[box] i taught this workshop as a breakout session at the ETCH ministry conference in nashville, tn. below are my notes for “kids are the church of today.”[/box]
kids are the church of today, not the church of tomorrow. if we truly believe that a child is a part of the Body of Christ once they have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, why do we so often sideline them and make them wait until they are an adult to be an active part of the Church? i wish i could say i was an expert in this area, but through deep conviction and renewing of passion this past year, we made some strategic, simple changes that we are beginning to see have a big impact in our ministry to kids. in this post, we will explore ways we can be intentional about ensuring that we are preparing and purposefully helping kids be the church of today.
give them a safe place to soak up truth
- is it a priority for all your program and events to be Gospel-centered?
- the Gospel makes kids part of the Body of Christ, not moralism. what are you giving your kids?
- the Word of God is alive and active, may it be your source.
- our words don’t change lives, but His do.
- do kids understand that the truth of God’s Word is the why and what of all you do?
- when kids leave is it Jesus they remember?
- i don’t want kids leaving remembering an activity. i want them to leave remembering Jesus.
- i don’t want kids to look back and remember me. i want Jesus to be who they remember in their kid ministry years.
give them a safe place to seek Jesus
- how are you allowing kids to grapple with the truth?
- kids have questions and doubts.
- if we don’t give them answer from God’s Word the world will give them answers.
- is there a safe place for kids to ask the hard questions?
- coming up in dawson kids, after our kids study the lesson on doubting thomas they will turn in questions they have about Jesus. we will do an interactive night of answers with me, the associate minister to children, and our new senior pastor.
- allow room for the Holy Spirit
- we often believe a successful lesson is one that completes every activity a curriculum has to offer. our God can often surprise us and take a lesson in a different direction if we will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His leading.
- sometimes we shy away from the hard lessons in scripture because we are afraid or feel unequipped to teach these truths. i believe the hard lessons can challenge us to completely rely on the Holy Spirit and we will be able to have real discussion and discovery. i blogged about my favorite tough lessons to teach here: God is mean.
- are you being intentional to ask questions to get to the root of what they believe?
- sometimes it is simply easier to ask the simple questions and get the “sunday school” answers and move on. but is this really helping kid sbe the church of today?
- while we may think we are doing a great job presenting Gospel, until we follow up with a series of questions how do we really know what the truths children grasp?
- are kids participants or observers in prayer at your church?
- given the opportunity, kids not only can actively participate in prayer, they can be prayer leaders.
- kids participating in prayer time might make it a bit messy or loud, but the battlefield of prayer is messy.
give them a safe place to serve others
- are kids setting the example of service?
- do kids and families in your ministry see kids actively serving?
- with our sunday smasH greeter, we are not only teaching kids to serve and greet, we are teaching them how to converse with strangers and be ambassadors to new children and families.
- are all your service opportunities inside the comfort zone of the kids?
- when Jesus taught service as He washed His disciple’s feet, He wasn’t worried about making His disciples comfortable. He longed to teach them the truth.
- if we don’t push kids outside of their comfort zone as they serve, how will they learn to rely on the Holy Spirit that lives inside them?
- do you allow the kids to brainstorm ways to serve?
- this generation of kids longs to serve and they are sp creative.
- when was the last time you presented the problem and allowed kids to seek God on ways they can serve to help?
give them a safe place to share the Gospel
- we want them to share the Gospel in their schools and with others, but have we ever given them a chance to practice in a safe environment.
- Gospel God’s plan for me is a great resource to help kids understand and share the Gospel with others.
- i learned today that lifeway offers several videos to use to share the Gospel truth with your kids, parents, families, and leaders. check those out here.
- when you have a child truly get it, why not use a video of them sharing the Gospel in their own words. that’s what we did with one of our sweet 5th grade girls. check out her short video below.
- hear the Gospel from all ages
- recently after of kids had studied the crucifixion on a sunday, we invited over 35 adults to come share in their collide tribes what the Gospel means to them. this was such a special night to see different generations come together and discuss the cross.
