Pointing Your Kids to Jesus Through Family Worship
About the Guest
Have you set aside time to worship with your family this season? Authors Greg and Martha Singleton explain how using a nativity scene to act out the Christmas story became a time-honored tradition in their family. The Singletons tell how easy it is to weave family worship into the daily course of life.
Greg and Martha SingletonMartha and Greg Singleton have, for 30 years, met the challenges of balancing successful careers and raising a faith-filled family, and in the process, have gained some valuable insights. Chosen as one of Texas’s Top Ten Teachers by the University of Texas last year, Martha was also named by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and the Wall Street Journal as one of four Distinguished Newspaper Advisers in America in 2007. Since 1972, Martha has built some of the nation’s most highly acclaimed sch...more
Have you set aside time to worship with your family this season?
Pointing Your Kids to Jesus Through Family Worship
Martha: Twice in Deuteronomy and then again in Romans 12 the scripture says talk about me when you sit in your house when you walk in the way and that says to me that daily we should be working to make that the divine and really the focus of our life, our conversation, all of our interactions should be, where is God in this?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We have some coaching for you today on what all of us can do to make sure that Jesus is central to our home all year long.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. This time of year it is a little easier to bring up spiritual subjects around the home but carrying that over into the new year is where it gets to be a challenge and we want to help coach moms and dads today in that direction.
Before we get to that, we are letting listeners know about something that we’re pretty excited about here at FamilyLife. We recently had some friends of the ministry step forward, in fact, one family in particular stepped forward and they said we know you’re going to need help at year-end financially given the kind of year it’s been for everybody. We want to be there, not only to help, but to encourage others to help.
Dennis: That’s right. And they stepped forward and committed the single largest matching gift in December that has ever been given in the 34 year history of FamilyLife. This family committed a million dollars. They said we so believe in FamilyLife’s mission, the effectiveness of your radio broadcasts, your conferences, your small group Bible studies, internet site plus your future strategic initiatives that we want to make sure this happens.
Bob: Well and we’ve had some other families who got wind of this and they said we want to be part of this as well so now the matching gift has worked its way up to a total of 1.25 million dollars. What this means is that every donation we receive during the month of December is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to that total of $1,250,000. Now if we’re going to make that match we’re going to have to hear from as many of our listeners as possible.
Dennis: That’s right, in fact what you just said, what this means. Well I want to add two things to what this means. Number one it means that a ton of our listeners who believe in our mission here on FamilyLife Today who want to keep this broadcast standing strong and on the station you are listening to right now need to step up. Big and small no gift is too small in any amount. Step up and make a gift and that dollar is going to be matched by another dollar.
The second thing it’s going to mean, though, Bob if we have a strong year end we’re going to be able to move into 2010 with a number of strategic initiatives that include taking what we’re doing to China. Did you hear that? That’s exactly right at the initiative of the Chinese government we have an unbelievable opportunity there. We also have eMentoring which is an online mentoring service that we’ve been working on for a couple of years. We have video church curriculum and training packages that are all being developed and designed right now to be hosted by laymen in the church. Bob’s working on a video conference that I believe is going to be the best of its kind.
I want to tell you something, there is a lot of momentum here at FamilyLife and I have to tell you based upon what I’m seeing happen in the family today across our nation, it’s time. Because I’m going to tell you something, the family is in serious trouble. When you start redefining marriage and family to be anything else other than what the scriptures say you’re headed for some serious days. So I’m asking you would you help? Would you step forward and help us use every penny of these matching dollars so none of them go to waste.
Bob: Well, if you can help go online today at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone all donations are tax deductible and again every donation you make is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $1,250,000. So let us here from you. Again online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make your donation over the phone. We appreciate your support of this ministry.
I have given up on the book idea I’ve talked about this week. You know the Give-it-up book I was going to write.
Dennis: About family worship?
Bob: About just not doing it, not even trying.
Dennis: Why feel guilty just don’t try.
Bob: I showed it to a few publishers and there’s not a whole lot of interest
Dennis: No nibbles? There’s a lot of parent who feel that way, but if you feel occasionally or regularly like you’re a failure when it comes to family worship or an attempt to teach your children about God among the daily routine of the family we’ve got a couple who are going to encourage you today. Martha and Greg Singleton join us on FamilyLife Today. Greg, Martha welcome back.
Greg: Thank you very much.
Martha: It’s good to be here.
