict your child’s phone. 1. Downtime – allows you to set bedtimes for your child’s apps and Phone access. 2. App Limits – will enable you to limit a particular app or family of apps like “games” to a set time of use. 3. Communication limits – limits who they can talk or text and when they can do so. 4. Always Allowed this allows certain apps to be accessible at all times. 5. Content & Privacy – This section limits adult sites, language thresholds, and as well as what level of movies you would like your kids to watch on their devices. It also allows you to keep them from making changes to the password of their phones. This means that they can’t remove your thumbprint of face recognition without putting a password you create. For a more in-depth guide to iPhone parental controls click here.
Filter using My Circle
With My Circle, you can choose appropriate (or block inappropriate) content by age. Customize settings to filter for individual family members and then apply to social media, videos, and games for both apps and websites. You can also make the internet stop for every family member (or just one). Tap Pause when it’s time to get going on homework, or if someone hasn’t cleaned their room. Hit unpause when you’re good to go. Lastly, you can check out sites visited and filtered throughout the day. Or go back as far as you like. And even set a Filter directly from the History view.
Monitor – Your Kids’ phone manually. Have access to their phones and check their text messages and other activities on their phones by looking through their phones randomly on a regular basis. This is not an invasion of privacy this is responsible parenting. If your kids object to this or give you any reason not to trust them with the phone you provide. TAKE THE PHONE AWAY.
Monitor – Your Kids’ phone automatically. If you want to monitor your kids’ text messaging automatically you can use Bark.us. Or if you didn’t head my advice and you caved and let your kids get social media you MUST get Bark. Bark connects to 24 platforms to monitor text messages, emails, and social activity for signs of harmful interactions and content. Click here for an overview of what Bark monitors. You get automatic alerts via email and text when Bark’s algorithms detect potential risks, so you don’t have to comb through every post and text.
Bottom line: Parenting isn’t easy don’t give up because the digital problem is so overwhelming. Fight for your kids they need you now more than ever.
I came across a video the other day that as a parent of four digital natives shook me. It was an ad where three generations of a family were asked: “When you were a kid what did you do for fun?” The resulting answers are sobering, to say the least. Watch the video below and we will talk after.
Smartphones are a gift in that they allow us to present with those we love. They are no longer a gift when they isolate and separate us from those who God has entrusted into our care. They make life easier but rather than provide more time to love those God has placed us with the very device that frees us and our time turns on us and devours the very time it freed for us.
Technology is not evil when it serves us. It becomes devastating when we serve it. The single most devastating element of Technology is it isolates us and creates for us a virtual community of people who we can only know casually and never know intimately. We call people who share the same political ideals on twitter friends and go months without driving across town for a barbeque with the best man from your wedding.
We were made for presence, but so often our phones are the cause of our absence. To be two places at a time is to be no place at all. Turning off our phone for an hour a day is a way to turn our gaze up to each other, whether that be children, coworkers, friends, or neighbors. Our habits of attention are habits of love. To resist absence is to love neighbor
– Justin Early The Common Rule
Parents this is something we have to get right. Yet it is something that is so difficult because the very devices choking our children have a stranglehold on us as well. We have become so pleasure focused and pain averse we don’t even see the fact that we are numbing ourselves and making ourselves unable to feel unable to love the very people God has placed us in community with. We are unable to be present because we have forgotten who we are.
When we can’t answer the question of who we are in silence, we can’t answer it in public either, and our insecurities spill out into the world in the form of manipulations. We hide our confusion behind a posture of perpetual offense. If we are opposed to someone or something, that’s enough to create our identity for the day, which is to say we use others so that we can get the temporary identity we need. We don’t know who we are, so we make others feel the pain of our insecurity.
– Justin Early The Common Rule
Parents if we want our kids to answer the question of what did you do for fun as a kid differently we have to give them a different example. We have to give them a better story. Rather than teaching our kids to numb their pain electronically teach them, they were made for the love of God and love of neighbor. Kids remember what they see far more than what you tell them.
“Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory. What they see has a much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told”.
