What do I do when my kids aren’t engaged? –An interview with Jessica Thompson

Exploring Grace TogetherLast Thursday, I posted about Jessica Thompson’s devotional, Exploring Grace Together, which our family has been working through over dessert this spring. This past week, I had an opportunity to correspond with Jessica and ask her some questions about her book and about helping kids be engaged during family devotions.

JK: Can you tell me about your family? How many and how old are your kids?

JT: I have a 15-year-old son named Wesley, a 13-year-old son named Hayden, and a 10-year-old daughter named Alexandria. I have been married for 19 years this coming July to my high-school sweetheart Cody.

JK: What led you to write Exploring Grace Together

JT: I co-authored a book called Give Them Grace with my mom (Elyse Fitzpatrick). We travel the across the country speaking on the contents of that book. The main premise being that most Christians raise our children in such a way that we have taught them that “being good” is the point of being a Christian. And while that might make for obedient children (at least while they are at home) it doesn’t make for true believers. Without fail every time we spoke on that book someone would come up to us after the conference and ask if there were any good devotionals that talked to children about the good news of God’s love for sinners instead of moralist religion that says you must be like all the good people of the Bible. Was there any good news for our kids? We always recommended the Jesus Storybook Bible but there were no other devotionals that families could do together that emphasizes the free grace of God to sinners. Every time we got that question, my mom would basically say, “No we don’t know of any books because Jess hasn’t written it yet.” I am pretty observant and after about 100 times I finally decided I should write the book.

JK: In the introduction, you talk about looking for Jesus at school, at home, in sports, in music–everywhere as a treasure hunt? What was your inspiration for that image? 

JT: I think the treasure hunt idea was a gift to me from God. A treasure isn’t easy to find but when you do you find it you don’t ever want to be apart from it because of it’s great worth. I wanted to be able to engage children at a level that they understand. What child doesn’t dream about finding a hidden treasure? I know I did when I was little, and to be honest I still find myself wondering what would happen if I looked down and saw a diamond ring on the ground. The beautiful paradox of the gospel is that while it is something we have to look for the Holy Spirit reveals it to us in so many different situations. Over and over again He has revealed Himself to our family in the most mundane and the most extraordinary circumstances of our lives. It really is sufficient for all of life. And so while we are on this treasure hunt, and we do need to keep our eyes open, God is big and powerful enough to force us to open our eyes and to show us the gospel in all of life.

JK: Tell me something about how each devotional is laid out. What do you hope the children who hear these devotionals will discover by the time they’ve finished the book?

JT: I started with a situation that either my kids or myself had gone through, and then I took a verse that I thought applied to the situation and tried to make the connection between the hardships we face and the good news the Bible offers us. My prayer for children and parents as they read this book is two fold: First, I would hope that kids would come to see how spectacular the love of God in Christ is and as they see that love it would transform their lives. Secondly, I hope that those reading see that the Bible isn’t some outdated book for their parents that doesn’t offer any help. So I hope to grow an awareness for God’s love and love him in return and I hope to grow a love for the Bible.

JK: Why did you choose 40 days? Was there method behind that choice?

JT: The 40 days was to coincide with a school year. I wrote it when I was homeschooling and thought it would be a helpful tool for those looking to do a devotional with their kids once a week. I actually ended up writing a few more and those were left on the cutting room floor.

JK: What if I feel like my kids are not engaged with these lessons, or they are totally engaged, but I think they’re missing the point? What do I do?

Pray. Relax. Remember that He’s got it. I so often find myself expecting from my kids what I don’t even do. For instance, I am not interested in my quiet time every day. Lots of times my heart is cold and unresponsive, and yet when it comes to family devotions I expect my kids to be totally engaged and into our time together. So I would say remember that your kids are human. Don’t expect too much for them. It is appropriate to ask them to sit quietly but you can’t demand that they respond spiritually. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. The good news is you don’t have to panic. God knows your family. He knows your children. He has placed you all together and He will have his way. Pray that God works and then let him. Demanding spiritual insight from children who may or may not be spiritually alive is sure to create either a Pharisee who pretends to be involved to gain your approval or it creates sadness or hardness in a child who knows that in their heart that aren’t really on the same page as you are.

Jacob’s Wrestling Match (at Home for May 25th)

sojournkids at homeThis week’s SojournKids Bible lesson was “Jacob’s Wrestling Match” (Genesis 32:1-32).  Use the questions below to review it with your kids. You can also review the weekly North Star Catechism (below).

