When you take a look at Scripture, Tommy Larson begins, you see some incredible responses to God’s power and provision. Take Exodus 15 for example, when Moses and the Israelites were escaping from Egypt. After God closes the Red Sea on Pharoah and his army, God’s people break into a song. It couldn’t have been pre-written because it was about their experiences at that moment. Take a look:
“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.
4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The deep waters have covered them;
they sank to the depths like a stone.
Tommy jokes with the audience, “There was even some special music! If you check out a few verses later, Miriam grabs a tambourine and has a little solo!” He explains further, the Israelites experienced something so miraculous and powerful that day that they had to respond.
Does that happen to us today?
Tommy shares a little of his story with us:
“My wife and I got married a little later in life. I was thirty-three and people were breathing down my neck like you wouldn’t believe. Well, when we got married we decided we wanted to start a family, but it didn’t go like we expected. We struggled, we went to doctors, we took tests, we prayed. It was a very hard time. It was almost a shameful thing. And it was really hard for my wife. We had been prayed for a number of times, but one time in particular was really special. I could just sense God’s power and it really united us as a couple. We decided to go see the specialist again. We made an appointment for Monday. Well, my wife thought she better take a test before we went, so Friday she took one that we had got in some kit or packet (you know, the free kind!). It was really faint. I thought, ‘Another negative’. The next day, I was in meetings, so my phone was off. She was home by herself, so she decided to get one of those tests that have words on them! She took the test and it was positive. Pregnant! She said she just kept going from room to room, not knowing exactly what to do (and we only had a two bedroom condo!). Then, she just felt compelled to drop to her knees and worship God. It was like she didn’t have a choice. She experienced something so miraculous and powerful that she had to respond.”
Of course, Tommy and his wife instantly fell in love with their little boy, James. (Look at that kid, who wouldn’t?)It was amazing. Almost beyond understanding. Think in your mind about the person you love the most and then… think that GOD loves YOU so much more than that. The way you look at your little one is the way He looks at you. Amazing.
But, we don’t always get those “miracle” moments. So how do we worship God in the midst of everyday circumstances?
Colossians 1:15-20 talks about the supremacy of Christ and how “He holds all things together”. All things. Sometimes I feel like life is spinning out of control and I only have one life (plus the kids!) to take care of. Can you imagine holding all the things of the world together? God’s supremacy is amazing. It deserves worship.
Sometimes we forget to pause in the midst of life and worship God for WHO HE IS. For His goodness. For His supremacy. Instead we worship other things. Tommy challenged the audience to take worship beyond the church service. To worship at home through prayer.
Response Time for the Kids
After reminding the audience to walk what they talk, Tommy shifted gears to talk more about the Response stations that are part of the Tru curriculum. He affirmed that God can speak to children. If God can talk to ravens (1 Kings 17:1-3) and they listen, surely God can speak to children as well.
He shares a story about his beloved son James. Modeling is one of the environments promoted in Spiritual Parenting, so Tommy brings little James (who is now 2 years old) into the sanctuary at the end of service in order to sing and worship together as a family. He remembers looking down and seeing James, with his hands lifted high, following the lead of all the people around him. Perhaps he doesn’t understand everything, but he’s getting there through modeling.
We wanted to create environments where kids could be still and hear God. Here’s a few of the stations:
Prayer Wall (uses clothespins)
Since we began using these Respond times, it’s amazing how the prayers have changed. We used to get a lot of “my goldfish died” or “my cat is sick”. Now, here’s a few I just took from the prayer wall:
- Lord, please soften my dad’s heart and help him to know that he is loved.
- Lord, thank you for giving me the perfect body – I’m just who you want me to be.
- Help me to be a true Christian. Some of the kids at school are using mean words. I don’t want to be like that.
I am just amazed at what has happened when we stepped back and waited for the Holy Spirit to do his thing. Tommy told of a time when they wanted the kids to praise God for who He is. We wanted to get out of the way and allow God to move, so we asked the question, “What do you love about God?” and then we waited. It was complete silence – for almost a minute, which you know is long time for Children’s Ministry! Then suddenly, one girl stood up and then another kid, and then another and suddenly there was an explosion of praise in the room.
As Tommy recounted this story, I was fighting back tears. That’s what I want for our kids. A genuine encounter with God.
How can kids hear from God?
Tommy shared something one of the kids said: “I hear from God like when I’m praying and a word will come into my head and I know God wants me to be THAT word…like kind or patient.”
That’s really cool. That’s the story I want to be part of. God’s story.
Another cool thing Rock Harbor church does is during Kids Worship Team practice. After practicing the songs, they use the last 20 minutes and take prayers from the prayer wall and prayer over them. Then, the kids sign them and return them to the prayer wall. It’s really when kids come back in and see that their peers had taken the time to pray for them.
Question and Answer Time
Q: How long is your respond time?
A: Usually around 5-7 minutes for the elementary kids.
Q: Sometimes in the curriculum, there are other options listed for the Respond. How do we use these? Should we replace the regular stations?
A: We have a few constant stations – journaling, art, prayer wall, but then occasional we’ll add a station for a week or two if the curriculum suggests it. Then kids will have a few extra options.
Q: You talked about Worship Team practice – can you tell us more about that?
A: We have a team of 3rd, 4th, 5th graders — they have to collect references and have an interview process, just like the adults. Now, we let all the kids do it, but we might have to work with them a little bit to make sure their heart is in the right place first. During the 1st Tuesday, we practice the month’s upcoming songs. We do some educating — like what does it mean to worship? Then we spend some time praying for others at the end.
Q: When do you take the prayers down off the Prayer wall?
A: We clear the board at every Remember and Celebrate – so during week #6 and #13.
Q: What about preschool? Do you have permanent stations for them?
A: No, we use those at key times. Otherwise, stuff would be everywhere and they would really lose their meaning. So we bring them out when appropriate and then put them away again.
Q: What happens up front during up front during Respond time?
A: A slower song with happen up front during Respond time so the kids can respond in worship to the story they just heard. If kids feel led, they can go to different stations around the room, but not everyone wants to go do a station. Leaders can also go to the stations at this time so they can either model the response or pray over the kids.
Just remember, the freeing part is that you CANNOT transform these kids. That’s not our job. We can create the environment and then let the Holy Spirit do his job. Model the response. Pray for these kids. And then, get out of the way.
p.s. Diane and Mikayla, it was great sitting next to you ladies!
* This post was part of a live blogging series that took place at David C. Cook’s The Gathering 2012 *