The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit Series
Children and Pentecost: The Gifts of the Spirit
Thu, 19 May 2011 - 8:21 AM CST
By Dick Gruber
Paul’s writings concerning the charismata contain lists, definitions, and directives giving us a practical picture of how the Spirit works in and through individuals and the corporate body of Christ. Paul clearly teaches that gifts of the Spirit are not demonstrations of natural, or even God-given abilities. They are manifestations of the mind and power of God in and through the individual believer for the benefit of the Body. Gifts of the Holy Spirit are supernatural in origin, but incarnate in operation. Thus, the individual being used in a manifestation of a specific gift adds his or her personality, worldview, and prior experience with the gift to his or her utterance, word, or action. I have found this to be true in children as well as adults.
I am a minister to children. Having served in Assemblies of God churches for over 30 years, I have taught, and witnessed in operation, the gifts of the Spirit in children’s lives. I have instructed on the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of Ephesians 4, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I have purposefully taught children around the altars in church and at kids camps. I have also instituted the Foundations for Faith course, now called Faith Case, teaching older children about the gifts in a formal classroom setting.
In the churches I have served in, pastors and teachers have not always regularly mentioned the gifts of the Spirit. Only after someone manifests a gift in the service, has the pastoral staff done any teaching. The pastor gives an immediate response and instruction on the use of the gift to inform those who are present. Many times the church has relegated further training to a membership class and/or small groups. This approach is often used in both adult and children’s services.
This is not to say that God has not revealed himself through gifts of the Spirit in our churches. I have, on numerous occasions witnessed gifts of healings, words of wisdom or knowledge, and tongues and interpretation of tongues in adult and children’s services both in church and at camp.
We once prayed for a girl from our children’s church who had ruptured her spleen on a Saturday afternoon. Her twin sister stood in her place in our children’s church while the kids gathered around and laid hands on her. At the time we prayed, God miraculously healed her twin in the hospital across town.
A boy ran up to me once at a camp altar and shouted, “Speak to me.” I did and he began to laugh. He had been deaf in his right ear since birth. Now, at 10-years-old, he was praying for a friend. When God baptized that friend in the Holy Spirit and he began to speak in tongues, this boy could hear him. God had healed his ear.
Three girls ran up to me at camp in Illinois. They excitedly shared that while down at the pool, one had sprained her ankle. The girls sent for the camp nurse and began to pray for their friend. All watched as the swelling and bruising disappeared. They were all then filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. These gifts of healings could only be attributed to God.
We had a girl in one church that was used numerous times in prophetic words and interpretation of tongues both in children’s church and around the altar in the Sunday evening family service.
I have always encouraged children to be open to gifts of the Spirit. In altar times, I encourage children to share what they feel God is saying to the friend they are praying with. I have heard and witnessed words of knowledge, wisdom, or even prophetic utterances that have been given by children to individuals or groups of children in the altar.
The church needs to regularly teach about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. This should include doctrinal training, for children as well as adults, and encouragement to live what they have learned.
It is important to include parents and other family members when teaching children about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit. One church in Minnesota held a Passport to Power Saturday. They set up four stations. Each station, manned by a pastor, provided a teaching on the Holy Spirit. These were: 1) The Person of the Holy Spirit, 2) The Gifts of the Spirit, 3) The Work of the Holy Spirit in Salvation, 4) the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Leaders divided participants of all ages into four groups. These rotated through the stations. When everyone had heard all of the teaching, they held a prayer and praise session in the sanctuary. Many boys and girls, teens, and adults were filled with the Holy Spirit and used in gifts of the Spirit around the altar that day.
When someone abuses or misuses a gift, the pastor needs to explain what has happened from the pulpit. I have been in services where a pastor has stopped an utterance, proclaiming it to be out of order. When this was done in love, nobody was offended. After the incident, the pastor talked with and prayed for that individual. I agree with this model and have had occasion to take a child or leader aside in children’s church or at camp altars and gently correct their course concerning use of the gifts. When the leader takes charge in a positive way this provides security and confidence for the congregation. People feel free to be used by the Spirit in a loving, nonjudgmental, controlled setting,
Before stepping out into the realm of the Spirit with children, a children’s church leader must be in agreement with his or her pastor concerning children and the work of the Spirit. Questions such as, “Can children receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit?” or “Can a child be used in the gifts?” need to be discussed. The leader must adopt the pastor’s approach to gifts of the Spirit. Children’s church is to be an extension of the pastor’s vision and practice.
This brings us to the marketplace. We can use gifts of the Spirit anywhere and at anytime. I believe that many words of wisdom or knowledge are delivered without the person even being aware that he has been used. The Spirit, all through a typical day, may use those being led by the Spirit. Gifts of serving, hospitality, and others from the Romans 12 list are being manifest all around us. God does not always have to show up in a sensational way to be working sensationally in our lives.
I believe the gifts of the Spirit are seeker sensitive. There is nothing that draws the sinner, or excites his desire for the Savior more than a supernatural intervention in his life. When somebody experiences the power of God, as manifest through spiritual gifts, it is difficult to deny the reality of Christ.
One girl asked that we pray for the son of a man who worked with her father. The boy had been in a sledding accident and was in critical condition. God healed the boy miraculously. This opened the door for a Christian witness to be shared with that boy and his family.
These are signs for the believer and unbeliever alike. I have prayed for many checkout clerks at grocery or department stores. I believe God will touch them, so I ask when checking out, “Is there anything I can pray about for you today? I believe God answers prayer and I will be praying on my way to the parking lot. Let me pray for you.” I have had people cry, share family hurts, and thank me profusely for doing this. I don’t know if God has intervened with the miraculous on their behalf, but I keep doing it anyway.
What a blessing it is to hear stories of God’s faithfulness as boys and girls have stepped out by faith and been used in the gifts of the Spirit. Children have shared stories of healings, words from God, and supernatural power to witness.
Begin now to pray for and dialogue about the gifts with your children’s leaders and workers. Look for ways to include parents when training children about spiritual gifts. As our movement counts down toward its 100th birthday, it is imperative that we train the next generation in and have experience with the gifts of the Spirit.
Dick Gruber is children’s ministry specialist at Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.