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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

Wake Up Already!

Fortifying the Family
Activities for Holy Time—Child-Friendly Solutions for Sabbath Serenity
P. Stemmler
Activities for Holy Time—Child-Friendly Solutions for Sabbath Serenity

The Sabbath as it was instituted was actually to protect the family from being too busy to spend time together. It is holy time with God, and special time with the family. Please notice what Inspiration has given for us regarding the Sabbath and the family.

“The Sabbath and the family were alike instituted in Eden, and in God’s purpose they are indissolubly linked together. On this day more than on any other, it is possible for us to live the life of Eden. It was God’s plan for the members of the family to be associated in work and study, in worship and recreation, the father as priest of his household, and both father and mother as teachers and companions of their children. But the results of sin, having changed the conditions of life, to a great degree prevent this association. Often the father hardly sees the faces of his children throughout the week. He is almost wholly deprived of opportunity for companionship or instruction. But God’s love has set a limit to the demands of toil. Over the Sabbath He places His merciful hand. In His own day He preserves for the family opportunity for communion with Him, with nature, and with one another.1

There are Bible studies regarding the need for preparation, worship, and rest. Not much information is available about what to do with our families that would qualify to be done on “holy time.” This article is to give practical suggestions on what families might do together on Sabbath.

God’s inspired list of activities:

The following are inspired ideas found within the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. In order to make anything interesting, you need creativity and variety. This list is not exhaustive—in fact, it would be good to make up your own list of ideas. You could place them on index cards and then choose at least one out of your selection each week, so that you can properly prepare. You might also want a special selection for those “unexpected Sabbaths” when you have extra guests and plans change.

1. Focus on making the Sabbath a delight

2. Commune with God

3. Study nature

4. Talk with one another

5. Walk outdoors

6. Study

7. Enjoy the stillness

8. Help others

9. Provide a special treat for the Sabbath

The list expanded

Following is the list expanded. You will find in each section an inspired statement to pray and think about and then some ideas that you can incorporate into your own special planning for the Sabbath. Most of all, remember to enjoy the process of planning, of doing, and of honoring your Creator.

1. Focus on making the Sabbath a delight

“The Sabbath should be made so interesting to our families that its weekly return will be hailed with joy. In no better way can parents exalt and honor the Sabbath than by devising means to impart proper instruction to their families and interesting them in spiritual things, giving them correct views of the character of God and what He requires of us in order to perfect Christian characters and attain to eternal life. Parents, make the Sabbath a delight, that your children may look forward to it and have a welcome in their hearts for it.”2

Pray for wisdom from God so that creative, interesting ideas can be implemented each week.


a. Have a theme-oriented plan – Maybe for each month, or each week, think of some theme that you can plan activities, food and visitors around.

Example: December – Remembering the birth of Christ

i. Visit a farm a find a manger and/or a donkey.

ii. Study the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth—dig in to find out something you never noticed before.

iii. Talk about what it might be like to have to leave all of your friends and family to go far away and have a baby.

iv. Study the donkey. Why is it known as the beast of burden?

v. Find other Bible examples of donkey usage.

vi. Find, copy, and then make available pictures to go along with your theme.

vii. Go for a long walk, thinking about the long journey that Joseph and Mary had to take. What provisions would they have had? Can you plan a Sabbath meal with this in mind?

viii. Read other stories from the Bible about this great event.

ix. Take some time individually to think of things that you are really thankful for, that Jesus has given us as a special gift.

x. Take turns sharing what you are thankful for yourself, and write down the list.

xi. Take time to think of what gift you are thankful for in other family members.

xii. Take a special gift of cookies or bread or a card or a song for a visit with song to someone who might be lonely or discouraged.

Are you getting inspired yet? I will try to give more theme suggestions. The number of ideas is limited only to the time you spend thinking about them. You could tie in ideas about the human body, any creatures in nature, about family members, about building, wind, the list of created things mentioned in the book Job like oceans, rivers, stars. . . . You get the idea.

• January – The beauty of the snowflake (in places where snow is common)

• February – Sunshine

• March – Wind and rain

• April – New life

• May – Spring flowers

• June – The garden & food

• July – Water

• August – Green grass and other plants

• September – Education

• October – Thankfulness

More themes might include:

Go into all the world—a study of different nations and customs, and how to reach them for Jesus.

