Solving problems Jesus’ way

You will need:

a shoebox
tape
cotton balls
paper hearts or stickers
teddy bear pictures or stickers
wooden skewers
green felt-tip markers or paint
plastic wrap
a glue gun
sand – or something else to bury your treasure chest in.

In the summer, you might choose to bury your treasure outdoors in dirt or sand. In the winter, burying it in the snow would be a good option – or you might prefer to hide the box indoors in a load of laundry.

Prepare in advance by filling the treasure chest with the cotton balls, paper hearts, teddy bear stickers, wooden skewers and green felts or paint. Tape the box up well so it will be hard to open. Paste or draw a heart on the box, then wrap it in plastic wrap. Bury the box when your kids are not watching.

Part one: Clean your own heart first

  • Begin by explaining to your children that they will be hunting for buried treasure. As you send them off on the hunt, ask them to practice being thoughtful and considerate of each other as they search.
  • Once your kids have found the treasure chest, remind them again to be considerate of each other as they clean off the box. When the box is relatively clean, halt their activity at this point for a brief discussion.
  • Read Matthew 7:1-5.
  • Ask your kids, What do you think these verses mean when they say “a speck” and “a log” in someone’s eye?
Key concepts

Before we tell someone else what they’re doing wrong, we need to make sure that we are not doing that exact same sin! It’s easy to see what the other person is doing wrong, but if we stop and think about it, very often what bothers us most about others is something we often do ourselves.

For example, if you are complaining that your brother always gets to have things his way, stop and think for a few minutes – maybe it bothers you because it is actually you who always wants things your way.

Part two: In private, one-on-one

  • Send your kids into another room to open the treasure chest without you present. Remind them to cooperate nicely as they work to open it. Once it’s open, they can return to show you the contents.
  • Read Matthew 18:15-17.
Key concepts

In Matthew 18, we read we are to correct someone who has sinned against us by first talking with them one-on-one, before asking anyone else to become involved. Your first choice should always be to try and settle the problem between the two of you in private.

Part three: Gently, patiently and lovingly

Now you’ll start creating your “solving problems Jesus’ way craft.”

  • Begin by gluing cotton balls to one third of your skewers. The cotton balls represent gentleness, and you’ll want to glue them at one end of each skewer, like flowers on a stem.
  • As your kids work, read Galatians 6:1.
Questions for discussion
  • What do you think the Bible means when it says to “restore someone with a spirit of gentleness”?
  • What might the opposite of correcting someone with kindness and gentleness look like?
  • Can you think of a time when someone correctly you harshly?
  • How did being corrected harshly make you feel?
  • Can you think of a time when someone correctly you gently?
  • How did being corrected gently make you feel?
Key concepts

To restore someone gently means to offer correction in a kind and gentle way rather than in a harsh, aggressive or accusing way. When we are patient and considerate of each other, it makes it much easier to live at peace than when we are impatient and thoughtless.

  • Now begin gluing teddy bears to one third of the skewers to represent patience. Glue them at the end of each skewer.
  • As your kids work, read Ephesians 4:1-3.
Questions for discussion
  • The Bible says we are to “bear with others in love.” Does this mean we are to give out bear hugs when someone bugs us?
  • What do you think “bearing with one another in love” means?
  • What do you think “the bond of peace” means?
Key concepts

“Bearing with one another in love” means we are to be lovingly patient instead of being easily bothered. Getting along well with others means the same thing as the “bond of peace.” It means we are living peacefully with each other.

  • Now begin gluing hearts to the remaining skewers to represent love. Glue them at the end of each skewer. Once you’ve finished all your skewers with cotton balls, teddy bears and hearts, you can add them to the tissue paper flower bouquet you created in the kick-off craft.
  • As your kids work, read Ephesians 4:15.
Questions for discussion
  • What does it mean to “speak the truth in love”?
  • How can we grow to be more like Jesus, like Ephesians 4:15 says?
Key concepts

“Speaking the truth in love” means we speak kindly and with mercy, just like Jesus did. Jesus was quick to forgive, even if people didn’t ask Him for forgiveness (Luke 23:34). We “grow to be like Jesus” when we ask Him to send His Holy Spirit to teach us how to be loving, patient and kind.

