These past weeks, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve taught on the Word of God for our Children’s Large-group format.
Here are the Topics taught and the basic synopsis of each lesson:
- “God’s Word is Strong” We used the story of the Wise and Foolish Builders and discussed how we will face storms in life. We can build our lives on many things: wealth, fun, friends and stuff. Unfortunately, those things will let us down. But if our lives are built on the Words that Jesus taught, we can stand strong.
- “God’s Word Inside” We used the story of Jesus being Tempted by the devil and yet, Jesus had the Word of God inside of Him so he could use it wherever he went. We will encounter temptation every day! If we will put the Word inside, we can have it with us wherever we go.
- “God’s Word is Sharp” We used the story of David and Goliath and emphasized the fact that it wasn’t necessarily the stone that won the fight… it was the message that God had already spoken that He would fight our battles for us. David knew that message and used it to win the fight. We ended this particular service by providing places where kids could pray what the Word says – We posted scripture verses around the room and invited kids to pray those verses over their struggles, trials and problems. It was an amazing altar time.
These were 3 lessons that were part of a longer series called “This Is BIG”. In years past, I have done entire 8-12 week series on the Word of God. Here is a snapshot of some of the past lessons we’ve taught in those longer series’:
- The Bible is God’s Word
- God’s Voice
- The Word Inside
- The Real Truth
- The Word In Your Mouth
- God’s Word is Like a Hammer
- God’s Word is Like a Sword
- God’s Word is Forever
- God’s Word is Strong
- Where Does Faith Come From?
- What Do Your Feet Look Like (Beautiful are the Feet…)
- God Keeps His Promises
Three Things That Might Help
It can be live – someone playing a guitar, piano/keyboard or a live band.
It can be recorded music – I use iTunes. So, I have an entire playlist of Altar/Prayer Time Music. I’m a huge fan of Brian Dollar’s High Voltage Kids Ministries Products – their entire CD “Quiet Times for Kids” is on that playlist, along with music from a Randy Christensen CD called “A Time To Reflect” …and a few of my own compositions (with help from GarageBand)
Either way, music will help to create a mood. It helps to “cue” the children that it’s time for prayer or a response. It can make kids feel comfortable when they don’t want other’s to hear what they are saying to God.
If kids are uncomfortable, they are not attentive. Make sure the room is the right temp. Close doors and windows to eliminate outside noise. Fix, replace or throw-out broken chairs or furniture. Anything that is distracting has the potential to pull kids away from recieving
Don’t Do The Same Thing!
Use a variety of ways for kids to approach a time to respond. Never make it boring or predictable. Here are few ways I’ve had kids respond:
- Call the kids forward and have them kneel
- Call the kids forward and have them stand
- Call the kids forward and have them group-up and pray for one another
- Have them pray, standing at their chairs
- Have them kneel at their chairs
- Have them stand on their chairs
- Have them gather in groups to pray for each other in their rows
- Have them move to each corner of the room to pray for each other
- Have them gather around and pray for the leaders
- Get them out in the hallways or different part of the church building to pray
- Have them respond by singing a song together
- Have them write something down and leave it at the altar
- Get them to March around the room Jericho-style and shout praises
I think you get the picture here.
Strength in Numbers
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19
Make sure that children have someone that will pray for them as they come to respond. Whether it’s you, another adult, or a friend…
- If they are responding to salvation, Have people that will take those children aside, to the back of the room or to another room and instruct them on what has just happened.
- Have people who will come and pray for children as they respond to the message or as they lift up requests and needs. And guess what? Some of those who come to pray for the children are children. Encourage it… teach and instruct on it – you will be surprised.
- Have those who pray with kids use the old education model to affirm and seal what has just happened. The old education model says: “Tell them what you are going to teach them… teach them… tell then what you just taught them”. OK, just adjust it to a prayer time. After you know what the lesson emphasis is or what their needs are – “Tell them what you are going to pray about… pray with them… tell them what they just prayed about”.
Something that I think is a good idea is to give several different times to respond during various services. These times are as follows… but no limited to:
- First, how will the children in your church ever get saved unless you give them a chance to respond? Jesus wants your kids to know Him! I never want to be known as the guy who taught a lot about Jesus and was entertaining – only to have the children I’ve encountered pass on into eternity without knowing Christ. My time and their time is too short – and God’s time is too valuable.
