Yesterday, I worked together with my five-year old daughter to set up a little prayer station in our house. My wife and I got the idea from her school, which uses a lot of hands-on activities that teach kids about spirituality.
I’ve always been a little skeptical of creating ritualistic prayer spaces because I want kids to know that they can pray anywhere, anytime, all the time.
But, I went ahead and tried this prayer corner idea and I was amazed at how excited my daughter got about it. There was something tangible she could do and touch while she did something that is very deep, abstract, and invisible. Truth be told, my wife and I got excited about praying at the prayer station too. As adults, we often treat prayer as a perfunctory chore. But this prayer station helps touch the human senses in ways that provides concrete metaphors for unseen realities.
So far, it has done wonders for us in terms of reminding us to pray and as a gathering point for our family to joyfully pray together.
Here’s what we did:
- We got a glass plate and a miniature clear glass jar (like a small Mason jar).
- We found some smooth decorative rocks that we had in a drawer. For you, these could be any kind of rocks. We call them the “prayer rocks.”
- We placed the prayer rocks around the jar on the plate.
- We found a battery-powered votive candle (that you can get at any hobby/craft store) and placed it on one end of the plate.
- We explained the idea to our daughter and allowed her to to choose a spot in the house to put the prayer station.
Here’s the way to use it:
- Whenever anyone wants to, they can go to the prayer station for as long or as short of a time they like. You can go alone or with someone else. It is always voluntary. And it should never be something we “show off” to look spiritual (Matthew 6:5-6).
- Light the votive candle.
- Grab a rock and say a prayer. There is nothing magical or spiritual in the rock. But it can help us focus and act as reminder that God hears our every little prayer. The rock can also be a symbol that God is our rock and our foundation. The prayer can be either silent or out loud. You can take whatever posture you like.
- Drop the prayer rock in the jar and stay as long as you like. There’s something about the sound of the glass bead rocks in the glass jar that adds a sort of song to the prayer.
- Turn off the votive candle.
- When the jar is full or the all the rocks are used up, re-set the rocks to the original position of being spread around the empty jar. Before you re-set it, take in the sight of the full jar as a reminder of all the prayers that God has heard and His faithfulness to answer.
If you try this, I would encourage you to put your own spin or family personality on this station. Also, though we haven’t added the following yet, I think it would be helpful to have some prayers on hand nearby in a drawer if someone wants to pray a pre-written prayer (either from Scripture or a good prayer book). You could also frame the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and place it at the prayer station.
This could also easily be turned into a Worship Response Station for large groups at church or at camp. You could set up tables with small rocks all over them. Have the kids say a prayer and then place (not throw 🙂 the rocks in a wooden bowl or a similar type of container.
I still firmly believe in prayer as something we can do anywhere and anytime (John 4:21-24). But even Jesus spoke of the prayer closet (Matthew 6:6) and he himself had the Garden of Gethsemane (“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives” – Luke 22:39). So why not create a Gethsemane in our homes for our families, the very foundational place of spiritual growth for our children?
Want more ideas for crafts and stations for children’s ministry in the church and in the home? Sign up for my free monthly e-newsletter here.
Here’s the file of the image:
In my previous post, I shared about a large group game idea called “Super Bible Trivia.” I wanted to follow that up with a few practical tips that help us share the wonder of God’s Word with children. Here are a few ways that we as leaders can help bring to light the joy of reading and studying God’s Word.
- One place to start is to explain that the Bible is indeed God’s message to us (“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16, NIV).
- Use Bibles that are in an easy to read translation. There are many publishers who now make Bible versions for all age and reading levels. There are also Bibles out there with stunning visuals and graphics (even comic book Bibles and magazine Bibles).
- Show kids that the Bible is not a boring book of old fashioned stories. Show them the thrilling narratives of the Bible, including the lesser known stories. Some kids think they have heard it all. They think that once they know Noah’s Ark and David defeating Goliath then they know it all. Ask them if they know about the sword that got swallowed up into the gut of a king on the toilet (Judges 3). Or see if they know the story of the woman who nailed a man’s head to the ground with a tent stake (the very next chapter: Judges 4). Kids love these stories if you tell them.
- Of course, all these stories lead up to or look back to the apex of The Story, which is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Show the kids how the Old Testament points ahead towards the cross (see Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, for just two of many examples of clear Christological prophecies).
What are some ways that you instill a joy and fascination for God’s Word in the hearts of children? What have you learned about God’s Word from children?
I’ve played a fun game with large groups of kids over the years that I call “Super Bible Trivia!” This contestant-driven stage quiz game is more of a staged drama than an actual serious quiz game. But it is set up so that the kids think it is a normal quiz game at first. Don’t worry, they’ll all pick up on the fun and join along pretty quickly. The goal is to get kids excited about the Bible.
