God wants every child filled with His presence; many times this occurs during the altar service. Many children’s pastors believe that these God-encounters should only occur during the altar service in the “big church,” not in children’s church. Yet, Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me,” and “God is spirit and his worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
If you’ve been hesitant about offering an altar service, I want to empower you! Creating a respectful familiarity enables kids to approach God at a young age, an experience that will last throughout his or her life.
What You Should Do
- Establish a regular time for the altar service. Kids will know they’ll have the opportunity to visit the altar each week.
- Create a worshipful atmosphere. I like playing soft instrumental music. You could also dim the lights a little or light a special candle to signify the beginning of the altar time.
- Instruct non-participants to respect others. Don’t make kids feel guilty for hanging back do insist that they allow others to approach God without discouragement.
- Direct the activity but allow God to lead. Teach kids to pray for one another or ask helpers to pray with kids. Don’t limit how God wants to minister to his little ones. Tell kids they can sit, stand or kneel.
- Prepare prayerfully all week for the altar service. Nothing happens without spiritual preparation. In my experience, a dynamic altar ministry begins way before the actual service.
- Allow kids to testify afterwards about what God has done, when appropriate. Don’t put words in a child’s mouth. Allow them to express how they feel or what God may have spoken to them.
- Let kids linger around the altar if they so desire to.
- End with a closing prayer and blessing. Pray a blessing over your children and close with love.
- Have volunteers keep non-participants quiet during this portion of the service. The less distractions the better.
What You Should Avoid
- Don’t manipulate kids into making a decision for God. Coercion is not a scriptural motivator.
- Don’t touch children too much during the altar service. Kids are easily distracted, especially if twenty pairs of hands are laying on them.
- Skip the prayer formulas. Rely on the presentation of the lesson to give kids a lead into the altar service. However, it is good to give a verbal, simple explanation.
- Don’t confuse kids with church lingo. Keep your language kids friendly.
Balance the teaching of your children’s class with the moving of God’s Spirit and watch your kids grow in God!