Cell Leadership Development

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p Equipping Children in Cell Ministry

2015

From Joel Comiskey's book, Children in Cell Ministry (chapter 7)

“When you spoke about discipleship equipping, it all made sense,” one pastor told me. He sat through all of my PowerPoint presentations about the definition of a cell, cell church history, cell church principles, and even how to make the transition. The equipping, however, was the vital ingredient that made everything clear.

I had been coaching this pastor for several months, but his traditional view of church education hindered him from understanding how to make disciples who make disciples through specific equipping. This pastor, like so many others, was accustomed to promoting general Christian education on Sunday. It suddenly dawned on him that there was a major difference between education and equipping.

Education never ends. Equipping or training, on the other hand, touches specific skills and lasts a limited time. Neil F. McBride, a Christian educator who has written extensively about small groups, says,

Education is an expanding activity; starting with where a person is at, it provides concepts and information for developing broader perspectives and the foundations for making future analysis and decisions. On the other hand, training is a narrowing activity; given whatever a person’s present abilities are, it attempts to provide specific skills and the necessary understanding to apply those skills. The focus is on accomplishing a specific task or job (note 1).

McBride’s insight about equipping being a narrowing activity versus the lifetime process of education touches the nerve of discipleship equipping. The best equipping prepares the people to understand the gospel message, basic Christian doctrine, and how to lead a cell group. The process is called by a variety of names: equipping track, training track, school of leaders, or the equipping route. I prefer to use the term discipleship equipping because it clarifies the reason for the equipping: to make disciples who make disciples.

There’s one major problem. Most cell churches provide discipleship equipping for adults only. Children have to wait.

This is an understandable error. After all, equipped adults make better parents and can lead future cell groups. But is this pattern short sighted? I think so. The reality is that adults are already on their way out. They’ve lived a good portion of their lives. And many potential adult leaders are already busy and don’t have the time, energy, or desire to take the equipping or lead a cell group. Children, on the other hand, are moldable, willing, and have an entire life ahead of them.

Discipleship Equipping for Children

Discipleship equipping for children follows the same basic principles as equipping for adults:

  • One equipping. It is best to have one church-wide equipping that everyone is expected to go through (although adapted for various age levels).
  • Many ways to teach the one equipping. Some churches teach the equipping during the Sunday school hour; others primarily teach the equipping 30 minutes before the cell group, asking the leaders to take members through it. Others use retreat settings. Some use a combination of methods. In other words, there is a wide variety of ways to teach the equipping, and churches should be creative in helping people complete it (note 2).

The cell lesson is different from the discipleship equipping. People often assume the discipleship equipping is the same thing as the cell lesson and that the cell facilitator teaches the discipleship equipping during the cell group. However, the lesson and the equipping are two distinct entities:

  • The cell lesson: This is what the cell facilitator uses during the cell meeting. The lesson is normally based on the church’s weekly teaching and is comprised of questions that focus on application that leads to transformation.
  • The discipleship equipping: This uses a series of manuals with instruction in basic doctrine, evangelism, spiritual disciplines, and small group dynamics. It is taught separately from the cell meeting and normally takes a certain amount of time to complete.

The purpose of the cell lesson is to apply God’s Word to daily living and to evangelize non-Christians. The equipping, on the other hand, explains how to pray, read the Bible, have a devotional time, receive freedom from besetting sin, and other aspects of the Christian life, which are essential for discipleship. Although the equipping for children needs to be adapted for children, the basic components are the same.

Daphne Kirk’s Equipping

Daphne Kirk has dedicated her life to making sure that one generation equips the next one and that the process of discipleship continues until Jesus comes. She travels extensively around the world with her son Andrew and daughter Daniella, promoting the need to develop the next generation—before it’s too late (note 3). Daphne Kirk’s discipleship equipping for children is called, Living with Jesus. The equipping was written for parents to disciple their children, though the discipler is called a “special friend,” so this could be another adult. The themes of the equipping include:

  • Welcome to God’s family, introducing children to the body of Christ
  • Talking and listening, introducing children to hearing the voice of God
  • Staying protected, introducing children to spiritual warfare
  • What do we choose, introducing children to make kingdom choices
  • Having faith, introducing children to a life of faith
  • Strongholds, introducing children to strongholds, the soul, and freedom
  • Love for me and love for others, introducing children to the unconditional love of Jesus
  • Special times and gifts, introducing children to baptism, communion, and the Holy Spirit

The equipping books promote conversation and interaction, rather than one-way teaching. The goal is for one child to meet with one parent or adult once a week. The books are not devotionals but encourage parent and child interaction.

