Equipping children to hear from Father God for themselves is so important for a lasting and dynamic relationship with God. Through listening prayer, a child establishes an intimate relationship with God, receiving God's love and truth directly into his heart. Remember Eli helping Samuel recognise it was God speaking to him? Adults have an important role in normalising two-way conversations with God and helping children learn to use all of their spiritual senses.
Here are a number of excellent resources that can help adults coach children in hearing the voice of God:
"Parenting children for a life of faith" by Rachel Turner. She has some excellent ways of explaining prayer and hearing from God called "chat and catch", helping children to build non-religious relationship with Father God.
The Children's Sozo training has been a great resource to help us equip and release children to have a greater connection with God, and remove any blockages to hearing His voice.
Connecting with Jesus should be natural and authentic. Surely we can only pray without ceasing if we are in ongoing connection and conversation with Jesus who cares about all the things that matter to us. Jesus is interested in all our thoughts, the things that amuse us, the things that make us excited or tearful.
Play is the primary language that children use to work through and express their feelings. So it is important that we teach and model prayer, not simply as sitting and talking with our eyes closed, but demonstrating that it can often be playful- involving toys, sand and drawing, and movement- as these are the natural ways that children (and many adults!) communicate and process feelings.
We have learned a number of ways of playfully connecting with God from Steve and Mara Klemic's HeartLife. We use two of their techniques, "refocusing" and "Play of Life". These tools are great conversation starters and a great launch pad for adults to connect with children in conversation.
Refocusing involves getting each person to draw themselves on a white paper, and then they add to their picture in response to the question "Where is God for you right now?" You can carry on the drawing in response to other questions like "What does God want to give you?" What does God know about you, or like about you?" Drawing gets us all into a place of responding more truthfully as it bypasses the inhibiting part of our brain (so we don't just answer what we think people want to hear).
Play of Life involves creating scenes using playmobil figures. Each person has a side of a4 paper as their "stage" and they use the playmobil to create a scene- perhaps when they feel close to Jesus, or a time when they feel scared. Again after they've created their scene, we ask the question Jesus, where are you in the scene and they add a playmobil character in (if he's not already there)? then you can ask them questions about their scene, "What Does Jesus know? What does Jesus see? What does Jesus want to do? What do you want Jesus to do?" Be careful not to touch their scene as it becomes an extension of their person, and its very personal- an attempt to bring the inside out. Don't try to guess or interpret what their scene is about, simply ask open-ended questions and see where the conversation takes you.
These tools work really well with school aged children, and can open up all sorts of conversations about Jesus and faith and lead into incredible breakthrough and connection.
This is a selection of images from Family Encounter Space set up for both our church weekend away and in partnership with the wider churches of Loughborough. We had between 6-8 stations running simultaneoulsy at each event.
We ran this as a prayer space for our children's groups and then for families to visit together. Each space had a different theme, and allowed the children to be still, create, pray, listen to God, receive prophecy and allow their imaginations to be opened to the beauty of God's love for them.
We had a resources stall and a cafe space available on the Saturday we ran this for the town-wide churches, allowing families to reflect on what they had experienced during the morning.
The children and many adults were very receptive, however some of the adults needed more encouragement to engage and not chat around the outside! The more team you can have available to connect with adults and children and bring prophetic encouragement the better!
We have also used these stations individually during our Sunday gatherings alongside sung worship or as a response time.
The ideas are taken from Laura Griffis' "Kingdom Encounter" book.
(The photos of the adults receieving prayer are from the Kingdom Encounter Rooms at the CLA in Harrogate in 2014.)