- we have been studying about the Gospel quite a bit and i got this text from a mom quoting her 1st-grade daughter, ““you know i really think the Gospel is starting to stick… like it’s sticking to my heart and it’s becoming part of my brain… Ii think that’s what those collide folks are trying to get done in the first place!”
- practice sharing the Gospel
- in life groups on sunday morning, our investors took time to highlight the Gospel scriptures with the kids in each of their Bibles.
- one wednesday night after the Gospel presentation, our tribes went back to their small group rooms and kids practiced sharing the Gospel with each other. it was so neat to see them practicing peer to peer.
- not only did our kids hear what the crucifixion meant to adults, they got to practice sharing the Gospel with these adults in a safe place, where there was grace and helpful adults. hopefully, through practice, kids will be confident to share the Gospel in their personal mission fields.
i believe it can be difficult to change lots of things at once, so i have added some survey questions to get you thinking about what one thing you can add, remove, or change in your ministry to help kids be the church of today.
- are there areas where you are sidelining kid believers?
- when will you add time for kids to ask the tough questions?
- how can you involved kids in prayer this sunday?
- how can you move kids out of their comfort zone on their next service project?
- when will you add an intentional time to allow kids to practice sharing the Gospel?
[box type=”warning”] dWELL copyright © danielle bell and dWELL, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to danielle bell and dWELL with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.[/box]
let’s face it, praying can be hard. then, when we are faced with trials, storms, circumstances, and struggles we don’t really know how or what we should pray. if it is hard for us adults, it can be equally hard for kids. that is why when i teach a prayer series to kids, i always end with teaching them how to pray God’s character back to Him in their tough situations. this can be quite an abstract concept so that is why i make it as concrete as possible so they see it in black and white, literally.
we begin with children spread out around black (or dark) butcher paper with colored chalk. i tell them to take some time to think of some struggles in their lives and in other’s lives that need prayer. then i give them time to draw. they are encouraged to use symbols or words, but only enough that they feel conformable sharing and that also gives them a little privacy. i try to encourage them to fill up their space. many are slow to start, but sadly have quite a few drawings when time is up.
as we sit and look at their prayers drawn before them, we talk about how many times it can be hard to know exactly what to pray. that’s when i give them a sheet of the names of God. (my examples below) i tell them to quietly read through these names and allow God reveal which of His names speaks to their situation. we discuss how while praying the names of God doesn’t remind God of who He is, He has not forgotten, praying His name reminds us of who He is.
after they have found some names, i then have them switch their color chalk to white chalk. i instruct them to write the names of God boldly over their symbols and situations. (again, i encourage them to fill up their space.) sometimes i play a song like “praise you in this storm” or “come to Jesus” during this time. after they are finished, we look back at the dark butcher paper. what was once full drawings representing needs is now covered in the names of God. we discuss how sometimes we get so fixated on our situations, we can’t see anything but them. that is when we need to be reminded who our mighty God is and see all our prayers through the mighty lens of who He is.
i know for me it is always a reminder that there is nothing i can carry, draw, mourn or worry about that the God of our universe can’t handle. my hope and prayer is that these kids begin to understand this as well and are constantly encouraged to bring whatever they have, big or small, to His feet in prayer and leave it in His capable hands.
here is part two of my friend stephanie’s guest blog post. you can first part one here.