The purpose is to disciple the adult as well as the child. For example, many adults struggle with hearing the voice of God, so during the topic on hearing God’s voice, it can be a time for the parent to reflect on his or her relationship with Jesus. In each book, there is a section for the adult as well as the child to complete. One book covers approximately two months of instruction.

Daphne recommends that her books not be given to children to take home to their parents. Rather, they should be given to the adults during an introductory session of the equipping. The parents or adults, rather than the children, should be held accountable.

Along with her equipping, Daphne has prepared cell lesson material that corresponds with each equipping theme. The equipping and the lessons can be used independently of each other.

There are many ways to use Daphne’s equipping material. Daphne recommends a variety of training methods such as retreats, experiential teaching in a small setting, and one-on-one discipleship.

She recognizes that some children from Christian homes might know a lot while other children might be hearing about Jesus for the first time. For this reason, she recommends that a church analyze the needs of each child and implement the equipping to satisfy the needs.

Equipping at First Baptist Campo Grande

At FBCG, the equipping is taught every Tuesday night year round. In May 2015, there were fifty children under the age of twelve who were taking the equipping. The equipping topics include:

  • Bible doctrine
  • Spiritual growth
  • Baptism
  • Leadership principles
  • Evangelism
  • Missions
  • How to lead a cell group
  • Multiplication
  • Supervision (coaching)

Part of the equipping prepares children to be baptized and lead a cell group. After the equipping, those children who are leading children’s cell groups are coached on how to facilitate the lesson, ice breaker, prayer, and vision casting time. They are also coached personally to determine if they have personal needs, prayer requests, or problems in the group.

Isabella, for example, came from a non-Christian background. She received Jesus in an IG group and then asked her parents if she could come to the Tuesday night equipping in the church. Her non-Christian parents saw the positive changes in Isabella’s life and decided to take her to the Tuesday equipping. They were so impressed with what they saw that they continued to bring Isabella to both the cell group and the equipping.

Now those same parents have received Jesus, have been baptized, and are faithfully attending the church. Isabella also completed the equipping, was baptized, and eventually began to lead a CO group. Isabella is a serious Christian and is always asking what she should do with the lesson each week. She is not content with just hearing from others about the lesson. Rather, she tweaks it to fit her own cell group. She might even challenge her coaches on Tuesday night by saying, “I don’t think this will be good for my cell group. I don’t think I’ll use this part.”

Joel Comiskey’s Equipping

Most churches have an adult equipping which can also be adapted for children. This is true with my own equipping. I’ve written a five book series that takes a person from conversion all the way to facilitating a small group, or being part of a team. Each book contains eight lessons that are designed for interaction and practical application. The child being equipped should be involved in a cell group to get the most out of the teaching.

The first book is called Live. The first chapter, “Finding God,” explains how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. The subsequent chapters equip the believer to live a fruitful Christian life by explaining prayer, Scripture, Christian fellowship, receiving a new identity in Christ, obeying Christ’s commands, and administrating God’s resources. A child can both find Christ and grow in him by studying this book.

The next book is Encounter, which guides the child to receive freedom from sinful bondages. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). All people, including children, need this freedom. The book begins by teaching how forgiveness is the only way to overcome hurt and resentment. It then instructs the child on how to forgive and receive forgiveness. The book also shows the child how to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit and then to walk in the Spirit. The book can be used individually or in a retreat setting.

The third book, Grow, helps the child understand how to hear God’s voice, meditate on God’s Word, and practice the presence of God through worship. Grow explains how to have a daily quiet time in order to know Christ intimately and grow to maturity. Grow outlines how to seek God in the quiet time and explains the amazing benefits of experiencing God on a daily basis.

The fourth book, Share, describes how the gospel is the best news on the face of this earth. Children need to learn to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to classmates, neighbors, and family. This book also instructs the cell group on how to plan outreaches, pray for those who don’t know Jesus, and invite children to special cell activities.

The fifth book, Lead, prepares the child to eventually lead a cell group, explaining all the parts of a cell and what is required for cell leadership. It explains how to facilitate a cell and grow in the process. This book highlights key small group dynamics that will give the leader confidence in facilitating others (note 4).