– J.C. Ryle
If we want our kids to live a different story we have to practice the gospel and preach the gospel. To apply the gospel to the lives or your kids you need to know what they are facing so you can point your kids to Jesus. The problem in so many families is parents are too distracted scrolling Instagram to listen to their kids and kids are to distracted by games to talk. We need to give our kids the gift of boredom. When you are bored you eventually create a creative way of escape. This is how kids develop critical life skills. When you as a family put down your devices your kids will get bored they will eventually start talking to you and you will actually listen because you are bored too.
Our electronic addiction is not the worst problem our world has faced because there have been many others that are far worse. It is, however, one of the more sinister problems because so many of us don’t see it as a problem. We were meant to be more than the amount of like we can manufacture with just the right angle of our selfie. We were meant for real lasting eternal connections with the family God has placed us in.
At the end of his book challenging families to rethink how they use technology, Andy Crouch ends with this sober challenge to be present.
We are meant to build this kind of life together: the kind of life that, at the end, is completely dependent upon one another; the kind of life that ultimately transcends, and does not need, the easy solutions of technology because it is caught up in something more true and more lasting than any alchemy our technological world can invent. We are meant to be family—not just marriages bound by vows and the children that come from them, but a wider family that invites others into our lives and even to the threshold of our very last breath, to experience vulnerability and grace, sorrow and hope, singing our way homeward. We are meant not just for thin, virtual connections but for visceral, real connections to one another in this fleeting, temporary, and infinitely beautiful and worthwhile life. We are meant to die in one another’s arms, surrounded by prayer and song, knowing beyond knowing that we are loved.
We are meant for so much more than technology can ever give us—above all, for the wisdom and courage that it will never give us. We are meant to spur one another along on the way to a better life, the life that really is life. Why not begin living that life, together, now?
So how do we change our kid’s story? Here are a few practical suggestions.
1. Filter your internet – Our family uses Circle by Disney it is a game-changer. 2. Limit your time – decide how much time is appropriate for adults and kids and keep each other accountable. – We don’t use screens at all on the Lord’s Day and when we come home from school and work we put our phones in a box still on so we can have undistracted availability. 3. Turn off all notifications – I did this a while back and it has been a game-changer for me. I only get notifications of text messages that’s it. 4. Delete apps that take up lots of your time. – I enjoy social media but when I look at my screen time report on my phone and see that I am spending more time than is wise for me to spend or am in a season I need to focus, rather than deleting the social media accounts I just delete the apps on my phone that make them so easy to access. 5. Remind yourself that restraint and control create freedom, not oppression. – You are free to use your phone for its many good purposes when your phone isn’t using you. The control allows you to love God and love neighbor. It allows you to treat your phone as a good gift rather than as a poor functional savior.
Christmas is such a significant time to teach our kids the value of Christ to show them a God who came near. There is so much of our faith that our kids have to grow into. Some things will forever be a mystery, but one thing kids can understand is babies. Jesus, the God-man, becoming a baby. Kids need to know why he came and how he comes. I love how beautifully Sally Lloyd-Jones describes the coming of Christ.
“Everything was ready. The moment Go had been waiting for was here at last! God was coming to help his people just as he promised in the beginning. But how would he come? What would he be like? What would he do?
Mountains would have bowed down. Seas would have roared. Trees would have clapped their hands. But the earth held its breath. As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking, in the darkness, he came.”
Advent is Christ coming into our darkness where we least expect it when we least expect it. He came. He came.
Every Christmas, Christians all over the world celebrate the Advent season, recognizing the love, hope, joy, and peace that is found only in Jesus Christ. Through this devotional, Scott James brings to light the many promises of Christ―from birth to ascension―that demonstrate His love for us during this Christmas season. These daily devotions, which are designed for both family and individual use, are timeless and moving reminders of the true gift of Christmas.
I did a blog post a few years ago that we unexpectedly discovered that there are 24 Bible stories that lead to the Christmas story in Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book. We read one each day. If you haven’t figured it out already, we are big fans of all people named Lloyd-Jones in the Luce house.
