In this insightful interview with one of the foremost children’s ministry revivalists and mentors, we will discuss a variety of topics about The State of Children’s Ministry in the Church.
You can contact our guest, Becky Fischer, at Kids in Ministry International at this link.
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Tamera: I am so excited today to have my special guest. She’s an Apostolic minister, a writer, a public speaker, a graphic artist, and the founder and director of Kids in Ministry International. She’s been in children’s ministry over 30 years and has ministered in 29 nations. She’s made appearances in places like Good Morning America, CNN Primetime, and Chrisma magazine.
I am just so excited to welcome Becky Fischer. I met Becky at a Focus Conference where we were both teaching about leading children into the presence of God and felt an immediate connection with her. Becky, I feel like we’re kindred spirits.
Becky: We really are I was thinking about that too the very first year that you came to Focus and when we discovered that we were teaching almost identical workshops. At first, I was a little startled. I thought how is this gonna work, but then I just realized the more voices that are out there saying the same thing, the more impact that we’re going to have, so yes there’s got to be more more of us who are are talking about these types of things, ’cause it’s just not the norm.
Tamera: Absolutely, and there sure enough classes on how to have zany games, discipline, and how to teach Bible stories, and all of that stuff, so there needs to be more voices out there about teaching children to operate on the Holy Spirit.
Becky: Absolutely, it’s really a strange thing because I have had the opportunity to minister in a wide variety of Pentecostal/charismatic churches, not just in the United states but around the world, and what we’re talking about right now is almost nonexistent in the church. In fact I have a school that I called the School of Supernatural Children’s Ministry, and after our students graduate I ask them to send in a testimony. How did you like to school? What impact did you see? I thought these statements were very revealing.
This came from one of my students that said, “For the past 18 years I’ve learned so much as a children’s minister. However, I began to notice that something was missing. The children didn’t seem to be experiencing Jesus like I did, in a way that captivated them and gave them a desire to live for Him. I went to several other children ministry trainings and other types of classes during that time, and I was told to appease their short attention spans and become a great entertainer. I was told that I needed to have a Disneyland mentality when it came to my classroom and to make sure that my class was fun above everything else. So, I strived to do that. I strived to be an entertainer making the lessons as fun, and short, and appealing as I could, and while that was good for a while, the kids were leaving the church, and they were still following paths that lead them away from Jesus as they got older. I just said there has to be more. There has to be a way to make Jesus real to them.”
I don’t know what your experience has been but I find this a very common feedback from those who really are interested in taking kids into the deeper things of God.
Tamera: I find the same thing. I find that many children’s ministers that, if they do you want to take kids into deeper things, they don’t know where the resources are. They don’t have the mentors because there aren’t many of us out there who are experienced in teaching them. Then there are the ones who don’t even think about it. I mean I get shocked looks when I talk about young children being baptized in the Holy Spirit, like how can a child be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Becky: It is that amazing you can be in a Pentecostal denomination, and the teachers don’t even realize that kids can be filled. I ran into this in fact. I ran into this at a with a couple of the ministers at the Focus Conference. One guy wrote to me, and he said, “I sat in your class that talked about children being filled with the Holy Spirit,” and he said, “no way.” He said in that all he had been in children’s ministry, 15 years or something, and he said never once in that amount of time had he ever taught on the baptism with the Holy Spirit or offered the experience to the kids at his church, but after hearing me talk even though he was skeptical, he decided to go ahead and give it a try. He said, “Lo and behold, several kids in my church got filled with the Holy Spirit. I never dreamed that children could be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
I’m thinking are you serious. What’s going on in our Pentecostal churches. But honestly, Tamera, if we’re going to really be frank, many of the Pentecostal churches don’t even teach their adults on this topic anymore.
Tamera: That’s true. That’s absolutely true. I moved, so I visited a lot of Pentecostal churches, and I can’t tell you the number of churches where I never heard anyone speak in tongues. I never heard any teaching about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and I’ve even been in churches where they say, “Well, we relegate that to the backroom, so we won’t scare visitors.” I even heard people using this catch phrase that the Holy Spirit is not weird, and when I heard that, I was shocked because in my life every single thing the Holy Spirit has done has always been weird.