Churches like City Harvest in Australia have effectively used my equipping with younger children. Crystal Dickson, a leader at City Harvest, has used my equipping with those between the ages of 10-15 years old. She wrote the following to our ministry:

This discipleship series has been working really well, and I’m nearly finished teaching the 5-book series. The girls that I am discipling just love the material. It’s written in easy to understand language, and they like the life stories and examples that relate to each lesson topic. One of the girls in my group was baptized a few weeks ago, because the Holy Spirit spoke to her as she was doing the lesson about baptism and communion from Book 1.

Churches might start by using a prepared equipping like my own with the goal of making their own material. It is critical, however, that children are also invited to participate in the equipping and that it’s not for adults only.

Lorna Jenkin’s Equipping

Lorna Jenkins developed an extensive discipleship equipping for children while working at FCBC. She believes that every church should have a discipleship equipping. She writes,

How can we bring children to Christ and then not teach them what the Christian life is all about and how to draw on the power of God in their own distressing lives? Many children are facing big problems of life, big fears, big situations and big temptations at a time when they have few spiritual tools to handle them. Even the parents are not always aware of the shadows their children are facing—especially in this world of cyberspace (note 5).

Jenkins’s equipping starts with young children with the hope that they will complete the equipping by the time they are twelve years old, although there is flexibility (note 6). Writing about her pioneer experience of equipping the children, she writes, “Preparing children through the equipping was one of the most effective things we did and the children loved it.” She continues,

If we are serious about leading our children into spiritual maturity and ministry, we need a systematic way of doing it. We cannot rely on a “hit or miss” methods. We need to define clearly what sort of maturity we want to see in the children, and then work out how to lead them there (note 7).

Lorna feels that the equipping is best run by the parents, rather than the church. The equipping gives the parents a set of guidelines to help the children in their path toward maturity. Lorna knows, however, that many parents feel inadequate in taking their children through the equipping and that the church plays an important role in both equipping the parents and those children from non-Christian homes.

For those children without Christian parents, Jenkins recommends that a sponsor is chosen who functions as a spiritual parent to guide the child through the equipping. In Appendix One, I’ve included a more extensive list of materials that Jenkins has developed and that she uses in each step. Here are the basic stages:

Stage One of the Equipping Track

  • Step 1. Decision time. During this step, the parents or sponsor guides the child to receive Jesus. The books Now I Follow Jesus and Treasure Hunt are used.
  • Step 2. Discovering the child’s spiritual experience. The parents or sponsor finds out how much the child knows about the Christian life. This stage includes discovering problems and bondages in the child’s life.
  • Step 3. Basic discipling. The child understands the implications of following Jesus. The parents or sponsor guide the child to become a disciple of Jesus by using the book Now I Follow Jesus.
  • Step 4. Daily time with God. The child learns how to know God through reading the Bible and other spiritual disciplines. The book Living Life Upside Down is used.

Stage Two of the Equipping Track

  • Step 1. Cell group participation. The child joins a cell group and begins to understand the importance of cell participation.
  • Step 2. Christian family values. Both parents and children are taught how to have family devotions together.
  • Step 3. Understanding and sharing the Lord’s supper. Children are taught to take the Lord’s supper with their parents in the cell group.
  • Step 4. Evangelism. The book Breaking the Barrier helps children to share their faith and to guide them in leading a person to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Stage Three of the Equipping Track

Usually a child is in the upper elementary years when starting this phase, although there are no hard and fast rules. These courses are offered by the staff in the church.

Step 1. Spiritual formation. This course covers key Christian truths on a more in-depth level. Baptism follows the course after completing the book, Spiritual Formation. The children discuss topics such as:

  • What is salvation?
  • Can we know we are saved?
  • What is baptism?
  • What does it mean to live in the Holy Spirit?
  • Identity in Christ
  • Stewardship
  • Worship
  • FCBC’s style of church and its vision

Before the course is finished, the child is asked to write out his or her testimony. The cell group must recommend the child for baptism.

Step 2. Sermon notes. Older children keep a notebook to record sermon notes. The kids share with the other children at the cell group what they have written down about the sermon. When the child has taken sermon notes for eight sermons, he or she has completed this step.

Step 3. Spiritual warfare. Children are taught about the realities of spiritual attack. The book Victory in Jesus is used. Topics include:

  • The nature of the battle
  • Spiritual realm
  • The armor of God
  • Dealing with temptation
  • Spiritual gifts
  • Ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Strategic prayer warfare

The children attend this class at the recommendation of the cell group.