Remember that this game is just a tool. Ultimately, I believe the Holy Spirit instills in us a joy for God’s Word – by God’s grace. God’s Word is exciting in and of itself. We don’t need to make it exciting. I do believe, however, in creatively facilitating activities that foster a love for God’s Word.
Basically, it is a quiz show with two contestants from the audience who have to answer a series of questions. Pick a boy and a girl and tell them they are playing for the boys and the girls, respectively. The groups can shout out answers to their contestant.
The first question is a countdown of the most read books over the last fifty years (from 10 to 1). Most kids will not know the top ten list, so they will just stand there confused as you ask for each ranking and then read the answers off (keep reading below for the list of questions I use).
Finally, you ask them “What is the best selling book of all time in the history of the world?” They may give you a blank look again. Or some kids may answer, “the Bible!” Either way, when you finally confirm the right answer (the Bible), you jump all over the place and have adult leaders as cheerleaders running all over the place with lights and noisemakers going off.
After a great deal of celebrating, you return to the game for the next question. At this point, the answer to every question is “the Bible.” After the first few questions, the contestants see the pattern and start laughing along as you ask more questions. Whenever they answer, “the Bible,” you and the other leaders start going crazy and cheering for the answer. Eventually, all the kids will get into the celebrating of each answer as well. You can have as much fun as you can handle!
If you want to have a surprise ending, make the final question (after 8 more questions where the answer is “the Bible”) something like, “What is the longest story book ever written?” (saying “story” eliminates encyclopedias and the like). The kids will probably say, “the Bible.” But that is incorrect. It is actually In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Then you can finish off by saying, “But that book is not nearly as great as…… the Bible!!!!!”
It makes for a lot of fun and noise. The idea is not to make fun of the Bible, but rather the opposite: to have fun getting super excited about the Bible. It is a great lead-in for a lesson about God’s Word and its importance in our daily lives and in the scope of eternity.
So here are the quiz questions:
- What are the top ten most read books over the last fifty years? Note: go through the list individually, which each ranking being one question. Here is the source of the list I’m using for this.
- What book is actually a collection of 66 books and is considered God’s Word to us?
- What book has been translated (at least in part) into nearly three thousand languages, which is far more than any other book on the planet?
- On what book do presidents place their right hand when they take the oath of office in the United States?
- What is the primary object that is meant to be placed in a pulpit when a pastor is preaching?
- What can be found in the nightstand drawer of thousands of hotels across the country?
- What ancient book has the most number of ancient copies still in existence today?
- How do you pronounce these five letters when put together into an English word: B-I-B-L-E?
- Video Question! (show a slide of a picture of a Bible and ask the kids to name what they see).
- What is the longest story book ever written? (answer is NOT the Bible – but rather In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust). But again, you can finish off by saying, “But that book is not nearly as great as…… the Bible!!!!!”
Have fun and let me know how it goes. In my next post, I’ll list out some practical ideas on how to get kids excited about God’s Word (that are not game related).
By the way, I later discovered that there is a website by the same name (Super Bible Trivia) that is a great resource for Bible Trivia questions. My game idea is not related to that website, but I would still highly recommend that site. You can try out their quizzes here.
Want more ideas for games to use in Children’s Ministry settings? Sign up for my free newsletter here.
Need a speaker/entertainer for your next outreach or retreat? That’s what I do full time! Check out my availability here.
My daughter was making a zoo with blocks and her little plastic animals. I figured, “Why don’t we just make a Noah’s Ark since we have all these animals?” I’m not the most crafty person in the world, but I know how to cut cardboard boxes. So I started cutting up an Amazon shipping box. Her imagination did the rest! She proudly drew the windows. She loves it!
The great thing about crafts with kids is that it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece! It’s clearly a rectangular box and is not the stylish boat shape you see in great art. But five year olds don’t care! They just want to play with friends and family and use their God-given imaginations. We adults could learn a thing or two from that.
Payoff: Fun, stimulated imaginations, opportunity to share a faith story and its meaning with my daughter.
I recently stumbled upon a fast and free way to make Scripture slides for Children’s Ministry (or any other ministry, for that matter) with an array of free and attractive backgrounds.
And it may already be in your phone/device.
It’s built into one of the popular apps out there – the free YouVersion app of the Bible (they’re not paying me to post this, btw 🙂 I just really like this feature and want to share about it).
I was using the app recently and saw a button I had never seen before. So I clicked on it. What I found was amazing. It was an option to make an image of any selected Bible verse over any background of your choice (your own or from their library). The settings make it easy to change the font, the font size, the colors, etc. Below are some steps and pics to show you how to do it.
- First, download the app. Search “youversion” on your app store.
