Children and Teenagers
The Work with Children and Teenagers
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 19:14)
And Jesus said to them, “… Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” (Mat. 21:16)
An extraordinary work involving the children is underway in the Maranatha churches. Such work is an additional evidence of God’s power and wisdom, besides demonstrating the importance of hearing the Lord speak to the church through the spiritual gifts. If the church leaders were not hearing “what the Spirit says to the churches” in a clear way, this work would never be carried out.
It all began in the mid nineties, when the Lord revealed to the church that He wanted to do something new with the children. In those days we already had regular Sunday School classes in all Maranatha churches, and the pastors thought that the work with children had already reached a satisfactory level.
The Lord then gave us a revelation that surprised us all: “the children are today’s church”, that is, they are the present of the church. Well, we all had learned that the children were the future church, not the present. The question then arose: “what is the reach of this revelation, and what does it represent in practice?
The First Orientations
When the Lord revealed that He had a special project for the children, and that a serious and deep work should be developed among them, He also showed that the Sunday School teachers, with the help of the pastors, should work with the children in a way that was different from what was traditionally done in the Protestant and Pentecostal churches.
The teachers should now transmit to the children more substantial teachings on the basic Biblical doctrines, always using as a basis the lives of Biblical characters. They should clearly teach the children about the salvation that we have in the Lord Jesus, including the meaning of eternal life and of eternal condemnation.
They should also teach about the baptism with the Holy Spirit and a life of sanctification and obedience to the Lord. Moreover, they should teach the children to use the means of grace (prayer, reading the Bible, plead the blood of Jesus) so that they could defend themselves from the oppressions and dangers of this world.
All that seemed particularly difficult because the Lord showed that such teachings should be transmitted not only to older children, but to all children of ages 3 and above. All of them needed to have an experience with the reality of the living Jesus, Who loves the children and is ready to answer their prayers.
In those days the believers thought that the children, in particular the little ones, were unable to understand these lessons, and that it was impossible to retain their attention during the whole Sunday School class. For that reason, the teachers spent most of the children’s time on activities such as drawing and coloring what they drew. The purpose of the Sunday School activities for the little children was mainly to keep them entertained and prevent them from disturbed the adults during the service.
Great was our surprise, therefore, when the children began to understand the classes, got interested, started to enjoy Sunday School and to put into practice the teachings they received on their day to day lives. The children began to surprise their parents, demonstrating sometimes more sensitivity to heed the Lord’s will than the adults themselves. They began to experience victories through prayer in their daily struggles.
Participation in the Services
The Lord oriented, from the start, that the children should come to the regular church services. However, they should no longer sleep on their mother’s lap, but should participate actively in the services, praying, singing praises and hearing the messages. The pastors were then oriented to recognize the children’s presence in the services, looking at them and addressing the message also to them.
But so that we could follow that orientation, we needed not only to teach the children, but most of all teach the parents and the Sunday School teachers. Children and parents needed to be convinced of the importance of the presence of the children in the services, because they would receive a blessing even in regular services (those where there are no Sunday School classes). Secondly, they needed to understand that the Lord was pleased with the children’s praises during the services. For that purposes the children should sit on the front pews with the Sunday School teachers, who would not invite them to sleep on their laps, but would instead encourage them to praise the Lord with prayers and songs.
At the end of the services, during the time of assistance to those present (believers and visitors), the pastors and workers should be ready to give assistance also to the children, praying individually for those who requested assistance. The children then began to ask regularly for prayer concerning their needs (problems at home, in school, illnesses, etc.). The church should represent for the children a “nest of love”, where they would find security, esteem, love and support in their needs.
The immediate result was that the children’s faith grew, they felt important in the church, began to appreciate more the services and the fellowship with the body of believers, and began to obtain answers to the intercessions made on their behalf during the time of assistance after the services. Moreover, they learned how to behave at the services as worshipers, no longer being oblivious to what went on around them. All that contributed to increase their security, which is important in order to face victoriously the struggles of this world (households in shambles amidst strife, violent peers in school, incomprehension from teachers, etc.).
Obs.: This task was made easy by the fact that the regular services in the Maranatha churches are short in duration, although frequent.
Testimony and Visitors
The Lord also showed that the children should be instructed to boldly give their testimony concerning the love and the salvation that we have in the Lord Jesus to their friends, colleagues, neighbors and relatives. The children understood this teaching and began to practice it. All our church members were surprised with their boldness to testify about the Lord Jesus not only to relatives and friends but also in school, to their colleagues, teachers and even school principals.