Dennis: Greg and Martha are natives, well Martha isn’t, she is a transplant from the panhandle of Texas, but Greg is a native of San Antonio.
Greg: Lived there my whole life.
Dennis: They have been married for 31 years have two adult children. As we heard earlier Martha was selected as one of the top ten school teachers out of all of the school teachers in the state of Texas. I’ve got to tell you, I admire you, I really do. How many years have you taught?
Dennis: Is that cool?
Greg: She doesn’t look it, does she?
Martha: I would not tell anybody but you that.
Bob: You started when you were twelve?
Martha: I did. (Laughter)
Dennis: Tell me this, Bob is going to get onto me for asking you this question, but I’m going to ask you a very tough question. You’re going to have to review 38 years in a nanosecond. Ok?
Dennis: What’s your favorite moment of teaching out of 38 years if you could just keep one memory?
Martha: Oh, one memory. I don’t know if it’s one memory, but it’s the moment when one of my students realizes that they are good at something. That there is something that they can do that they just shine at and doing publications, I have writers, photographers, designers. I just love it when a kid goes, I am good at that? And I say, yes, you are good at that. They believe me and then go forward. I am really good at that. That’s what I love.
Dennis: The lights come on, they’re motivated and they are excited. Well together you two have written a book called Setting up Stones. It’s a guide for parents in leading their families in family worship and it’s not an event, it’s more of a moment by moment passing on of the truth about God and the experience of God.
Bob: Although your experience in trying to lead your children in some kind of spiritual something around your home really started with an event, didn’t it?
Greg: Well it did start with an event. We had tried to do worship the way that we had always thought it was going to be like we wanted to be like a church service kind of.
Greg: We imagined that our children would be sitting there, but we weren’t thinking really like parents.
Martha: When the first Christmas that we were married I said I want to buy a really beautiful nativity set that will be the center of our home decorations. So we shopped and we spent probably more money than we should have, and bought a really beautiful, artistic nativity set. But we weren’t parents and along came the kids and our little toddlers were so taken with the story of baby Jesus and those little hands wanted to touch and handle that nativity set. Greg pointed out to me that no, no was not really the message that we wanted our kids to get about baby Jesus. So we went…
Greg: Didn’t think it was good theology.
Martha: No. So we went to the dime store which we still had back then and we bought these little plastic, cheap I mean they were so bad that like Mary’s lips were painted over under her ear and Joseph’s eyes were down even with his nose. They were awful. But the kids could play with them and they loved to play with them.
Greg: They would reach out and grab hold of all the figures and we began to just tell them the story on it and as it began to develop we kind of had an advent that sprang out of this. We gave our daughter the wise man and our son got the shepherds and they took them to their rooms and they began to each night during the Christmas holidays they started bringing them to the manger.
We would tell a little bit more of the Christmas story each night and they would move the figures toward the manger and finally we’d get them to the manger and then on Christmas morning baby Jesus who had not been in the manger yet. He was a wrapped gift under the tree we’d get the kids to open up the gift and there was baby Jesus the greatest gift of all.
Martha: Of course it wasn’t always holy and perfect. There was the year we lost the wise men.
Greg: They were nowhere to be found.
Martha: Gone for a week. But fortunately Greg went to change the filter on the heater and we found the wise men in the heater closet.
Greg: Thankfully they did not melt.
Martha: They were whole.
Dennis: Bob I just want to check with our nativity scene here that we’ve offered our listeners.
Bob: What God Wants for Christmas?
Dennis: Yes, I want to see
Bob: See if the wise men are in there?
Dennis: No, I’m looking at the angel; the lips are in the right place.
Martha: This is good.
Dennis: These aren’t cheesy, cheap.
Martha: No, those are great.
Bob: But you know the team when they designed this and put it all together it was with the exact idea that you guys had in mind. They made them out of a resin material so that they are unbreakable.
Greg: They would survive a heater closet.
Bob: That’s right. They put it together so that kids can touch it and play with it. Recognizing that that’s what kids want to do. Then they took each of the pieces from the nativity scene and put them in individual gift boxes so the child.
Dennis: There’s a surprise.
Bob: There’s a surprise in the seventh box. But each of the boxes actually, you open a box; you are not sure what is in it. First one has the angel, second one has Mary, third one has Joseph, fourth one has Jesus, and then there are the shepherds, the wise men.