Step 4. Bible overview. Many children know a lot of Bible stories, but they don’t know how the Bible comes together. In this course they are taught more systematically about the Bible.

Lorna Jenkins writes, “The vision of our children’s ministry is to produce children who attain full Christian maturity according to their age. Our goal is that they should be worship leaders, prayer warriors, evangelists, sponsors, team leaders, and ministry helpers. The equipping track is our means of achieving this goal” (note 8). Later reflecting on her years at FCBC, Lorna writes,

Looking back I can see the startling results in the lives of the children, who were mature Christians for their age and were practicing the Christian life and ministry by the time they were early teens. I have been back to Singapore two years ago and found many of those kids now grown up and taking leadership in the life of the church. They were “golden children” (note 9).

The Vine Church’s Equipping

The Vine Church has a constant need to prepare new leaders as they now have some 10,000 children’s cell groups and many of the new groups will be led by those who are now children. Along with developing the children in cell and celebration, the Vine also equips the children through their step-by-step discipleship equipping.

First, they ask the children to go to a three-day Encounter retreat. The children at the Vine start going to the Encounter when they are seven years old. These Encounters start on Friday and finish on Sunday afternoon. They take place every weekend in the mother church. Many are transformed, receive prophetic words, and even speak in tongues. After the Encounter, the children continue to receive discipleship through the weekly cell and celebration.

When the child is twelve, he or she can be baptized in water and continue taking the normal equipping course, which is called the Winner’s Path:

  • Encounter retreat
  • Living Water course
  • Baptism
  • Consolidation course
  • Spiritual maturity course
  • Leaders training course

The Vine Church doesn’t rush baptism. They want to make sure the child is ready. They realize that some parents wrongfully rush their children into baptism on the erroneous assumption that the children might otherwise be eternally lost. The Vine believes, however, that baptism should only be for those who can understand the commitment that is involved. Those in the equipping finish the process when they are teenagers, and are then ready to lead a cell group when they turn sixteen years old.

Key Principles When Equipping Children

Discipleship equipping for children varies from church to church, depending on doctrine, denomination, and values. Equipping also varies with regard to methodology (e.g., variety of Encounter retreats, one-on-one, classroom instruction, and so forth). Yet there are important principles that should be kept in mind when ministering to children.

Storytelling

Ministry to children needs to be based squarely on God’s Word with the goal of transformation, rather than simply information. But how is that best done? How can we make the Bible relevant to children?

Storytelling is one of the best ways to teach children, and there are a lot of stories in the Bible. In fact, God loves stories. Christian educators, Choun and Lawson note,

In doing the work of the church, Christians today usually preach sermons and provide answers. Jesus, on the other hand, told stories and asked questions. To his listeners, the setting and situations he described were familiar. His probing questions led listeners to think about each lesson’s application to their own lives (note 10).

Like Jesus, children love to hear and tell stories. I remember how my own children would love to hear my mother weave a story together that would have my kids enthralled. They just listened and marveled at how their grandmother could tell a story about them but with other names and characters and always bring it back to a moral principle. When they became older, such stories didn’t hold the same magic, but when they were younger, they couldn’t get enough stories from their grandmother.

C. S. Lewis had such a significant impact on children because he realized that children love to explore the make-believe world, and Lewis excelled at crafting creative stories that won over their imagination and kept them coming back for more. Ivy Beckwith writes,

I don’t know for sure why God gave us all these stories, but I suspect it has something to do with the way we human beings are created. God knew there was something in the human spirit that could relate to, inhabit, and be transformed by stories, even stories conceived thousands of years before in dramatically different cultures from those of the hearers. And I think God gave us stories because God wants us to know God’s essence and to fall in love with God. I don’t know about you, but it is far easier for me to fall in love with a character in a story than with an exhortation or list of theological propositions about that character. I think God wanted to capture our imaginations, and the way to capture most people’s imaginations is through a good story (note 11).

I found myself weeping recently as I read the story of Joseph in Genesis when he revealed himself to his brothers. I felt so deeply when Jacob, the father with his own troubled life, embraced Joseph after thinking he was dead for so many years. Stories have a powerful way of gripping us deeply and revealing important lessons that mere propositional truth rarely penetrates.

Once the teacher tells a story based on Scripture, it’s also important to lead the children to make a simple conclusion about what they have learned. They need to reflect on the story, hear what they received from the story, and then determine how it applies to their lives. God is working in the lives of children to help them to process God’s truth in their lives. We need to allow them to process those thoughts and apply God’s Word to their lives right now.

