It’s not always easy to make the holidays meaningful for our kids. Take it from me. I learned the hard way.
A few years ago my daughter’s birthday fell on Thanksgiving. We had cake and presents first thing in the morning, then shifted gears to prepare for a traditional dinner with family. Before we knew it, the house was flooded with relatives we hadn’t seen in ages, and we spent the whole afternoon playing games, watching football and catching up.
Later that night, when I tucked my daughter into bed, I asked her if she’d had a good Thanksgiving. She gave me a confused look and said, “It was Thanksgiving?”
She thought the whole day had been about her–her birthday, her presents, her celebration. I couldn’t blame her. It was an epic parenting failure. In the busyness of preparing for the holiday, we had never talked about what we were celebrating and why.
Even without a birthday thrown into the mix, the busyness of the holidays can make it tough for parents to keep family discipleship on the front burner. We want the holidays to be spiritually significant, but how can we do it in a way that’s light and easy?
We find a clue in Deuteronomy 6. That’s the verse where God tells His people to impress His commands on their kids. However, the liberating part about this verse is how God says to do it.
“Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7 NIV)
In other words, just keep doing what you’re doing, but use it all as an opportunity to pass on your faith to your kids. If we want to build God’s word and God’s ways into the hearts of our children, we have to weave them into the fabric of everyday family life. It has to be integrated into our daily rhythm. It has to become who we are.
Despite the hectic nature of the holidays, it’s a prime opportunity to put this into action. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve, these special days come packed with spiritual significance and fun traditions that kids naturally enjoy. With a little intentionality, even the busiest of families can use the holidays to make discipleship a normal part of everyday life.
So how do we do that? We simply use the same tools we are already using to grow in our faith. The Triangle, for example, gives us a helpful lens to rethink our holiday celebrations. Here are a few ideas how you can use it to inject a healthy dose of discipleship into your family celebrations.
Up, In and Out Thanksgiving
Instead of just going around the table giving thanks for one thing this Thanksgiving, go around the table and give thanks for three things – an Up, an In and an Out. Start with Up. Have everyone choose something they’re thankful for about God. Next, move onto In. Let everyone share someone they’re thankful for who has helped them to follow Jesus. Finally, end with an Out. Have everyone give thanks for the missional opportunities God has given to serve others or give thanks for the People of Peace He has brought into our lives to love and bless.
If you want to take it to the next level use this Triangle craft idea to make an Up, In and Out centerpiece with your kids.
Exploring the Christmas Story
As we move into December, spend some time with your children looking at the Christmas story through the lens of Up, In and Out. If you’d like some help, I’ve written a free advent guide called God’s Big Christmas Adventure with five new family devotions. The devotions feature questions and suggestions to apply the story through each corner of the Triangle.
I’ve even included a fun activity our family does for New Year’s Eve that will give you and your kids an excuse to reflect on God’s faithfulness over the past year and look forward to what He will do in the future.
Triangle Prayer Activity
Finally, here is a link to a prayer activity I’ve written that your family can do as you count down the days until Christmas. Use the printable sheet to create 24 slips of paper with Up, In and Out prayer prompts your kids can draw out from a gift bag each night at the dinner table. It’s just a simple, practical tool to get us praying and thinking like Jesus in the Christmas season and beyond.
The ideas I shared aren’t rocket science, and you shouldn’t feel the pressure to do all of them. Just pray through what makes sense for your family or come up with ideas of your own. Any of us can take the Triangle and other LifeShapes and use them to make the most of the holidays with our kids.
This year my daughter’s birthday happens to fall on Thanksgiving once again. Hopefully, this time around she’ll actually know what we’re celebrating and why.