Children Independently Following Jesus. Irregular attendance at programs is a constant concern of children’s ministry leaders. The reality is that children can only attend our programs when their family enables them. Teaching children to nurture their relationship with God and independently follow Jesus will help them in the wider circumstances of their life when they may find themselves without Christian support.
The most effective activities will be the ones that we can tailor to our children. As we get to know our children it will become easier to spot what sorts of activities will suit them best. The list below is by no means exhaustive but it will give you ideas. Some are suitable to implement for all your children (to help them all take responsibility for growing outside your group), as well as some alternatives that will suit children you’ve already identified as irregular attendees who need extra support and encouragement to keep on following Jesus and growing closer to him.
How can we nurture a child’s faith so they can grow when they’re away from our programs?
Try these ideas:
- Reading the Bible. Give them Bible reading materials appropriate to age and format. In some circumstances you will need to choose to meet with the children during the week to lead them in a study.
- Encourage your children to stay in touch with each other midweek. This helps children to ‘find fellowship’ in their daily lives.
- Organise at least one event for your group that is in someone’s home so that the link between Christian faith and daily life can be strengthened. BBQs, swimming, movie nights, Christmas party or Easter celebrations can all be good to try.
- Give older children (9-12yrs) a mid-week hypothetical challenge that they need to work out a response to. During that mid-week period of time, the children can discuss ideas with each other, do some research and reading and come to a decision, or be able to explain what prevented them from being able to decide what their point of view is. The discussion needs to be well debriefed by you as a leader. You will need to acknowledge their work in struggling to find a solution. This is good for independent growth now, and teaches critical thinking for a future time when you may not be able to influence the children on a weekly basis.
- As you get to know your children you will be able to suggest that they try different ways to tune into God. The idea is to give children a key that will help them connect with God, so they can independently and enthusiastically meet with him regularly. These are sometimes called “Quiet Times”.
- They may, for example find that quiet meditation on a Bible passage in a quiet room is the best environment and method for discovering more from the Scriptures.
- Suggest journaling, the process of writing prayers and thoughts down as a diary to God.
- They could reflect on a Bible passage as they swim, jog or do some other physical activity then pray about their insights and conclusions as well as offering their general prayers.
- Suggest painting their thoughts worries or thanks, and then praying about them.
- They could write a song or listen to devotional music.
- Children could reflect on world events, adding to a scrapbook of concerns that they want to bring to God in prayer.
- Some children will need to be able to discuss these times to get the most out of them. Be aware of this in case there is noone available in their home environment to meet that need.
- Encourage families to provide children with their own Bibles where possible.
- Recommend resources to parents that will help them to build up the spiritual lives of their children. This will help children link a Christian walk with daily, normal, family life. Any one or a combination of these will give most children a key that will help them to connect well, so they can independently and enthusiastically meet with God regularly.
- Give plenty of encouragement. Children will need this to keep going if they are mostly on their own. Make this a team effort with your leaders, do this as a leadership/pastoral team trying some of these ideas:
- Send SMS messages to children in your group who have mobile phones. (Send to the whole group – not individuals)
- Email with short encouraging personal notes occasionally. Personal is the key word, don’t broadcast notes to a number of addresses, otherwise children will think you don’t actually care about them.
- Send a weekly ‘newsy’ email to let children know what has been happening at your group featuring stories about them!
- Organise an active prayer chain (keeping it confidential).
- For children who attend your group irregularly, plan regular phone calls to the family and/or home visits to help stay in touch.
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