Encounters with Jesus – 4th Key in Making Young Disciples

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Over the past few weekend we have been looking at how we can help our young people not  walk away from church and/or faith in their early adolescent years.  This is the 4th key or formational experience in part of a series on Making Young Disciples.

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 children 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.

There are challenges in striving to do this in the context of managing behaviour and large group sizes. 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.” John 10:3-5

Principles and practical ideas to inspire you as you implement this Formational Experience into your 10 year plan:

Principle
Our churches need to provide children with opportunities to encounter Jesus, not just learn about Him  within the everyday experiences of our programs.

Practical ideas

  • Make the most of ‘teachable moments’
  • Provide opportunities at the end of a teaching session for children to ’reflect and respond’ to what they have learned.
  • Provide ‘quiet places’/ ‘safe spaces’
  • Provide opportunities at the end of a teaching session for children to ’reflect and respond’ to what they have learned.
  • Don’t overlook the ‘small things’ ( responses and questions)
  • Circle Time – encourage children 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 children to develop a repertoire of prayers to use in their spiritual journey- “Thinking Prayers”; “Asking Prayers”; “Thanking Prayers”
  • Establish a “Prayer Wall” in the children’s area and encourage them to write on it
  • Blackboard Wall…Have children finish the sentence, ”I wish God would….”;  “Why doesn’t God….”
  • Develop the concept of “Godly Play” with the Bible stories they are  learning about.
  • 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 encouraged to seek this.
  • Journals
  • Different learning styles and experiences
  • Building ‘encounter space’(physically and experientially) in lots of different ways
  • Adults sharing with children their encounters with Jesus – telling the stories
  • Explore what it is to encounter God in the normal, mundane everyday moments.
  • Perhaps a shift from ‘we have to create a program’ to allowing space – not overscheduling.
  • Silence
  • Teaching Christian meditation

This is the 4th out of a series, so have a read of the other articles and great ideas on Making Young Disciples that we have published, courtesy of www.here2stay.org.au

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