Colors—what has God made that is blue, green, red, and so forth. . . .

2. Communion with God

Naturally, adults usually think of the need to take some time to pray on the Sabbath, and parents should pray with their children at the times of worship. But communion is wonderful when it’s one on One.

a. Teach the children what communion is and how to talk and listen to God.

b. Plan special times when each member of the family can talk to God alone.

c. Plan a special place either in the home or outside the home to be each one’s prayer closet.

d. Realizing that communication is two-way, think of interesting ways that children can hear God speak to them. Maybe through a song, the reading of the Bible or the watching of an animal.

e. Encourage each person to keep a record of what he or she heard or learned during their time alone with God. This record could be spoken or written. Malachi 3:16 states that God keeps records about us and suggests that these include what He hears from us. Shouldn’t we likewise keep records of what we learn from God?

3. Nature

This is a very big section because there are endless things in nature to study. Notice the following:

“Parents may take their children outdoors to view God in nature. [The children] can be pointed to the blooming flowers and the opening buds, the lofty trees and beautiful spires of grass, and taught that God made all these in six days and rested on the seventh day and hallowed it. Thus the parents may bind up their lessons of instruction to their children, so that when these children look upon the things of nature, they will call to mind the great Creator of them all. Their thoughts will be carried up to nature’s God—back to the creation of our world, when the foundation of the Sabbath was laid, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Such are the lessons to be impressed on the minds of our children. . . .

“Teach the children to see Christ in nature. Take them out into the open air, under the noble trees, into the garden; and in all the wonderful works of creation teach them to see an expression of His love. Teach them that He made the laws which govern all living things, that He has made laws for us, and that these laws are for our happiness and joy. Do not weary them with long prayers and tedious exhortations, but through nature’s object lessons teach them obedience to the law of God.”3

The list

a. Read from various Scripture referen-ces about things in nature that God uses to teach us lessons. Examples could be Job 12:7–9, chapters 26, 28, 37–41; 1 Corinthians 12. For older children, have them use a concordance and find their own Bible passages about nature.

b. Pick your Bible theme and then go out into nature and find something that illustrates the biblical precept. For example: You are reading that love is patient. Now go looking for natural examples of patience in action. It may be the ant trying to take its catch back to the nest, or some other mother animal working with her offspring. Maybe it will be the length of time a tree takes to grow or a plant to bear its fruit.

c. Choose one specific animal or group of animals and read about them, look at them, visit where they might live, follow their trails, colour a picture of them, or draw it yourself. What does that creature do to live, to breathe, to eat, to drink? Are there spiritual parallels? Take time to share what each is learning.

d. Write your own object lessons. You can use the examples at to get your mind working, or the book Nature Speaks. Are We Listening? This resource actually has activity plans with each creature that is described.

e. Go on special outings to find different animal groups.

f. What can we be thankful for with each animal?

g. Study more in other informative books about the various animals.

h. Is there reference in the Bible to any animals you choose to study? Why? What is its use and reference?

i. Make a list of animals using the letters of the alphabet in their order (e.g., Anteater, Bear, Crocodile, and so forth).

j. There are many precious books that show wonderful pictures of God’s creation. There are also DVD’s, and online resources. Be sure to examine them in advance for suitability before offering them to your children.

k. Choose songs that might go along with the lessons you are learning. Sing them outside.

l. Read the Bible outside in a special place in God’s creation.

4. Talk to each other

I have already mentioned a few suggestions how to integrate this with other things. Remember,. . .

“The value of the Sabbath as a means of education is beyond estimate. Whatever of ours God claims from us, He returns again, enriched, transfigured, with His own glory.”4

“How can children receive a more correct knowledge of God, and their minds be better impressed, than in spending a portion of their time out-of-doors, not in play, but in company with their parents? Let their young minds be associated with God in the beautiful scenery of nature; let their attention be called to the tokens of His love to man in His created works, and they will be attracted and interested. They will not be in danger of associating the character of God with everything that is stern and severe; but as they view the beautiful things which He has created for the happiness of man, they will be led to regard Him as a tender, loving Father. They will see that His prohibitions and injunctions are not made merely to show His power and authority, but that He has the happiness of His children in view. As the character of God puts on the aspect of love, benevolence, beauty, and attraction, they are drawn to love Him. You can direct their minds to the lovely birds making the air musical with their happy songs, to the spires of grass and the gloriously tinted flowers in their perfection perfuming the air. All these proclaim the love and skill of the heavenly Artist and show forth the glory of God.”5

a. Have happy talks with the children. For what are they most thankful?

b. Talk about what they might be sad? Or concerned? Maybe they are thinking about a sick relative and want to help him or her.

c. Invest in quality time one-on-one.

d. Make a special card or note with a Bible verse in it for a specific family member.

e. Pick a special song to sing for the rest of the family. Each family member can participate.

