Start Here Ever promise your children you'd take them to an amusement park? They may be excited for days—until you get there! Then as they gaze up at the roller coaster, or the spinning gizmo, or the animal-shaped car that disappears into a dark tunnel—they become afraid.
I want you to experience the same thing!
Not because I'm mean, but because it will be fun.
Taking the step to have a weekly family time might be a little scary at first—most adventures are—but don't worry. You won't be alone. I will be your guide. You won't get lost, and I'll make sure you don't eat too much cotton candy before going on the whirling teacups. In other words, you'll be okay.
52 Family Time Ideas is a journey of discovery, together. That means it will be fun. But like a thrilling amusement ride, it will require a little risk. It will be a journey—going to a place you have never been before. The good news is you won't even have to take the minivan! And you get to do it together.
Today's families don't seem to have much time for each other, and if we finally carve out time, we twiddle our thumbs, look at each other, and ask, "So waddya wanna do?"
52 Family Time Ideas provides the structure and ideas for the meaningful and fun family time you want, helping you to discover and experience God's timeless principles for strong families.
In just twenty minutes each week you will discover treasures right in your own family. You will also be building lasting memories for you and your children.
I pray that these sessions will launch a tradition of love, laughter, and learning together for your family, because families really matter.
A Few Tips to Get You Started
1. Set aside time each week. If you can, make it the same time from week to week. Children benefit from routine and will anticipate the time. If you choose a weekend Family Time, you may need to be flexible with other activities.
2. Read the weekly session ahead of time and obtain the materials you will need. (A Master Materials List that summarizes what's needed for all the sessions is also in the back of the book.) You might even practice reading the Scripture text for maximum expression and impact.
3. Protect your Family Time by eliminating any distractions like the phone, TV, radio, video games, or the computer. You will need about twenty minutes for the regular sessions and one and a half to two hours for Movie Nights.
4. To customize each session for younger children or teenagers, read and think through the sections that start with Adapting for ...
5. Show honor to each other by having every family member present (if possible).
6. Be flexible, and make it fun. Don't worry if your Family Time turns into a laugh-fest; it doesn't have to be a serious "Bible Study." Remember, it's not church—it's family!
Here's to family closeness,
Thousand Oaks, California
Each session offers the following elements, sometimes in a different order:
Materials Needed—To help the parent prepare.
Main Point—For focus.
Warm-up—To engage the children with a soft start.
Bible Readings—To be read aloud from New Living Translation or The Message. Even better, use your own Bible. (Can also be used as a Memory Verse.)
Today's Slogan—To be repeated aloud as a fun, simple way to reinforce the aim.
Activity—A fun, active experience using things you have around the house; typically takes ten minutes. Occasional Movie Nights will take longer.
Family Discussion—A few questions to go deeper on the topic and to encourage transfer of learning and accountability. You'll also see subsections that ask, "What Does the Bible Say?" and "What Should We Do?"
Adapting for ...—Suggestions for younger children (preschool and primary age) and teens.
Prayer—Family Time ends with a prayer that can be read aloud.
Journal—As space permits, a place to record prayers or memories.
Main Point: God placed us in families to learn about Him, life, and love.
Materials Needed: Socks, bowls, and string
Ask: "Do parents ever get the day off? What would happen if parents took off for one day and did just what we wanted to—sleep in, don't go to work, play video games, or watch sports all day?"
Bible Reading: Read aloud Deuteronomy 5:7-10. It's good for children to see you read your own Bible—or they can read from theirs—but if this is not possible, read from here:
No other gods, only me. No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am God, your God, and I'm a most jealous God. I hold parents responsible for any sins they pass on to their children to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation. But I'm lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments. (The Message)
Family Discussion God placed us in families to learn about Him, life, and love.
1. Ask: "Why does God warn, 'No other gods, only me'?" (God deserves first place in our lives.)
2. Ask: "God expects parents to tell their kids about the true God. How do parents do that?" (By telling their kids about the real God in contrast to the fake gods that humans create. Parents also show what God is like by being kind and cooperative, obedient to God, and setting an example themselves of what they are trying to teach their kids.)
