Ever heard an adult say to a child, 'You’re too young to really follow Jesus – wait till you’re older'? Or perhaps you heard something similar growing up? NEWSFLASH: Children CAN encounter God! We wholeheartedly believe this.
Ever heard an adult say to a child ‘You’re too young to really follow Jesus – wait till you’re older’? Or perhaps you heard something similar growing up?
NEWSFLASH: Children CAN encounter God! I wholeheartedly believe this. After all, didn’t Jesus say
‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’
But as adults, we can find it tricky to facilitate children encountering Jesus – sometimes our adult mindset, actions and experiences inhibit us from simply letting our little children come into His presence.
So how can we encourage encounter with God through our children’s ministry? Well, to get us started, here are 10 top tips to consider…
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1. Praying ‘Hello, Holy Spirit!’
If we want our kids to encounter God, then it feels only right to welcome the Holy Spirit. A simple prayer, such as ‘Holy Spirit, please come be with us today’, can make a big difference to our mindsets and the atmosphere in our groups. The Holy Spirit loves it when we ask Him to join us, and it’s a great reminder that we can invite the Spirit to be with us – not just 1 hour a week but throughout the week.
2. Sharing God’s invitation
Kids love party invitations, so let’s invite children to God’s eternal party! In fact, the fun starts today - there is something so special when we invite children to be friends with Jesus. Let’s make space for this, not just once a year at Christmas or Easter, but regularly in our sessions. Friendship with Jesus is a journey we walk every day – a friendship prayer is not a finish line; it’s a step on the way. Jesus is ready and waiting, 24/7, to welcome us to walk with Him now and forever.
3. Dodge the jargon
One of my pet hates is jargon. I knew a boy who really believed there was a miniature Jesus living in his physical heart, because no one had explained the metaphor ‘inviting Jesus into your heart’. Let’s think before we speak and explain any tricky language. We can show children that they can talk to their Heavenly Father in a natural way. A simple ‘Hiya Daddy God, how are you? Today I’m feeling sad about my pet goldfish…’ delights our Father, who invites us onto His lap, and into conversation.
4. Think creatively outside the box
Worship and prayer are key to encountering God. God is creative and made us all uniquely, which means we can all worship and talk to God in different ways – it’s not one size fits all! So, when we plan worship and prayer times, let’s think creatively and explore different activities. Then, if our children love worshipping by singing, dancing and playing musical instruments, let them! If children prefer to use their hands to draw, build or write, let them! If kids would rather find a quiet space to lie down on a cushion and soak God up or look at pictures of nature, let them!
5. Mix up your numbers
I’m an extrovert – I love encountering God alongside others. But I also like space by myself to respond to God. Our children will each need a different mix of introversion and extroversion, too. Have time altogether to pray and worship, as well as having times in small groups, pairs, or individually to write or draw in journals. Mix things up, because each child is different!
6. Once upon a time
The history, poetry and letters of the Bible are a massive opportunity for encountering God. The Bible is real, not a fairy-tale, but how many children know the difference? And I wonder how many children know stories of what God has done in the world past and present? There is power in telling God’s story from the Bible, in the lives of Christians over 2000 years, and even in your story today.
7. Knock, knock… Who’s there?
Whether we laugh or groan at jokes, they all involve listening intently, waiting for the anticipated punch line. If we stop listening, we miss the joke – the vital few words that make the whole joke worthwhile! And so often, when leading a prayer time with kids, we do lots of talking, but forget to listen to God. God is alive today, and can talk to us in creative ways. God might speak to one child through colours, another through dreams, another through worship, and perhaps even through a joke!
8. Model it
If we don’t practise what we preach, children will soon realise. They could lose trust in us and, more worryingly, lose trust in God. We don’t need to be the ‘perfect Christian’, but we do need to be seeking God ourselves daily. If we want our children to encounter God through worship and prayer, we need to be joining in… not getting the next activity ready! If we want our kids to hear from God, let’s listen to God ourselves, and share prophetic words. Children respect and copy adults who are actively learning and exploring faith themselves. Let’s model it and go for it!
9. Expect the unexpected
Are we truly expecting our children to encounter the Living God? It can feel pretty daunting, can’t it? If we never pray and expect children to encounter the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t be surprised if He doesn’t show up. Let’s dare to believe God can do the unexpected! ‘Jesus said, “... You will see greater things than that.”’ (John 1:50b)
10. Pray your socks off!
Last but certainly not least, let’s pray. There’s something very powerful about bringing our prayers to the Almighty God. Pray in your families. Pray on your own. (I sometimes pray on the toilet!) Set an alarm to pray at the same time each day. Pray when a child’s face pops into your mind. Pray with your team. Pray your cotton socks off! Just as Paul writes in Ephesians 6:18, ‘…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.’
Anna Martin is a kid’s ministry practitioner and content creator. She has written many curriculum series, including Bible Buds. To see more of Anna’s creative ability head to www.martincreations.co.uk
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