At the end of last year God quietly spoke to my heart again, as I felt He did the year before. He challenged me, since I was able (in His strength) to make a daily decision to run and practice the exertion of my will over my what I feel like doing for an entire year (one day at a time). He challenged me to commit 20 minutes a day to Him (roughly how long it takes to run 2 miles) for a year. So this is what I set out to do this year. I set a timer so it’s measurable. I write in my journal to record everything God teaches me. I get on my knees and on my face, I daily offer myself to the Lord, throwing off all opinions, excuses, expectations and plans about me, about Him, and about that time. He made it clear I was to practice being still and knowing He is God. I was to learn to stop and just BE STILL, to just BE me (without masks, without hiding), to BE exposed, to listen to His Voice, listen for His opinion, to let Him teach me the Word — to just BE in His presence and acknowledge Him as God. This felt up-side-down and backwards for days. This was different than my usual definition of a “quiet time” where I get all my devotionals out, put them in a pile and read through each one at a time to see, what “speaks” to me and then I do my Bible study or read a book or listen to a song etc. and then I would go on about my day after checking that off my list, feeling good about myself. This kind of “quiet time” was based on me being in control, sometimes it felt forced, I was attempting to experience God through other peoples experiences. Not that these things are bad, we are meant to encourage one another with our experiences with God. I just can’t sustain my soul on these things, I must personally BE in His presence have His first hand fresh manna, His daily bread, His living water, His Word revealed in the clarity of His light. I did not realize it but I was so thin and shallow spiritually because I was trying to fulfill my spirit with things & pleasures of the world, (possessions, people’s approval, good works, food, pleasure) and when I did meet with God it often tended to be processed, filtered down, experiences with God. It’s like the difference between reading a book about someone or being in personal, connected, raptured relationship with a Jesus, to feel His touch and hear His voice. Something was missing in my walk with God. I was missing Him, starving for Him, His presence, His voice, His revelation. Yes, I’ve had those times of “revelation” and experience with Him but that would be here and there. I am designed to BE in His life-changing presence every single day – my spirit is so desperately hungry for it. This 20-time was to be careful, sacred, open, in His agenda, under His control, His timing, His teaching. Some days, not much happens, but that is ok. He assures me the process is slow and steady like a endurance running, but other days He moves mountains. Either day is progress. Either day is being with the Creator of the Universe (what a privilege).
So back to my family, when I made this cautious commitment to meet with the Lord everyday, I had the fear of failure staring me in the face (again), but God proved to me that my commitment, my will, could overcome my feelings (I practiced that every day the year before). A miraculous thing happened for me. The commitment shut down the conversation I had with myself of whether or not I would do it or had time for it or would run from God or shut Him out. I was going to do it no matter what – just like the running. And even if I did fail, I live in a relationship of grace with God What did I have to loose? And it’s interesting cause the running commitment started with unity with my husband – to do something for him (complete his year of running) and now my husband has joined me with his own
commitment to meet with the Lord each day and it is transforming his life. My oldest son Josh who is 7 years old said, “I wanna do it too momma”. Each time I meet with God, he meets with God… he has met with God every day of the year so far. Before long, my other son Jayden (6) decided he was missing out and wanted also to take part in this time. So we all, every day, set the timer and our whole house stops and acknowledges God (for 20 minutes). Sometimes we meet God in our closets, sometimes we meet with God outside, and sometimes we just find a spot on the floor we can each be alone with God (together). It’s a humbling thing to see my home stop and honor God, to see my boys learning how to have a posture of praying, of being still and laying face down, of drawing pictures in their journal of what a verse means to them, seeing the prayers they write thanking God for helping them eat a vegetable or praise Him for making dogs or for healing their brother after he had been sick.
And although we meet for only 20 minutes, I have to confess there is a secret to this 20-time. It is a time that starts but it does not stop. God has used this time as an opening of the door to Him each day, acknowledging and seeking Him first and from there everything else is added. God has been using this time to speak to me, quiet my heart, fill me up so that His love spills over into the rest of my day and ultimately into others lives. It’s a natural overflow. And I have discovered that me getting myself in His presence and out of the way, I am actually seeing consistent traction in my walk with Him, because I’m no longer running from Him, hiding from Him, each day, not matter what my mood, no matter my failures, I come back to Him again. My main job is to show up, offer my body as a living sacrifice for this is my spiritual act of worship. Seek Him first, love Him most, and listen to His voice only. Then, I am able to love my family and others as an overflow of how much I love God first. This is a year commitment that I’m now convinced will be a lifetime commitment for me to not let a day go by (if it’s within my power) that I do not get on my knees and face and acknowledge Jesus as Lord.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33),
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” (Matthew 22:37)