Today's Slogan: "God comes first in my life." (Repeat several times, together.)
Activity: Bowls of Mercy Sock Toss
Get ten clean pairs of socks and roll each up in a ball. Get ten bowls of various sizes. Tape a number (1 to 10) on each bowl. Make a line with string at least three feet away from the bowls. One at a time, each family member stands behind the line and tosses ten sock balls, one at a time, trying to land one in each bowl. Keep score.
Adapting for ...
For the Family Discussion, Ask: "We learn about love and God in our family. When do you feel loved?" After the Activity, skip the Wrap-up but Say: "Families that love each other try to help each other be good by putting God first."
Move the line of string back to six feet away from the bowls. During the Wrap-up time, Ask: "What would happen in a family that didn't have any rules? What would it be like if lying, stealing, and being mean was okay?" Wrap-up
1. Ask: "What was it like trying to land a sock in each bowl?"
What Does the Bible Say?
2. Say: "The ten bowls represent God's Ten Commandments, and today's Scripture is one of those commandments. The first few verses talk about putting God first in our lives. This isn't easy because we'd rather put ourselves first. Trying to land a sock in each bowl is hard to do too. But there is a reward ..."
3. Ask: "What promise does God make to those who love Him and keep His commandments?" (That He will be lovingly loyal to them.)
What Should We Do?
4. Ask: "What are some ways we put God first in our lives?" (By thinking of Him first; by knowing what He says and obeying Him; and by wanting to know Him more than wanting to get something.)
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, you are awesome and powerful, and you alone deserve first place in our lives. Help us to remember today that you come first. In Jesus' name, Amen.
We Need Reminders
Main Point: Families remind each other of the good things about each other and about God.
Materials Needed: A ball of yarn
Warm-up Have everyone describe a time when they forgot something. (Hear two or three examples.) Say: "It is easy to forget. As a family, we can help each other remember important things."
Bible Reading: Read aloud Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. (The Message)
What Does the Bible Say?
1. Ask: "Why does God want us to remember His commandments?" (So we will obey them.)
What Should We Do?
2. Ask: "What are the different ways parents help their kids learn and remember God's commandments?" (Memorize; talk about them as you sit or walk—in the morning and at bedtime; attach them to your head and hands and around the house.)
Today's Slogan: "Good things are worth remembering." (Repeat several times.)
Activity: Spider Web
Holding a ball of yarn, have everyone stand in a circle, spaced about four feet from each other. (This works best with four or more people.)
Hold the end of the yarn and Say: "Whoever catches the ball has to say two things—something good that he likes about the person who threw the ball and something good about God."
Everyone hangs on to the yarn with one hand and tosses the ball of yarn with the other. Soon you will have a spider web of affirmation and gratefulness.
After several tosses, Say: "You can also say what you are thankful for." Continue until you have a beautiful spider web pattern. Ask, "What does this web do to us?" (Holds us together; makes us a team.)
Adapting for ...
Simplify the activity with the instruction: Say: "Whoever catches the ball has to say one nice thing about the person they are throwing it to."
Extend the Discussion and Ask: "Which of these faith-building exercises works best with you? Memorizing, sitting and talking about them, thinking about them on walks in the morning; at meals, or at bedtime?"
Extend the Activity and Ask: "What happens if somebody drops his yarn?" (It ruins the web and makes us weak.)
Note: After a few sessions, ask your teen to handle leading part or all of a session. We have found that if teens are involved in this way, they tend to get more out of Family Times because they aren't "treated like a kid."
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, help us to remember the important things you have done, and who you are. Help us also to remember each other and be thankful for one another; knowing that together we are strong. In Christ's name, Amen.
Excerpted from 52 FAMILY TIME IDEAS © Copyright 2011 by Tim Smith. Reprinted with permission by Bethany House. All rights reserved.