A simple way to invest spiritually in the lives of your kids
Here’s a clever drill I’ve stumbled upon that’s got to be the simplest, most efficient way to make a spiritual investment in the lives of your kids. I picked it up at my daughters’ classical Christian school where they use it to great effect.
It’s an ingenious repetition/response exercise called a “callout” you can employ anytime you’re with your kids to teach them the practical value of Bible verses, proverbs, or other short, instructional sayings to guide their conduct.
This is how it works. Tell your kids you want to teach them a game to help them memorize practical sayings, some from the Bible. Here’s one you might start with: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Prov. 15:1). Tell them you’ll say the first parts, and they can respond with the second parts, like this:
A gentle answer...(parent)
Turns away wrath. (child)
But a harsh word...(parent)
Stirs up anger. (child)
Be sure to put some emotion into it, animating your lines in a way that’s appropriate to the words. Speak gently with the first half, but growl out the “harsh word” portion, letting the kids ham up their anger in response. You get the idea. They’ll love it. Plus, they’ll memorize the verse almost instantly. And so will you.
You might want to put your callouts on 3x5 cards for review or post them on the refrigerator for little eyes to see. Review your callouts regularly with your kids—in the car, at the dinner table, etc.—then press them into service as the moment demands. Eventually when your kids start to bicker, all you’ll need to say is, “A gentle answer...,” and they’ll fill in the rest.
There are dozens of aphorisms—shorty, pithy, instructive sayings—that can be made into callouts to encourage your children to practice biblical virtues or other practical habits. Bible proverbs are especially adaptable to callouts.
The one who guards his mouth...
Preserves his life.
The one who opens wide his lips...
Comes to ruin. (Prov. 13:3)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart...
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him...
And He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5–6)
Your lessons need not be limited to Bible verses, though. Established cultural wisdom works too, like, “A stitch in time...saves nine,” or “Don’t put it down...put it away,” or “The fun is more fun...when the work is done.” Here’s some more we’ve used:
- God is opposed to the proud...but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
- Those who are faithful with little...will be faithful with much. (Lk. 16:10)
- The fear of man...brings a snare.... But the fear of the Lord...is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov. 29:25, 9:10)
- Pleasant words...are like honeycomb...sweet to the soul...and healing to the bones. (Prov. 16:24)
- Do all things...without grumbling or disputing. (Phil. 2:14)
Using callouts is an ingenious yet simple concept that not only helps your kids; it helps you, too. Practice them regularly, and don’t forget to be energetic. Emotion and animation make the callouts more memorable.
Oh, keep in mind that just because kids can quote the callout doesn’t mean they’ll practice the principle—at first. That takes more time. They’re children, after all. Stick with it, though, and you’ll see results. Remember, “He who tends the fig tree...” Well, you can fill in the rest.
And one more callout comes to mind at this Easter season: “He is risen.... He is risen indeed!” Critics hotly contest Christianity’s central claim, but your support equips and mobilizes gracious Christian Ambassadors to make an intellectually fair and incisive case for the truth. One believer told us he answered an atheist’s challenge about dying and rising gods—a false parallel to Jesus from mythology—after learning about it in an STR newsletter.
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