Like most Children's Ministry Leaders, we all hope that every child goes home to a place that during the week they are ministered to. Families that invest in one another and parents that are highly involved in the spiritual development of our ministry kids. But when reality sets in, we realize they don't all have that atmosphere. In fact I have some kids (as I am sure every other leader does too) that show up alone on Sundays and walk blocks to return home. For some of these kids I question whether or not their physical necessities are being provided as they tell me there was no breakfast and we do what we can to meet their physical and spiritual needs as well.
We all have these heart wrenching cases that arrive weekly, so what about these kids? Who is teaching them that church and a relationship with Jesus is more than Sunday? Who is encouraging them to be in the word and to pray? I once had a friend tell me "Teaching them the books of the Bible seems irrelevant when all they want is something to eat". I understand the statement, but I disagree, we don't have to choose between physical and spiritual investment. These kids need an extra touch, at least in my opinion. In this blog I will attempt to provide leaders with tips to create a strategic plan that assists kids with or without at home support to begin to "own" their faith, something I am very passionate about.
The first step is to not assume anything. As we all know, kids are not books we can judge by a cover. They may or may not have spiritual support in the home regardless of their appearance or church involvement. In kids church we set the stage by announcing to kids, "If you need help with a reading plan or a praying plan, come talk to us". While them having a solid home foundation is our desire, at the end of the day, our relationship with Jesus is up to us individually. So whether you have a child with a strong support system or a child with no system at all, these tips can be used, and most by the child alone.
1. Jesus and Me. Do your kids realize that their relationship with Jesus is theirs? It's not contingent on their parents involvement. When kids understand this, they are more inclined to invest in their own relationship. The understanding that Jesus is THIER savior, and not simply a family friend that you creates a relationship they were born into can be an iconic moment for how kids respond to the gospel.
2. Prayer is anytime. Challenge your kids church kids to call on Jesus on their own. A simple short "Jesus please help me do my best on this test" or "in this game" teaches them opportunities to call on Him. Creating a list of four or five situational prayers gets this into their DNA and habit and creates an active prayer life for kids. Here is the list I use, kids are encouraged add to it but it is a great simple starting point.
- Jesus, please help me do my best on this test.
- Jesus, help me to be a good friend and make right choices. (recess bell)
- Jesus, please keep our family safe as we start our week. (Monday prayer)
- Jesus, thank you for a day of school and friends. (when the dismissal bell rings)
- Jesus, please help me do my best today. (when the starting bell rings at school)
The mind works in amazing ways. Using triggers like school bells as prayer reminders will be something that stays with them for years. I know it has for me. This was something I was taught to do as a kid at Northside Christian Academy in the first grade, and to this day a school bell prompts me to whisper a prayer. Only now it's for my kids as they run onto campus.
For the child without at home support, we need to remember that nobody is really teaching them the elements of prayer other than what they get on Sunday. A simple paper that says ACTS, helps them learn. One of my favorite things is when kids return to church and show me their ACTS prayer paper. It is simply a piece of paper, folded into 4 (creating 4 boxes) placing A,C,T,S, in each box. They stand for adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. For the kids I use: Adore, Confess, Thanks, Supply. They can write new things in each box as they pray during the week. A super simple template can be made with little explanations of each word for them to take.
Prayer is communication, and as a kid for whatever reason I thought that I needed to be qualified to do the communicating. Public prayer was actually a long time fear for me because of this misconception, so creating ways for kids to understand that it is simply how we connect and communicate with our heavenly Father is very important to me.
I would love to hear other approaches and ideas out there.