I love Ann’s passion for the gospel as evidenced in her writing. Gratitude is more than a good idea it’s a sign of a life marked by the gospel of Christ. In Ann’s latest offering she has produced an Advent devotional that is as beautifully illustrated as it is written.
Here is a reproducible, email attachable, family advent guide that you can share with families in your ministry. We hope these will help to focus your ministry emphasis this season and lead families to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.
Add The Advent Storybook to your family holiday traditions and enjoy the rich images and thoughtful retellings of ancient stories that feature God’s recurring, faithful promise to rescue us. A simple question at the end of each story helps readers engage in understanding the bigger story God wants us all to know—the good news of Jesus coming to save us. Parents and children alike will delight in the biblical messages of joy, hope, and peace every day as they look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth.
Guide kids and their families into the heart of Christmas with this gospel-focused, four-week Advent curriculum.
Prepare Him Room by children’s best-selling author Marty Machowski takes a biblical, theological approach to the Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfillment in Christ in a way kids can understand.
With age-appropriate instruction and activities for three different learning levels—preschool, lower elementary, and upper elementary—Prepare Him Room builds gospel hope and enduring theological depth into each child’s celebration of Christmas.
My friend Jenny Smith has a great resource for advent a website that you can go to each and click on the number that coordinates with the date. They will then be linked to a devotional for that day. Each devotional includes:
a few verses of Scripture to read together (there are also links where you can read it online and even have it read to you)
some discussion thoughts and questions
a suggested activity to do together
usually some online activity, either a video to watch together or a game to play (please know that we have no control over other content that YouTube links or promotes)
Leading and nurturing your family as you seek to glorify God and encourage spiritual growth in your home is both God’s command and your privilege. One of the best and most effective ways to do this is through intentional, worshipful, daily family devotions where the truths of God’s life-changing Word are openly discussed chapter by chapter. Hand in hand with your Bible, this Family Worship Bible Guide presents rich devotional thoughts on all 1,189 chapters in the Bible, including searching questions to promote conversation, to help you with this responsibility. Use this resource every day alongside Scripture to read each chapter’s major takeaways aloud and then discuss them with your family. With the Holy Spirit’s blessing, this book will transform you and your family!
THIS BOOK IS COMPRISED OF FAMILY WORSHIP THOUGHTS EXTRACTED FROM THE REFORMATION HERITAGE STUDY BIBLE.
In centuries past, the church used catechisms to teach foundational Christian doctrines. In today’s world of shifting beliefs, this communal practice of learning biblical truth via questions and answers is more needed than ever before.
Seeking to restore this ancient method of teaching to the regular life of the church, The New City Catechism Devotional is a gospel-centered, modern-day resource that not only summarizes important Christian beliefs through fifty-two questions and answers but also helps readers be transformed by those doctrines.
Each question features a relevant Scripture reading, a short prayer, and a devotional commentary written by contemporary pastors (including John Piper, Timothy Keller, and Kevin DeYoung) and historical figures (such as Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and many others). Designed for use in a variety of contexts, The New City Catechism Devotional is a valuable resource for helping believers learn and meditate on the doctrines that stand at the heart of the Christian faith.
Parents need easy first steps and clear next steps. They are busy the world is noisy so it is our job as those who pastor families to not add to the noise but bring clarity in the midst of the storm. One of the things that always amazes me about the story of Jesus asleep on the boat in the middle of the storm was he didn’t wake up and tell the disciples how to sail better He woke up and spoke to the storm. It can be very easy and very tempting for us as pastors to tell parents how to sail better and more effectively when really they need God to speak to their storm. Peace, be still. One way we can do that is to have easy first steps and clear next steps. This is something I am excited about working on for the families in our church.
Here are some of the questions that create storms in families that we are going to try to create simplicity and clarity around.
How do I talk to my kids about sex?
What is the gospel?
Why do bad things happen?
How do I do devotions with my family?
What is a Catechism?
Why do kids need systematic theology?
What Bible should my kids read?
What devotion books should we use?
Parents want to do the right next thing but don’t know what to do. We can’t force them to want to know what to do but we can be prepared for when parents reach out. Have a plan for a simple first step and a clear next step.