By: Lindsey Goetz
"...May God give you ears to hear His loving voice, his loving voice speaking all around you, all around you, and deep inside." From “The Song of Blessing”, Sara Groves.
Every night, a lump forms in my throat and I blink back tears as I finish singing "The Song of Blessing" to my three daughters. It strikes me anew every night that I'm praying that the God of the universe would open the ears of my children to his voice, that they would hear him. As a parent and as a children's minister I feel very keenly my responsibility to help children learn that God is speaking--by his world, by his Word, by his Spirit-- and that they can hear him.
"The Lord does not look at the things people look at," the Lord said to Samuel when he went looking for a King; "people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). And I wonder if a vague memory floated through Samuel's mind--of a young boy, lying on the temple floor, who heard the voice of God at a time when the word of the Lord was rare. Scripture says that this was before Samuel knew the Lord, and it was Eli who helped Samuel recognize the voice of God. Hebrews 1 tells us that God has spoken, once and for all, by his Son. How are we, as those who love, serve, and worship with children, helping them to listen for God's voice?
We let them hear God's voice in Scripture. We refuse merely to entertain children when they come to worship with the gathered people of God. Whether we remove them from the worship service or not, our primary aim is not to entertain them or even to teach them character traits or moral values; our goal is to declare God's word to them. He promised that his word will not return without accomplishing its purpose. Are we equipping children and giving them the opportunity to hear and to study God's Word?
We minister to the whole child. Effective children's ministry applies the truth of the gospel to situations that matter to children now. By treating children as people who belong in God's family now, who are being joined to Christ now, and who have the ability to hear God now, we honor the image of God in them, help them to see how the gospel applies to all of life, and train them to listen for God's voice every moment of every day.
We show them Jesus. I've already mentioned the Hebrews passage that reminds us that God has spoken to us by his Son--and what a beautiful, true Word he is! The author of Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus is the exact imprint of God's nature. So, if we really want to hear God, we listen to Jesus--his words, his silences, who he listened to, and who he loved. The best thing we can do for the children we minister to is to be an arrow that points daily, hourly to the ultimate authority on who God is and what he does-- his beautiful Son.
We create space for them. Children's ministry programming must offer space for children to hear from God as he speaks to them by his word. We should be wary of always dictating the form a response should take, of minimizing concerns children raise, and of hurrying children along from one activity to the next. Instead, we should create space for children to hear God's voice in his word and help them to become comfortable resting in that place through prayer, singing, or creating something that helps them focus on what they have heard.
We must provide ways in which they can be reminded of what they have heard throughout the week. (The Live it All Week sheets from Hearts Alive equip parents excellently to create this space in their homes.) If we hope to raise and to serve children who are aware of God's voice and listening to it, we must be people who do those things as well. And maybe that's why I feel the lump form in my throat each night as my heart aches for my children to know the loving voice of God, to be people whose lives say "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." Maybe it's because as I pray this prayer for my children, I'm also praying it for myself.
Hearts Alive Sunday School and Children's Church provide liturgical congregations a highly-anticipated children’s curriculum that combines captivating content, lectionary alignment, and Gospel focus for children ages 3-12. For those seeking to engage children in a fun, age-appropriate application to the Revised Common Lectionary, Hearts Alive is a three-year course of study to give children a strong overview of the story of salvation and how it ties to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hearts Alive supports and elevates liturgical traditions and the church calendar while using clear, contemporary learning techniques to present the Word of God. Learn more in our online community.
Comments will be approved before showing up.