Becky: Right, yeah, I mean speaking in tongues is weird. Let’s face it, absolutely, people weeping under the power of God is weird. If you’ve never seen it before, and so it’s very strange. What I have discovered traveling on various levels of Pentecostal charismatic dreams in the body of Christ is that some handle this better than others, and one of the things that I’ve discovered is that churches that don’t have what we might consider weird, and I can talk about some weird things that I’ve seen over the years, go outside the boundaries of even good etiquette, but a lot of them that the secret is really teaching on it and teaching about the excesses and teaching just like Paul did. I mean he put boundaries on what was effective or protocol in the church and what was not.
One of the things that I find in the Pentecostal denominations is that we’re so focused on tongues and so focused on tongues and interpretation that we have completely forgotten about or eliminated the other gifts of the spirit, and part of that is because even our pastors can’t define for you what the gifts of the spirit are, what they look like, and give examples from the scripture as well as their own personal experience of what those things look like and when they operate in present day culture. Because of the ignorance, because they don’t know themselves how to put healthy boundaries, not squash the Spirit, but healthy boundaries in the local church that all they know to do is just squash it down. Let me give you an example. One of the excesses that I have seen many times in our churches is tongues and interpretation, and old-line Pentecostals, this was sort of their earmark if you will of whether or not a church was a healthy Spirit-filled church was if they allowed tongues and interpretation in the in the services.
But there was almost always abuse in that area, and I’m sure you’ve seen instances like this. It was like in the one of the churches that I was a member. Whenever there was a sweet hush of the Holy Spirit at the end of a worship service where the presence of God was really strong at the end of a set of worship songs, there would be this just as stillness a quietness, and without fail, the same guy every single service would give a message in tongues. The problem is there was never an interpretation. No one else in the congregation had the interpretation, so there was even a longer silence after that, and after a period of time, well the scripture says there has to be an interpretation. so it forced the pastor to have to give an interpretation.
Many times, I wondered is this really God or is he making something up because it has to be done. Now that was just my skeptical mind, and I thought to myself many times why doesn’t the pastor teach on this because the scripture is very clear in Corinthians that whoever gives a message in tongues is to pray that they give the interpretation. Not somebody else, but they are the ones to give an interpretation, I thought many times if the pastor would just teach on that verse, not you know trying to point someone out in the audience, but just in the general context of teaching on the gifts of the spirit, we’d cut out a whole lot of hanky-panky, and it would it would really change the dynamics.
I can remember sitting in the services when that hardship the Holy Spirit was there just holding my breath and saying please don’t give a tongues please don’t give a tongue because it was just such a sweet spirit. I didn’t want anything to interrupt that, and so I find that the healthy churches, the pastors have done an excellent job of teaching a lot of things such as this and then, just setting boundaries. In some cases, they had to they would limit it to certain people were allowed, especially the mega churches where you’ve got thousands of people in the congregation, and all they are well known ministry and people are coming in all the time you know you don’t know who’s in the audience so they would have designated people that would be people on the worship team. It would be there pastoral staff and board members or whatever, but there was a designated certain people that were allowed to prophecy or give tongues and interpretation, and if anyone else out in the congregation were to speak up, then the ushers were trained to very politely and very kindly just say not now. So you know there’s things that we can do in our Pentecostal churches to cut out the craziness if we would just look at it from a different perspective.
Now that’s really kind of off the subject of what we’re talking about. We’re talking about kid’s ministry, and we’re not even teaching people about the Holy Spirit in our Pentecostal churches. But I find that that is one of the reasons, and I’ve had several children’s ministers who have been long-term kids ministry leaders in Pentecostal churches who have told me that it never occurred to them that kids can be filled with the Holy Spirit, and they had never ever taught on it their entire ministry career.
Tamera: Well, I do think that even though it’s off the topic, it kind of builds the foundation of it because if adults are taught that this is out of line when you speak in tongues, when you prophecy when you do whatever the Spirit leads the gifts of the Spirit, and you don’t have the boundaries there, and you don’t know what it is, then you’re not going to teach it to the children.
Becky: No, you’re not.
