Your Kids Can Hear From God

Just take a moment to let that sink in.  God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, stoops down and whispers truth into the ears of the kids you serve.  And, when we give them space to listen, they hear Him.

child-praying-001Skeptical?  That’s okay.  So was I.  After all, sometimes we as adults struggle to hear clearly from God.  A few weeks ago, though, God asked me to take time on a Sunday morning to create space for our kids to hear from God.  The approach we used was simple and unlike anything we had ever done before, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot.

Our kids are used to hearing me ask them a question before we pray.  Every week, I ask, “When we pray, who are we talking to?”  Everyone responds, “God!”  Except for one kid who always specifies, “God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit,” to which I reply, “Yes!  God is three in one.”  This time, though, I talked for a few minutes about how prayer is about more than just talking to God.  He has things that He wants to tell us too, if we take time to listen.

I told the kids that in a moment I was going to play some worship music. During that time, I wanted them to go wherever they wanted in the room and ask God what He had to say to them.  I told them to take time to record what God said using either paper and crayons or Play-Doh, then they could share later what God had told them, if they wanted.

What happened next blew my mind.  Seamlessly, they all grabbed their materials and scattered across the room.  They were uncharacteristically quiet as they listened for the voice of God.  Inexplicably, my phone froze up and I couldn’t take a single picture to capture the moment.  I was frustrated for a few minutes, then realized that it was almost like God was saying, “This moment isn’t about you.  This moment is about me.  Stop trying to Instagram it and watch Me work.”

Here are some of the things He said to them:

“God told me that I’m special.  We’re all special.”

“God gave me a picture of Him at creation, breathing His spirit into us.”

“God told me that He’s going to give me my smile back.”

Deep stuff for a bunch of five to ten year olds, huh?  And, do you want to know the best part of the whole thing?  I had almost nothing to do with it.  I spent a lot of time writing the lesson plan for that Sunday morning, but, to be honest, I don’t even remember what passage I taught on and I doubt the kids do either.  But I remember what God said to them.

Your kids can hear from God.  Let’s teach them to listen.

Beyond Children’s Church

It involves a change of attitude, which comes from small, intentional steps.  That is what I keep telling myself about the attitude of some people in the church toward children.  I have been in churches where it’s actually been said: “Let’s get the kids out of here so it is quiet!”  Sometimes churches brag about having children’s church for the kids, but it is really for the adults.   In my own ministry, I have fought the notion of “keep the cookies in the basement” (which is code for “keep the kids in the basement.”)  If you give a kid a cookie, he will ask for a glass of milk, sure, but let’s let them eat among us.   I’ve also heard “children should be busy during worship so they are not bored.”  That drives me crazy!  If we are encountering God in worship, kids will not be bored.

More than children's churchWe must go beyond children’s church!  I often talk with the kids during the sermon or intentionally  share something that will connect with them as well.  But, then again, all of that only comes because I take time to be with the kids relationally.   More adults need to do this! Talk with kids. Have a snowball fight, go fishing, throw a football around — whatever it takes! Show interest in them and remember their names.  It makes what you teach much more meaningful to them.

One of our big shifts has been creating a small group that is for families.  This does not mean we have kids there and they do some sort of craft on their own away from the adults, but we have the kids and adults together the entire time.  We play games together, eat a snack, pray together, and talk about what God is doing in our lives. Recently, we spent time making notes for the shut-ins in our church and have ministered to them through that.   The group teaching is geared for kids, but the adults find the time encouraging for them as well. Their kids are talking about God’s Word with them!  Is this not what the Church is supposed to be?

Perhaps one of the most telling events was our baptism service.  We used a water tank for cattle and set it all up outside. This tank was a nice looking pool, and the day was hot!  Keeping the kids out of the pool was very difficult.  We sought to maintain respect for what baptism is and made sure we exalted God in it.  But once that was over with, it was time to get wet! The kids went in, some of them in their clothes.   This is a part of what makes the Church authentic and inviting for kids.  And, if church isn’t authentic and inviting for kids, they will most certainly check out.  But if we can get them to understand that the Church is them…NOW, then perhaps they will want to be an active part of it.

So, I wonder — are there specific ways your church has tried to connect with children beyond children’s church?

