Can Kids Encounter God? If So How?

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Can children have true encounters with God? If so, what does that look like, and how does it happen?

I was a children’s pastor for ten years, but in the last 20-plus years, I have led an organization called Kids in Ministry International, or KIMI for short. Through KIMI, my trained leaders and I have trained kids ministers in over 34 countries in our School of Supernatural Children’s Ministry, which was just in the last year. Collectively, we reach nearly 50,000 children with the supernatural gospel every week. We teach boys, girls, and teenagers not just the basics of the Christian faith but that they can walk in signs, wonders, and miracles just like Jesus taught us we could. These are significant encounters with God.

But there’s a strategy to accomplishing that. It doesn’t happen by accident. The first hurdle is convincing parents and church leaders that kids can not only do it but that the bible also affirms it! For instance, psalm 71:17 says, “O God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things you do!”

Heidi Baker, the famous missionary to Mozambique, says, “The greatest hindrance to children walking in the supernatural power of god is the doubt and unbelief of the adults around them.” Someone else said that children automatically believe in the supernatural until we tell them it doesn’t exist.

The Simple Answer is Yes

So, is it really true that kids can have significant encounters with God? The simple answer is yes; kids can encounter God in every way that adults can. Keep in mind that a supernatural encounter is not always spectacular, but it is significant. Through the years, we have gathered dozens of testimonies, both big and small, of kids hearing God’s voice, being led by the Spirit, healing the sick, operating in the gifts of the Spirit, and even casting out devils and raising the dead, stuff you normally only associate with adult Christians. I tell dozens of those stories in my videos, and books, so check them out there and in other posts on this website at kidsinministry.org.

In our ministry, we believe that everything Jesus said we, as adult Christians, could do in his name also applies to children. For instance, the last words he spoke to his disciples before he went back to heaven in Mark 16 was, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name, they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Notice that nowhere in this scripture did he specify how old you had to be to do these things. He said you just have to believe. So, if a 4-year-old child has sincerely asked Jesus into his heart, he is a believer. That means he or she qualifies to do everything Jesus said believers can do.

This includes getting born again, being filled with the spirit, hearing god’s voice, being led by the spirit, healing the sick, operating in the gifts of the spirit, and more. Jesus told us, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works because I am going to be with the Father. John 14:12 – “Anyone who believes in me” includes children.

Too Often We Disqualify Children

By walking in the supernatural power of God, children come to know that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are real and not just interesting stories! But too often, we disqualify children in our minds and assume they are too young to understand the deep truths of God’s Word.

The numbers have been growing in recent years, but unfortunately, there are still very few children’s ministries that actually teach and train children to believe in and walk in the power of god. That includes Christian parents, who frequently never even consider that it’s an option! I go into that a great deal in my book A PARENT’S GUIDE TO RAISING SPIRITUAL CHAMPIONS, where I encourage parents to disciple their own children at home in these things, and I share why and how to do it.

You need to know some very important things about what is and is not happening in our churches regarding children and youth, because it greatly affects whether or not our kids can have encounters with God. I share this to stress how important it is for parents to take a greater role and responsibility in training their kids at home.

No matter what type of church you attend, traditional evangelical, denominational, Pentecostal, prophetic, home church, etc, most Christian parents believe that the church is better equipped to take care of the spiritual education and discipleship of their children.

Children’s and Youth Ministries Are Broken

But the big unspoken secret in the body of Christ is that both children’s and youth ministry in our churches today are broken. Even though it looks bright and shiny and robust, and it looks like we have it all together, the truth is very few children’s nor youth ministries are producing children or teens who become lifelong devoted followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, depending on the source you study, we know that anywhere from 60 to 70% of the children raised in our churches today leave the church in their teen or college-age years and never return.

Now, that’s not all their fault. Churches can only do so much in one hour a week with your children. A lot of it is because most Christian parents have almost completely delegated their spiritual responsibility to the church and think taking their kids to church occasionally is enough to do the job. Many feel inadequate at discipling their children and think the church can do it better. Still, regardless, they have yielded over their God-given responsibility of this to the church, when the church was only meant to be a support system to what parents are biblically required to do at home. What’s really disturbing is that in surveys, when Christian parents are asked what their top priorities are for their children, they will list things like happiness, health, education, good relationships, etc., but the importance of faith growth and development is almost never on their list! Go figure!

There are many reasons young people might leave the church because people and families are varied and complex. But in our experience, one of the significant reasons is that most of our children see Jesus as the hero in stories but not someone they really have a relationship with. Most 13-year-olds who have been raised in our Sunday schools will tell us in surveys that, to their knowledge, they have never heard god’s voice or felt his presence. In other words, they have never had an encounter with God in their churches!

