Helping Children to Participate Actively in God’s
Thiessen, George Patterson and Galen Currah, November 2004.
Copyright © 2004 by George Patterson. May be freely copied, translated,
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Before Jesus fed
thousands in the wilderness, He asked his disciples what resources they had.
Andrew replied that a boy had five loaves and two fish. Jesus took this boy’s
offering and fed the crowd (John 6:9-10). Early church writers reported that
this boy later became a Christian leader. Children who take an active part
in God’s work develop spiritually more readily than those who merely listen
passively to teachers.
A wise Christian
leader will recognize what children have to offer. If a leader lets children
become bored and passive during worship and other weekly activities, then many
will fail to grow up using the gifts and resources that the Master has given
to Mobilize Children
benefit from working and playing with adults and with children of different
love to act out Bible stories for adults during weekly worship.
- Children of
every culture desire the friendship of older youths.
- To develop
socially, children should balance time spent with children of their age
with time spent playing and working with persons of different ages.
public schools and Sunday Schools often deny children such opportunities,
segregating them abnormally by age.
- We should
free children from the stifling, socially-damaging practice of consistently
clustering children of the same age.
enjoy being creative. God has given them good imaginations.
- Before the
worship time, children can meet with a teacher and prepare a short dramatization
of a Bible story that relates to the adults’ study topic.
- Keep the children’s
dramas very brief and simple. Avoid long productions and elaborate
costumes; employ only the simplest of props. Such dramas do not need much
preparation. The children will enjoy looking around the meeting place to
find props such as rocks, sticks, chairs, tables, papers and baskets.
- Coach the
children to speak loudly. To help them do so, have them talk to those who
are standing on the other side of the room.
- The dramas
are more effective when children of different ages and adults do them together.
Very young children can play the parts of spectators in crowds, other members
of a family, animals, and even trees.
- Normally children
do better if they do not memorize lines word for word, but rather the general
ideas. Their teacher can give them ideas for short dialogues and can prompt
them if they forget. For example, tell ‘Philistines’ to laugh at little
David and remark in their own words how silly it is for him to fight a giant.
enjoy teaching and discipling others.
- Let older,
energetic children write poems, skits and short songs to present to the
other children and, if they do it well, to the adults, too. Such compositions
should illustrate the topic that the adults are learning that week. Let
musicians occasionally set children’s poems to music.
- Children enjoy
drawing symbols and pictures of Bible stories. Let them show their pictures
during worship and explain how the pictures illustrate the teaching.
learn well from non-verbal teaching.
- It is extremely
valuable for older children to help teach and disciple younger ones.
- Teachers can
help children to prepare questions beforehand about details in a Bible story.
When the congregation meets, the children can ask these questions, after
acting out a story. Children can give the correct answers to their own questions,
if the adults do not remember the details well.
- Children enjoy
memorizing Psalms and other Scriptures and reciting them for the adults.
- Younger children
enjoy singing songs to lively music while making hand motions. They should
practice songs with hand motions and sing them for the whole congregation.
- Children love
lessons presented with objects that they can see, touch and handle. A wise
teacher uses physical objects to illustrate topics, allowing the children
to handle them and explain what they mean.
- A teacher
can prepare objects beforehand, coaching the children how to explain them
during congregational worship.
Most church planting
movements multiply congregations that are strongly family-oriented. Many such
churches are small and have no nursery, accepting the presence of children
as normal. When children take an active part in worship, they know
that they are an important part of the church body. When children help others
understand the truths that they themselves have just learned, the truths take
root in their hearts. Children will also recall the teaching better and be
more eager to participate in worship. They are also more likely to grow up
loving the church instead of thinking of it as a boring ordeal forced on them
by their parents. Jesus welcomed children and found ways for them to participate
in His ministry. He made use of their gifts and resources. We should do the
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