by Dick Gruber, D.Min./ September 29, 2015
Many years ago while writing Focus On Children, my research included the study of educational theory and practice. Writers agreed, although percentages varied, that children retain little of what they hear, more of what they hear and see, and much more of what they hear, see, and do. From that time until now, I have incorporated strong illustration and involvement components in every lesson. Why? Because every child should be encouraged to learn, retain, and live what has been taught.
Why Participation Is Important
We are encouraged in Scripture to “make disciples.” This directive implies that we must do more than lead children in the sinner’s prayers, throw on DVD lessons, and limit our methodology to high-octane visual and technological impact. If a child is to become a disciple, that child must be given the best opportunity to retain what is being taught in order to begin living it.
Active participation is perhaps the most important key to the successful discipleship of children. Imagine a children’s church where enthusiastic participation is the norm. It is a church in which children and leaders share the stage, working together to learn God’s Word. Not a minute goes by in such a church without seeing a child or the entire group participating in the theme of the day. The leaders allow children to take an active part in each story, object lesson, and song. Because of this participation, excited engagement in learning takes place. Parents are blessed following such a service as their children recount the Bible verse of the day, share what they got to do up front, and relate what action points they will live during the upcoming week.
You can lead a children’s church as described above. Begin this week to design your service to maximize participation on the part of children. Let me walk you through how that might look. Before church begins, a group of children, with some supervision, has already set up your sound, visual media, and props. These kids have prayed for you and the leaders and are ready to welcome other children into the room. When worship time begins, children of all ages are up front assisting and leading in worship. Boys and girls receive the offering, hold objects for lessons, act out Bible stories and, when appropriate, teach the other children. No worker leads any portion of this service without involving children in her presentation. Older children then join with adult and youth leaders praying with their peers as altar time progresses.
I’ve modeled this kind of participation in my children’s churches for decades. I believe so strongly in this, that my university students have no chance of receiving an A for a class presentation without incorporating illustration and involvement.
It is time to break away from constant media-driven lesson material and remember that children can be the Church. According to Romans 12:1–8, the Church of Jesus Christ is a church that invites total participation. Each one uses his or her gifts to benefit the whole Body. Children’s church must be a training ground allowing children to discover and use their God-ordained gifts. This process will begin to unfold as you allow children to participate in your services.
Now it’s time for you to participate. When planning children’s church this week, look for two additional ways to involve the children. Remember, more involvement and more participation will increase to quality of the disciples you are growing.How do you craft your lessons and sermons to engage and include significant participation by your children?