- Once you familiarize yourself with how to find a certain verse (which is intuitive), select a verse by tapping it. It will underline the verse with a dotted line and then give you a selection of options on the right.
- Then tap on the orange button (of a photograph), which will lead you through the step-by-step editing process.
- Once you have your slide, share it as you like! See the images below for a more detailed look at how it works.
Then you can share the image by email, message, or social media. You can also save the image to your device and hence drop it into any slide show you are making (such as Keynote or ProPresenter).
I love to use it to share a quick verse on social media or as a slide when I’m speaking or teaching about the Bible. It’s super easy to use and best of all, it’s free!
Bonus: Many of the most popular Bible verses (John 3:16, for example) have special pre-made images with artsy fonts and backgrounds. Those are fun to discover and you just have to stumble upon them when you go to those verses and then go to this “edit image” process.
Want more creative ideas for Children’s and Family Ministry? Sign up for my free newsletter here.
Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.
Here are some slides I’ve made since I found out about this……
Please don’t think that I love dark and dismal things like plagues. They really are pretty negative. Biblically speaking, they were real judgements carried out on lots of people, ultimately leading to death for many.
Thankfully, we are separated by centuries from these ten plagues described in the book of Exodus. That is enough separation of time for me to feel free to use some creative object lessons to help kids remember the story and ultimately – the main point (which has to do with Jesus Christ).
So we had a little fun in re-telling the story. Here’s what I did with each of the plagues to help the kids learn and remember them:
- Blood (the Nile turned to blood): I lined the kids up behind a trash can. They each came up with a popsicle stick and a small cup of water. They then dipped the stick (representing Aaron’s staff) into a bottle of red food coloring and transferred the stick to the water. And whahlah: the water turns to blood. We did it right over the trash can so they could throw it all away immediately since red food coloring tends to make some serious stains (like blood 🙂
- Frogs – I juggled some stuffed frogs and then threw them at the kids. If you don’t know how to juggle, that’s fine. You can just toss stuffed animal frogs at them!
- Gnats – I sprinkled pepper on a child’s arm.
- Flies – I brought out my fly swatter and pretended to swat all the flies around me.
- Livestock – I juggled some stuffed animals (cow, sheep, horse) and then threw them at the kids. Feel free to skip the juggling part again.
- Boils – I put dozens of stickers all over the skin of a volunteer kid (face, arms, neck, etc.).
- Hail – I threw marshmallows at the kids: first small ones, then jumbo ones; this was by far their favorite plague.
- Locusts – no object lesson here, I just told the story (I guess I needed an object lesson break 🙂
- Darkness – I gave all the kids blindfolds and they blindfolded themselves; then I gave them simple commands like waving their hands in front of their faces; from that we discussed how difficult life can be when you can’t see anything (and pitch darkness over a whole city can cause a great deal of havoc).
- Firstborn/Passover – I painted some red paint on a piece of wood and spoke about the angel of darkness passing over the homes of the people with the lamb’s blood over their doorstep; I also had all the kids lay down and pretend like they were sleeping – then we pretended it was morning and all the first-born children had to stay down while the others could wake up; it was a good visual of how some kids made it and others did not; I also gave them some unleavened bread to eat.
This then led to the most important part of all – the fact that Jesus is the Lamb of God. And his blood was shed so that we can be set free (as Moses and the Israelites were set free after the Passover). I explained to the kids that I do not think it was a coincidence that Jesus died on the cross at the end of Passover week the year he died. That was the week that Jewish people celebrated the exodus into the wilderness and the angel “passing over” any homes with the lamb’s blood. So also should we have the lamb’s blood (i.e. a relationship with Jesus Christ) and that is the only way we believe we can be free from the judgement of God due to sin.
Want more lesson ideas for Children’s Ministry? Sign up for my free newsletter here and I’ll keep you in the loop for my best free resource ideas and materials!
This is a question I have pondered for some time now, especially since recently visiting Israel. You would think that all the fighting over the Levant throughout history would make this land pretty unholy. Another way of looking at it is to say the land is fought over so often because too many mutually exclusive groups render the land so holy.
“Holy” means “sacred” or “set apart”, most often referring to the divine. My dilemma as a Christian visiting the “Holy” Land and calling it such is that I wonder if we “over-holy” these geographical locations.
Let me say up front that I do believe that the land we currently call Israel and Palestine will play some sort of special role in the unfolding of last things (eschatology). Just read the beautiful prophecy about the river of life flowing from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea in Ezekiel 47 to see what I mean.
But that does not mean I think the land should be militarily taken in order to help hasten the end times (the Crusaders tried that centuries ago and their campaigns were NOT the Church’s brightest moments in history). On the contrary, I believe that according to Jesus, we live in a time where the locality of God’s divine presence is juxtapositioned differently than the times of the Old Testament.
