Give children the time and space to laugh together, remember God’s faithfulness, and celebrate His work in their lives!
Life can be incredibly full and busy. In the past I have often found myself moving through the events of my days, weeks, and months focused on the future. What’s the next event? What’s the next program that needs my attention? How is what I’m doing today setting me up for tomorrow’s plans?
This can especially be true for intense seasons of ministry to children and families. There are always lessons to be prepared; volunteers to recruit, train, and schedule; special events to coordinate; families that could use extra encouragement; administrative tasks galore; and meetings upon meetings. We make our “To Do” lists and push onto the next thing.
Rarely did I pause. Rarely did I take time to remember, to reflect on my own life, let alone celebrate God’s faithfulness in my ministry. I trusted Him in the day-to-day planning, but I wasn’t recognizing His great work.
Then I started teaching Tru.
There are so many things about Tru lessons that I love: teaching through redemptive history; helping children learn to respond in worship; and blessing the children in our ministries. However, my favorite portion of Tru has become the Remember & Celebrate lessons.
Twice each quarter, on the 6th and 13th weeks, the lessons call us as God’s people to pause and reflect. To remember what we’ve learned about God and celebrate His faithfulness! It’s not a time to reteach lessons, rather the kids share what God has been teaching them.
Each Remember & Celebrate lesson begins with sections similar to regular lessons. There are Explore options to engage kids and help prepare them for the day. There is also a time for Traditions and a Connect Question. These are great ways to energize and connect kids.
Then, the remembering begins! In TruStory, each Remember & Celebrate lesson includes a crazy fun gamed called ZONK! There are usually 12 questions that are either multiple choice or true and false. These questions cover the lessons from the past five weeks. The kids love this game! They get so excited by the challenge to remember what they’ve learned and build friendships.
There are several ways to play ZONK! Instructions to build a ZONK! Wheel are included in the TruStory How It Works document. A very simple version works well for us; I print out the ZONK! Questions and play in a game-show type format. I divide the kids into two teams, usually boys vs. girls. Then I ask a team a question. If they get the answer wrong, the other team has the opportunity to steal the question. When a team answers correctly, the answering person comes forward to draw a card out of a box. These cards are labeled with points or challenges that the whole team must complete to win points. There are also blank ZONK! cards that cause the team to lose all of their points. There can be yelling and cheering, quiet thought, and a lot of laughter with ZONK!
After taking time to remember through ZONK!, we move to a quieter time of celebrating how God has been working in our lives. I bring back worship response pieces or Create/Engage projects from our previous weeks’ lessons to recall experiences with God. I invite kids to share what God was saying to them then or now.
We wrap up with the campfire. I love summer evenings gathered around a campfire with family and friends, sharing stories and laughing. The idea here is the same: children gather as a faith community and share with each other the ways God has been revealing Himself in their lives.
I like to create a special environment for this by dimming the lights and at times I have used the provided campfire video on a screen. Recently I purchased a small, simulated campfire that blows a realistic-looking flame. (It’s not hot, but the kids love it!)
I often ask questions to prompt the kids’ conversations. Usually a younger child will start, often with a story of how they fell and hurt themselves. I continue to ask questions like, “Did you sense God was near to you? Did Jesus come to your mind when you were hurting? Did you feel calmed by His presence? Ultimately, did He heal you?”
One of our greatest stories around the campfire came from a fifth grader this past year. He told us how he had prayed and prayed for his older brother who has several disabilities. One of the disabilities caused him to have a facial tick. The fifth grader continued to pray for his brother. He then shared how one day the ticks just stopped. No more. With no reason. The doctors were even confused as to how this happened. This fifth-grade boy acknowledged that he knew without a doubt this was the work of a very real God who answers prayers in a very real way. He then declared boldly, “Jesus is healer!”
I have come to treasure these moments, seeing young children sharing what Jesus is doing in their lives and proclaiming His power. Children are completely capable of hearing from God and responding to Him in faith. As we give them the time and space to do so, Christ is being formed in them and they are responding in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is awe inspiring to see the way Jesus loves His children and chooses to move in and through them.
As much as I love seeing this in children, our small group leaders have been transformed by this display of God as well. They were amazed at the stories young children told and the ways they recognized Jesus in their lives. Our small group leaders began to look forward to Remember & Celebrate just as much as the children.
After seeing the wonder on the faces of our small group leaders, I wanted our entire faith community to also experience this amazing display of God’s goodness. We are blessed to be in a faith community that values all ages, all growing, all the time. Anytime we can find opportunities to connect across the generations, we do so. Over the past year I have been given the freedom to utilize Remember & Celebrate for our whole congregation.
As with any new endeavor, there were some missteps. One time we played ZONK! with just the kids and the adults felt like it was more of a show to watch. They zoned out and had conversations among themselves instead of witnessing what God was doing among the children. I was very frustrated. I felt like I failed our church, our staff, our children, and God. Then I listened. What our faith community really wanted was to participate. Even though they weren’t certain of everything that was happening, they wanted to be a part of what they could see God doing.
So as a staff, we prayed. We listened. We reimagined. Instead of walking away we leaned in. We trusted the Holy Spirit as He whispered to us to keep going. We created smaller ZONK! games to happen simultaneously around our gym. There was so much laughter! We listened to stories, from all ages, of how God was active and present in our lives. We danced to worship songs that drew us together. We joined as a family of families to remember and celebrate how faithful God has been, is, and will continue to be.
As we move into a new season of ministry, we already have three all-church Remember & Celebrate Sundays on the calendar. These Sundays have drawn all ages closer together as we build relationships between the generations. We feel connected to each other and to what God desires for us. It has also given us a common language—a shared identity—to use in our faith community.
As you move forward with Tru in your ministry, you may be tempted to skip over Remember & Celebrate lessons. I understand we all have different rhythms within our faith communities and sometimes adjustments will need to be made. When I’m in conversations with other practitioners, I always encourage them to practice Remember & Celebrate. If you give everyone space and lean into what may feel like an awkward situation at first, God will honor it. The Holy Spirit will instruct you. And the love and presence of Jesus will overwhelm you.
Giving children this time and space to laugh together, remember God’s faithfulness, and celebrate His work in their lives is incredible. Through their own experiences with the living God, children are making their faith their own and understanding their place in The Big God Story. They are learning to pause to remember and celebrate God. As they continue to grow and embrace this practice, I trust that God will continue to bless this time they dedicate to Him. I pray the same for you, that you will be overwhelmed with God’s goodness as you remember and celebrate all that He is.