- Second, I have found that God will send more unsaved and searching families to the churches I’ve been, when I put a regular emphasis on Christ’s saving power. That’s the goal of the church, isn’t it? In Acts, it says that they added to their numbers daily. We’ve got to get ahold of that!
- Third, my Pastor, no matter what topic or message he is speaking on, always brings it back to Jesus Christ and the price He paid for us. When it’s all said and done, It’s all about Jesus – enough said.
This is a special time for you to make sure that your children are really having a Jesus-experience that drives home the topic or emphasis for the day. This can be an amazing moment that happens… and I usually find that it happens immediately after I sense the kids have “gotten” it. (see this blog post for my short essay on this topic). Sometimes, I will have kids pray about these things on their own, other times, I’ll have others pray with the kids. Sometimes it calls for worship and singing, other times we need to lead the kids in a prayer of commitment.
I hear the jokes – not the need you have for some Betty Lukens felt-board stories. This will be an important time for children to lay before the Lord’s feet their needs and requests. Kids have needs and they need the power of God to intervene! You might think that a lost puppy or a cat that died isn’t important in the grand scheme of things. But that’s the grand scheme in “your world”. In a “Kids’ World”, the grand scheme is different. In a “Kids’ World”, their economy is different. In a “Kids’ World”, what speaks to them is different. If we are called to reach kids, we’d better have a greater understanding of “Their World” After all, Jesus understood it, called the kids to Himself and regularly entered it. He still understands it, calls kids to Himself and regularly enters it.
Enough to chew on?
Timing is EVERYTHING!
Give them an opportunity when the atmosphere is right. Deliver a message and invite children to respond. Don’t expect them to go home and respond. Yes, some might do that too. But I’m not going to take the chance. The Holy Spirit will begin to prepare the hearts of the children as the Word of God is presented. If you don’t give children a chance to respond to the work that’s being done in their heart, then the Holy Spirit is being held… or bound from doing what He wants to do. Remember, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman – He will wait for you to invite Him to intervene and operate.
The timing and types of altar calls must fit the purpose and message in your service in order to determine how effective the time at the altar will be. In developing my children’s services, I start on an “up” note… put the serious things in the middle… and then progressively build the excitement and end on an “up” note.
In this way the intensity of the service comes to a very serious point about half way to two thirds of the into the service. Then it will pick back up again from there to the end.
The reason that I put the altar call toward the middle and then more stuff at the end is simple. The altar time needs to be given as much time as the Holy Spirit needs. We have already covered the other bases of a children’s service… Prayer time has now been allotted a block of time – with some wiggle room.
We keep the remaining events for after the altar time. But I always try to be strategic in choosing the last items for the service: review questions/review games, related story and closing songs can be sacrificed. Yep, that’s right – I plan stuff that may never happen. Because that will give the “right of way” to the Holy Spirit’s moving and timing to another 15 minutes if we need it. So now we have a lot or time for prayer and response. And those last items aren’t just time-fillers because we can throw them out. Children can still benefit from review and another Fun song that emphasizes the theme for the day.
Part three is going to deal with an item that I actually thought about just before lecturing about the same topic – I ended up discussing the item during the lecture and got a positive response – it was not in the lecture notes, but I thought I would add it anyway because it’s a point of discussion:
The definition and explanation of an altar…
If you are in a community where there is a strong “liturgical” church presence, you will no doubt be faced with concern from adults – and even children who have learned of the sacredness of an “altar”. In some traditions, an altar is a physical place in the church building that cannot be accessed by just anyone – only the minister or priest. I had the opportunity to visit some of the oldest church buildings in the world in Armenia. In these buildings were “altars” that were falling apart, yet, no one was allowed to go near them or touch them… they were sacred. I would imagine there are those who fear the idea of an “altar” because they’ve been taught that it is too serious of a place.
I will not have a theological debate with anyone on the topic; I will tell you that I grew up in a catholic tradition and became born-again at age 10. When I learned that I could approach God on my own, it fascinated me! But the concern still lingered in my new church environment as to where the “altar” was on or near the platform… it didn’t exist. It was later that I was taught that when the time of prayer came, an “altar” was created by each individual at the front by kneeling at the steps.
