The first time C3 held a corporate fast, I was too chicken to venture into a food fast with young children in the house. After all, they’re growing like weeds and they need their nutrition. Perhaps more important (to me), if they don’t get enough to eat, they’re gonna be grumpy… make that GRUMPY! So, we fasted TV instead. Honestly, it was an okay first fast, but spiritually not all that enlightening.
We’ve grown braver with each fast, finally committing to the full Daniel Fast a couple years ago. My husband and I decided the first time we fasted not to require the kids to participate. That worked okay – the kids weren’t grumpy, just us. We made a few big mistakes, though, particularly that cooking burgers for the kids when not eating them yourself is pure torture. Very unwise.
This year, my husband and I will participate in the full 21 day Daniel Fast. Our daughter, who is only five and doesn’t understand the purpose of a fast, will not be fasting with us. She understands hungry (mad) and not hungry (happy). The deeper spiritual lesson is lost on her. We will explain to her what we are eating – or not eating – and why. We will include her in our family prayer time. We will teach her the significance of fasting. When she’s older, she can join us.
Our sons, both teens and very active, will participate partially in the fast. Sending a 15 year old to school on a breakfast of fruit and nuts will not help him excel in school, especially since he has finals next week! Our boys understand the purpose of fasting, though, so we will encourage them to participate. They will cut out the junk food (chips, cookies, candy, etc) during the day, and will eat the same meal we eat for dinner. They’ll both eat a filling bedtime snack. They will pray, specifically for the concerns of their own hearts, with our family and for our church.
On a practical level, we have learned some “tricks” to help balance everyone’s food needs.
1. We stock the refrigerator with “easy” proteins for the kids: yogurt, cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs, and milk. The teens include these items in their breakfast and lunch so the lighter meal at dinner is sufficient. Our daughter eats these items at appropriate meals and snack-time.
2. We prepare chicken breasts and ground beef before the fast and store them in the freezer to add to the kids’ meals on weekends. Before the fast begins (so you don’t have to smell it), cook some chicken breasts with mild seasoning. Put them in freezer bags (individual portion size works best). During the fast, pull the chicken from the freezer. You can heat it in the microwave to serve alongside your vegetable dinner or cut it up to add to the kids’ veggie soup. Same thing with the ground beef. Cook it, freeze it, add it.
3. While our kids like grilled cheese sandwiches, we don’t make them during a fast. The smell of toasting bread and melting cheese is just too overwhelming. They can eat a cold cheese sandwich for a couple weeks! (I would include pancakes, waffles and other tempting aromas in this list!)
The bottom line is that fasting is a heart thing. Kids who understand it, should be encouraged to participate at a reasonable level. Kids who don’t understand should be learning as we go through the fast to prepare their hearts for the future.
If you have any ideas that have helped your family fast together, please respond. We’d love to hear from you!
This blog was written by Karen Dawkins. Karen has been a member of C3 for more than eight years, serving currently on the Next Generation Ministry Team. She and her husband, Rob, have three kids: Nathan (15), Ben (12) and Ellie (5). Find out more at http://karendawkins.blogspot.com.