Fostering Friendships

I remember as a child being painfully shy. I wanted to make friends, but I wasn’t sure how and I wasn’t sure anyone would like me. I remember my mom, who has always been a friendly person, saying, “Just be friendly. Ask what their name is and tell them your name.” It made sense, yet for some reason I just couldn’t do it. I did take some of her advice though and I did try to join in games or activities that others were doing. Still to talk to someone I didn’t know was very hard, so most of the time I just listened. Now listening isn’t a bad skill, still, just how do those of us on the shyer side learn to make friends? I am happy to say, I’e come a long ways since those shy days. I don’t consider myself shy any more. I am really more outgoing and I’m loving it. How did I get there and how can we help our kids make friends?

I prayed about it. My best friend Jesus heard a small girl’s prayers and little by little, He answered. He nudged me out of my comfort zone to introduce myself to others and to be the first one to say my name. I still mostly listen during conversations, but I find that people love to talk to someone who listens to them and who tries to understand how they feel. I also learned to smile and ask questions. When you give someone a genuine smile, they usually smile back and when you ask about their day or wish them a good day, it lets them know that you care. As I listen, I try to really listen and remember what someone has told me. When we listen only with the intent of thinking of what we are going to say, we often miss what the other person is really talking about, but when we listen to understand and then respond with genuine interest, we’ve gained a friend.

I also learned that most people are not trying to judge you. Yes, I suppose we all make snap judgements at times. I know I’ve met someone and thought, “Oh they must be a teacher.” because of something they said only to find out that they worked in a doctor’s office or I’ve thought that someone was rich because they dressed very nicely and later found out that they weren’t any richer than I was, but they knew how to shop the sales. Still most people aren’t automatically trying to judge you as a person or judge what you say unless you are responding in an unkind manner. Most people are happy to smile back at you and are glad that there are some friendly people in the world.

If you are in a group where you don’t know anyone and feel kind of alone, you can be sure that there is at least one other person feeling the same way. So just introduce yourself. Ask their name and then ask where they are from, where they grew up, what their job is or even about the weather. Just introduce yourself! You might make their day.(Did you know that you can find lists of “getting-to-know-you” questions on line if you need something to get you started?)

Ok, so I’m still not the life of the party and I sometimes wonder if I will ever have a friendship quite like David had with his friend Jonathan, but I’m happy to say, I have friends – lots of friends and I am definitely not shy!!! In fact, I belong to a Toastmaster’s group and I actually enjoy public speaking. I didn’t get there overnight, but little by little, with God’s help, I faced my fears. I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and I realized that there were a lot of other people, just like me who were little apprehensive about introducing themselves. I’m still growing in my quest to be braver and more outgoing. My next goal is to get enough courage to share my ideas in group meetings even if I’m afraid that everyone is smarter and has better ideas than I do, even if I come across as ridiculous. The only ridiculous idea or question is the one not asked or shared.

How can we ever hope to have a friend like David had in Jonathan? Perhaps the best answer is to genuinely love and care about others. When we can get our eyes off of ourselves and our fears, focusing on the other person instead, then we can be a friend. The best way to make friends is to simply be a friend to someone else.

PRAYER: Father God,
Thank you for being my friend and thank you for sending Jesus to the world. He lived among us and experienced what we experience. He knew loneliness, pain, hunger and thirst. He endured ridicule, misunderstanding and rejection. he also experienced love and companionship and through it all, He loved and served. He healed and helped. He lived selflessly and He called us to follow Him. He died so that we might live in relationship with our Father God. Thank you Jesus, for being my friend. Help me, Lord, to let go of my selfish fears and be a friend to others. I know that I can be a friend because you are my friend and you are always with me. Amen

SHARE A STORY: Good Friends – David & Jonathan – 1 Samuel 20:12-42
David and Jonathan were very good friends. They loved each other. (Give self a hug.) But Jonathan’s dad was the king and he didn’t like David. (Make sad, mean face.) He was jealous and wanted to hurt David. Jonathan promised David that he would find out if his dad really was mad, (Show mad face.) then he would let David know so that he could go away where it was safe.

Jonathan talked to his dad and King Saul was still very angry. He thought people liked David better than him. Jonathan was sad because his dad was mad. (Show sad face.) But He had promised to let David know and good friends keep their promises. Good friends help each other.

Jonathan went out to the field where David was hiding. He shot some arrows to let David know that his dad was still mad and that David needed to get away. Afterwards Jonathan sent the boy who was with him back to town so he could see his friend, David, one last time. David came out from where he was hiding to say good bye to his friend. They cried together, (Say, “Boo hoo!”) and they promised to be friends forever. (Say and clap, “Friends forever.”) They promised to be kind to each other.

David and Jonathan were very good friends.They loved God (Point up.) and they loved each other. (Give self a hug.)You can be a good friend too. Ask God to help you be a good friend and show kindness just like Jonathan did. Do you know who wants to be your good friend? Jesus! He really loves you. You can be a good friend to others because Jesus lis a good, good friend to you.