Now, I understand that each and every church is different. And am no doubt a believer in the power of prayer. But, I have come to the conclusion that some teaching on the topic of an “altar” needs to take place on a regular basis. Kids need to have an understanding of what an “altar” was and still is. It was a place of worship, prayer and sacrifice. It still is, but because of the work of Christ on the cross, we can make any place we go, a place of worship, prayer and sacrifice. At times, I will have an “altar” time near the front of the Kids’ Church room where kids can stand or kneel. Other times, I will make them turn and kneel at their chairs. And still, at other times, I will have kids scatter throughout the room to pray or worship and find a place where they can connect with God. We see that even in ancient Jewish cultures, one would wrap his outer cloak around himself and cross his arms… this was known as his “prayer-closet” – location didn’t matter at times.
I think that last statement is really what I want to get across: To me, location of an altar time doesn’t matter – as long as they are connecting with God.
THE TIME AND PLACE
Where will children respond and receive from God, unless you give them a time and a place to do it? Trust me, they won’t wait until they get home to respond! I’ve been guilty of this:
Once upon a time, in a church far from here, when I was a much younger man… I saw the “moment” happen. You know what I’m talking about (I think I blogged about it a while back), it’s the “moment” when you realize that the connection has been made in these kids during the service. I was teaching away and I realize that the “moment” was present – God wanted to do something! But alas, there, at the back door were the parents waiting (how did they get out of church before us?) I panicked scrambled for what to do. So, I said something to the effect of:
“Kids, I know that God wants to do something special in your lives today… but we’ve run out of time! I want you to go home and get alone with God and let Him do that something special this afternoon…”
Do you think that these kids did it? Most likely NOT. When these kids leave your church, they are going to go do a variety of activities: go out to eat, go over to a friends house, go visit relatives, they have homework to do, they’re going to go out to play – these are KIDS with busy lives!
Everywhere else the world has the attention of your children. These kids have been given a time a place to respond and receive from the world on an hourly basis; Think about commercials, television shows, peer pressure at school and even in your own backyard. “Here, try this… this is fun… just do what I do… you need one of these… buy this!” And then comes the response from the children… “Ok, I’ll try it… this IS fun… mom, I want that… I need that… buy that for me!” You need to give them a place to respond and receive. The words I love to hear on Sunday mornings are, “I need that… I want that… Lord, give me that… I want more!”
A few items to be aware of:
- God wants your kids to come to Him – reread the story of Jesus and the kids.
- The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He will often times move the strongest when you have planned for Him and make the room in your service for Him (yes, make no mistake,there will be those times when He will surprise you).
- God can and will speak to kids… if you allow kids to Hear His voice.
I have a feeling that I will be touching an interesting topic in the following posts. Too many churches don’t deal with it and therefore, too many children’s churches or services don’t deal with it…
I’m talking about the proper use of an altar time – or prayer time in your children’s ministry service. You say – “an altar time in a children’s ministry?” Yes, unless room for response is made, many times people will only go to an altar a few times in their life; once when, or if they get married… and/or when they get saved. And of course there is that possibility, if they come when they have no where else to turn.
I believe an altar time plays a vital role in the maturing of the child’s walk with God as well as the intensity of the service. I will get into the how’s, what’s, why’s and so-forth in the upcoming posts. I promise; I won’t become super-spiritual on this, nor will I be lazy in my definition and practics during these posts… I do welcome your responses.
You know that moment… the one – you know. You can see it, sense it, feel it in the entire room. It’s the moment when you can look out into the faces of the kids in your class or kids’ service – and… whoa! THEY GET IT!
You know what I’m talking about. It’s that moment when there is a connection from the very words you are saying, the concept you are demonstrating – actually cutting thru the object lessons, songs, skits, video clips and cutting to the heart.
These are the wow moments that I live for in a children’s church setting. It’s the time when it’s the best moment to lead right into a time of response. Whether it’s a time of prayer, a worship song and come forward thing, etc.
Having one of these moments in your children’s church setting is crucial – otherwise, you’re just a really entertaining teacher….