Creating Community Among Children
The early church experienced community. The writer of Acts described it this way, “And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other” (Acts 2:42). Such devoted Christians came from that community that Christianity soon spread throughout the known world.
In children’s ministry we wrestle with the question, “How will we disciple the children in our ministries? What can we do to make them fully devoted followers’ of Christ?” I believe that creating a community of believers among our children is a strategy that we cannot fail to implement.
What are the key elements of a Christian community of believers?
- Prayer. A community of believers invites God’s presence and His work in individual lives and within the community through prayer.
- Sharing. A community of believers provides a safe place for individuals to talk about their lives, both the good and the bad.
- Learning. The believing community described in Acts 2 was committed to the teaching of the apostles. The teaching of the Word and its relevance to the lives of believers continues to be a very necessary ingredient of Christian community.
- Mutual support. Not only is there spiritual support within a community of believers but also practical support is provided during crises and celebrations.
- Purpose. A dynamic community does not exist just to build up individual members but, more importantly, for the purpose of fulfilling Christ’s commission.
IDEAS YOU CAN USE
Involve Children in the Key Elements of Christian Community
Prayer—Help children understand through Bible teaching that prayer is one of the most important ways that we can show our love to others. Paul said in I Corinthians 1:11, “you help us by your prayers.”
Sharing—Children need to be free to share their personal struggles and victories. Create an environment that encourages sharing by—
- Using teaching methods that allow interaction and discussion. Lectures and workbook pages do not usually create an environment conducive to sharing.
- Providing opportunities for children to talk among themselves rather than just to you.
Learning—Teaching Bible truth is central to developing Christian community. To effectively teach truth that builds healthy community—
- Teach from the context of relationships. Do the children know you? Do you know the children? What do you know about the children that will help you teach this Bible truth? What life experience could you briefly share that would help the children better understand this truth?
- Guide children to discover the relevance of Scripture to their personal lives. For example, the story of David and Goliath is an exciting story but does it have relevance in the personal lives of the children? Most definitely! But you must guide the children to discover that relevance and apply it to their lives.
- Give children an opportunity to apply the truth that is being taught in the context of the community. For example, if the truth taught is to “bear another’s burdens” let the children do that through prayer, kind words, creating a card or gift, or performing an act of service.
Mutual Support—Create a supportive environment in your children’s ministry and thus build community by—
- Involve children in activities that allow for cooperative effort rather than competition. Competition tends to separate children and accentuate their weaknesses.
- Help children develop a good understanding of their unique abilities and spiritual gifts.
- Provide opportunities for every child to succeed.
- Encourage children to use words that build one another up rather than words that put others down (Ephesians 4:29).
Purpose—Make children aware of the Great Commission and what they can do to help fulfill it. Involve them in activities that allow them to serve others.
- A Helping Hand. What service project in the neighborhood or in your church community needs to be done? Provide the children with an opportunity to “lend a hand.”
- Give to Good Cause. Together determine a mission project that the children would like to give to. Then come up with ways as a group the money can be raised.
- Share the Good News. Again, let the children determine ways they can share the gospel collectively and individually.
Link Up. Began your ministry time with an activity that allows students to share something about themselves with one another. Yell out a statement such as, “Link up with everyone who was born in the same month as you” or “Link up with everyone who has the same color of eyes as you” or “Link up with everyone who has the same number of brothers and sisters as you” or “Link up with everyone whose first name begins with the same letter as yours.”
I’m Feeling. . .? Create cartoon faces that express a variety of emotions such as sad, happy, afraid, worried, and mad. During small group time let each child choose one of the cartoon faces and then share a time when he felt that emotion. Or, draw one of these cartoon faces on self-adhesive name tags and let each child choose the name tag that best describes how he is feeling today. In small group let the child share his feelings and pray or rejoice with him about that feeling.
“Back To School” Bulletin Board. Here’s a way to give support and build community when kids are going back to school. Group children’s pictures according to the school they will be attending. Place each child’s name and age under his picture along with a specific prayer request from the child related to the new school year. Encourage children and adults in your congregation to stop and pray at the bulletin board each time they are in service.
Welcome Baby Brother. Many children need extra support when a new baby brother or sister arrives. Let the children work together to create a care package for the older sibling containing simple things such as snacks, an inexpensive game or book, and tips from each child on taking care of a new baby brother.
Prayer Target. Create a large prayer target of four circles. Label the outer circle, The World. Let the children write prayer needs for the children of the world on the outer circle. Label the next circle, Our Church. Prayer needs for the local church should be written there. Label the next circle, Our Families. Let each child write down a family prayer need. Label the inner circle, Our Needs. Let each child write down a personal prayer request on the inner circle. During prayer time select a target for the children to pray for. Encourage each child to pray a sentence prayer that mentions one of the needs of that particular prayer target.
- PrayKids! Resources published by NavPress—Prayer is a key element in building community so visit the NavPress website to find great resources for involving kids in prayer. 20 issues of PrayKids! Magazine are now available to you at the NavPress website. You can also order four different Kids’ Prayer Cards: Praying for Government Leaders, Praying for My Pastor, Praying for My School, and T.H.U.M.B. Prayer Cards. Also available is Growing Up Prayerful, a complete resource for developing a children’s prayer ministry in your local church.
- Quick-Quiz Talk Starters published by Standard Publishing Company— Sharing is another key element in building community and this teacher resource will encourage preteens to verbalize feelings and attitudes. Quick Quiz Talk Starters for pre-teen kids features 30 discussion-starting quizzes. Topics include jealousy, anger, hope, gossip, fear, frustration, and popularity. Each topic includes supporting Scripture verses.
Children’s Ministry Newsletter, Volume 8, Issue 10, October 2004