Dear God,
Thank you for my friends. Help me to be a good friend and be kind to others.
Help me remember to share. Thank you God for being my friend too. I love you! Amen

MEMORIZE: Proverbs 17:17 – (Hold hands open as though holding a book.)
A friend – (Hook pointer fingers together.)
Loves – (Give self a hug.)
At all – (Throw hands out to sides.)
Times – (Point to clock.)

VERSE SONG: (To the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)
A friend loves at all times,
All times, all times.
A friend loves at all times,
And Jesus is a friend of mine.
(2nd time through replace last line with Proverbs 17:17)

With young children, getting together with other families with young children is a good start. Young children begin to understand friendship as they simply play alongside one another. Playing with your child as he/she plays alongside others helps too – as well as having toys that can be shared – 2 trucks, 2 dolls, blocks, etc.

  • Teach your preschooler what to say when meeting someone new. “Hi! My name is …. What’s your name?”
  • Invite someone over to play one on one. with your child. It’s a little less intimidating one on one than in a whole group..

  • Introduce kids to each other. Have some of the friendlier, less shy kids be greeters to welcome other kids. Assign someone to be a new child’s special buddy the first day in class.
  • Play a name game in circle time by clapping different names or singing the names around the circle.
  • Include activities where more than one child is included – art activities done as a group or building together, doing a puzzle together, etc.
  • Model and role play how to introduce yourself and some get-to-know you types of questions.
  • With older kids, encourage friendships amongst kids who have like interests, but also amongst kids who are different.
  • Celebrate each child’s uniqueness.

Coming Home

A Lost Son – Luke 15:11-19

Home is family!

I recently read the story of the prodigal son who left home to be on his own and explore life on his terms and I get it, but I don’t get it. I get it because as a a teenager, I was anxious to leave home too. I wanted to be on my own and explore options for my life. I wanted to learn to take care of myself. and lead my own life. In part, I wanted to get away from my dad, but that’s a story for another day. What I don’t get is why the son left home to party and indulge in wild living? I also don’t quite get it because in all my wanderings away from home, I always had “home” in my heart. I wanted to get away, but I never wanted to fully detach from my family. Whatever the son’s reasons, he did leave home and he did make very poor choices. He didn’t follow the ways of his father when he left home. Rather he went the opposite way. Instead of being wise in his spending and living, he made very poor choices. He spent all his money, not on things that would last or that would see him through lean days, but rather he spent it foolishly and recklessly on parties and wild living. He lived from day to day, seemingly unconcerned about his morals or his actions, until one day, he found himself in a pig pen, far from home, destitute and alone. There, in that pig pen, he made the best choice he had made in a long time, he decided to go home.

He decided to go home to his father and offer to serve him. He left as a son, but was willing to go home as a servant. This is the part of the story I understand. I too, am like that son, in that I have often made poor choices in my life. I have went my own selfish way, probably more times than I can count. I want to follow God, but I also want to do my own thing too. Those poor choices have found me struggling alone and hurting, not exactly in a pig pen, at least not a literal one, but in the crazy darkness of my mind and heart. Yet, like the son, when I come to the end of myself and return home to my Father God, I find a welcome is waiting.

You see the son returned home with a much different attitude. He left home arrogant, selfish and wanting his own way much more than what his father wanted for him. He returned home sorry, repentant and willing to serve, but that’s just the beginning of the story. When the son was still a ways off, the father saw him and ran to meet him, threw his arms around him and kissed him. He gave him his best robe, put a ring on his fingers and sandals on his feet. He reinstated him as his son and then he celebrated. That’s exactly what God does when we turn back to Him. He is always ready to forgive us and welcome us home and home is a good place to be.

“Coming home” is easy and yet it can be so hard because we often let our pride and self-sufficiency get in the way. Like the prodigal son, “coming home” starts with realizing that you have messed up, made poor choices or to put it as the Bible says, have sinned; then it requires making a decision to turn around and head home. If the prodigal son had not made that choice to leave the pig pen and head for home, he would have never felt the welcome and forgiveness of the father and he wouldn’t have been reinstated as his son. The prodigal also returned with a different attitude, an attitude that was willing to serve rather than live arrogantly and selfishly. But regardless of where you find yourself or even the attitude of your heart right now, when you decide to turn back towards God, you are almost there, because God does the rest. When you make the decision to return home, you can be sure that God will meet you with open arms and give you a clean robe and a clean heart.

Do you have a story about “coming home”? Or maybe you want to know more about “coming home” to the Father, to God, I would love to hear from you.

