This week, hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen take on part two of a discussion on building authentic faith in the lives of preschool and elementary-aged kids with practical faith skills. Also: Laffy Taffy and soufflés.
LET’S GET IN TO THE EPISODE
Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk about the big ideas of kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. Your fantastic hosts, Mike, Gina and Kellen are sugared up and ready to go.
Kellen and Mike debate the merits of Laffy Taffy. Kellen defends Laffy Taffy based on the awesome joke he just revealed: “What do a chicken and a band have in common? They both have drum sticks!”
Today is the second part of a two-part episode. If you didn’t listen to Part 1 yet, start here.
Spiritual Growth isn’t measured in a test, but in relationship. We’re talking about what it means to develop an authentic faith in the lives of kids. This episode, we will unpack that at a practical level, both at home and in partnership with parents.
At Orange, we’ve boiled this down to four faith skills that help to develop authentic faith in the lives of kids. Authentic faith is trusting in Jesus in a way that transforms how I love God, myself and others.
Faith Skill #1: HEAR
Mike: “Hear” is to help a kid hear from God, to discover His Word and what He inspired others to write down. It involves memorizing and navigating the Bible. We can help them understand it’s practical for their everyday lives and that it can help them trust God.
Kellen: The Bible is the best way to hear from God. God speaks through the Bible. If you are teaching a preschooler, they don’t need to know everything.
Our trusty hosts instantly devolve to David and Bathsheba. Let’s keep this PG, everyone.
Kellen: You don’t have to tell the whole story—just a simple concept like how David trusted God. How he brought God back to an amazing city.
Gina: When you help a child engage God’s Word, it allow them to see how God worked in someone’s life and that He can work in theirs.
Kellen: If a preschooler sees that this adult they trust cares so much about these stories, they will get excited, too.
Mike: How do we help kids hear from God at each age? For preschoolers, it’s reading stories together – volunteers or parents with kids.
It’s not the entire story. Don’t bust out the KJV. Find a storybook Bible—something age appropriate. Read those stories together. They may not fully grasp or understand everything; it’s taking the time in large and small groups and for parents, at bedtime.
Repeat simple memory verses. Make it a game. Use songs and motions.
Kellen gives a shout out to “Father Abraham.” All together now—Father Abraham, had many sons. And many soooons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them. And so are so. So let’s all praise the Lord, right arm, left arm—
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Kellen: In elementary, as they get older, put it in the hands of the kids. Don’t just sit and teach. Give the kids a role. Let them interact with and re-enact the stories.
Gina: Parents are likely already reading books with their kids. Don’t add another thing to their weekly rhythm. Instead, pick up a Bible storybook during bedtime.
Most churches send something home with parents to tell them the story or verse. That’s a great starting point for a parent. What if you read that verse every night before they go to bed? It’s a simple, practical way to incorporate into their daily rhythm a way to develop that skill in their kid—hearing from God
Mike: In the elementary years, kids have learned to read and are taking ownership. It’s a unique opportunity to make a big deal out of purchasing their very first Bible.
Parents want to know: Which kind? What translation? What’s most engaging?
Faith Skill #2: PRAY
Mike: Kids need to understand from an early age how to have an ongoing conversation with God. That’s one of the measuring sticks that we want to evaluate: How is your ongoing conversation with God? Prayer is not just one lesson. We help kids understand that it’s about having a conversation with God because it’s what connects you in relationship with Him.
What does that look like practically? What does it look like, for instance, in the life of a preschooler who may not even be talking yet?
Gina: My daughter came out of the womb talking. Hasn’t slowed down at 16.
Kellen: In nursery up to early preschool, pray FOR them and with them. As you sit on the floor playing blocks or rocking a crying baby, pray out loud with them and for them.
Gina: You may be the only person who prays over that child that week. It is a beautiful thing to coach volunteers through.
If we are created in the image of God, if that child is crafted by our Heavenly Father for a relationship with Him, it’s never too early to begin praying over them.
Mike: Though [babies] are not talking, they are listening, and understand the emotion of the moment. You are leaving a thumbprint of God on them.
Gina: Give parents that tool. Here’s something you can do with your child, to pray with them. Talk to God together. It’s hard to quantify the value of what they does in building a relationship.
Gina’s youngest is 13 and still daily comes to them each evening to pray.
Kellen’s 2-year-old niece came to pray for him when he was sick. “Jesus pray uncle better. Amen.”
When parents come to pick up a child, let them know that you’ve been praying for their child. It’s not just babysitting; their kids are being spiritually watched over as well.
Mike: You move from praying over babies and toddler to inviting preschoolers to pray along with you. Short, beautiful, to the point. Personalities will differ. Don’t force them to pray out loud, but do invite them. Pray with and for them throughout.
In elementary, continue inviting kids to be a part of the conversation and pray alongside you. There may come a point where they don’t want to engage and pray with you. They may check out. As leaders and parents, continue to pray with and over them while they are there. They need to hear us taking their concerns to God on their behalf.
