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Developing Spiritual Practices in Your Children's Ministry

14 Jan 2019 1:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Emily La Branche Delikat is a CEF Board Member and the Development Editor of Children’s Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House. She holds a M.A. in Christian Ministries with an emphasis in Christian Education from Asbury Theological Seminary. Emily has more than 10 years of experience in early childhood classrooms, and worked as a Director of Music, Director of Children’s Ministry, and Director of Spiritual Formation in UM churches. Emily is the author of Piggyback Psalms: 100+ Bible Songs to Tunes You Know, and writer and editor of Deep Blue Early Elementary and Deep Blue Kids Church. She is passionate about helping children and families fully participate in the life of the church through worship, education, and service.

Psalm 139 reminds us that God is always with us, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (CEB) Spiritual practices are everyday activities done with the intention of becoming aware of God’s presence with us and in us. They help bring us into a space physically, mentally, and emotionally where we are able to meet God and ourselves in new and familiar ways. Spiritual practices can be an important part of your ministry with children.

You are likely already using spiritual practices in your children’s ministry. When you sing, pray, color, bless, wonder, worship, serve, and more, you are inviting children (and yourself) to become aware of God’s presence among them and within themselves. You may even have been incorporating activities that you didn't realize are spiritual practices. Take a moment to think about the ways that you are are inviting children to be with God.

  • Pull out a copy of a lesson plan that you have used for Sunday school, children’s worship, or other children’s ministry event. If you do not have one written down, take some time to write a quick outline of your most recent children’s event.

  • Circle or highlight the times when children are encouraged to recognize that God is with them and that they and others are children of God.

  • Make note of the things that you have circled or highlighted that have become regular rituals within your ministry. These are excellent examples of spiritual practices you are already doing.


Want to include more intentional spiritual practices in your children’s ministry? Try some of these activities:

  • Greeting—Greet the children each time you begin an event or class together in a way that reminds them that God is present. You may want to use the greeting commonly used in worship, “The Lord be with you. And also with you.” Try greeting the children with a hand clapping chant or a song such as “This is the Day.” Including a greeting as an intentional spiritual practice helps children into a time focused on being with God and one another.

  • Silence—Include very short moments of intentional silence within your time together. To introduce the practice, try taking a short pause in your spoken prayers before concluding with, “Amen.”

  • Body Awareness—Have the children sit with their feet on the floor or lie down on their backs. Invite the children to become aware of their breathing. Encourage the children to breath in through their noses as you slowly count to four, and then breathe out through their mouths as you slowly count to four again. Do this several times. After a few repetitions, do the exercise again saying, “God is with us.” in the place of counting. This breathing exercise invites the children to be still and become aware of their bodies and God’s presence with them.

  • Lighting Candles—When we gather for worship we often light candles. The light reminds us that God is present with us in the worship time and space. Candles can be a reminder that God is with us in other times as well. Try adding a candle lighting to your routine at the beginning of your time together, before reading the Bible, or as a part of prayer. Real candles are ideal because you can feel, see, and smell them, but battery operated candles are also an option.

  • Coloring Scripture—Read a Bible verse or scripture passage together. Invite the children to illustrate or color what they heard. Encourage imagination.

  • Praying for One Another—Take time for each child, who desires to share, to tell the group about something that happened in his or her life recently, good or bad. Honor the child’s story and have the children say with you, “Thank you, God”; “God, please help.”; or “Lord, hear our prayer.”

  • Blessing—As each child leaves say a blessing for that child. Depending on the child and your context, you may wish to place your hand on the child’s shoulder, head, or hand. The blessing may be simple, such as, “God loves you.”; “You are a loved child of God.”; or “God be with you wherever you go.”


Practicing being in God’s presence together at church gives children the tools and resources that will help them connect with God in new and deeper ways throughout their daily lives. As you incorporate spiritual practices into your ministry with children, you may find that the children will teach you some practices or even create their own.


How have you incorporated spiritual practices in your children’s ministry? What new spiritual practices are you excited to try?










Comments

  • 14 Jan 2019 1:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    We had a prayer wall made out of plastic plates and velcro strips. Kids could take down a plate and write their prayers on a plate with a dry erase marker. We would pray over the prayers and erase them each week. It was a neat way to learn how to pray and to catch up on each child's life. In the beginning, it was just simple prayers like "pray for my (insert favorite object/friend/item here)" but as time went on they would be thankful for all the flour for communion bread (we made bread that week) or ask for specific prayers for loved ones. It was so neat to watch!
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