Giving Kids the Other Half of Jesus

2. Create a safe environment.
If we want children to be open and honest about their innermost thoughts, doubts, questions and feelings, then we must ensure that we have created a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Before a child opens up they need to feel safe. Each child needs to know that it’s OK to be me; it’s safe to be real; there’s no need to pretend here.

Emotional safety starts with your attitude—accepting children, celebrating them, your face lighting up when they enter the classroom, giving them your full attention, seeing the best in them, dreaming God-sized dreams for their lives, and honestly talking about your own life, especially your own messes and mistakes.

3. Welcome children into a conversation
If you want children to experience Jesus, you must make sure that you invite their participation.

Don’t look at them as mere listeners or observers. It’s not so much about what you know and want to tell them, but it’s about giving them a chance to talk.

View this part as the confession time where they have a chance to admit where they are at in relationship to…(fear, greed, salvation, Lordship of Christ, forgiveness and so on).

Children may not be accustomed to exploring their inner being and openly talking about their thoughts and feelings, so it’s your job to engage them and make it easy to have a heart-to-heart conversation.

4. Share personal stories.
Your life experience (whether negative or positive) is one of the best teaching tools you have.

Use it wisely.

Kids connect to stories. Other people’s experiences provide them with hope and give them tools and vocabulary to better understand their own lives.

5. Always point to Scripture.
Creative introductions and moving personal examples are great, but the experience will be incomplete if we don’t connect children to God’s Word which alone has the power to transform their lives.

For greater impact and clarity I suggest choosing shorter passages (one to two verses) that directly speak to the topic.

6. Have a call to action.
Show children how the truth applies to their lives and then give them a chance to put it to the test.This is the part where kids invite God’s presence and truth into their lives. As for the teachers, they get a chance to take a front row seat and watch what God will do in response.

7. Send something home.
Whatever you decide to send home with a child should accomplish two goals:

1) serve as a reminder of the commitment they made during the class and

2) invite their parents into the spiritual journey of their child by offering them accountability and encouragement.

THE LAST THING THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID IS PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!

Have great expectations and leave time for God to interact with the children and bring about the change He desires. You’re only setting the stage. He is the Hero who shows up and saves the day.

Speaking in the “apple store” metaphor, your job is to take Jesus out of the box and put Him on display where He’s fully accessible. You unbox Jesus by creating an emotionally safe environment, inviting children into honest conversations, connecting them with God’s Word, and giving them a practical way to respond to God’s invitation. Then you step aside and watch them interacting with Jesus, letting Him do what only He can—transforming lives.

You can find two recent examples of “lab experiments” HERE and HERE.

One of these examples deals with helping children overcome their fears and another leads children into a deeper surrender to Jesus, giving Him first place in their lives. They will give you a clear picture of what the “apple store” experience looks like in the context of children’s ministry in our church.

So how about you—are you letting children come to Jesus or only letting them learn about Him? Are you giving them half of Jesus or 100 percent? I invite you to examine the last four lessons you taught and see what you think.

This article originally appeared here.

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Dema Kohen is a children's pastor with 25+ years of ministry experience. He has a passion for ministering not only to children, but also to those who serve children. By offering encouragement, inspiration and practical wisdom he helps many shepherds of children's souls succeed in their calling and stay with it for a long haul.