Practical Projects for our Children – Part 1

It is very popular to send children away for all sorts of good learning opportunities these days. Let’s say you choose to send your son to an organization that guaranteed to teach him how to share Jesus effectively with others. How long do you think the course would be? What would they teach your son? How would they teach him?

In Luke 10, we read about Jesus sending seventy of His disciples out two by two. He gave them the preparation He thought was necessary before they went on their way. They were about to learn some important lessons that were key but couldn’t have been learned any other way. It would have been quite an adventure.

The disciples had not been long in their training before their “practicum” was beginning. They had no degrees or certificates of any sort. In addition, they had no finances to fall back upon in case of need. They simply had one other disciple and prayer. Today, people would think such training practices were unrealistic.

I expect the disciples themselves had some apprehension regarding such an assignment with the preparation they had been given. They went out having had some verbal instruction and the opportunity to watch Jesus as He ministered. In warning, Jesus even told them about the possible persecution they could face. “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:17). The disciples had not experienced Pentecost yet, and therefore, they were not the bold men of God that they would later become. I have little doubt that their enthusiasm for their journey was tempered somewhat by very real concerns as they set out.

What was the outcome of the disciples’ mission? In Luke 10:17, we are told the disciples returned with joy. “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” They were excited about what the Lord had done through them. Likely, no amount of teaching could have produced in them these results.

What did Jesus do? He used a project to work mightily in their lives. It was acceptable if the disciples weren’t comfortable, because Jesus knew this was a project that would be good for them. It wasn’t beyond their abilities, because He had prepared them as much as they needed to be prepared beforehand.

Projects are an important part of raising children-disciples, but far too often they are neglected by parents. The results of projects can be impressive. I remember someone once complimenting me on how smart I must be to have trained my sons with the skills that they had acquired. I chuckled and said, “You must not know me very well. It doesn’t take much smarts to hold a carrot on a string out in front of a horse you want to guide along.” What I meant was that I don’t have to know more than my boys. I just have to be able to motivate and challenge them. The Lord has shown me that this can primarily be done by using projects.

Projects are wonderful vehicles to spur children on to learn all sorts of things. Real-life projects, which fulfill a need we might have around the home, cement what a child has learned. They also become a stimulus for wanting to learn more.

One perceived hindrance to projects might be the child’s reluctance to tackle something he has not done before. Likely, the disciples felt that way also. However, that is where the carrot and the string come in. Part of making projects successful is to learn how to motivate and challenge our children. We want to spur them on to giving it their best without discouraging them. Our relationship needs to be such that the child trusts us and wants to please us. Therefore, he will give it his best. He needs to believe that I am counting on him and wouldn’t ask him to do something he couldn’t do. (A side note: See how important it is to keep our children’s hearts? We want to motivate through influence and not have to resort to authority.)

At times a child might say, “Dad, I don’t know how to do that.” Or, “It sounds impossible to me.” In that case he will hear me say, “That’s okay. We will just give you a little longer to do it. I know you can do it.” It isn’t harsh or unrealistic at all to tell him he still has to do it. I’m raising my sons to be men. That is what a man might expect in his work day – challenges that he has never faced before and needs to conquer. It isn’t harsh, because I know the child can do what I ask him to do. However, what I ask is just beyond his immediate knowledge and current experience. This is how he learns to face challenges head on, depend on the Lord Jesus, and figure out how to do it. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Can our children (and we) apply the truth of that verse to their daily lives?

Some dads may be reluctant to use projects because they are concerned about the finances involved. It is true that there are projects that can cost you something, but many might not cost a dime. Begin first with projects that involve no expense. As your confidence builds, you can add projects that do. Even that shouldn’t be a problem for most families because doing a project yourself almost always is more cost effective than hiring someone else. It is all a matter of priorities. How will you choose to spend your money?

I was shocked when I recently spoke with a dad who spends three thousand dollars a YEAR so his son can play on a hockey team. I couldn’t imagine that for our family, yet they do it every year. For me, I would want to invest the funds the Lord has entrusted to us in training our children with worthwhile skills that will pay dividends throughout their lives.

One example, of many I could share, is that just last week John (14) was able to bless a neighbor who needed a very complex repair done. It was 100 degrees the afternoon John helped our neighbor. Even though the project was spread on the ground under a tree, it was still blistering. John wanted to bless the neighbor and had the peace of mind that he could do what needed to be done. John worked over two hours and finally was successful. The result was there were three very blessed people, in addition to a problem that was resolved. The neighbor, who had a need, was blessed in having his repair done with no expense to him. John was blessed the most of all because of the joy he received in serving someone. Plus, he learned some new things in the process. Finally, I was blessed and thrilled. I saw John’s love of helping others and his dependence on Christ to direct him when he was beyond his experience level.

Several years ago, I was speaking with a dad at a homeschool conference who was concerned about his fourteen-year-old son. The two of them didn’t have a very good relationship. The son was bored. He had no purpose in life. I challenged the dad to find some meaningful projects for his son. I suggested he look for something that would be of benefit in some way and from which his son would learn in the process. The dad thought for a minute and said how the family was in dire need of reliable transportation. He had just bought another car, but it needed significant repair work before they could count on it. Unfortunately, the dad had neither the experience nor the time to do the repairs. He wondered if that was a project his son might do even though the son also had almost no mechanical experience.

I encouraged the dad to pray about it. To me it seemed like an opportunity from the Lord. Off that dad went, and to my surprise, I met him again a year later at a mini-conference we were giving. He came up, introduced himself, and reminded me of our previous conversation. I was excited to learn that he had motivated his son to accept the car-repair project. The son learned what he needed to know, took the engine apart, and put it back together again. The Lord used a fourteen-year-old son to provide the family with transportation they needed so badly. It was a bountiful blessing to the family. The dad went on to say how good it had been for their relationship as well.

Projects can be so beneficial for our children if we dads will select projects that will stretch them. We don’t need to pay others to do what God has enabled us fathers to do for our children. There is much to be gained if we will step up and own the challenge of training our children to the best of our ability, as enabled by the Lord Jesus. Frankly, we would all agree that if Jesus is enabling us, we can do all that He is calling us to do.

Projects will be the theme of several future Dad’s Corners. Be praying and see what projects God may put on your heart for your children.