In the previous two blogs in this series we looked at what a God-connected child is and how to
disciple children to have a God-connection.
We have looked at four tools that we can use, both at home and in children’s ministry, to help
children make and build their own connection with God – creating windows into our faith, framing
the world through a God-shaped lens, unwinding misperceptions of God and surfing the waves of
children’s interests and passions in faith.
In this blog, we are going to look at one final tool.
Chat and catch
One of the key things that children need to learn to do as they grow in their faith is to talk to God for
themselves. Alongside that, they also need to learn to listen for and recognise God’s voice as he
speaks to them. Prayer is at the heart of learning to be with God.
Chatting is a way of describing how we might encourage children to use their own voice and
informal language to talk to God, as well as non-verbal ways of communicating with him. When
children hear prayer in church settings it is often formal and scripted, perhaps leading them to
believe that you have to be able to use complicated language to talk to God. That may lead them to
think that, as they are not able to do that, they cannot communicate with him.
If that happens, we will need to use some of the unwinding techniques to correct that
misconception (see previous blog). We want children to know that they can use their own voice to
chat to God, that he wants to hear them telling him about what is happening, thanking him, asking
for things and saying sorry when they have done something wrong.
One of the ways that we can help children to understand what it means to chat to God is to model it
to them. We don’t simply want to create windows into your prayer life (though that will also help
their faith and understanding to develop), but we want them to actually get a feel for it in action. Let
them see and hear you chatting to God about everyday stuff, as well as bigger things. You may need
to learn how to pray out loud in simple everyday speech so that they can hear you, instead of
keeping it all inside your head. Your children will learn so much about what chatting to God is from
seeing your example. For example, when you hear that a friend is ill and you automatically pray for
them in your head, you could vocalise that prayer. Or when you don’t know what to do, ask God for
his help out loud.
Catching is a way to describe how children learn to hear God’s voice. It is vitally important that all of
us as Christians learn to recognise and respond to God’s voice – meaning that we can engage in a
two-way relationship with him. We want children to know that God longs to both hear and speak
into their lives by his Spirit, applying the truths of his Word.
The important thing to remember is that because we all have a personal relationship with God, part
of which is shaped by the personality, temperament and learning style with which he has gifted us, chat and catch will look different for each of us. We need to encourage children to find their own
way of knowing God speak to their hearts and not simply expect them to do it in the same way as us.
We can help children to explore the different ways that people catch God’s voice. It’s not usually a
booming voice for all to hear. It may be a thought, a feeling, a mental picture that arises from a verse
or passage of Scripture, or a wise word of encouragement or warning from someone older. Share
with children what you hear God saying to you when you read the Bible. Encourage children to ask
God questions and see if they can catch his answer.
In children’s ministry in church settings, encourage children to take part in prayer times, to tell him
about what is happening and to pray for things that they hear about or experience. Encourage them
to pray in their own voices with their own ordinary words. Then give space and quietness for them
to listen and try to catch God’s voice. You could play music while they are quiet or have Bibles for
children to look at. Don’t worry if it doesn’t always work, it takes time, and remember that God will
and does communicate with his children.
How could you encourage chat and catch?
Walking with the next generation as they develop their faith
As a parent, I do not need something else to add to the list of things I already have to do with my
child. As a children’s ministry leader, I know my time in ministry is already stretched and there is no
space in the time to add in a whole new section. However, when I know there are tools that allow
me to tweak what I already do in a way that makes a big impact, I grab that with both hands.
Discipling children, particularly at home, but also in a church setting, needs to not become another
item to tick off a to-do list. It should be part of the culture of what we do, part of the fabric of being
in family and in community with children.
So, let’s work on how we create windows so that children can see what faith looks like, even though
it’s flawed. Let’s think about how we can frame the world to show how God is interested in the big
things of the world as well as the minute details of children’s lives. Let’s work together on how to
unwind children’s misperceptions of God and help them surf the waves of their interests as their
faith grows. And lastly let’s help children learn to communicate with God in their own voice and also
to catch and hear him speaking to them. Walking with children as they develop their own vibrant,
two-way, faith in God is such a privilege.
Read the first blog in the series here
Read the second blog in the series here
Ruth Bromley is PCI's Children's Development Officer.