Sometimes leading a children’s group can leave you feeling like a stand-up comedian. Not (in my experience) because you are an absolutely hilarious and wonderful entertainer – but because you are left in a bit of a panic, unsure of what to do next with the expectant crowd.
At least, that’s how it was with me and my group recently. After a short round of ‘sleeping lions’ I introduced a game of ‘listening lions’, (a less than fully-fleshed out concept, made up by me, which would no doubt make our games maestro Steve Mawhinney cringe), whereby we would listen to God for a while, and see if he had anything to say. After a few cries of ‘This is boring!’ the six and seven year-olds obediently lay still for a while. When I brought our time of listening to a close, one of the girls sat up abruptly and declared that she didn’t hear anything from God because ‘It’s not true’. When I asked her what she meant, she said that, ‘God doesn’t speak to us like this, or at least not this quickly anyway.’ I was baffled. I didn’t really have an answer for her. I simply applauded her response, saying that it was brilliant that she was thinking so deeply about the activity and questioning the idea behind it. Like a stand-up comedian who had run dry I quickly gathered the group around the TV, where they proceeded to watch a DVD and colour in some pictures for the rest of the session.
As I walked out of the room at the end I reflected on this six year-old’s comment. Does God respond that quickly? Was I wrong to ask them to listen? Was my theology wrong? I stopped in my tracks. How amazing that this six year-old girl had really challenged me to think about how God speaks to people. How disastrous that she spends the majority of her time at church watching a DVD and colouring in. I wonder how many more questions or insightful thoughts she has about how God relates to people, if only we would give her more opportunities to vocalise them.
As my co-editor Sam Donoghue says in ‘Back to the future’ (p.18), we need to up our game. We need to move from the entertainment and educational model of old – which largely hasn’t worked – towards a new paradigm of genuine engagement.
I encourage you to try new things in your children’s ministry. By all means, borrow my very uninventive game of listening lions, to see if your children could hear from God. Or better still – find more imaginative ways of encouraging genuine engagement in your children’s groups. Whatever you do, don’t settle. It’s time to boldly go where no children’s work has never been before. PT
…you may have noticed that our logo on the front cover has changed. Don’t be alarmed! We have not changed, moved or become part of a different organisation. Changes to the cover masthead design reflect a re-brand at Premier, the company which has owned and published this title since the beginning (along with Christianity and Youthwork magazines), and without whom we would not exist.