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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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This article was originally published on Lifeway.
Here are some practical ways to teach kids about fasting through experience with short and intentional opportunities.
Of all the disciplines, fasting is probably the one I have personally practiced the least. For those of you who know me, that doesn’t come as a surprise. Denying myself food doesn’t come easy to me. While many of us have bought into the idea that unless we’re having three large meals (and several snacks in between) everyday, we’re starving ourselves. The truth is that many of us could easily cut back and even find ourselves healthier. In Matthew 6:16 Jesus gives some instruction on fasting. Verse 16 starts with, “When you fast . . .” not “If you fast . . .” That would say to me that it’s something we are to do.
Scripture refers to fasting as abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Normally fasting includes abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not water. Occasionally, we find what has been called an “absolute fast.” or an abstaining from both food and water. That appears to be for desperate measures to meet dire emergencies. For the purposes of this post (and when dealing with kids) I want us to consider a partial fast or a restriction of one’s diet but not a total abstention. Daniel talks a little about this in chapter 10.
Here are some practical ways to fast with kids:
Be intentional about helping kids understand why you’re fasting:
This inwardly expressed discipline (not publicly shared but a private matter between the individual and God) in its traditional sense should be approached with a lot of thought and care. For us to ignore this discipline would be a blatant disregard of Old and New Testament practice as well as Christ’s expectation shared in the Gospels.
Obviously, there are physical issues and limitations to consider and, quite frankly, fasting may not be for everyone—especially kids. You may want to check with a doctor before beginning a fast from food. But ultimately, I cannot think of a reason why we would ignore teaching about fasting and at some level help kids understand, through experience, short and intentional opportunities to practice what Jesus (and many Bible heroes) practiced.
Since 2003, Bill Emeott has served as a Lead Kids Ministry Specialist for LifeWay. His passions include childhood ministry leadership training and development, leading children’s Bible Study, and being an uncle!