With a new school year just around the corner – or for many, already starting—it is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day appointments and other obligations that easily distance us from God. But what if you could implement some new rhythms so we don’t tack God on to an already overpacked schedule, but rather naturally integrate God into our everyday lives? Here are eight new rhythms you can incorporate into everyday life:
I personally don’t like to journal, yet writing down my personal thoughts and prayers to God, my feelings and notes on sermons and other spiritual resources I consume is a great way to commune with God—even if it is just a few minutes a day. If you don’t like writing full sentences, try using bullet points and put a heading at the beginning of the page.
For example, if you want to keep track of your prayer requests, write My Prayer Requests as a heading, and then use bullet points to list the requests. Make sure to leave enough room to put updates at the end of each bulleted point. It will be great for you to look back and see all God has done as you reflect in six months or even one year. Kids can do this as well as adults. You can even get a blank journal and designate some pages by writing prompts at the top of a few of the pages to get your kids’ pens flowing.
2. Devotions at Breakfast
You may not have time to read the Bible together at dinnertime as a family—or anytime during the workweek, for that matter. But can you find a condensed way to feed your soul with the Word before your kids get onto the school bus for the day? Do some research on Amazon or Google to find a devotional that offers scripture and biblical application for your morning.
Have the book sitting on the kitchen table every morning so your kids can read it before they go. Filling their heads with knowledge of the Word and their bellies with physical breakfast will give them a great first start to their day and help them chew on the Word of God throughout the school day.
3. Dinnertime as a Family
With sports practices occurring right after school and ending later at night, families don’t always have the time to eat together at dinnertime. But ask yourself: is it possible with a little organization and preparation to still make dinnertime a possibility? What if parents prepared food ahead of time and put it into freezable containers for each day of the week?
If they can’t sit at an actual table, can they meet at a picnic table, or restaurant after practice? It may not be the physical table at home, but it will still be the atmosphere needed so every member of the family can share about their days, which builds trust and allows members to share more deeply about their lives in the future.
4. Praying for the Teams Your Child Is On
While spending time out on the field, or in the concert hall, or watching debate practice, take some time before and during to pray for each member of your child’s team. When we pray for others, they naturally become dearer to us. It’s hard not to feel fondly connected to a person we have prayed for over and over again. So what better way to feel a sense of connection with the children our kids see most often than to pray for them?
Praying for each member of their team by name is a great way to make prayer time not just something to check off something on a to-do list but puts hands and feet to the tangible ways your kids can live out your faith.
5. Set Screen Time Limits
No matter how strict you try to be during the summer on how much your kids (and you) use devices like TVs, phones and tablets, it is easy to lose track of time when sitting on the couch with nowhere to go all day. As the school year approaches, take some time to do a media reset.
First, if you can, fast from media for a day or go longer if you feel comfortable. Then set time limits for the remining time.
For kids that play video games, set a time that is long enough to complete a couple of levels or complete an actual game. For watching TV, pick one or two shows you really enjoy, then shut off for the rest. This is good for adults as well. At the end of a long day, it is easy to lounge in front of the TV and shut out the world. Strive to do something that utilizes brain power but does not require a lot of energy. Crossword puzzles, reading, knitting, or other activities will help you relax and allow your brain to not go on auto pilot. All of that stimulation from screens can negatively affect the brain, mood, etc. Resetting may not be easy, but after a week, your physical, mental and emotional state will be so much better for it.
6. Create a Question Jar
Many parents ask the same questions of their children each day, lending the response to become mundane. For example, “How was your day?’ when asked too many times, may result in a quick quip of “fine” which tells little about what is actually going on in their lives. Get creative and make a question jar.
Brainstorm questions that require a longer response. Think of questions like, “What is your favorite subject in school and why?” or, “If you could add one extra subject to your school schedule, what would you add and why?” This will open up a new level of communication in a way that capitalizes on the few minutes you may see your children per day and allows you to open lines of communication that may grow wider as a child grows up.
7. Pray before You Sleep
Perhaps you prayed with your kids before they went to bed when they were smaller, but have you continued this routine of allowing your kids to present their requests to God before you sleep? As an adult, I tend to worry more about things because I have more responsibilities. However, kids are under more stress than ever before. Some reports state as many as half of teenagers suffer from anxiety and depression. How can they combat this?
As Christians, we know the answer cannot be found at the bottom of a medication bottle, but rather at the tips of tongues as we cast our cares onto God because he cares for us! Make a habit (or continue the old one) of praying but include a time for them to share what is truly a burden to them. Encourage them to cast it onto God’s shoulders and assure them you will be there for them no matter what difficulty they may be facing.
8. Meditate on the Word
Although there are many great resources out there that break down the Word into more understandable and applicable chunks. But nothing beats meditating and studying the Word for yourself. How can we do that when our lives can become so busy during the school year?
Have each family member choose a verse they would like to understand better. Then have each person ask a set of questions about the verse that makes all the other members have to find the answer? The questions can cover any aspect of the verse but must be engaging enough to illicit research and a thoughtful response, not merely a yes or no response.
For example, in the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” ask questions like, “What is one thing you would like to ask God’s strength to help you to do?” or for those who look at the verse in context may want to ask, “Since Paul uses this verse to talk about contentment, in what area of your life do you need to experience more contentment and why?”
The school year may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. While the school year can cause anxiety in anticipation of the many extra activities and other demands on your time that may take a toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing, you can combat this with adding some new rhythms into your routine. You may be kissing the lazy days of summer away, but this can be an opportunity to be more productive and draw yourself—and your kids—closer to God in the process.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.