We’re not creating space for Jesus! Accustomed as we are to the clatter of the incongruous and inappropriate things of the world, we sometimes miss the obvious – that Jesus should inhabit and inform every facet of children’s ministry.
God became Man for a purpose. Children’s ministry exists to first and foremost draw children to Jesus – “to make them little Christs” (C.S. Lewis). If we’re not doing this, all the clubs, kid’s church activities, vacation Bible schools, weekly programs, Sunday Schools, and summer camps are simply a waste of time.Children’s ministry exists to first and foremost draw children to Jesus. Click To Tweet
Drawing children to Jesus is a disciple-making issue. We make “little Christs” so they’ll become lifelong active disciples of Jesus. This doesn’t happen through osmosis. To create space for Jesus, we need to do the following:
Identify physical spaces and set them aside as safe places for quiet and uninterrupted times to connect with Jesus.
Children have intentional encounters with Jesus when we establish, as professor of Christian formation Scottie May says, “places where the pace and volume are slow and soft; where the spirit of the child meets the Spirit of God.”
To create and maintain a special space you must explain to the children why, how and when it’s used. Some of the best spaces are found in nature, but suitable indoor spaces with muted lights and a comfortable couch work well too. These spaces can be static or active. Sitting looking at an idyllic lake, praying in a prayer tent, gently swinging in a hammock, or walking in a forest can all be places where children “taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.
Provide opportunities during Bible time for children to reflect on the text and respond to Jesus.When children exercise their sanctified imaginations, they’re more likely to have transformative encounters with Jesus. Click To Tweet
When children exercise their sanctified imaginations, they’re more likely to have transformative encounters with Jesus. So slow things down. Invite children to draw/paint their response to a Bible passage, handwrite a text, compose a contemplative poem, or write a meditative journal entry.
Teach children the art of listening to God.
Rightly explained and administered, children can do silence. Lectio Divina is one way to practice active listening. This may be unfamiliar (to you and the children). It may also be one of the most difficult suggestions to put into practice because Satan’s strategy to keep children from Jesus relies on drowning out God’s “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Persevere. If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Address the many reasons why children, when they become adults, leave the church.
Some children aren’t drawn to Jesus because the content or methodology used by their teachers and leaders misses the mark. If we don’t recognize what we’re doing wrong, we’re in no position to do what’s right. According to Here2Stay, to rectify what we’re doing wrong, we need to “rediscover biblical emphases that have been overlooked . . . devise and implement our own localized strategies.”
Don’t talk too much.When we minister to children we must think and act more experientially. Click To Tweet
“There is . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak” Ecclesiastes 3:7. When we minister to children we must think and act more experientially (learning through reflection on doing). Sometimes we speak so stridently and incessantly, that the children can only hear us. Build a fire in a pit, gather around, sit quietly watching the flames leaping up from the glowing logs, and have someone read from God’s Word. Children will be drawn to Jesus when they listen to His Word in a conducive environment.
In entertainment-driven cultures, children’s ministry workers are predisposed to programs that are jam-packed with activities. While this usually keeps children excited and engaged, it provides little or no time for children to encounter Jesus. Children don’t hear the voice of Jesus when everything is noisy or busy. Opportunities to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) are essential. If children are going to hear Jesus, keep in mind the words of the poet Robert Browning, “Yet do much less, so much less.”
Don’t follow the rhythms of the world.If you asked your children what they’re getting out of your ministry, would they say they’re connecting intimately, personally, and frequently with Jesus? Click To Tweet
Everything considered it’s when children’s ministry doesn’t go with the flow (John 15:19) that space is created for Jesus. So step back, look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Is it biblically informed and Holy Spirit directed? Is it counter-cultural? Are you filling ministry spaces so full that there’s no time for children to hear from God? Do your children recognize Jesus’ voice? And, if you asked your children what they’re getting out of your ministry, would they say they’re connecting intimately, personally, and frequently with Jesus?
© Scripture Union, 2021