  • Over the next little while, when problems come up in your home, have your children visit the bouquet as a reminder that they are to solve problems Jesus’ way – being patient with each other, speaking gently and lovingly.
  • Encourage your kids to do a personal “heart check” before they accuse someone else of wrong, and to practice solving problems on their own before involving a parent. If that doesn’t work, then they can invite a parent or another adult to join in the discussion. Make it a family practice to ask God to help you solve each problem with His wisdom, love and gentleness.

Illustrated prayer journal

For each child’s journal you will need a three-ring binder, a hole punch, pages to insert, a glue stick, pictures, decorative lettering and embellishments of your choice.

Work together to decorate the cover of your journals.

Your first page will be dedicated to pictures that represent adoration and worship. Ask your children, Which pictures can we put on this page to remind us that God is wonderful? (For example, you might choose a picture of a rainbow to represent God’s faithfulness, or a heart to represent God’s love.) Spend some time praising God in prayer.

The second page is for confession. Ask, Can you think of some things we do that make God sad? Add pictures to this page of soap and cleaning products, to illustrate that God washes away any sin we confess. Talk about confession as a positive time, because it is refreshing to ask God to clean the sin out of our lives. Now spend some time confessing.

The third page is for thanksgiving. Have your children choose pictures to represent things they want to thank God for.

For the final page, let each child select pictures that represent things they want to pray about.

As prayers are answered and new prayer ideas come up, record them in your prayer journals, inserting additional pages as needed.

Relevant Scripture

John 16:23-24 “In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

James 4:1-3 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

A marvellous medicine bottle

To add a touch of humour, decorate your medicine jar with a grumpy face, and put a red prohibition sign over the face. Add the slogan “Praising all day keeps the grumpies away!”

Every time someone in your family complains, have them pick a verse out of the medicine bottle to read aloud.

After reading the verse, pray that God will teach your family to be grateful for all He has given you.

Impress on your children the amazing truth that when we praise or thank God for something, our attitudes do become more positive.

Playdough pressure

Show your kids first-hand how they can be influenced by peer pressure! You will need a toy stuffed rabbit (or another stuffed toy) and some playdough. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Join your kids while they are playing with playdough and make yourself a snowman with a long, carrot-like nose.
  • Next, play the part of a talking stuffed rabbit. Have the rabbit come and talk to your children, admiring their work and making a few suggestions for small changes or additions.
  • Then have the rabbit inspect your snowman for a moment. Make the rabbit tell the snowman that he (the snowman) should have long ears, a puffy tail and a short, twitchy nose with whiskers. Continue to have the rabbit give instructions about how the snowman should look, and re-mould your snowman until he looks exactly like a rabbit instead of a snowman. Say phrases like, “A little more pressure here” and “A little more pressure there,” while you are shaping the dough.
  • After your children have had fun seeing the snowman transformed into a rabbit, explain that peer pressure is like that: friends can pressure each other to change. Explain that this is fine if it’s positive peer pressure where friends encourage each other to do what is right, but it’s not good when friends pressure each other to do wrong or to sin.
  • Talk together about ways friends can pressure each other in good ways and in bad ways.
  • Now give your children a chance to experience peer pressure from the rabbit. Have each child make a snowman, then have the rabbit come along and encourage them to make their snowman look like a rabbit instead. Let your children practice telling the rabbit that they like their snowman and that they prefer to leave him the way he is.
  • Finally, have the rabbit suggest to your kids that they make fun of each other’s snowmen or rabbits. A little later, have the rabbit urge the children to disobey some of your family rules, perhaps by suggesting they throw playdough in the house, or demand junk food for lunch.
  • Give your children a chance to respond to the rabbit on their own and observe their responses. After a little while, have everyone join in in response to the rabbit by saying in unison this slightly modified version of Psalm 119:115: Away from us, you evil rabbit, that we may keep the commandments of our God!
  • Pray to end your time together, asking God to give you discernment and the strength to exert positive peer pressure instead of allowing yourselves to be shaped by negative peer pressure.
Relevant Scripture

Psalm 119:115 “Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.

