Suzetta Nutt taught me how to Come to the Quiet with children. Here is a sample lesson plan to implement this with your children. This lesson will take you about 10-15 minutes max but don’t rush it. I have done this with children as young as 3 years old. And they can articulate what God told them after they took the time to listen.
I use the story of Elijah in the cave from 1 Kings 19. Depending on the audience, I tell the story or we read it together.
There [Elijah] went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:9-13
Say: Who has been to a [insert your local major league sports team here] football or basketball game before? What do you remember about the sound while you were at the game? (It was loud. People cheered. Music played.) Do you think you could hear someone whisper across the stadium from you? Would you be able to hear the person right next to you whisper? (Usually not in a really loud stadium.) What do you have to do in order to hear a whisper? (Get really quiet.)
Whisper: Exactly! You have to get very still and quiet in order to hear a whisper. [Sometimes kids are wiggly and they can’t hear you whisper over the rustle but keep whispering and they will get very still so they can hear you. Whisper even softer if desired.] Some of you were even a little bit wiggly and you had to get very still to hear me whispering right now.
That’s what Elijah had to do. A lot of times in the Bible we see God show up in fire (remember the burning bush?) but this time God wasn’t in the fire. He was in the whisper and Elijah had to be quiet & still and watch & listen for God to show up. Sometimes God speaks to us in a gentle whisper too.
If we’re constantly running around, playing with friends or video games, or playing sports how likely are we to hear God whispering? (not likely) Right! So we have to stop, be still and listen. It doesn’t mean those things are bad but we can’t let them get in the way of hearing God whisper. So let’s listen for God right now.
[If space allows, let kids find their own space in the room away from friends who will be distracting to one another. They can be in whatever physical position will be the most comfortable so they won’t wiggle a lot. Be sure to tell them which areas are off-limits. Explain that this might be really uncomfortable at first and difficult to be still in silence. Tell them it’s okay if it’s hard. Start with a reasonable amount of time. If you have a young crowd 15-30 seconds might be all they can handle. If you have older elementary kids give them 60 seconds or so. Use a timer because it will feel longer than it actually is. Explain that their job is not to talk to God but to try to clear their minds to listen for God’s voice. No matter what you set the timer too (even if they stay silent for a shorter amount of time) CELEBRATE IT! This isn’t easy for kids or adults to start doing. Praise them for however long they were able to stay silent and listen for God’s voice. You can add more time next time. Kids will enjoy competing with their previous times.]
After your allotted amount of time bring everyone back together. Ask: Raise your hand if you heard God whisper to you. Would anyone be willing to share what they heard? Take responses. Thank you for sharing! Please don’t miss this point – it’s so important: Now raise your hand if you didn’t hear anything today. You know what? Sometimes I don’t either and that’s okay! Do you think it’s still important to take time to be still & listen for God’s voice? Absolutely! Praise your kids again for doing so well & remind them that God loves to spend time with us and speak to us.
Once kids are used to the routine this activity will only take about 5 minutes and is easy to add to any lesson plan. You can review the story of Elijah periodically, as well.
Two short stories from my own experience:
At a previous church, I frequently incorporated this into Children’s Church (which included kids 3 years old – 2nd grade). One volunteer (who had her own 2 boys in the room) came up to me afterwards with tears in her eyes and said, “I didn’t think they would hear anything or that they would get anything out of that activity.” She came face to face with the power of Child’s Praise that day.
In another season I was teaching Wednesday night 4th & 5th grade boys. Man alive I loved them, but they were crazy!! We had a Boys & Girls Club meeting on our campus and they joined us for Wednesday night class. I absolutely loved teaching them and miss them dearly today but there were days I went home and thought I have no idea what I just taught or if they heard anything about God. During the middle of one such chaotic night, one of my sweet, inner-city boys, who never stopped talking, asked me in the middle of our lesson if we could do that “quiet prayer where we scatter and listen for God.” Yes, sweet boy. Yes, we can.
Our kids can learn to listen for the gentle whisper of God’s voice and they will crave time with Him. Yes, even that kid.
In the spirit of full disclosure: Some days this will crash & burn in glorious fashion. It’s okay. It happens to me too. Acknowledge the failure with the kids, laugh it off, and try again another day.