It’s important that the listeners are comfortable and can clearly see the person telling the story. Younger listeners tend to creep up on the teacher during the story. An intimacy will be established between teller and listener by eye contact and interaction. To preserve this, keep the group small and keep smaller listeners up front (note 12).

Storytelling is not just about stories from the Bible, but it also refers to personal testimony. We need to freely share what God has done in our own lives, and this speaks deeply to children as well. Beckwith says, “We need to allow space for children to explore the story in ways that are meaningful to them” (note 13). Some of my fondest memories were having personal devotions with my kids. I loved that time so much because I was able to share my “story” and then to make sure each of them had time to talk about what they learned from Scripture and what they needed prayer for.

Action

Children unravel a lot of who they are through spontaneous play. We might view them as whittling away their time with idle play, but those spontaneous role playing times are critical in their learning about life and applying knowledge they receive from others. Evelyn M. R. Johnson and Bobbie Bower write,

A great privilege of childhood is spontaneous play. It is a powerful vehicle to help children understand their world. It helps children reduce stress, sort out life’s relationships, and practice emerging skills and abilities. Adults often see play as opportunities to escape the responsibilities and reality of life. For children, play is their life. The power to play, without guilt, is the one part of childhood that adults often regret losing (note 14).

Children constantly acquire new experiences and find satisfaction and meaning in play, games, sports, performance, laughter, the senses, the imagination, personal growth, and learning (note 15). Play is also the way children process their inner fears and conflicts, including that innate fear of the power of adults.

They cannot work out their fears intellectually but often do so through play. Verbal processing doesn’t work for children as it does for adults. Their verbal expression is not yet deep enough or extensive enough to handle the job. They don’t have a broad range of knowledge and observation upon which to draw. So they dramatize their conflicts, then bring them under control—enact them and then vanquish them. Play is hard work (note 16). David Cohen and Stephen A. MacKeith write,

Children spend a great deal of their time playing. Some, but not all, play involves imaginative acts. Pretend play in which children act out a variety of often swiftly changing roles is the most obvious form of creative play (note 17).

Often their play seems disorganized, but to them it’s perfectly natural. Childhood is unique in that there is much more new information generated from experience than there is old information that has been acquired from experience. Assimilation and accommodation are much more complex processes during childhood than during adulthood (note 18). Children generate this new information as they play with their friends. It’s a fascinating time of adventure and exploration of new territory. Wes Haystead writes, “The most effective way for a child to learn is through firsthand experiences” (note 19).

Life explodes around a child, and they experience every minute of it. In comparison, adults are boring. Notice this dialogue about doing “nothing” from the perspective of a child:

We went home and when somebody said, “Where were you?” we said, “out,” and when somebody said, “What were you doing until this hour of the night?” we said, as always, “Nothing.”

But about this doing nothing: we swung on swings. We went for walks. We lay on our backs in backyards and chewed grass . . .

We watched things: we watched people build houses, we watched men fix cars, we watched each other patch bicycle tires with rubber bands . . .

We sat in boxes; we sat under porches; we sat on roofs; we sat on limbs of trees.

We stood on boards over excavations; we stood on tops of piles of leaves; we stood under rain dripping from the eaves; we stood up to our ears in snow.

We looked at things like knives and jimmies and pig nuts and grasshoppers and clouds and dogs and people.

We skipped and hopped and jumped. Not going anywhere—just skipping and hopping and jumping and galloping.

We sang and whistled and hummed and screamed. We did a lot of nothing (note 20).

What we think is a lot of “nothing” in the life of a child is really a world exploding with excitement and adventure. Children can make castles in the sand and adventure in an asphalt playground. They love to dance, talk, eat, and laugh. What adults might think of as “nothing” can be a dream world for children.

Knowing this will help leaders remember that children delight in experiencing Christ’s teaching through play-acting. As much as possible, help them to interact with the teaching through role playing.

I remember when my children were young, they could dramatize anything, and they loved to perform in front of others. I was amazed at their creativity and role playing ability. They didn’t understand details about detective work, but they were ready to become Sherlock Holmes through role playing. Yet as I reflect back on many of those occasions, I now realize that they were learning valuable lessons and solidifying knowledge. They never would have been able to do this by taking notes in a classroom or reflecting on what they learned in a group. Diana Shmukler writes,

Not only do children need time and opportunity, but they also need wealth of content for their fantasy play. As such, a second requirement is the availability of a variety of materials in the form of stories told, books and playthings which increase the likelihood that the material presented to the child will be sufficiently interesting and novel to engage and hold their interest and attention with pleasure. Children also need an environment that is not too structured or well-ordered so they can develop great flexibility in using the material at hand (note 21).

