Prayer Counseling in Children’s Ministry
In a previous post, I explained the idea of worship response stations and their use in ministry to children. I am going to unpack each station in a series of posts, starting with the prayer station.
The Bible teaches us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so I believe prayer is essential to Children’s Ministry – before, during, and after worship services. I’d like to look at ways to use prayer during worship services with kids – specifically when used as a response to the hearing and teaching of God’s Word.
Most of us are familiar with the traditional “altar call” prayer station. This is where the teacher/preacher speaks and then calls people forward for prayer, either en masse to pray with the preacher or to receive individual prayer from pre-selected prayer counselors. The focus of the prayer is usually related to the points of the message, whether a call to follow Jesus or for healing or for God’s strength to overcome a challenge in life, etc.
There is also the method of having people pray in their seats after the message with no call to get up and receive prayer. And some pastors simply tell people to seek out a leader after the service if they have questions or a request for prayer (sometimes with prayer counselors waiting in a particular location, like the front of the sanctuary or in a prayer room somewhere else in the church).
There are many other ways to incorporate prayer as a way of response to the message. But here is the way we did it at camp a few weeks ago:
I preached the message and then closed by inviting the kids to come forward for prayer if they wanted to respond to the message. I had about half a dozen prayer counselors ready and they came forward before the kids so the kids could find one of them. I encouraged all the kids that if they saw a friend come forward for prayer that they were welcome to join that friend and stand beside them in prayer. I also mentioned to the many adults in the room that if they saw their own child (whether in their own family or in their cabin group) and wanted to stand beside them in prayer that they were also welcome to do so.
The worship band came on stage and began leading everyone else in some slower paced worship songs. After about one song, I opened up the entire room to all of the many worship response stations, sometimes having a large group prayer to ask God to prepare us and speak to us during the worship response stations.
The prayer counseling station then stayed open as one of many response station options. Kids took advantage of it at various points throughout the entire response time. Even adults (including myself) took advantage of it.
And that leads me to the next thing we tried with the prayer station – the “kids pray for adults” station. I think it was one of the kids that suggested it to me and I thought it was brilliant. I had led something similar before when I was a Children’s Pastor at a Tuesday night prayer meeting that was led by kids. The idea is so simple and incredibly life-changing.
So on the second night of these worship response stations, I opened up the “kids pray for adults” station. It was separate from the “adults pray for kids” station, which was still there. I told the kids about it and said that any kid who wanted to pray for adults could come work the station and be available to pray for any adult that came forward for such prayer.
We had a few dozen kids come to the station and they stood there ready to pray throughout the worship response time. I even encouraged some of the girls who were there for a long time to go try some of the other stations. They said they wanted to keep working the prayer station. Of course I let them, since all the stations were optional and had no time limits.
I then encouraged adults to come receive prayer from a child. One man told me it was the highlight of his week – as he came back to the station for prayer five times in one night. Here is why I think this station is so powerful:
1. It humbles us adults to hear the prayers of a child.
2. Children pray very sincere, concise, heartfelt prayers. They are not like us adults who pray like the Pharisees with prayers to sound super-spiritual that go on and on.
3. Children pray with childlike faith, which is the model of faith Jesus teaches us to have (Luke 18:17; Mark 10:13-16). Don’t you want prayer from someone with strong faith? Then have a child pray for you.
4. It empowers children and it is our way of telling them that they are as much a part of God’s family as adults and have just as much (if not, more) to contribute to the Kingdom of God and ministry to others.
It is this last point – about empowering children by letting them use their spiritual gifts – that I think we most often get wrong in Children’s Ministry. We usually view Children’s Ministry as the time for us adults to download information into the brains and hearts of kids. But Jesus told us to be like children in our faith. So why don’t we more often let kids teach us and give them opportunities to use their gifts and bless both adults and other children? It goes against our intuition, but so also does the Gospel of grace.
Let the children come to Jesus – and let them pray!