Father God,
I am sorry for those times I have went my own selfish way, those times when I have been too busy to spend time with you or have disregarded your guidance because I simply had different ideas. Please forgive me for anything I have done or even thought about that is not pleasing to you. I’m thankful, God, that you don’t give up on me, instead you are continually there for me, welcoming me back into your family. I love being part of your family. You are such a good, good God. You love me and want what’s best for me. As a parent, I see just a bit of a glimpse of your love for me. I love my kids, my family and my home. It’s so nice to have the family home. Home is way more than a place. It’s place for family. That’s where I want to be – home in your presence, enjoying the family. Lord, give me a clean heart, a heart that is free from guilt and past sins. Teach me instead to walk in your ways. Give me a heart that loves you above all else and loves others. Make my home here on earth a place for family, a place where love is shown, forgiveness is given and grace is present. Give us hearts that speak kinds words and honor each other. Show me how to live that out for my kids too. Thank you God for your love and grace. Amen

* We often hurry and scurry around to get our home ready for guests, but what are we doing to welcome and honor our families? Yes, home should be a place where you can relax too, but don’t forget to give yourself a little time to spend simply being there for those you love. That may mean laying aside your work for a minute or two or putting down you cell phone or other electronic device at dinner time and at least an hour before bedtime.

* Let grace and forgiveness abound. We want that for ourselves, but do we give grace to others – our kids and spouses? They need it too. Forgiveness isn’t a lack of discipline, it simply means that we are willing to love and give another chance. It might be a hug and a reassuring word after the discipline has taken place.

* Give each other space.
That’s hard to do right now with everyone working and going to school from home, but try to give everyone a little space  and don’t forget to carve out a little space for yourself too.

* Work together and play together. Working and playing together create bonds that can last a life time. Working together can be fun. Your child will gain a sense of accomplishment and self worth.

* If you want decorating ideas, look on Pinterest, but remember, it’s often the things you don’t see that make a house a home – a little beauty doesn’t hurt though.

* Be grateful! Yes, I said, “Be grateful!”  When we are grateful, our mood changes. We are happier, more welcoming, more accepting and forgiving of others because we are focusing on the good things instead of all the problems or irritations that we might be facing.


Jesus told this story about a dad and his son. Once a son decided to ask his dad for his share of the family money so he could move away from home and have fun. The dad loved (Give self a hug.) his son so even though he didn’t want the son to move away, he gave him the money he asked for. (Show money.)
The son took the money, packed his bags, (Pretend to pack.) and moved far away from his family. He spent his money on parties and rich food. (Take money out a little at a time.) He was having fun!

But one day the son looked (Look in bag.) and all his money was gone. (Show empty bag.) He was hungry! (Rub tummy.) He didn’t have any money to buy food. He was so hungry, he went to work for a man taking care of pigs. (Say, “Oink! Oink!) He was sooo hungry, (Rub tummy.) he even wanted to eat what the pigs were eating. Yuk!

One day when he was feeding the pigs, (Oink, oink!) he thought, “I know what I can do. I can go home and work for my dad. I’ll tell my dad that I’m sorry and I’ll ask him if he’ll let me work for him. At least then I’ll have enough food to eat.” (Rub tummy.) And that is just what he did. He started walking towards home. (Stand up and walk in place.) He walked and walked.

When He was almost home, guess what happened? Did his dad tell him to go away because he hadn’t made good choices? No! His dad loved him so much and when he saw him coming, he ran to meet him. He was happy to have his son home. His dad gave him a new clean robe to wear, new sandals to wear, a ring for his finger and even threw a big party to celebrate. God loves us just like that dad loved his son. Did the son make good choices? (No, but his dad loved him and forgave him anyway.)

God loves you too, just like that dad. He’ll help you make good choices, but when you do make mistakes, God will be there to forgive and help you. You can ask God to forgive you and give you a clean heart – a heart that wants to love and follow Him. Ask God to help you make good choices and remember that He loves you, forgives you and wants what’s best for you. The dad gave the son new clothes to wear instead of his dirty ones and God gives us a clean heart – a heart that wants to love and follow Him. All we have to do is ask God to forgive us and give us a clean heart. He will because He loves you!

Dear God, Thank you for loving and forgiving me. I know you love me just like the dad loved his son. Help me listen to mom and dad and to you. Amen

MEMORIZE: Psalm 51:10 – (Hold hands open as though holding a book.)Create (Make) in me – (Roll hands then point to self.) A clean – (Clap hands together and then throw in the air joyously.)Heart – (Hands on heart.)O God – (Point upwards)

THE MAIN IDEA: A Lost Son – Luke 15:11-19
 KNOW: God loves & forgives me. He gives me a clean heart..
TALK ABOUT: What does it mean to have a clean heart?
ASK: Who loves you? God loves me.
AND DO…..  What can you do?Ask God to forgive me and give me a clean heart.


* Practice forgiveness. You can model this for your kids by asking for their forgiveness when you are short with them or misunderstand them, etc. Also, you and your child can pray for those people who have hurt your feelings or done anything that you need to forgive. Remember God is always ready to forgive us and give us a clean heart of love for Him.

* Role play some good choice/bad choice scenarios. EX: Taking the last piece of cake for yourself instead of sharing with your brother. Pick up your toys without being asked.