We need to feed their dreams and encourage their play. After teaching a Bible story, it’s a good idea to allow the children to act it out. Giving them this opportunity will help them achieve a balance between inner and outer experience and provide an important sense of self-esteem. As Diana Shmukler notes,

By its very nature, play demands that children use their potential to combine experiences into organized, yet flexible schemes. It is thus a powerful adjunct to early educational preventive and therapeutic procedures and, as such, should be central in any preschool activity (note 22).

Wise teachers explain the Bible stories but then allow the children to internalize the message through play acting. And this can take place in cell, celebration, as well as discipleship equipping.

Spirituality

Some act as if spirituality is reserved only for adults. But what about children? Are they spiritual as well? Actually, spirituality comes quite naturally for children, whereas adults often struggle more in the area of spirituality. Child researcher, Rebecca Nye, believes that children have an advantage when it comes to spirituality because they have a more holistic way of seeing things; they don’t analyze as much, so their perception has a more mystical quality (note 23).

George Müller, the builder of the famous Christian orphan houses of Bristol, England, in the nineteenth century, is an example of a person who took seriously the spirituality of children. Muller engaged in prayer for revival among the children. In January and February, 1860, a mighty wave of the Holy Spirit’s power swept over the institution. It began among the little girls, from six to nine years old, then extended to the older girls, and then to the boys, until, more than two hundred were seeking after God and finding peace with him.

The young converts at once asked to hold prayer meetings among themselves, and many began to pray for others. Out of the seven hundred orphans, some 260 were converted or in a “hopeful state.” The record indicates that these kids did not merely confess “I want to be baptized,” but they had a faith that was based on a genuine experience with the Spirit of God. They quickly put that faith into action on behalf of other children. Sadly, some adults might minimize a child’s tears of repentance, thinking the child doesn’t have much to repent from.

Ralph Neighbour remembers a story from the 1990s when Lorna Jenkins directed the children’s cells at FCBC. A man came in a wheel chair, asking for prayer. The adults prayed fervently for him, without any observable healing. The adults drifted into the kitchen for refreshments, leaving the man and an 8-year-old girl behind. The child stared at the man and finally said, “Well, why don’t you get up and walk?” The Spirit of God fell on him at that moment and he rose up and walked into the kitchen. Astonished, the adults asked, “What happened?” “It was the little girl! She told me to walk.” When the adults queried the girl, she simply said, “Well, you all prayed for him. So I just told him to walk because he was healed” (note 24).

However we choose to define spirituality, we know that children have a lot of it. They are very blessed with the capacity to be sensitive to God. They are open to what God would say to them, and they are willing to listen and obey (note 25). Those leading children in cell ministry or teaching them in the discipleship equipping should get the children involved in praying for one another, listening to the voice of God, speaking out what they hear, and evangelizing those who don’t know Jesus.

Get R.E.A.L.

Children say what they feel and act out what they say. They exemplify authenticity and genuine transparency. This is how God made them. When teaching children, the acronym REAL goes a long way in learning what works with children:

Relational: Children can be friends with anyone. This is their nature. Most adults observing children interacting with their close friends can easily see these special bonds in action. The best teachers enjoy the relational interaction with children and transmit this loving vitality in their teaching.

Experiential: Children love hands-on learning. They love to be involved in their learning. I remember doing finger painting in Mrs. Westcott’s class in kindergarten. It involved all of me, and I relished the experience. I felt the same exhilaration working with the building blocks or playing on the playground. The best teachers, in fact, stimulate the children to experience the teaching through role playing, coloring, creating their own stories, worship, prayer, and so forth. Experiences stir the creative energy in children as well as solidifying the biblical teaching.

Applicable: Apply the lesson to the child’s real world. Long, boring “exegetical” teaching just doesn’t work with kids. They need to see what you’re doing. Become an actor. Live your teaching message. I remember in Bible school we had an instructor named Alban Douglas. He was the favorite teacher in the school because he acted out his lessons. He would dramatize Old Testament stories to make sure we felt and could imagine what actually happened back then. The goal was always application. Of course, we were adult Bible students. How much more important for children to see, experience, and apply biblical truth.