Caring for creation

Work with your children to craft animals out of recycled materials, or use old socks to make sock puppets.

As you build your creations, talk about the importance of reusing and recycling, and use the discussion questions to talk about God’s role as Creator.

Display your memory verse alongside your creations – or perhaps make a sign or flag with your verse on it for one of the animals to hold. Tell you kids that is their responsibility to review the memory verse at least once each day, and reward each child with a small treat when they remember to review the verse without prompting.

Questions for discussion
  • Which animal do you think God had the most fun thinking up?
  • Why do you think God made so many different kinds of animals?
  • Why is one of God’s names “Creator”?
  • What are some ways you can care for wild animals? How about plants?
  • In what ways do people sometimes show they are lazy about caring for the earth?
  • Who made this recycled animal?
  • Is it alive?
  • How would you feel if someone ruined your creation?
  • How do you think God feels when people do not take good care of His creations?
  • What are some things people can do to take better care of the earth and the animals in it?
  • Do you have a pet? How do you care for it?
Key concepts

As the Creator of the universe, God is the ultimate “boss” or Lord of the earth. He has given us the job of taking care of the earth and all that is in it. In Genesis we read that God made everything: people, the land and sea, the stars and sky, the animals, fish, birds, plants, lakes and rivers.

The Bible tells us that man is the only creature that was made in God’s image. (To be made in God’s image, or to be created to be similar to Him, is a big honour. It means we have been made to live forever and made with the ability to know, to love and to serve God. We have also been given the ability to make choices.)

God has given us the honour of caring for the things He made. God cares for us in a loving and merciful way. Using Him as our role model, we too should care for all He has made with love! When we care diligently for the things God has made, such as people, and all the plants and animals, it pleases God.

Relevant Scripture

Genesis 1:26-27 “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Proverbs 12:10 “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

Be a star

On a clear night, take some time to star gaze with your children while you read Philippians 2:14-15 and Daniel 12:3. Using the questions for discussion, talk about how people can be like stars.

To follow up, craft star-shaped cardboard photo frames to frame an individual portrait of each family member. Decorate your photo frames with glitter glue, sequins and / or aluminum foil.

Questions for discussion
  • When you first look up into the night sky, what do you notice?
  • Can you see the stars if it is cloudy outside?
  • What part of a person can shine?
  • How does the Bible say we can shine like stars in the universe?
  • What jobs do you dislike the most?
  • How can we keep a positive attitude toward work?
  • What kind of an attitude honours God?
Key concepts

The Bible says that when we do things without complaining or arguing, our actions are very noticeable – like stars shining in the universe. When we say someone’s face is “shining,” it’s usually because they are smiling. On the other hand, if we say someone’s face is cloudy, it’s usually because they are not happy. When we feel like having a bad attitude about something, we can remember the instructions found in Colossians 3:23-24 and remember that we are serving God, not man. It is easier to work with a willing attitude when we work to honour God.

Relevant Scripture

Daniel 12:3 “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Philippians 2:14-15 “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world . . .

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Mouldable munchkins

Leave a lump of playdough out for a few days, allowing it to dry out. Once it’s dry, give it to your children to play with. (Hopefully at least one child will express concern that it is too hard to shape!) Also give your children a lump of soft clay for comparison.

Play alongside your children and make a small pot or bowl shape, then invite them to make one too. As your children continue playing with the dough, read Jeremiah 18:1-12. Have the children form their own clay pots as they listen. When you get to verse seven, allow your children to squash their pots (if they wish) as an illustration of God’s power.

Rebuild your pots as you continue reading verses eight to ten. Then use the discussion questions to talk to your children about the importance of being teachable and submissive. Conclude by teaching your children this simple prayer: Lord, help me to be like the soft lump of clay. I want to do things Your way today!