As a result, the Lord began to bring to our regular church services children of all ages, whose parents were not believers, who were invited by their friends, neighbors or relatives. These children began to have experiences of salvation with the Lord Jesus. After receiving salvation, they began to testify of the Lord Jesus to their parents who, in turn, started to come to church and eventually become Christians.
The Lord then oriented that, in a certain month of the year, the whole church would cooperate with the children in the evangelism they would conduct. The youth and the adults would be praying and fasting during that month so that the children could testify about Jesus and invite their acquaintances to an evangelistic service at the end of the month. This would be the “Month of the Evangelization of the Children”.
The church had very little expectations as to the success of this work the first time we obeyed that orientation. Great was our surprise, therefore, when the churches received the largest number of visitors ever observed in evangelistic services. The children surpassed the adults in the ability to bring visitors to the churches. During that first evangelization conducted by the children, in some churches the majority of the members had to stand up during the service so that there could be seats available for the visitors.
From that point onwards, we realized that the children had become the main “evangelists” in the church. No more had we doubts about their ability to testify of the Lord Jesus and bring visitors to church. Once again the Lord’s revelation surprised us all!
Because the children were well trained to obey their teachers (this happened with the support of parents who were spiritual and sensible), the Lord was able to orient – and He did it next – the organization of Great Meetings for the teaching of God’s Word to the children. Thousands of children got together for such meetings in several cities of the country, for a purely spiritual event.
Great was our surprise when we observed, first of all, that the children behaved in an orderly fashion, since they had learned to respect their teachers, heeding their orientations.
All was now in place for the last orientation the Lord God gave us for the work with the children: the organization of Great Evangelistic Meetings. The children would invite hundreds and even thousands of visitors for these meetings, depending on the number of churches involved in each opportunity – which depended on the sizes of the auditoriums or sports stadiums available for these events.
The children responded with interest, seriousness and dedication, inviting a very large number of visitors, who came to the meetings and were touched by the Holy Spirit. As an immediate result, many visitors accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior and began to come the church, attending the services and eventually becoming defined for the Lord.
The excellent behavior of the children and their involvement in these great meetings has been an extraordinary testimony for the non-Christian visitors – both adults and children alike. Several are the testimonies of visitors who are touched when they hear the children praising in perfect discipline during those meetings.
During a Great Meeting of the Maranatha church in a soccer stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on April 21, 2006, where about 100.000 people were assembled, something unusual took place: we had a message about the Creation, addressed to thousands of children present, who responded with attention, interest and participation. It was an unforgettable experience; it was also the culmination of a long process during which it was confirmed that it has not “… entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” (I Cor. 2:9-10).
In order to convey a more precise idea of the multifaceted operation of the Holy Spirit among the children, a number of testimonies are described next. Most of them took place recently in Brazil.
|1. A 3-year-old girl heard the testimony of a believer and asked her father to take her to church. The father said no. The girl began to cry and to insist that the father take her. He was moved and decided to grant her request. He went to church with his daughter, attended the service and received a great blessing. Afterwards, he began to come to the services regularly.|
|2. At the end of a service a visitor was crying. When a worker came to assist him, he said: “I am very touched because today God spoke to me through the children’s praise. This was a wonderful service. I’m leaving this place with joy in my heart”.|
|3. An intermediate (belonging to the class for children aged from 7 to 10), on his way home, told a friend: “I am going to throw the seed now”. Upon arrival at home, he delivered to his father an invitation for the special evangelistic service. When the service started his parents were present. The boy told his Sunday School teacher: “I threw the seed and my parents came to the service”. The parents enjoyed the church very much and promised to return.|
|4. When the children were on the streets distributing invitations, one of them saw a man, gave him an invitation and asked him to come to church. The man asked whether it was necessary to pay to come to church, and the child replied: “You don’t need to pay anything. Jesus has already paid everything for you. Everything is free”.|
|5. An 8-year-old child gave an invitation to a boy on the street. A friend of this boy came near and said that he also wanted an invitation to go to church. The child gave one to him and said: “You don’t need this paper to enter our church, but to enter eternity we need a passport.” The boy got interested in the subject and asked: “What do I do to get this passport?” The child answered: “Go to church and accept Jesus in your heart. That’s all. Jesus is the passport”. At night the boy was in the service and asked for prayer for his life.|