Learner based: Base your teaching around the learners, not the teachers. Think about their interests, their learning styles, and their attention spans. Children are remarkably sensitive to the expressions of the human voice. By the time they reach school age, most children can imitate the melody of anger, of fear, of delight, and of many other emotions. (note 26).

Working with children is a wonderful experience because they live in God’s realm—the realm of joy and creativity. Make sure that the teaching in the cell, equipping, and celebration is full of life, interaction, and hands-on learning.

Endnotes

  1. Neal F. McBride, How to Build a Small-Groups Ministry (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1995), p. 128.
  2. I’ve seen churches teach the equipping one-on-one, one-on-two or -three, equipping after the cell group meeting, equipping during Sunday school hour, seminars, retreats, or a combination of all of them.
  3. Daphne has written best-selling books on the theme of generation to generation equipping and intergenerational cell groups. Check out her resources here: http://www.daphnekirk.org/
  4. Equipping cell leaders is a common feature in all cell churches. My book, Leadership Explosion (Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 2000) explains the entire process. My own equipping consists of five books, Live, Encounter, Grow, Share, and Lead and can be purchased at www.joelcomiskeygroup.com or by calling 1-888-511-9995.
  5. Personal email sent to me on Friday, July 3, 2015.
  6. If you are interested in obtaining Lorna Jenkin’s material, please contact Dorcas Li at dorcas.li@gfi-singapore.org or dorcasli@singnet.com.sg . After FCBC became a G 12 church, they stopped using Jenkin’s material but adopted the material from Cesar Castellano’s church. However after many years, FCBC has now brought back many equipping track books that were written by Lorna Jenkins and successfully used for many years. Those books have been reprinted by Growing Families International, Singapore.
  7. Lorna Jenkins, Shouting in the Temple: A Radical Look at Children’s Ministry, p. 223.
  8. Lorna Jenkins, Shouting in the Temple: A Radical Look at Children’s Ministry, p.237.
  9. Personal email sent to me on Friday, July 3, 2015.
  10. Robert J. Choun and Michael S. Lawson, The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Children’s Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), p. 260.
  11. Ivy Beckwith, Formational Children’s Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2010), p. 24.
  12. Robert J. Choun and Michael S. Lawson, The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Children’s Ministry, p. 261.
  13. Ivy Beckwith, Formational Children’s Ministry, p. 35.
  14. Evelyn M. R. Johnson & Bobbie Bower, Building a Great Children’s Ministry, Lyle E. Schaller, editor (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1992), p. 21.
  15. Thomas W. Attig, “Respecting Bereaved Children and Adolescents,” Beyond the Innocence of Childhood, Volume 3, David W. Adams and Eleanor J. Deveau, editors (Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, 1995), p. 46.
  16. Dr. Paul Warren and Dr. Frank Minirth, Things That Go Bump in The Night (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), p. 63.
  17. David Cohen and Stephen A. MacKeith, The Development of Imagination: The Private Worlds of Childhood (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 10.
  18. Delmont Morrison, “The Child’s First Ways,” Organizing Early Experience, Delmont Morrison, editor (Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, 1988), p. 10.
  19. Wes Haystead, Teaching Your Child about God: You Can’t Begin Too Soon (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1974), p. 57.
  20. R. P. Smith, “Where Did You Go?” “Out.” “What Did You Do?” “Nothing” (New York: Norton, 1957), pp. 70-71, 97-98.
  21. Diana Shmukler, “Imagination and Creativity in Childhood: The Influence of the Family,” Organizing Early Experience, Delmont Morrison, editor (Amityville, New York: Baywood Publishing Company, 1988), p. 88.
  22. Ibid., p. 88.
  23. Rebecca Nye (2011-12-07). Children’s Spirituality (What It Is and Why It Matters) (Kindle Locations 280-282). Hymns Ancient and Modern, Ltd. Kindle edition.
  24. Ralph Neighbour, “Avoiding Pitfalls in Children’s Ministry,” blogpost on October 20, 2013 on Joel Comiskey Group.
  25. Rebecca Nye (2011-12-07). Children’s Spirituality (What It Is and Why It Matters) (Kindle Locations 229-240). Hymns Ancient and Modern, Ltd. Kindle edition.
  26. Mary VanderGoot, Helping Children Grow Healthy Emotions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), p. 50.