Questions for discussion
  • Which is easier to shape into a bowl – the hard clay or the soft clay?
  • In Jeremiah 18:11, what did God ask the Israelites to do?
  • What does Jeremiah18:12 say they will reply?
  • Were the Israelites smart or foolish?
  • Do you ever get off track and start following your own way instead of God’s way?
  • Is God pleased when you are like hard clay?
Key concepts

Just as it is almost impossible to make anything with the hardened clay, God has a hard time shaping us into the people He wants us to be when we insist on doing things our way.

Many times God made it clear to the Israelites that He would bless them for following Him, but bring disaster if they chose to go their own way (Deuteronomy 8:1-20, 11:1-32, 26:16-19, 30:11-16). To us, it seems like a no-brainer: to obey God and be blessed is clearly the best choice. Unfortunately, we act like the Israelites sometimes. God’s Word says one thing, yet we disobey and do the exact opposite.

God asks us to love Him and to love others. When we “live in love” as described in Colossians 3:12-14 (being quick to forgive, kind, compassionate, humble, patient and gentle), we are living God’s way. When we live selfishly, expecting everything to go the way we want, we are living to please ourselves, not God.

Relevant Scripture

Isaiah 64:8-9 “But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.

Nehemiah 9:29 “And You warned them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey Your commandments, but sinned against Your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.

Colossians 3:12-14 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Light brigade

You will need battery-operated tea lights, an opaque cup for each child, a paper punch and paper lunch bags, felt-tip markers and / or a photograph of each child. You’ll also need to prepare a darkened room.

Before you begin your craft, gather your children together in the dark room (take the tea lights with you) and talk about the darkness using the questions below.

Questions for discussion
  1. Can we read a book in here?
  2. Can we see each other’s faces in the dark?
  3. Do you like the dark?
  4. Why are people scared of the dark?
  5. What does darkness represent?

Now give each child a tea light and allow them to turn it on.

Read 1 Peter 2:9.

After reading the verse, open the door of the dark room and go to your craft construction area. Allow your children to play with the tea lights while you talk about light.

  1. Can we read a book in here?
  2. How well can we see each other now?
  3. Do you prefer relaxing in the light or in the dark?
  4. Have you ever heard of someone being afraid of the light?
  5. What does light represent?
  6. What does the Bible say about light?

Read Matthew 5:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:5.

Give each child a paper bag and have them draw a picture of themselves on it (or they can paste on a photo). Help each child punch some holes along their bag’s seams.

Once the bags have been decorated, open them up and place one of the battery-operated tea lights at the bottom of each bag. Fold down the top edge to create a handle for carrying. Parade around your house and end up in the dark room.

While you are in the dark room, read Psalm 37:4-6.

Next, impress on your children the idea that God’s light in us makes us shine brightly for others to see.

Close by sharing ways that others can see God’s “light” in you. Pray together and ask God to help you “shine” in a way that brings honour to Him.

Relevant Scripture

1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

1 Thessalonians 5:5 “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

Psalm 37:4-6 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Pin the arm on the person

You will need these supplies:

poster board cut to resemble body parts for each child (head, torso, arms and legs)
sticky-backed hook-and-loop fastening tape
poster board scrap pieces or colourful construction paper
felt-tip markers.

Here’s how to make your body models:

  1. Work with your children to craft cardboard human bodies. Their size and complexity is up to you, but you do need to make detachable parts for each body, including legs, arms, heads, hands, feet, eyes, ears and nose. Use sticky-backed hook-and-loop fastening tape to attach the body parts. Glue on paper clothing to cover the body parts that need to be treated with special modesty.
  2. After your children have completed their models, read 1 Corinthians 12:14-27 and have your children act out the story, removing body parts as necessary, and making the body parts talk to each other.
  3. When you have finished the reading, ask your children to restore their models to their original state. As they are doing so, use the discussion questions to talk about individual value.
  4. Pray together and thank God for making each person in your family different so you can serve Him and others in a variety of ways.
  5. When you see one of your children struggling with feelings of inadequacy, pride or jealousy, choose one of the Scripture verses provided here and add it to their body model.
Questions for discussion
  1. What would happen if your eyes decided to quit working?
  2. (Ask the same question about other body parts such as the lungs, heart, ears, stomach, muscles, brain etc.)
  3. What has God made you good at?
  4. How can you honour Him with this gift?
  5. What can you do when you are tempted to consider yourself less valuable than others?
Key concepts