5. Walk outdoors

“We are not to teach our children that they must not be happy on the Sabbath, that it is wrong to walk out-of-doors. Oh, no. Christ led His disciples out by the lakeside on the Sabbath day and taught them. His sermons on the Sabbath were not always preached within enclosed walls.”6

We should devote time to interesting our children. A change will have a happy influence upon them. We can walk out with them in the open air; we can sit with them in the groves and in the bright sunshine, and give their restless minds something to feed upon by conversing with them upon the works of God, and can inspire them with love and reverence by calling their attention to the beautiful objects in nature.”7

In pleasant weather let parents walk with their children in the fields and groves. Amid the beautiful things of nature tell them the reason for the institution of the Sabbath. Describe to them God’s great work of creation. Tell them that when the earth came from His hand, it was holy and beautiful. Every flower, every shrub, every tree, answered the purpose of its Creator. Everything upon which the eye rested was lovely and filled the mind with thoughts of the love of God. Every sound was music in harmony with the voice of God. Show that it was sin which marred God’s perfect work; that thorns and thistles, sorrow and pain and death, are all the result of disobedience to God. Bid them see how the earth, though marred with the curse of sin, still reveals God’s goodness. The green fields, the lofty trees, the glad sunshine, the clouds, the dew, the solemn stillness of the night, the glory of the starry heavens, and the moon in its beauty all bear witness of the Creator. Not a drop of rain falls, not a ray of light is shed on our unthankful world, but it testifies to the forbearance and love of God.”8

a. The quotations above already give many ideas for this section. Call attention to the beautiful objects in nature. In fact, maybe you can start a collection of something. Example: special small blue stones, or feathers, or unusual pieces of bark.

b. Organize a game by asking the question: Which day was it made? Have children find something that they think is really beautiful, or unusual, or special, or funny, etc., and tell you on which day of creation week it was made.

c. Find thorns and thistles. Discuss why they are there. What is different about them versus flowers and plants? On which should we focus?

d. Study music in nature. How does it sound? How does it feel?

e. What does sunshine help? How?

f. Discuss why God chose the colors prominent in nature’s palette. What can we learn about the effect of color on us?

g. Lay on a blanket in a field and count the things around you that show God’s love.

h. Take along a piece of string maybe 1 to 2 feet long for each person. Place each string in a circle on the ground some distance away from each other. Every person can take 5 or 10 or 15 minutes and just watch within their string to see what animals are there. This may require a great deal of patience while staying still.

i. A similar concept is to take something that will frame an area; maybe an old picture frame that can be set on its side or mounted against something. Everyone can look through it from a different angle and share the things that they see that our Creator has made.

j. Wear a blindfold for a portion of a walk (somewhere safe with someone sighted doing the leading) and notice the sounds, smells, and textures of God’s creation. Isn’t the Lord good in giving us five senses!

6. Study

“The children can be interested in good reading or in conversation about the salvation of their souls. But they will have to be educated and trained. The natural heart does not love to think of God, of heaven, or of heavenly things. There must be a continual pressing back of the current of worldliness and inclination to evil and a letting in of heavenly light.”9

From time to time read with [your children] the interesting stories in Bible history. Question as to what they have learned in the Sabbath School and study with them the next Sabbath’s lesson.”10

a. Find and read interesting Bible stories, picking a specific character quality that you feel would be of value to your children.

b. Find and read interesting character building stories that will help on the spiritual journey to heaven.

c. Find some of the visions that were given to Sister White and, after reading, enter into a discussion about what this means. Maybe you can do this in an area that would show some of the features of the landscape.

d. Ask questions about the children’s story or the sermon or the children’s Sabbath lesson of that morning.

e. Study next week’s Bible lesson with them, making it interesting by your enthusiasm.