|6. A child invited an adult saying: “Today we have a celebration in my church”. The man got impressed with the child’s faith and accepted the invitation. At the end of the service he looked for the child and said: “It was indeed a great celebration”. The child replied: “We have these celebrations every day”. The man left church bringing with him an experience with the Lord.|
|7. A boy called Matthew heard a serenade sung on the street by the children. He decided to go to church that same day and continued to come to the services. He then came to a deacon and said: “Could you do a serenade for my parents? I wanted to give them an invitation”. His parents were not believers. The deacon promised to have the serenade done. On the following day, the children went to Matthew’s house for the serenade. While they sang, he gave the invitation to his parents who were listening to the serenade by the window. Both went to church that same day.|
|8. A 7-year-old boy accepted the invitation to go to an evangelistic service. He later went to a Maanaim (place for seminars) and was amazed with the praises sung to the Lord. He said that when he heard a hymn about God’s Word, “The Precious Seed”, he felt his heart accelerate and his desire was to go out to sing it to every one. He has never since left the church.|
|9. When the children and adolescents went out one day to do a serenade, they stopped in front of a house right when an argument was taking place inside between the husband and the wife. The teachers were not sure what to do, but the Lord revealed to them that they should go ahead with the serenade. When they sang the hymns, a lady came to the window weeping and said: “You came at the right time, when I most needed. Husband and wife received the invitation and went to the service. Both started to come regularly to church and the Lord began to restore their relationship.|
|10. During a serenade in front of the house of a child that had visited our church, the parents, who were in the process of divorce, heard the songs and the Lord touched their lives. After that day, both started to come to church regularly.|
|11. The Lord revealed one Sunday, in the Sunday School, that a child would come to the evening service who had a problem in the legs that made walking difficult. The Lord also revealed that He had a special blessing for that child. During the evening service, a child who was visiting asked for prayer, saying that at a younger age, her mother had dropped her on the floor, which affected her legs. The child had been carried to the service by the father because of that problem. After receiving prayer, the child left the church walking, and said: “I feel like God has blessed me in this church”.|
|12. The parents of a 5-year-old child all of a sudden noticed that the she was missing. They started to look for her throughout the house. When they opened the bedroom, they found her kneeling and praying with the Bible on her hands. The parents asked what she was doing and the reply was: “There are lots of people who need prayer”.|
|13. Before a service, somebody shared a dream showing a child who was very sad because her father had abandoned the family. In the dream, the Lord revealed that He would be taking care of the child all of her days. When the dream was told at the end of the service, a girl named Keila, who was visiting the church for the first time, began to cry, and when she was assisted, she said: “My dad tried to kill my mom. He shot her, hitting her in the leg, left the house and has never returned. I miss him, but God will take care of me”.|
|14. During the evangelization of March 2005 in Vitória, there were so many converts among the children as a result of the evangelistic service at the end of the month that there was no space in the existing churches to accommodate them. The pastors then decided to rent two large rooms in the neighborhood where they lived, in order to start two new churches with these children. They did so and started one church with 60 children and another with 40 children. A few months later, in October, when a great evangelization was conducted in a local auditorium, the children of the first church brought 150 visitors in 3 buses that had to be rented by the pastors!|
|15. A child of about 10 years of age was passing in front of a church during a service and was invited to come in by the worker who was at the door. He came in, sat down and listened to the entire message, which was based on the parable of the sower. Having understood about the difference between the types of soil, he child asked for prayer at the end and told the worker that came to assist him: “My heart is like the good soil. I want to follow Jesus”. Upon returning home, the child repeated the whole message to his parents, and told them that his heart was good soil and that he had decided to follow Jesus. Finally, he invited his parents to come to the service in “his” church the next Sunday. His parents accepted the invitation, and on that same day accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior.|
|16. A 4-year-old girl, returning home from Sunday School, spoke about the class to her father and asked: “Dad, are you profane?” Her father was rather surprised and asked: “What do you mean, dear?” She replied: “Dou you drink alcoholic drinks, do you curse, etc.” The father then complained to his wife: “See what they have been teaching her in this church!” The girl then said: “Dad, you need to come to my church, you need Jesus”. The father answered: “I will go one day”. But the girl said: “No, you need to go tonight!” He did not agree at first, but the girl insisted so much that he ended up promising to go that evening. Towards the end of the afternoon the girl came to him: “Shall we go to the service?” They did, and the man was touched by the Lord and became a Christian.|