Tamera: I’ve had people go even further where they teach kids to be good and they’re not even saved they don’t even understand salvation I was at a church camp once and, when I was younger in ministry, I was at children’s pastor. I always seem to get the rough girls in my cabin, and I asked why. They said because you always seem to handle them alright. Well, you know why. They bring this group of girls who’d been in church all their lives but had never been saved. So, within a day or two, I’d teach him about salvation, They’d all get saved, and then they’d be wonderful.
Becky: I read a statistic in this past year, and I read so many of my can’t tell you where I got it. More than likely it was from Barna ’cause I’ve studied his stuff more than anybody else, but the statistic that I saw said less than 1/3 of the children who attend our Sunday schools and graduate at the age of 12 are born again. So I’m thinking, are you kidding me, because most of the kid’s ministers that I know give frequent altar calls for salvation, but I wonder if it’s how we present it. I wonder if we just surround it with nothing but ask Jesus into your heart, and you’ll go to heaven when you die. Is that the bulk of what we are what we do? I know I’ve heard children ministers say ask Jesus to forgive your sins, but there’s no further teaching beyond that. Well, is this is a one-time thing, or is this an ongoing relationship. There are so many things that we leave out, and a lot of the reasons that I have discovered that kid’s ministers don’t go beyond the real basics is because they don’t think kids can handle the deeper things of God. I think probably you have experienced the fact that yes, they can, and that is what I based my ministry on.
We have three core values, and the first core value is giving kids the meat of the Word instead of just a constant merry-go-round of Bible stories in typical kids’ ministry. We build our lesson around the Bible story and everything that we do and say all of our games all of our scriptures all of that, the crafts that we put together, all relate to that Bible story, but very seldom do we go beyond that in our ministry. We took a different approach. We would start with a biblical doctrine or concept, and then we would bring in the Bible story to compliment that, but we didn’t build our lesson around the Bible story. We built a lesson around the meat of God Word, and there’s a dramatic difference when you teach kids the meat of God’s Word.
The second core value that we have is equipping the little saints for the work of the ministry. Now, what I mean by this is not only do we tell them that Jesus healed the sick, we get them up out of their chairs and demonstrate how to lay hands on the sick, how to pray for them, and we release them to practice healing the sick in our children’s ministry. Then, over a period of time, we would invite adults into the service who actually needed prayer for healing, and we would let the kids practice laying hands on them as well. We began to notice how they would then go out, they would go home, and it was automatic for them to lay hands on the sick and whatever you’re teaching on, whether it’s hearing God voice, whether it’s healing the sick, whether it’s the gifts of the Spirit, whatever it is we gave them an opportunity. We call this equipping.
Another word for equipping is training, so core value number one was giving the meat of the Word. Core value #2 is equipping them for the work of the ministry ’cause that’s what Hebrews says that we are supposed to do as church leaders. We are to equip the Saints for the work of the ministry, and if we’re leaders in in children’s ministry then we are to equip the little saints. God, Jesus never put a age limit on the things that kids can do.
The third core value that we had was we made it a practice in every single service to reserve time at the end whether it was 10 minutes or 15 minutes to reserve time at the end to ushering children into the presence of God, teaching them what it, and allow them to just bask in that presence, to get used to what it feels like, so that they began to actually have a relationship with God.
If you eliminate any of those three things, Tamera, what we’ve got is we have given our kids religion with no relationship. We’ve give them a head knowledge with no heart knowledge.
Tamera: I knew we were connected for some reason and when they’re basking in the presence of God and a bunch of different things are happening in the service, I will take time afterwards what I call it as a debriefing. I will talk about what happened? What did you hear? What did you feel? I’m sure you do the same. I’ll say how amazing it is, and then then I say something like isn’t it fun being in the presence of God? Isn’t this so great? This is better than playing games?
Becky: Yes, and one of the things that I would do is is I would encourage them to try to express what it was they were feeling or sensing so that the other kids in the room could hear what they were saying, and they would sit there and go oh I felt that too. So that’s what God feels like.
Tamera: Exactly, and once they realize that what they’re feeling isn’t just a warm fuzzy, but it’s the presence of God, then they crave more.
Becky: Yes, that’s correct. That’s really correct.
Tamera: Join us next time ’cause we have more to talk about with Becky about the state of children’s ministry in the church. If you’re interested in hearing more about Becky you can go to Kidsinministry.org.