This past Sunday our church enjoyed having Barney Kinard visit as our guest speaker. Barney is known as the Kidhelper. He is a former children’s pastor, 50 year veteran children’s evangelist, and Kidology Coach. We celebrated 26 children making decisions for Christ on Sunday.
Guiding children to making this life-altering decision doesn’t happen by mistake. It requires intentionality, creativity, skill and a sense of purpose. Let me share with you several observations I made on Sunday as I watched Barney “do his thing” that he has been doing for years developing presentations that create results.
1) Be Real.
Barney doesn’t go into character. He is himself. He is the same person before and after the presentation. Kids need to connect with a real person if they are to make real decisions.
2) Don’t Talk Down to Children.
Too often adults talk down to kids. They can do this both with their tone of voice, mannerisms or by talking to them as though they are younger or “dumber” than they really are. Expect kids to engage and understand and they will. They appreciate being honored as people, not as “just kids.”
3) Use Language Kids Understand.
Barney avoids using “big words” and confusing terms. Keep it simple and clear. When you use an adult word, explain it. Define your words, such as explaining that Gospel means Good News. As my first pastor, Erwin Lutzer once said, “I like to explain things in such a way that even an adult can understand.” There if value in keeping things simple and clear no matter what age your audience happens to be!
4) Use Humor Purposely.
Kids love to laugh. When they are laughing, they are listening. Barney did a fun routine when he was explaining there are four parts of the Gospel that always need to be completed. He kept letting one of his four fingers fall down – the kids would laugh and yell, “You are missing one!” He would re-count them, and struggle to hold them up. The kids thought it was funny, but you learned it was purposeful humor as he added at the end, “You can’t let any of these slip, or you’ll have an incomplete message.”
5) Use Creative Repetition.
You’ve heard it said, “Say it often, say it well.” When it comes to teaching kids, “Say it often, and say it in different ways.” Barney did several Gospel magic tricks that each illustrated the message in different ways, but with the same message. This way, he strengthened the message with each explanation.
6) Be Visual.
No matter how skilled the teacher – if you attempt to get up in front of kids and just talk, you will lose their attention. Barney not only used magic tricks, but he used a giant flannel board to track the message with words and symbols to help the children see, read and follow the message.
Barney also wore a bright red vest that made him stand out. It had the effect of saying, “I’m a special speaker worthy of listening to.” His tables were covered with the same bright red table clothes. It drew the curiosity and attention of the children.
7) Take Charge.
Speak with authority. As soon as I introduced Barney, he immediately started with something that captured their attention. I often see speakers start like a locomotive – slow and with great effort and it takes them awhile to get up to speed, but by then, they have lost most of their audience. Think carefully about your first sentence – and seek to capture their interest and attention within seconds, and you’ll rarely lose them after that!
8) Engage the Entire Group.
Of course he brought volunteers on stage to serve as assistants with his tricks, but he also included the entire audience with questions, opportunities to raise their hands, and in praying for all of them after they indicated where they were in their walk with God.
9) Give an Opportunity to Receive Jesus.
You’d think this would be obvious or assumed, but it isn’t. In fact, I rarely see it done. Too often the Gospel is explained, but no opportunity to respond is given! You have to actually say the words, “Would you like to accept Jesus as your Savior today?” Kids can’t respond if they aren’t given an invitation. He first asked kids to raise their hands who had prayed to receive Christ in the past. Then he said, “If you weren’t able to raise your hand, perhaps you aren’t sure, aren’t ready, or have just never been given the chance. Would you like to today?” Then he led in a prayer that kids could repeat after him to invite Jesus into their life.
10) Follow Up.
Afterwards, we dismissed all the children to their classes and invited the kids who had prayed for the first time to accept Jesus to come meet with Barney up by the stage. He explained a little more why this was an important day, some things they should start to do – reading the Bible, praying, living for Jesus, etc. – and challenged them to share what happened today with at least one person, whether it is a parent, relative or friend. Then he prayed for them.
I’m following up with the kids individually and with their parents, as the children’s pastor, during the week, but this immediate follow up really helps solidify in their hearts and minds what they did this morning.
Enjoy watching Barney’s presentation during one of our services:
So, when will you share the Gospel with your kids and give them a chance to decide to follow Jesus?