Hearts of Acceptance

Hearts of Acceptance

hearts of acceptance

When it comes to disability in the church, it’s really about having hearts of acceptance. It is estimated that 20% of Americans have disabilities. That is about 1 of every 5, but how many of our churches are an accurate representation of this ratio? Not many!

My family is impacted by disability. My husband is a senior pastor, and we have three girls, two with special needs. Naturally, many of the families we connect with also have children with disabilities, and we often end up talking about church and their past experiences.

When it comes to special needs families, sadly, a majority of them do not attend church. The reasons vary, but for many, they don’t feel like they belong. They have felt pushed away, or they don’t have the energy to even try it.

One question I often hear from church leaders is, “How can our church be inviting to families dealing with disability?” And I have good news!  It is not really about having a “disability ministry.” That’s great if your church is ready for that, but the most important thing is to have a church culture with hearts of acceptance.

So, how can you reach out to special needs families walking through your church doors?

Welcome them to church and ask about their family.

Hopefully, welcoming visitors is something you do at your church.  When it is obvious there is a child or adult with a disability, make sure you take some time to talk to the new family. I know the presence of a disability can be uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have any experience, but people turning away is what many special needs families experience.  Don’t let that happen at church!

Sit with them.

If a special needs parent has to walk out of the service because the environment is overwhelming for their child with special needs, go sit with them in the foyer. Really, just go sit with them or walk around the building with them. What I hear from special needs parents who leave church is, “I was sitting on my own in the foyer every Sunday.  I figured why bother if I’m going to be alone.”

Invite them to church activities.

Even if you think the family cannot attend the activity, an invitation goes a long way. And, you never know!  Some family members might still make it because they received a personal invitation.

Ask about their child.

Ask about the child’s needs. Ask about their life.  Ask about the joys and the hardships. Ask if there is anything you can do to make the church experience easier for the family, and if possible, make it happen!

Include the kids with disabilities in your Children’s Ministry.

I understand that some kids with disabilities can be a little more challenging, but keeping them away is not the solution. Be creative. Is there an adult that can volunteer to be with that child? Perhaps a teenager? Just think how much all the kids can learn from each other.

Pick up the phone.

If you notice that a family impacted by disability did not make it to church, give them a call. Tell them you missed seeing them. Send them a card. I often hear from special needs families that leave churches, “Nobody even noticed we stopped going.  Nobody called or sent a card.”

If a special needs family walks into a church building and they feel loved and accepted, it won’t matter if there is a “special needs ministry.”  What they need most is for the church to love and embrace their family. Let’s do this church!  Let’s love on every family walking through our doors.

Go to Disability Matters for more information on welcoming those with disabilities into your church community.

I Have a Dream

It wasn’t what I expected to happen.

For weeks I had been wrestling with what it would look like if Christian households stopped relying on church programs to meet their needs and began to take up their biblical responsibility for the spiritual training and nurture of the members of their family. As I took the last bite of my apple and cleaned off my desk after eating lunch, I suddenly felt prompted to grab a pad of paper and a pen. Soon I found myself putting into writing many ideas that had been floating around in the recesses of my mind.

As I wrote the phrase “I have a dream,” I began expressing my heart’s desire for what ministry would look like if each of us took responsibility for making the biblical principles of ministry an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Twenty minutes later I put my pen down and this is what I had written:

dreamsI dream of the day when…

… the Word of God is taught and lived out in our homes.

…regular, fervent prayer is part of every Christian family.

…Christian parents once again step up and take on their Biblical responsibility for the spiritual training and nurture of their children.

…individual Christians living in non-Christian homes are equipped and encouraged to be witnesses of the transforming power of Jesus Christ to their families.

…Christian households come alongside single parents to provide support, encouragement and help.

…married couples demonstrate biblical love and respect for each other.

…godly older women are teaching younger women how to love their husbands and raise their children in the Lord.

…godly men are teaching other men what it means to step up and be men of God to their wives, their children, as well as to the world.

…Christian households see themselves as bases for ministry and evangelism in their communities as well as in the world.

…each of us knows what it means to experience the manifest power of God in our lives as we learn to live in total dependence on the Holy Spirit.

This is a huge dream, and I invite you to join me in making it a reality. What is exciting is that this dream is possible. With wisdom given to us by the Holy Spirit, instruction from God given to us in His Word, and the teaching, equipping and accountability of the local church, we have everything needed to make this dream a reality.