Head Knowledge but No Heart Knowledge

All they have is head knowledge of God and Jesus but no heart knowledge. In too many cases, we have given them religion with no relationship. If the parents are not working with them in the home, they can go to church their whole lives and never have a significant experience with the holy spirit. Because most Christian parents are satisfied with what they receive in the adult services, they assume it’s just as spiritually rich in the children’s services.

But they really do not investigate very deeply what’s going on there. In fact, most parents will frequently ask their children if they had fun in church that day. If the child says yes, the parents are lulled into thinking they had a meaningful spiritual experience. But having “fun” in children’s church or Sunday school does not equal having an encounter with the Holy Spirit. What are their children really learning about God and the Bible, beyond the Bible stories? Really if we’re honest, in many churches are only giving them a watered-down gospel.

A shocking statistic you should know is that only about 12% of children’s pastors and youth pastors have a biblical worldview. That means they do not necessarily believe the Bible is the infallible, inerrant word of God that we can trust and rely on for our decisions and direction in life. Their worldviews are a mixture of everything they read, hear on tv, are exposed to on social media, and the crazy junk they are being taught in our educational systems from kindergarten through university. It’s called syncretism, which is the practice of combining different opposing beliefs and various schools of thought along with parts of the bible, essentially making up their own religion. So, it makes you wonder exactly what are those leaders teaching our children and teens in our churches. That’s one big reason why parents need to be proactive in the home to teach their children about biblical and spiritual things. Don’t worry! It’s easier than you think!

Kids Ministers Are Taught Generic Concepts

In addition, most children’s pastors, regardless of denomination, are basically taught from the same pool of ideas in training events, books, curriculums, and conferences that every other kid’s minister is trained from. That’s because publishers, conference leaders, curriculum writers, etc are trying to reach as many leaders across denominational lines as possible. They have a business to run, and they need lots of customers!

So, they stay away from anything considered controversial, such as water baptism—do we dunk or do we sprinkle? The baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, healing the sick, signs, wonders, and miracles in the name of Jesus, the supernatural works of the believer, even things you would think most of us would agree on, like hearing God’s voice, or even discussions about the presence of God and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Even many Pentecostal/charismatic churches avoid those topics in children’s and youth ministries.

So, if those things are important to you, just realize your child may or may not learn about them in the church you go to, even if the adults are being taught about them. All of this impacts whether children ever have an encounter with God of any kind.

So What Is the Answer?

So, what’s the answer? After 30 years of being a part of the kid’s ministry culture, I have discovered there are three critical elements that are missing in most children’s and youth ministries. I wrap them up in what we call our three core values. I’m mentioning them in this teaching because if we don’t understand these, then everything else I have to say about your children having encounters with God will pretty much be irrelevant.

Core value #1 – MEAT – our kids are lacking the meat of God’s Word. In most of our churches, we just keep repeating the same Bible stories over and over again. We never ground them in the full counsel of God. I have said frequently, “Kids cannot live by Bible stories alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

Core value #2 – EQUIPPING – for the most part, there is no equipping or training to walk in the things Jesus said every believer would walk in, which, in short, is the supernatural lifestyle of Christ. Or the ways we all encounter God. They can attend church their entire lives and never be filled with the spirit, learn to hear God’s voice, or learn to do the things Jesus said his followers would do.

And core value #3 three – PRESENCE. In the vast majority of children’s ministries, the presence of God is not evident at all or is only obvious in very limited ways. In many cases, we have become professional entertainers, learning how to hold their attention and accommodate their short attention spans. This means our children may possibly never have any significant encounter with the holy spirit in their services. They may never feel his presence. They may never experience his power or the anointing of the holy spirit. To them, he remains a theory, not a reality.

Kids Radically Change When Taught the Core Values

I have watched repeatedly that when we train children’s ministers how to embrace our three core values, and show them how to apply them, their children grow and thrive in their walk with the Lord. They become excited about God instead of disinterested, and the Lord becomes meaningful and relevant to them. They look forward to going to church instead of dreading it.

Too often, over the decades, we, as Christian parents and church leaders, have only seen children after the flesh and not after the spirit. Therefore, we conclude they are not capable of actually becoming serious disciples of Christ until they are at least teenagers and maybe older. We have just decided that from toddlerhood till they reach their teen years, their ministries are more or less place-holders for them until they grow up enough to become valuable in the kingdom of god.

When the truth is they are desperately hungry to know who God really is, and they want to partner with them in what he is doing on earth today. Whatever you are hungry for spiritually, is what they are hungry for. The difference is they don’t know how to tell you that or express it. But when we give them an opportunity to encounter his presence and operate in spiritual things, they come alive!

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