One pastor spoke with me and shared how God was moving among the children of their church. “Our children are all praying to God. When they get together they just start praying it is so wonderful. They don’t want to come to Sunday school, they just want to pray! In fact we are even thinking of sending in a leader to find out what is going on with the children. It’s so powerful, it’s so exciting!”
He was excited, but I was not. I was grieved. Why did their children not want to attend Sunday School? Why were the Sunday School teachers not flowing with the move of the Holy Spirit? They even had to send in a leader to find out what was going on. Surely the leaders should have been their leading the children, not obstructing the flow of the Holy Spirit, but leading the children.
In another church God started to use the children in a powerful move as they prayed for the adults and saw much blessing and miracles through the prayers of the children. People were excited to see the children released and used by God. I asked a few questions: What preparation did the leaders give for God using the children in this way? What follow up did the leaders give to help further children in their discipleship after God had used them in this way? The answer to both questions was none.
In both these examples the leaders had abdicated their leadership over the children. We want God to move powerfully and supernaturally through our children. We want God to turn up so powerfully that all know He is present. However, my desire is not that God does this in spite of the leadership, but rather that God does it through the God-ordained leadership.
God has given us a spiritual responsibility to nurture and disciple the children of our churches. Many people are reluctant to take up the challenge, either believing that children need to wait until they are adults before they can be truly discipled, or hoping that God will come in and do all the work for them.
In our fast food, instant media, society many long for God to simply come in with a quick fix for discipleship. They long for God to move so that they don’t have to do any work. But the truth is there is no short cut to making disciples. It will require our time, our energy and our prayers.
So for the children who were moving in prayer, the leaders should have been encouraging the move of God and using it as an opportunity to nurture the children in prayer and teach them about prayer. The Holy Spirit’s emphasis was on prayer so the leaders’ emphasis should have been too. Then the children would have wanted to attend Sunday School and pray and learn together.
Instead of going in to find out what was happening the leaders should have been going in to nurture what was happening. Simple questions and encouragement after the prayer times could go along way. “It’s wonderful to see how God it using you as you pray as a group. Do you pray like this at home on your own.” The children may reply that they find it hard to pray like this at home – this is something the leader can encourage them in.
This was the model of the Silesian revival where the Holy Spirit was poured out on children and young people as they met to pray in their thousands. Many adults formed a circle around the children and joined their voices in prayer for the children and to bless what God was doing. They were active participators, not passive spectators.
The children who had been used to bless the adults could have learnt valuable lessons on humility and keys to being used by God. The testimonies of being used by God could have been consolidated and so used to help children realise the reality and power of God as they grow older. All of these opportunities, and more for personal discipleship were missed because the leaders abdicated their leadership and did not flow with the move of the Holy Spirit.
Getting this balance between allowing freedom for the Holy Spirit to do whatever He wants and at the same time continuing our role as leaders over the children may seem daunting. However, when we are led by the Spirit and seek His wisdom in our work the task will be easier.
We have a Biblical precedence set for us as to how we can act when God moves in power superseding our regular programmes. King Solomon and the people of Israel in dedicating the temple to God had a real God encounter.
At this time the Bible describes three groups of people. The Israelites, who were the general people, the priests, who were leaders in the temple and King Solomon who was the leader of the whole nation. 2 Chronicles 7 tells how God turns up so powerfully after King Solomon, the main leader, has prayed that the priests are no longer able to minister. Everyone spontaneously responds in worship as God’s presence is manifest.
What happens next? Does a member of the congregation get up to share his experience and lead the way – NO. Do the priests step into the gap – No. Does everyone simply drift off home – no. King Solomon himself, as the main leader, carries on the flow from where God leaves off. He maintains his leadership responsibility, not simply stepping back saying God you’re here so I’m off. Instead, he leads the way in responding to the move of God and in offering sacrifices to God. The people then follow his example.
Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God himself gave leaders to the body of Christ. We need to ensure that we respect and honour those leaders. God placed the leaders there and God desires to work through the leaders he has placed over us. As leaders over the children we need to ensure that we are leading the way in the things of God so that the children will follow our example.
It is a great honour to lead the children, be it as parent, church leader or friend. Let’s take our responsibility seriously, not abdicating our leadership but leading the children nearer to Jesus into his presence, looking for the next blowing of the wind of the Spirit into which we can thrust our children for their benefit.