Dennis: I’m really impressed you could remember all that.
Bob: Well, we use this at our house. But the whole design is just what you are talking about. Christmas gives parents a natural setup to be able to talk with kids about Jesus. You may feel awkward talking about spiritual stuff in April, but December it’s easy isn’t it?
Greg: Sure, absolutely easy. And that’s what Setting up Stones is all about, the fact that God is actually a master teacher and He set up a situation and told Joshua the situation to set up where they brought these stones into the families dwelling place so that the children would ask questions.
Martha: The word is engaging. You are engaging your family and everybody’s able to participate and relate at their own level and what’s neat is you engage with scripture with the story with the Father, but you also engage with each other. And that becomes just like the fabric of your family.
Bob: Well and as a teacher you know that if all you do is lecture you’re not really going to capture their hearts are you?
Martha: That’s exactly right.
Bob: You’ve got to for some kids they have to be able to touch stuff, for other kids they have to be able to see stuff. For other kids they have to be able to do things, and so by not just saying here’s a story book that I can read aloud to you and show you the pictures, but here are things you can touch and stuff you can do. Kids remember the story.
Bob: And they’re engaged.
Bob: You guys had high water marks and low water marks as you raised your kids and tried to keep this as a central theme for your family. What are some of the things you look back on and go those were the times when we knew God is in this and it’s working? Do you remember?
Martha: I think of one time especially, we were on vacation in Estes Park and our daughter was in middle school and our son was in upper elementary about to go to middle school. We were driving through the park one evening and we came upon this pool with I think they were elk. I’m a Texas girl, I am not sure.
Bob: They were elk.
Dennis: I’ve been there, they were elk.
Martha: It was just at sunset and they were drinking from the pool it was just beautiful. So Greg pulled off to the side of the road so we could just sit and look at it and just kind of as a natural response without any hesitation Annie just started singing that scripture chorus, As the Deer Pants for the Water, and Matt jumped right in there with her and so we all joined in and I guess we sat there for 30 minutes just singing together and worshiping as a family.
But it was what I call serendipity it just happened. To me the fact that natural response would be there and that everybody in the family felt free to express that and not hold back told me that everything that we had done to try to teach our children to see God and to respond to God and to be worshippers had worked out.
Bob: I’m thinking back to a message that we aired on FamilyLife Today back several months ago from Matt Chandler the pastor of the Village Church down in Dallas and I remember Matt talking about with his kids, he said we try to make sure that every experience in life that we are going through we reflect back on God so if we’re going down a water slide my kids will get sick of this but I will say isn’t God good to make waterslides? I mean isn’t it cool that we have water that we can dive into and cool off in the summer. We’re licking an ice cream cone and he goes isn’t God good to make ice cream? I mean He could have just made one flavor and look at all these flavors that we have.
But he’s trying to make sure that everything reminds kids that God’s the hero of life. God is where it all comes from. God is where you find your joy, where you find your satisfaction and where you find your help. I’m thinking, Martha, about when Annie was going off to school and was anxious you used a little object lesson to help her deal with her anxiety before she headed off to school didn’t you?
Martha: We did and once again we looked in the scripture and God is really big on object lessons and we were looking at the story of Jericho and we decided that we would go walk around the elementary school and pray.
Bob: Was Annie thinking the walls would tumble and she wouldn’t have to go?
Dennis: Cancel school and classes.
Martha: Something like that. But we did that and before we got out of the car, we went on a Sunday afternoon so there was no one around, and before we got out of the car we talked about the Jericho march and we said now we’re going to go silently and these are the things we are going to pray for.
Bob: And she is seven or eight years old at this point?
Martha: Yes. And the whole family Matt trudged along, too. I’m going to tell you, in south Texas in August that was not pleasant.
Greg: It was a rough time.
Martha: But we did it and there again it resonated with her and she told us that she would remember that and know that that place was surrounded by prayer.
Greg: As they moved up to higher level schools we would go to those schools every time before school started and we would do the Jericho march there at the school. I recall one time that was really significant, Matt was starting his sophomore year in high school and we were marching around the high school where he was attending and he came to the flag pole and he just kind of called us over there together and he began to pray that from the ground that living water would spring forth from that high school campus. During that time that he was there he led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. There were about 150 kids that came to know the Lord on that public school campus.
