Trick or Treat?

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Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not, J.K.
Rowling’s amazingly popular books can give you critical insights
for children’s ministry.

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I try to think of myself as an open-minded person. I don’t label
every popular fad as “of the devil.” So when I noticed the
popularity of the Harry Potter books, I picked up a book to
discover its appeal to children. The first few chapters were
exciting and well-written, but as I got farther into the book, it
took a different turn. Soon, Harry was off to school to become a
wizard! It was clear to me that not only was Harry Potter going to
school to learn about witchcraft, but author J.K. Rowling was
taking children to school with him.

That education doesn’t end when the book does. Supplemental
resources are poised to pounce on kids who become intrigued with
the Harry Potter books and want to know more about witchcraft. For
example, in The Sorcerer’s Companion: A Guide to the Magical
World of Harry Potte
r, a highly recommended book at
amazon.com, authors Allan Zola Kronzek and Elizabeth Kronzek delve
into the specifics of witchcraft. The authors write in their
introduction, “When we first began writing The Sorcerer’s
Companion, we asked Harry Potter fans what subjects interested them
the most. Some wanted to know more about spells, charms, and
curses. Others were eager to learn about boggarts, red caps, or the
difference between witches and hags.”

There’s a void inside each of us that cries out for a relationship
with a supernatural God. And to fill this void, children explore
their natural curiosity about the spiritual world. In the absence
of compelling experiences with the living God, books such as the
Harry Potter series can direct children’s spiritual hunger in the
wrong direction.

Our challenge as children’s ministers is to do everything we can
to provide the genuine Bread of Life to nourish children’s souls.
How do we do that?

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CREATE GOD ENCOUNTERS

I recently heard a story about a child I used to pastor. He was a
good kid from a good family. He knew the memory verse every week
and could always be called on to know the answers. From all
appearances, we’d been effective in reaching this boy. Yet the news
I heard was that as a teenager, he turned from God and got a young
girl pregnant.
Sadly, this story isn’t unique. We as children’s ministers labor
year after year to train children to love God, and we can still
miss it. How can we raise a generation that seeks God?

To answer that question, let’s take a look at Joshua’s
generation. Judges 2:7 says, “The people served the Lord
throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived
him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for
Israel.”

Then the generation that immediately followed Joshua’s
generation didn’t serve or worship God. Judges 2:10-11 says, “After that whole
generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation
grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.
Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the
Baals.”

Why did this next generation turn away from God and seek answers
in the occult? There seems to be a connection between seeing God do
things and serving God. The generation that saw the works of God
and experienced God for themselves — not just by hearing, but by
experience — served God. The generation that didn’t have those
experiences and only heard about them ended up serving false
gods.

That’s the caution for us. We can’t think that if we just tell
kids Bible stories, they’ll serve God. The church has done that for
centuries. We do need to tell children the Bible stories, but
children have to know God for themselves. We have to lead them into
God encounters. All the props, puppet skits, and good teaching
won’t get the job done alone because many kids have never had a
real experience with God. They know that God was powerful a long
time ago, but they don’t know that he’s still powerful today.

Pray big prayers with children, and trust God to answer. Report
to children all the phenomenal things that God is doing to answer
other people’s prayers, too. Then celebrate with children the
wondrous works of God that continue today.

FORM A FAN CLUB

I flew back from a meeting one night and changed planes in
Chicago. The Vikings had just played the Chicago Bears, and my
plane was loaded with Vikings fans.

Even though I’m a Vikings fan, I felt a little uncomfortable
around these people. They all had on purple jerseys, Vikings hats
with horns and long blond braids, and face paint. They were
exhausted after a weekend of being raving fans. They talked about
all the time, money, and hard work required to be Vikings fans.

As I listened, I felt guilty. Their worship on Sunday was much
more passionate than my worship. These Vikings fans have given
their lives to this team that has never even won a Super Bowl. And
to think that there are times we have to pump up our churches to
get them to worship the God who has already won every battle and
made us more than conquerors!

Do you practice a safe emotions- in-check faith before children?
Or are you willing-like the Apostle Paul — to be considered a fool
for Christ? Model for children how to be wild about God now.

PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT WORSHIP

We need to protect kids from the world, from the occult, and from
all the things that threaten their spiritual well-being, but all of
this is secondary to our primary goal.
Do more than make a list of sins for kids to avoid. Go beyond
preaching against the latest fad. Lead children into the presence
of God and a passionate love relationship with Jesus. Help children
want to do right because of their love for God. If we do that, the
other “stuff” will have no appeal because kids will be too busy
running after God.

In times of worship, move beyond “Father Abraham” and “Zacchaeus
Was a Wee Little Man.” Children are capable of deep, passionate
worship. In fact, they’re wired for worship. Remember, Jesus said,
“Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected
praise.”

I’ve noticed in children’s ministries around the world that
girls enter into worship more easily than boys do. Could it be that
boys struggle with worship because their fathers have a hard time
worshiping? If we want our children to be in love with Jesus, they
need to see men and women loving him. They need to see their
parents worship God.

There are many different ways to enter into praise and worship.
Encourage families to worship at home. Provide regular times of
worship for families at church. Have children do different types of
praise and worship. Worship with kids. If you don’t participate,
neither will the kids.

It’s amazing to me that the world is so willing to allow
children to learn about witchcraft while so many churches tell
children to wait until they grow up to have a relationship with a
supernatural God. We need to satisfy kids’ spiritual longings with
the truth that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Mark Harper is a children’s pastor and the founder of Mark
Harper Ministries (www.superchurch.com).

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