Establish a prayer routine when they are young. It’s so much easier to continue that routine when they get older. It’s easier to maintain.
Faith Skill #3: TALK
Mike: “Talk” means simply to talk about God and your faith, both with others who believe and with those who don’t. That’s why we encourage small groups. As a kid or teenager, you might discover more about God when you talk about your faith than when someone talks to you about faith.
The more they talk about their faith, the more they discover about God and solidify their faith.
Kellen: This should be your new favorite phrase: “I do not know, but I will find out.” You may not feel qualified. Never lie or try to figure out an answer to look smart. Let them know honestly. And then follow through, even if it takes a few weeks.
Kids from rougher backgrounds may share things that make you feel uncomfortable or may not be at maturity level of whole group. Never squash a moment of sharing, but do redirect if necessary. Make them feel safe. Talk to parents or guardians if you hear red flags. Allow that space to be safe.
Gina: It’s not as much what they say, but that it’s a safe place for the conversation.
Encourage parents to not feel like they have to correct their child’s theology. Keep dialoguing about what they think. You can insert correction, but don’t derail or squash the conversation. Let it breathe. Over time they will learn and grow if you can keep the conversation going.
Kellen: If you open the oven too early, a soufflé won’t rise. If you’re too late, it won’t rise. It’s the same with conversation. If you end the conversation too early, you won’t get to that moment. If you keep going too long and drag it out, the moment won’t be meaningful. Timing is everything. It’s a learned thing. Feel it out.
Please note: Kellen has never actually made a soufflé.
Mike: A great way to talk about faith with preschoolers is through singing. You can drop some serious theology through a song like “Jesus Loves Me.” Find some preschool music that doesn’t make your ears bleed.
SHAMELESS PLUG FOR ORANGE KIDS MUSIC. CLICK HERE
Seriously, it rocks.
Mike: When talking with elementary-aged kids, small group leaders and parents can share about the time that we trusted Jesus with our lives. As a parent, it’s easy to assume kids know your faith story. Also talk about your faith right now. What things is God speaking to you right now? Share things from church, a song, how God is moving in your life. When we talk about faith like it’s a normal part of our every day life, it sets an example for [kids] to do the same. Don’t limit God to Sunday morning at church.
Faith Skill #4: LIVE
Mike: “Live,” at its heart, is a word for worship. Beyond praise and beyond singing, it’s also this aspect of living that’s giving and serving. The more kids worship God with their life, the more they’ll understand what that looks like in an everyday world.
Worship isn’t just singing loud. It’s living loud.
How can we unpack this at church and help parents unpack it at home?
Gina: It’s creating opportunities and avenues for families to serve in their community.
Gina’s church does “Serve the City Saturday.” Serving is big on this Saturday, but they create ongoing opportunities to serve with community organizations through the year. They make sure to have opportunities for families with preschool kids, elementary kids, and high school kids.
Families have a shared experience around serving together. A kid learns at a very young age, “I have something valuable to contribute. God wants to do a work in me and through me.”
Kellen: Sundays at our 9:15 service, anywhere from six to nine kids serve with a leader named Scott to greet people coming in. All are K-3. Scott is a kids leader, even though he doesn’t serve directly in children’s ministry. Provide opportunities for older elementary kids to serve with younger kids. With some guidance, you could have a fifth grader serve in a preschool room. Let the parents know how and where their child is serving, so it can translate to home, too.
In preschool, “live” looks like SHARING. That’s the bottom line.
Mike: Share your snack. Share your toys. A life of generously living and giving to others doesn’t just happen.
Play worship songs with your kids – in the car or at home with preschoolers.
As kids get older, find the music that they’re into in the moment. If they mention a song, go find the song on iTunes and play it.
Instill the generosity of living out your faith through resources, too. Help them create a giving bank and teach them what it means to be a steward of God’s resources.
The win is an authentic faith. The win is to help them trust Jesus in a way that transforms how they love God, how they love themselves and how they love others.
The heartbeat for this episode that we hope redefine how you think about what faith looks like.
Spiritual growth isn’t measured in a test. It is about a relationship.
What if we began to put these four faith skills into rotation in our ministries, these four over time, from an early age? That becomes our measuring stick.
Before you leave our ministry, talk to me about how you’re hearing from God, praying to God, talking to your friends about faith, and living out your faith in practical ways.
What if that was the new standard? That’s timeless. That includes some head transformation, but now it’s transformed your heart. It’s faith skills that will go with you into the next season of life and hopefully into adulthood.
That needs to be the new normal toward authentic faith.
Kellen takes us all out with an ode to John Cougar Mellencamp. We might forgive him for the soufflé.
Set aside some time in the next week to consider your ministry’s “win” for spiritual growth—whether defined or simply understood. Does that win include the following four faith skills?
- Hear from God
- Pray to God
- Talk about faith
- Live out faith
If not, consider how you might incorporate these skills at church and help equip parents to do so at home.
Know God: A 28-Day Devotional Experience for Kids: https://amzn.to/2Vw2iHV
Parent Prayer Cards: https://bit.ly/2EfXi4e