Dennis: You all are demonstrating something here that I don’t want our parents to miss. And that’s this, you don’t just send your kids to school, you launch them to school with a mission and you give them a picture of what that mission looks like and I think your Jericho march, I think that would be a great idea for any parent in terms of setting a context for why are you here? It’s not all about you, you are being placed here and over the next twelve years all the way through high school God has a purpose for being in those classes with those teachers and with those students.
Greg: And let me tell you, it’s not just in the public schools either, I think a lot of times we feel like if we send our kids to a Christian school that everything is ok and we can just throw our hands up and say well I’ve got that taken care of. But the fact is kids face challenges wherever they are. Whether it be public school, private school, home school it’s important as you said that we partner with them to help them face those challenges and see God work in each and every one of those situations that they find themselves in.
Martha: Going back to the Jericho march I know that we could have sat in our living room and prayed those prayers and God would have heard, but going out and walking around the school gave our kids a tangible picture in their minds.
Dennis: And it tied a great story in the Bible, it was a story of faith, to where they were and especially your daughter who was afraid at the time.
Dennis: So it turned fear into faith. And that’s what we want to do as parents. And I just appreciate you guys coming and exhorting our parents to assume their responsibility as generational messengers, passing on the truth of God’s word to their children and to future generations and I’m thinking of how you’ve encouraged them especially to use a resource like what we’ve created here at FamilyLife, What God Wants for Christmas, for families to rally at the Christmas season and to teach the truth about the greatest gift that the world has ever been given.
Dennis: Thanks for being with us.
Greg: Thank you very much.
Bob: Well you mentioned What God Wants for Christmas and it’s been fun for me to watch kids interact with this resource because all of the pieces of the nativity scene. The baby in the manger, Mary, Joseph, the shepherd, the wise men, the angels all of them are in little gift boxes and kids love opening the boxes to find what is in there and then placing those objects as a part of this interactive nativity scene. And of course the surprise of what’s in box number seven is always intriguing for children. And of course there is a storybook that goes along with the nativity scene so mom and dad can use that. You can use this as a seven day advent devotional or you can use it on Christmas Eve to retell the Christmas story, however you’d like to use it.
The point is tools like this or like the Just Add Family resource that Kurt and Olivia Bruner put together that gives creative ways for parents to engage the whole family in spiritual conversation and activity. These are the kinds of tools that help accomplish what we’ve been talking about here today, making your home a place of worship.
You can go online today at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about these resources, to get a copy of the book that the Singletons have written, Setting up Stones. Again all the details can be found online at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from us online if you’d like or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, when you get in touch with us we will make arrangements to have whatever resources you are looking for sent out to you.
Our team has been busy over the last several months laying the groundwork for a number of projects we’ve been working on here at FamilyLife. Some of these projects have been slowed down a little bit because of the economic situation that we’ve been in this year but we’ve been making progress on some things that you are going to be hearing more about in the months ahead.
There’s a new resource that we have put together to help parents get their children ready for the college experience. We are taking the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference and translating it for a video environment. We’ll have more news about that coming up.
And we’ve been working with church leaders in the country of Rwanda in recent days to strengthen marriages and families in a country that has been torn apart by civil war and by unrest.
Of course at the same time we’ve been continuing with our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, this radio program, our website, the resources we put together and we’ve been able to continue making progress on all of these things because of the financial support we have received this year from folks like you who believe in what we are trying to do here at FamilyLife Today and who have donated to help make this daily radio program possible and to help with these other projects we’ve been working on.
We are listener supported we depend on your contributions to keep FamilyLife Today on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country. This year we have had some friends of the ministry who have stepped forward to say we want to encourage FamilyLife Today listeners to make a year-end donation to FamilyLife and the way they are doing that is by offering to match every donation we receive from now through the end of the year on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of $1,250,000.
This is the largest single matching gift we have ever been offered as a ministry and we are very excited, we are very encouraged by that and we also recognize that if we are going to take full advantage of this matching gift we are going to have to hear from as many of our FamilyLife Today listeners as possible. So, would you consider making a year-end contribution either online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY, making your donation over the phone? All donations, of course, are tax deductible and I just want to say thanks in advance for whatever you are able to do. We really appreciate your financial support and your partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.
Now tomorrow let me encourage you to be back with us, Sharon Jaynes is going to join us and we are going to talk particularly to wives and moms to women who have fallen for a lie and who needed to be reminded of the truth. We’ll explain more of what we are talking about tomorrow, we hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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