Here are the words of Jesus himself to the Samaritan woman in John 4:
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24 NIV).
Christians flock to the Holy Land, and have done so for centuries. I believe it is a trip well worth the time and resources. But what I get out of it is not feeling closer to God because I feel like the land gets me closer to Him. God is omnipresent, and His “temple” is no longer a bricks and mortar place on some mountain, but rather the hearts of people around the world – from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
So I do not think the land of Israel/Palestine is any more holy than Fargo, North Dakota. God is holy, and we can worship God and connect with Him anywhere and everywhere, including Israel.
What I do get out of visiting Israel as a Christian is a deeper appreciation for the historical settings of the Bible and Middle Eastern history. That in turn helps me to read the Bible in color rather than just black and white, which in turn does help me connect with God in devotion and relationship. It helps me understand the culture/faith of Judaism, which is the root of Christianity (by the way, Christianity can also be called the Jewish Messianic Movement). And it helps me better understand the various people groups who currently live in the Middle East and how they interrelate with one another.
So I would recommend visiting the land of the Bible. But don’t expect God to pop out of the earth while you’re over there. You don’t have to travel that far to find God in your life. He’s at work in your own city. Visit the land of the Bible and let it deepen your understanding of history and today, thus drawing you closer to God in that particular way.
Just last week, we returned from our 10-year wedding anniversary trip to Israel and the West Bank. Most of our time was spent in Israel proper, but we did get a chance to see Bethlehem and Herodian, which are in the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank. I was here 13 years ago for school and since that time, they have built an enormous barrier wall (and are still building) between Israel and Palestine. The political and social ramifications of “The Wall” are enormous and can be positive or negative depending on who you talk to, but that’s a bit much to get into right now…
Sarah, Kezzie, and I explored the country on foot and with a rental car, a Bible, a guidebook, and LOTS of water. It was a vacation/pilgrimmage for us. And it was a thrill to show my family around to the places I once lived and studied in years ago. We also did some new things that I never did when I was here before, including learning about new archaeological finds over the past decade – namely the tomb of King Herod the Great (now on display at The Israel Museum) and the foundations of King David’s Palace at the City of David.
I will publish more posts about our trip as the days and weeks go by, but I will mention one thing to start in this post. And that is the difference between historical sites and traditional sites in Israel/Palestine. This is an important distinction to know for anyone visiting the Middle East (or any other part of the world that displays history, for that matter).
A historical site is a geographical location that verifiably marks an actual point/place where something once happened in history. A traditional site is a geographical location that marks a historical event, but it may or may not be the actual place where it happened (often the location is just a guess or a site that has traditionally marked an event).
For example, there are two main sites that remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and The Garden Tomb. These two sites are less than a kilometer apart, but they cannot both be the location of the resurrection. Historically and archaeologically speaking, the actual site is probably the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But the Garden Tomb traditionally marks the event, even though historical research has shown that it it highly unlikely to be the right location. In my opinion, The Garden Tomb is a more peaceful, tranquil garden-like atmosphere that gives you a better feel for the setting of the resurrection narrative. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been built over with centuries of layers of buildings, not to mention the volatile power-struggles among custodial church groups.
And there are plenty of examples of this all over Israel. It is good to know if you are at an actual historical spot or just at a place where people remember a particular event. There is the Inn of the Good Samaritan on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Tour busses flock to it. The only problem? The only place we learn about this inn in the Bible is in a parable, which is an metaphorical story – not a real actual event. So that would be another type of traditional spot as opposed to historical.
Delilah was a sell-out to the Philistines. Like Judas, she accepted money in exchange for betraying someone very close to her. But I recently discovered a detail that blows my mind about the story of Samson.
The Philistines offered Delilah the equivalent of 15 MILLION dollars in today’s money (see the IVP OT Bible Background Commentary by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas).
Delilah assured the Philistines she would find out the elusive secret to Samson’s strength. After three failed attempts, Delilah finally nagged Samson to death and he gave in and told her that his long hair brought him strength.
This is what’s known as a king’s ransom. Israel had no kings, so the judges were the top rulers (Samson ruled Israel as judge for 20 years). The Philistines were willing to pay top dollar to wipe out their destructive enemy.
Of course, she cut his hair, he lost his strength, the Philistines hauled him away, and made him a slave with his eyes gouged out. But then his hair grew back and he took down their temple during a big party, taking out a couple thousand Philistines along with himself. We never find out what happened to Delilah nor whether she was even paid for her services.
So we give Delilah a bad reputation. And though I’m not justifying her actions, I wonder, could I have turned down 15 million dollars? Could you?
We give people in the Bible a hard time for their decisions, but they were humans just as much as you and I are humans.