7. Enjoy the stillness

It is a great idea to take some time to be alone with God during the Sabbath afternoon too. That’s when you can ask God for guidance and/or understanding of the messages that you may have heard during Sabbath School and the sermon. What does the Bible say about having a quiet time?

Psalm 46:10—“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 30:15—“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”

a. Read the verses above to the family. Explain that each one is going to take a few minutes of quietness, which means no noise, no talking, no whispering, just quiet. This could be done all together or separately. The purpose is to let God’s Holy Spirit speak to our heart while everything else is quiet. Then share what you learned in that time.

b. This can be incorporated with a walk (or while observing nature inside a circle of string as mentioned earlier). Help everyone to understand that quietness is actually a good thing.

c. Discuss times and places that quietness should and can be implemented.

d. Why is quietness necessary in church? In worship?

e. Look for examples of quietness in nature.

f. Take children outside in the evening and feel the quietness.

8. Help others

“We should always be ready to relieve suffering and to help those in need. In such cases God desires that the knowledge and wisdom He has given us should be put to use. But we should not talk about matters of business or engage in any common, worldly conversation. At all times and in all places God requires us to prove our loyalty to Him by honoring the Sabbath.”11

a. As a family, discuss people who might need some encouragement because of loss, loneliness, or sickness.

b. Discuss how those individuals can be helped by your family.

c. Visit someone on Sabbath afternoon with a card, song, or gift to help.

d. Practice singing a song to share with others in general.

e. Is there someone that could be invited to your home?

f. How could that individual be helped while visiting you?

g. Take some time to instruct your children on how to help relieve suffering. Explain that God has given nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, trust in Him and other fundamental elements of health to help others. In what ways can children be trained to actually participate in some sort of task to relieve suffering? Depending on the age of the child, something can be done. For example, carrying a glass of water, bringing a cloth to wipe the forehead, handing mom a towel for a moist compress, serving something to eat.

h. Teach children how to notice whether someone might need help or encouragement. Do people look sad? Are they sick or missing from church? Can we plan to visit through the week to give some physical help?

i. Take time to memorize Bible promises to share with others.

j. Take time to practice printing or writing Bible promises very carefully to share with someone on a card or simply an index card with a picture. Remember to help cultivate prayer and carefulness with this one.

9. Provide a special treat for the Sabbath

“We should not provide for the Sabbath a more liberal supply or a greater variety of food than for other days. Instead of this the food should be more simple, and less should be eaten, in order that the mind may be clear and vigorous to comprehend spiritual things. . . .

“While cooking upon the Sabbath should be avoided, it is not necessary to eat cold food. . . . And let the meals, though simple, be palatable and attractive. Provide something that will be regarded as a treat, something the family do not have every day.”12

a. Think ahead of what would be considered a treat for Sabbath and then, when you serve it, associate it by word and pleasantness with the Sabbath. Examples: Provide a favorite simple food or offer a creative way of serving something common like making pictures out of different pieces of fruit.

b. A treat could also be a special tablecloth on the table for breakfast or candles at the evening meal.

c. Let the children pick a special food to put on the menu for the Sabbath. Remember that there are at least 2 to 3 different meals into which you could fit something special. You will be better helped if the food chosen is not too sweet. That would only trigger hyperactivity.

d. Let the children think and plan for something that might be a treat for Mom or Dad. Maybe serving them a meal and cleaning up.

OK, you are getting the idea of how this could work. Feel free to add more ideas and share them with other parents. This will inspire others to make the Sabbath a delight for our families, just like God intended! Enjoy!

1 Child Guidance, p. 535. [Emphasis supplied.]
2 Ibid., p. 536. [Emphasis supplied.]
3 Ibid., pp. 533, 534. [Emphasis supplied.]
4 Ibid., p. 535.
5 Ibid., pp. 534, 535. [Emphasis supplied.]
6 Ibid., pp. 533, 534.
7 Ibid., p. 536. [Emphasis supplied.]
8 Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 358. [Emphasis supplied.]
9 Child Guidance, p. 532. [Emphasis supplied.]
10 Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 359. [Emphasis supplied.]
11 Ibid., p. 360. [Emphasis added.]
12 Child Guidance, p. 532.