Call a sacred assembly;
Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes; (Joel 2:15-16)
I had not heard a pastor tell a congregation that children should be expected to learn the Word of God like they are expected to learn math and grammar. This well-known leader in North Carolina smashed my paradigm that children were too young to understand the same lessons that their parents learn in adult services. Adult services. That too is a misnomer when it comes to the intent of God for each generation of his people.
I understand the point of the typical children’s ministry. Introduce the kids to salvation, the birth and death of Jesus Christ, and concepts like the fruit of the Spirit in a fun-filled way. That’s great. However, the ministries that I’ve come to respect teach children deeper truths that some adults never even get in “adult services”. When God called for a general assembly in Joel 2, he meant for all to hear the sound of his voice.
My sheep hear my voice. (John 10:27)
Samuel was a child who heard the voice of God.
David was a teenager who sensed the call of God to be a warrior-intercessor.
Jesus was twelve and taught in the temple.
The unborn John the Baptist leaped at the presence of His unborn Savior.
Later in verse 28 of Joel, God says that he intends to pour out the Holy Spirit on all flesh. Not just humans above the age of eighteen or who have divinity degrees. All flesh. What does this look like? The prophet Joel goes on to tell what God speaks to him: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.”
God is still speaking, confirming his Word to individual hearts in a variety of communicative ways. Whether visual, a gut impression or a still, small voice, God leads and guides all of his children into all truth.
My eight-year-old son woke up this morning ready to share an array of dramatic dreams. One, in particular, caught my attention. He was walking around someone’s house, telling the enemy to get out. What was remarkable was that he knew that the enemies weren’t people, but spiritual forces that the people who lived in the house couldn’t see.
I told him that I believed God was letting him know that even though he is young, God’s authority is with him because he believes in Jesus and Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). I told him that evil spirits want to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Lastly, I was able to share with him that God has given him compassion. Jesus cared so much about people that he was compelled to free them from the things that harmed their lives. My son was able to make the connection between his dream and those scriptures. This is a child who dealt for a long time with fear. I know that God wants him to know and be confident in divine power and the force of faith and compassion and what a way to do it….a dream!
Whether a church encourages children to attend the general service or not is irrelevant. What is crucial is that ministries and parents understand that a child doesn’t have to be only given the milk of the Word until high school. While I’ve focused on the topic of hearing God’s voice, there are many other meaty subjects in the Word of God that children can be taught.
Jesus wants the children to know Him. Not just a portion, but the whole of Him. Not just his character, but his power and authority. Jesus is the Word. The Word declared from the mouth of a worshipping child carries power.