Children in Revival
“…The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back!” says Sean Colligan, one of our pastoral interns describing his first encounter with the Holy Spirit. The interesting thing was, a 7 year-old girl was praying for him. This encounter with God changed Sean’s life forever.
So where did we ever get the notion that children might not be included in revival? Jesus constantly included them. “Bring the little children to me and do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:14). Although we are not really surprised that Jesus would want to bless children and infants, we seem to balk at the idea of including them in ministry or fail to believe that they can have divine encounters with God.
Youth possess a vibrancy and are willing to risk new ways of doing things.
Let’s look at the scriptures. Consider Joseph in Genesis 37. He was very young, perhaps 17, when God began giving him prophetic dreams. The prophet, Samuel, was a very young child when he first heard the Lord speak to him in an audible voice in the night (1 Samuel 3:4). Even Jesus himself astounded the religious leaders of his day with his questions and answers when He was only 12 years old (Luke 2:42).
As we look into the history of past revivals, we see that they often begin with young people. There is good reason for this. Youth possess a vibrancy and are willing to risk new ways of doing things. Their idealism has not been deflated by the cynicism of life. The Welsh Revival was led by Evan Roberts, a 22-year-old-coal miner being mentored by his pastor in Biblical studies. His worship leader in these amazing meetings was his 16- year- old sister. George Whitfield was 21 years old when he first crossed the Atlantic to conduct meetings during the Great Awakening, and spoke to many thousands in open air meetings.
It is easy for those of us whose children have already grown up to forget the importance of kids in revival ministry. After all, we think, the meetings can be late, noisy and even have elements of serious spiritual warfare. Are these meetings a safe and suitable place for young children?
Last September, while spending a day with Doug and Belinda Horley from England, I was made keenly aware of how vital and exciting it can be to be involved in children’s ministry. The Horleys, in my opinion, are world-class children’s ministry leaders with a powerful strategy for reaching and involving kids in ministry. In talking with them, I realized that TACF needed to do more to expand the revival’s influence in our children. We have now invested heavily in terms of facilities and staff to develop a stronger children’s church.
What We’re Doing at TACF
We decided to plan parent-child “sleep-overs” that have strengthened relationships among both kids and parents. We are expanding our children’s summer camp and Darrin and Daphne Clark, our children’s pastors, have started Inter-generational Cells where the kids are incorporated and involved in our church cell structure and not merely diverted into another room for babysitting. We want them to learn to worship, to minister and to pray along with the adults. Involving the kids becomes an exciting way for growth in the church as a result of children coming to Christ.
These kids are now involved in the flow and excited.
Now our youth are getting more of our attention, too. I believe we made a mistake along the way by not focusing more on our youth. In the beginning we focused almost exclusively on ministry training and participation for adults. We inadvertently excluded them and subsequently lost many of them to other things, as they felt passed over by the revival. Now we are investing in pre-teens and teenagers providing opportunities for them to minister the revival blessings, too. Rory and Daina Force, our Junior High pastors, have trained up a drama team that goes out to churches and neighborhoods preaching the gospel. These kids are now involved in the flow and excited. Similarly with our teenagers, we have taken on a second youth pastor to gather, train and motivate our young people while we continue a strategy to plant cells in every high school represented in our church.
The Coming Jesus Movement
Why? Not only are our children and youth important to us, but I believe another Jesus Movement is coming that will supersede the one of the ‘70’s with vast numbers of young people coming into the Kingdom, and we want to be prepared.
I see signs of this everywhere. Sin has reached epidemic and destructive proportions, especially in families. Youth as well as children are searching for safe places, peace and meaning to life. Many are finding peace and purpose in the unchanging love of God as the presence of God is beginning to strengthen them like He is us “by His Spirit in the inner man.” (Ephesians 3:16). It is the love of God and hunger that is driving this great revival movement for youth as well as adults.
The church today cannot afford to miss this opportunity to gather children and youth into the kingdom.
One thermometer measuring this increase is the attendance at our annual youth conference held every Easter weekend in Toronto. This year our Fresh Wind Youth Conference was our largest conference to date with almost 7,000 in attendance. There were 6,500 in the building at one time and another 500 outside! And it wasn’t just because of the music and entertainment. These kids were going deep with God and being healed not only physically, but also emotionally, of hurts, fears and profound mother and father issues. They wanted ministry for the deep things of the heart. Over 500 made decisions to make Jesus Lord of their lives.
Mentoring Youth in Revival
The church today cannot afford to miss this opportunity to gather children and youth into the kingdom. They are not only the church of tomorrow but also the church of today. And they need our help and mentoring which was not always available in past revivals. A tragic example of this lack happened with the Children’s Crusade in 1212 AD. Captivated by an untested vision from a child, thousands of children rallied across Europe to retake the City of Jerusalem for Christendom. Most of them died or were sold into slavery before they ever got there. What went wrong? Where were their adult mentors and leaders? Was no one there to help them discern their visions and stop their inappropriate response? Instead these youth were driven by a naïve, blind faith without practical experience and loving care. They went out on their own to their destruction. This incident was the gruesome basis for the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Legend has it that in reprisal for not being paid for getting rid of the town’s rats; the piper then captivated the children with his music drawing them out of town, never to be seen again.
And now, children and teens are receiving revelation again. We are living in the days Joel prophesied, "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” They need mature, experienced adult leaders dedicated to what God is doing in revival today who will offer wise counsel, teaching and mentoring rather than quench the Holy Spirit in them. For example, in Bogota Columbia, 25,000 young people meet in the stadium every Friday night and the Christian world marvels to see the power and success of their cells and the impact on their city. But there are strong and dedicated leaders that are mentoring, teaching and motivating them.
We are determined to come alongside our kids, mentor them, include them and ultimately see them take their rightful place of leadership in the Kingdom of God. They are right now having formative experiences with God. And it is happening all over the world. We at TACF are responding by instituting a three-year Bible school in addition to our School of Ministry. Why? To equip young leaders for world harvest.
Let’s ask the Lord for guidance and direction on this matter. Get involved with your children and youth. Plan to train and release gifted youth that are on fire, full of wisdom, anointing and integrity, into what could well be the last and greatest harvest.