Pre-school and elementary-aged children experienced a different kind of children’s church at last week’s Church of God International General Assembly in Nashville.
Bounce house ballrooms. Flaming red Mohawks. Thousands of toes bouncing for praise with the praise music bumping.
Go Kids Church is unlike anything the Church of God International General Assembly has seen before. The Spirit-filled worship services are a General Assembly staple, but this year’s children’s program has added a day camp for kids, evening ministry for preschoolers and daily training labs for children’s ministry leaders.
It’s a Kids Church revival and children’s ministry leadership conference, all squeezed into one enormous ball of fun.
“We thought, instead of doing business as usual, why not give the kids ownership and make this something they look forward to instead of it being just another thing their parents drag them to,” said Chris Quinn, the Go Kids Church coordinators and Children’s Ministries Pastors from Princeton Pike Church of God in Ohio.
“They’re loving it.”
Kids are loving the worship, as evidenced by a sea of wristbands lifted toward the LED-splashed ceiling when more than 350 children sang the words “I surrender all to you” a capella during a Tuesday night altar call.
“Worship was my favorite part,” one 10-year-old boy said after Tuesday night’s service. “I just felt the Spirit of God moving.”
Jeff McCullough, the Mohawk behind the Jump Street 3 ministry, is loving how quickly the children nailed down the memory verse – 54 words of Scripture in three minutes, all set to music and sign language.
“When you see these kids memorize God’s Word and hide it in their hearts, they are dangerous,” said McCullough, who works alongside his teenage daughter Melina on stage. “We take God’s word and set it to music.”
Parents loved the day camp, offered from 1-5 p.m. daily for a nominal fee. This isn’t a babysitting service; children are engaged in God’s Word and worship – they even go in small groups to the Prayer Room to participate with the “grown-up” delegates in prayer and intercession. This option makes it easier for parents to attend General Sessions, knowing their kids will be cared for in a ministry environment where children are learning how to serve Christ.
Children’s pastors and leaders gave high marks to the daily “KidMin” training – 27 classes in three days, running from 9 a.m. to noon. Topics ranged from teaching children to pray and experiencing a move of the Holy Ghost to reaching media-blitzed kids and engaging children on a shoestring budget.
Parents with small children utilized Go Kids Jr. Church, which offered a nightly worship option for ages 3-through-kindergarten for the first time in General Assembly history. The small children had their own worship, lesson and activity time in a safe and age-specific environment.
It was a sight of the hundreds of children of all ages, worshipping God, learning God’s Word and having the time of their lives. Whether they were throwing their shoes to the side to jump in the bounce house room with their newly made friends, or jamming with the Bonilla Bunch drama team from CityLife-Tampa, or falling in love with the dancing blue monkey on stage, or watching Pastor Chris (Quinn) wrap a student in toilert paper for a mid-sermon object lesson … everything points to a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.
“Pray bold, pray out loud, none of this pray-in-your-head stuff,” Pastor Chris encouraged them during an altar call. “Put two hands up … nothing’s holding us back from bursting out in worship because we’re in full surrender.”
Hundreds of hands were raised. The ballroom was filled with the youngest of voices, from squeaky southern drawls to rich Jamaican accents. Welcome to the General Assembly of granddad’s grandkids.