The Bible tells us that every person who loves Jesus is considered part of the “body of Christ” (also called the Church). Even within a group of people who all love God and serve Him together, people can be tempted to compare themselves to each other and be jealous.

In Corinth in Bible times, the people in the church were arguing and fighting over who was more valuable. Paul wrote a letter to these people using the analogy of the human body to help explain the value of each person. Paul pointed out that God gave each person a different set of skills so that we can all do different jobs to serve Him and serve each other.

Relevant Scripture

1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

Ephesians 4:15-16 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Romans 12:4-5 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 4:11-12,21 “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. . . . And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name.”

Humans are unique

You’ll need paper and water-soluble felt-tip markers. A magnifying glass adds interest, but is optional.

Begin by explaining to your children that they are each unique – a word that means “different from everyone else in a special way.” Tell your children:

God made you according to a very special plan. There is no one like you alive today, nor was there ever anyone exactly like you in the past. In all of the world, there is not another ________ (insert child’s name). That means you are unique!

One of the ways God made each person unique was to give them special “stamps” that are unlike anyone else’s. Those stamps are our fingerprints. Fingerprints are so unique to each person, the police use fingerprints left at the scene of a crime to find out who did the crime. Our fingerprints are like a signature that no one else can duplicate.

When you are ready, you can begin making your fingerprint drawings.

  1. Colour the fingertips of each child’s dominant hand with a felt-tip marker and have him or her make fingerprints on a blank sheet of paper.
  2. Take a few minutes to admire the fingerprints and view them through a magnifying glass, comparing them to fingerprints belonging to others.
  3. Ask each child to think of creatures he or she could draw using their fingerprints. To get the ideas flowing, use your own fingertips to print a rabbit. (Use your index finger to make a head, your pinky finger to make long ears, a thumbprint for the body and pinkie tips for legs and a tail.) Other easy ideas include bugs, butterflies, inchworms, owls, bears and fish. Add finishing touches like eyes, legs and whiskers.
  4. Compliment each child on their creativity and be sure to admire each child’s artistic efforts.
  5. As you make your fingerprint creatures, discuss how God made humans unique among all His creation. Here are some ideas.

Skin and hair: Humans have highly sensitive skin that is not covered in fur. This allows us to communicate with each other through touch in ways that would be difficult if we were covered in fur or feathers. (Stroke each child’s head and cheek. Ask which is more sensitive: skin or hair-covered skin.)

Brains: Our brains are designed so we can figure out very complicated problems. (Show your kids a jigsaw puzzle and compare it to a toddler’s puzzle with just a few pieces.) Explain that very high functioning animals can do simple puzzles, but only people have the brain power to do difficult puzzles and solve complicated problems.

Hearts: God designed each person with a spirit. The spirit is the part of us that allows us to communicate with and know God personally. The part of us that is designed to know and love God is referred to as our “heart.”

Creativity: Part of being made in God’s image means we have been given the ability to think and create. We can draw or paint, and we can design and build things. We can make up stories, write poems, make music and write songs. Being creative brings us joy. (Share with your children the idea that God is the greatest creator of all, because He designed us and the whole world – all that is in it.)

Relational abilities: God designed people to enjoy other people’s company. We are wired to love and be loved, to touch and be touched by others. People enjoy talking, telling stories and listening to each other.

This kind of communication allows us to share our lives with other people. God loves us and wants to be part of our lives too. Just like God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God wants to hang out with us.

Close by thanking God for making human beings special – different from all the other creatures He made.

Relevant Scripture

Jeremiah 10:12 “But God made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.”

Psalm 139:13-15a “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place.”