How can we be intentional about providing spaces for children to encounter Jesus? In an entertainment driven, visually stimulated, “I’m bored” generation there is a tendency to fill our program time with children with lots of activity, noise and busyness so as to maintain attention and hopefully communicate something of value. While we need to be cognisant of the ‘times and the seasons’ and use all we can to be effective communicators, there is a danger that we fill our spaces so full there is no time for our children to hear the voice of God.
Many Christians can remember a time and place where they may have felt particularly close to Jesus – at an event, at a particular episode in their life, etc. These same Christians would testify how important that moment was and continues to be in their ongoing faith journey. How important it is for us to create the spaces where our we can encounter the living Jesus – not just in words from the front but in the still small voice of the Spirit of God who desperately wants to communicate with each of us.
But let’s not lose the vision as leaders in helping our children connect intimately, personally and regularly with the Son of God.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.
Principles and practical ideas to inspire you as you implement this formational experience into your long term plan …
Within our faith community and our household of faith we need to be intentional about providing spaces to encounter Jesus. To create spaces to hear from God. To encounter Him together and to share our stories and encounters with each other. We feel we are so “time poor” that it is about being intentional and making this a priority in our life.
Why are ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS so important in the faith formation process? Here are 3 reasons….
1 We meet a Jesus who is real
2 We meet a Jesus who wants to communicate with me
3 We meet a Jesus who transforms lives
Top 10 reasons why…
- They are real stories, not just someone else’s word.
- We all must know how to connect with God and hear His voice.
- We can be argued out of faith with “smart” words but you can’t argue with an experience, if it’s a real experience it’s less likely to be stolen from you.
- God doesn’t want to be God without us.
- If you only have a “picture book Jesus” it’s a lot of wasted time… He’s no different than the tooth fairy?
- “Going to church makes you a Christian as much as going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger.” (Keith Green)
- It is the relationship that sustains, not religion.
- Faith is not a “lifestyle” it’s a relationship with Jesus, therefore we must be giving time, space, encouragement to this. Nothing else will grow our faith like a personal experience in Jesus.
- As we encounter Jesus and live in that strength, we can’t take credit for our own faith formation. The self-made man complex is common today.
- Encounters with Jesus show that He is now and not just in the past.
- Make the most of ‘teachable moments’
- Provide opportunities at the end of teaching input for ’reflect and response’ times.
- Provide ‘quiet places’/ ‘safe spaces’
- Circle Time – encourage all ages to share a ‘good thing’ and a ‘bad thing’ from their week. Then pray about it around the circle.
- Model different types of ‘prayer’ for all ages to develop a repertoire of prayers to use in their spiritual journey- “Thinking Prayers”; “Asking Prayers”; “Thanking Prayers”
- Establish a “Prayer Wall” in a public area of your faith community and encourage anyone to write on it
- Blackboard Wall…Have people finish the sentence, ”I wish God would….”; “Why doesn’t God….”
- Develop the concept of “Godly Play” with the Bible stories we are learning about. This is valuable at any age. See Link
- Creating Space – often we step in too quickly with a response, answer or question.
- Great opportunities arise ‘as we go along’ – so on daylong hikes, walks often allow for encounter opportunities.
- A Prayer Tent set up in the area where you are having a program. Made of a light translucent material. One group had a grandma in the tent to pray with children when they wanted to.
- The encounters may be modelled by adults and explained through natural faith conversations. Children can learn from this.
- Prayer Journals – words or drawing
- Worship through song, silence, movement, visuals.
- Building ‘encounter space’(physically and experientially) in lots of different ways
- All ages sharing their encounters with Jesus – telling the stories
- Explore what it is to encounter God in the normal, mundane everyday moments. “One thousand gifts” by Ann Voskamp sets a challenge of finding 1000 things to thank God for in our daily life. See Link
- Perhaps a shift from ‘we have to create a program’ to allowing space – not overscheduling.
- Silence, being still
- Nature Walks
This article is drawn from material at Here2Stay – projects like this, looking at long term discipleship impact among children, are springing up around the world