READ: Genesis 32:1-32 or Story 21 in The Gospel Story Bible

ASK: How long did Jacob wrestle with the angel? All night long.

ASK: What did the angel do to Jacob? Touched his hip and put it out of joint.

ASK: Why did God hurt Jacob? He wanted Jacob to trust him and always remember him.

Check out the daily devotionals that correspond with this week’s lesson in the book, Long Story Short by Marty Machowski, pages 107-111.

This week’s North Star catechism question is…

57. How do I know that I belong to God? The Holy Spirit marks us as God’s children forever.

Ephesians 1:13b-14 –When you believed, you were marked in him with the Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glorious grace.

Download this week’s SojournKids at Home here.

Revival Under Jacob (Kids in Community for May 25th)


Download the free Revival series devotional here!

Applying God’s Word with your Kids in your Community Group

  • Read Genesis 35:1-4 together
  • Point to a familiar household object. Invite the kids to join you in bowing down, praying, and singing to it. Why is this crazy?
  • Jacob’s family had things they loved just as much or even more than God. If you were in Jacob’s family, what idols would you need to throw away?
  • Invite a child to pray, then conclude by thanking God for the grace to repent.

Family Devotions at Home

  • Read Genesis 35:1-15 together 
  • Who here is the fastest swimmer? How fast could you swim across the Ohio River if you were carrying 1,000 lb. on your back?
  • What is an idol? (Anything more important to us than God, anything we love and think about more than God.)
  • Why does Samuel tell the people to put away their idols?
  • Tell us about a time when you loved something more than God (parents too). How did God change your heart?
  • Pray together asking God to help your family stay away from idols.

Prove It! A North Star Catechism testimony from Pastor Mike Schuetz

CIMG4178“We used to try to cram everything possible into a once a week family devotion: hymn of the week, a Bible verse, the North Star Catechism question, a Bible story, a fun craft to keep things interesting, prayer for missionaries, etc. At some point, reality kicked in as well as common sense and/or the Holy Spirit. So, we tried something simpler for North Star — off-loading the North Star Catechism memorization to a fun little game before meals. Right before we pray for the meal, I’ll say, “Hey! North Star question: What is faith?”  If the kids (or adults) are stumped, we all repeat the answer aloud. Then I follow that up by shouting: “Prove It!”  This is the kids chance to recite the accompanying memory verse.  The ritual takes about 30 seconds, and on a good week we’ll usually remember to do it 4-5 times before dinner. That’s usually enough to where the kids can start saying it on their own. On a bad week, or if the answer if harder, we’ll just repeat the same question the next week. It’s simple and easy. The North Star flash cards will make it even more fun I’m sure. It’s simple and easy.” –Mike Schuetz, Sojourn College Pastor and Director of the URBN Experience

This Sunday, the North Star Catechism flash card set will be on sale at Sojourn book tables. The flash cards contain the content for all 78 catechism questions and answers in a deck of 52 playing card size flash cards. They provide a fun way to practice key truths about God’s glory, God’s kingdom, God’s cross, God’s grace, God’s church, and God’s mission. The tuck case and cards were designed by Sojourn staff member and graphic designer, Chris Bennett. Follow the link below to download the free catechism and order other resources.

55DRV  flash card

Check out the North Star Catechism resources including the new flash cards here!

Exploring Grace Together

Exploring Grace TogetherThis Summer, SojournKids is embarking on an adventure of grace together for Vacation Bible School. The Kennedy family is getting into the spirit early with this new family devotional, Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family, by Jessica Thompson. Jessica gives us forty days of devotionals that point to Jesus as our greatest treasure. We’ve been reading the stories during each evening with our girls after dinner while they eat dessert. The stories tell true-to-life experiences from the lives of grade school kids–explaining their struggles and  deepest desires. They then go on to show how Jesus provides the great treasure of joy and salvation through his one-way love. Here is what Sojourn’s lead pastor, Daniel Montgomery, has written about the book:

“My wife and I have enjoyed journeying through Exploring Grace Together with our kids. These forty short, fun devotionals have been kid-tested and proven by the Montgomery boys and girls and by two grateful parents who have often lamented the shortage of books that teach the gospel of God’s grace rather than the ‘gospel of rules and behavior modification.'” Daniel Montgomery, Pastor, Sojourn Community Church

On Thursday of next week, I’ll post an interview with Jessica Thompson, in which she answers questions and explains a bit about why she wrote this book and provides some help for how to think about family devotional time with your kids.