But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
One the of the most important parts of our Kids Empowered curriculum is the Personal Application Time. Every time we teach, we want to create a place for our kids to encounter the living God. We are not content to just teach our kids about God, we want them to know Him for themselves.
Personal Application Time is specifically designed for our kids to apply what they’ve learned and meet with God in a personal way. As teachers and children’s workers, we can accomplish this by creating an environment that is safe, clearly explained, and inviting to kids. We must take Jesus at His Word and “Let the little children come to Him.” Let’s not be guilty of just teaching our kids about God and never giving them a place to truly know Him. Let’s not despise our kids or think lesser of them; let’s empower them to run right now!
That being said, let’s look at six steps to leading a successful Personal Application Time. These steps are not a formula, but merely practical tools to equip you to minister to, lead, and meet the needs of your children. We must do our part as teachers to “Let the little children come to Him!”
1. S – SEEK GOD: Prayer is foundational for everything we do for our kids. Nothing can move mountains like prayer can. Prayer is like the tilling of the soil before the planting of the seeds on a Sunday morning. Prayer partners with God’s plan for our kids on Sunday morning, not our plan. Be diligent in the secret place before you teach on Sunday mornings. It is well worth your time! (see Matthew 6:6)
2. I – INTENTIONALLY PLAN: The Personal Application Time should always relate to the lesson. Just like prayer tills the soil for the seeds planted on a Sunday morning, so teaching tills the soil for the Personal Application Time. As you teach, you are creating hunger and opening the children’s eyes to their need for God. Then the opportunity to respond to what was learned is presented, and a chance given to apply it to their life, right now.
But for the Personal Application time to be effective, you need to have a well thought out plan. You wouldn’t come to class totally unprepared for your lesson and neither should you for the Personal Application Time. Children are not like adults. They have different needs that require us to engage them in different ways. Planning for children to meet with God takes intentionality and creativity. Take adequate time to plan, just like you do for your Large Group lesson. (see Proverbs 21:5)
3. M – MAKE IT A PRIORITY: Nothing is less effective in leading our kids into the presence of God than not creating the space for it in the first place. Tempting as it might be, don’t skip this part of the curriculum. You might not have it all together, or know exactly how to lead the kids, but you will get better. Just do your best and let God take care of the rest. While kids engage differently than adults, they are generally easier to please; they don’t need it to be perfect for them to engage. Choose to go outside of your comfort zone and create this space every time you teach! You will surely fail to lead kids into God’s presence if you don’t even try it. But if you do, life-changing encounters are sure to happen!
4. P – POWERFUL ENCOUNTERS: Creating an atmosphere for powerful encounters requires simplicity. Keep it simple, keep it short. Kids need clear, simple, and easy-to-follow instruction. While we never want to stifle the Holy Spirit, keep in mind that children quickly get confused when what is asked of them is constantly changing. Furthermore, when lingering too long, human nature tends to take over and kids start to zone out. Try to avoid these two common pitfalls when leading children into the presence of God by continually monitoring how they are doing (see Proverbs 27:23). Don’t judge the encounter with God by the length of time spent in His presence, but by the quality of time spent in His presence; and even more by the fruit from that encounter!
5. L – LOVE WITH ALL YOUR HEART: You can have a perfectly planned Personal Application Time, you can perfectly present it, and you can think it went perfectly well. But why we lead is much more important than how we lead. Kids are intuitive. They can tell if you are bought in at a heart level, or just going through the motions. If you don’t have genuine love and care for your kids, this will greatly hinder the effectiveness of this time. They need to feel safe with you, cared for by you, and have a genuine heart connection with you. If they can’t trust you, they won’t be able to enter into God’s presence. This is very crucial! (see 1 Corinthians 13)
6. E – EMPOWERED TO RUN: Ultimately, we want to empower our kids to run! We want them to know they don’t just have to wait for a Sunday morning to meet with God. They can do it on their own time. But why should they? Kids more than ever need to know why you’re asking them to do what you are. They need to know the reason behind it all. Don’t expect them to even think that meeting with God is an amazing thing. Remember, we are training our kids. They’re not adults and need lots of clear direction and explanation of things. We must motivate them and plead with them as Paul did for the church (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). We must give them practice encountering God so they desire it and seek it out for themselves.
Time is never wasted on Jesus. He wants to encounter our kids. Let’s be diligent in letting our children come to Him. May we never be accused of looking down on our children because of their age (see 1 Timothy 4:12). Our kids are more than capable of meeting with God. And He wants to meet with them!
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s lead our children to the One who created them!