Introducing chat and catch to children’s groups
These training notes for children’s leaders have been adapted from Rachel Turner’s personal training notes posted on shackattheback.com (which is sadly no longer available).
They provide one way to introduce the concepts of chat and catch to children’s groups you work with, but please use as is helpful for you, your kids and your setting! The examples given in these notes of chat and catch are from Rachel’s personal experience, but it is important that you use examples from your own experiences of chatting and catching with God. Children really relate to true stories, and your personal testimony is very powerful in helping children grasp that God wants to connect with them and will help them do it. Fictional examples may be helpful but will not have the same power.
Part 1: Introducing children to ‘chat’
Help them to think about their experiences and understanding of prayer
Today we are going to talk about prayer … what is prayer? (get to answer – talking to God).
Tell me about how to do prayer:
- What do we normally do with our bodies when we pray? (answers may range from eyes closed, sitting quietly, hands together to we can pray anyway we like!)
- When do you normally pray? (again, there may be a range of answer – dinner time, bedtime, anytime we like)
- What are things that we say every time in a prayer (Dear God, Amen, sorry, thank you, etc…)?
I’m going to tell you something… did you know that you don’t have to do (list the things the kids said) close your eyes, sit quietly, pray only at dinner and bedtime, say dear God and amen…all of that. You don’t have to do any of that! Do you know why?
Help the children to think about the relationship Jesus had with his friends
When Jesus was on earth he had some friends he hung out with all the time – the disciples. Do you think they talked to Jesus like we pray?
Okay, in your heads, picture Jesus sitting there at breakfast, with his hair all messed up and goopy crusty things in his eyes and then his friend John comes down to breakfast. (You can act this out yourself, going back and forth between Jesus and John, including Jesus’ reactions, but it could make a great drama if you wanted to expand or change it!)
Do you think John would say … (in a ‘prayer’ voice, and if you like holding your hands together and eyes closed) “Dear Jesus, please could you pass me the cereal … I’d like the Frosties please. Amen?” And then Jesus would say, “Oh, we haven’t got any Frosties, sorry. We’ve got All Bran?” And John would reply, “Dear Jesus, I hate All Bran! Please please please, Jesus, do a miracle and change the All Bran into Frosties. Oh and can I have the juice please? Amen.”
Do you think Jesus’ friends spoke to him like that? Do you think they only talked to him at meals and bedtime? Do you think they closed their eyes and sat still? No! They just talked to him because he was real and there and loved them and wanted to share life with them. They talked about the weather and their new sandals, and where they wanted to go next and laughed at his jokes and told him how they felt about being made fun of and bullied and everything else that was in their heads – they just shared life with him. And that same Jesus who was on earth said that he would be with us always! He’s still with us! And we can chat to him just like his friends did.
Introduce the idea of ‘chat’
To help the children understand it, have one or more helpers act out the ‘God’ roles described below. If you can have one helper for each role, brilliant – if not one helper can act out all the roles. If you are able to be a little dramatic, all the better!
What is chatting? (Get answers from the children.) Chatting is talking all the time about all the stuff that is important to us – big things and little things. We chat with our friends about what we watched on TV, how we did in maths, what we’re going to do at the weekend, what happened when we got into trouble at home, how we feel about Chelsea winning the cup, how we feel about grandma being ill.
But it’s interesting, we can have lots of ideas about what God is like (depending on your kids, pick some or all of these):
- Sometimes we think God is like [name of helper] – really far away with his back turned, ignoring us and we have to yell and beg and hope he cares enough to listen to us: “HEY GOD. GOD! I’M REALLY REALLY SAD BECAUSE MY PARENTS KEEP YELLING AT EACH OTHER, COULD YOU DO SOMETHING … HELLO? GOD?” (Your helper should respond by glancing over their shoulder at you but shrugging and quickly turning back). So we feel like God doesn’t care. I’ve felt like that sometimes, have any of you ever felt like God was like that, really far away and not really caring? (wait for response).
- Other times, we can sometimes think that he is like a really old man who just can’t hear us and doesn’t really know what is happening to us! (as you pray, the helper needs to act like an old man, cupping their ear and saying ‘Eh?’) So we try to pray: “GOD! IT’S RACHEL! RACHEL! YOU KNOW MY MUM? MY MUM! SHE’S SAD! BECAUSE…GOD?”
- Or we might think that God is a super important busy God, who is looking after the world and the universe and no way has he got time for me! (your helper needs to look really busy, maybe with glasses on, making notes importantly on pieces of paper, or being on the phone). So we try to pray: “ARE YOU THERE GOD?” but we know we’re not important enough for God to have time to listen to us.
- Sometimes we might worry that God can be angry, so even though we might want to pray: “God, I’m sorry that I punched my brother again” we’re worried about what he might do (have the helper stand up and look at you with a really angry look on their face), so we don’t dare.
But you know what? None of those are true. God’s not like that at all. You know how God really is? (Helper sits really close – arm around looking at me with a kind expression) God is this close, with all his attention on us, wanting to hear everything we have to say … and God wants to hear “God, I really really wanted to wear my purple underwear today, but my mum forgot to wash them and I had to wear my black ones instead and I hate those!” as much as he wants to hear “My dad is really really sick and they think he might die and I am so scared”. He wants to hear it all!
I chat to God all the time! There is no place I can’t chat to God … I chat to God on the loo, when I’m shopping, as I fall asleep! I strap Jesus into the car (I seatbelt him in) and I chat and chat to him about everything. I tell him jokes … have you ever told God a joke? Why not? He loves jokes! I take God out to dinner and the cinema! I do, I go out and just spend time chatting to God and watching a movie with him and talking about it! (Substitute what is true for you here).
You don’t have to pray out loud at all either. Sometimes I pray out loud and sometimes I pray in my head. Like this … I want you to say in your head, ‘The sky is blue’.Go. See? Easy as that … that’s how I talk to God most. Some of my friends like to whisper, some like to talk right out loud, some do it quietly in their head.
And do you know what’s really really cool? You don’t even have to pray with words!! We can pray with our feelings. Do you want to know what one of my favourite prayers is? Really? (Warn any kids who might be scared.) AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!! It is! You see God wants to know how we feel about everything… and sometimes, especially when I’m upset, I’m not very good with my words. I don’t know what to say to him. But just asking him to be there when I’m feeling emotions is prayer! Sometimes I feel frustrated and I want to tell God so I go (make a frustrated noise) and that’s a prayer, or I am just so happy and so I tell God (squeal and excited noise). The best time I ever had praying was when I was really sad. I was pregnant, I had a baby inside me and the baby died, and I just cried and cried and cried at God, with no words.
(We have found that you really need to use examples that are true for you in this section. If the noises aren’t sincere and truly coming out of your feelings, this part of the session tends to flop and the children lose attention.)
Would you like to pray together like that now? Okay, think of one thing that make you frustrated or mad … really mad. Can you remember it, can you feel it? Nod at me when you do (wait to make sure they really have the memory.) On the count of three, I want you to pray about it with no words, like I was saying: 1, 2, 3 … GO. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!! Okay, good.
Now I want you to think of one thing that you are really excited about … can you think of it … can you feel it … okay ready to pray: 1, 2, 3 … GO. (Squealing and giggling). Great!
The following section is optional depending on your church’s beliefs.
There is one other way of praying with no words … well, it’s with other words really. Have you ever heard of tongues? Tongues is a gift that God gives some people that helps us talk to him. It’s a different language that even you don’t know what it exactly means, but God does. It’s like a secret language between your heart and God. Sometimes I am so confused or just don’t know what to say, but I know I really really want to talk to God about it, it’s like all wrapped up inside and I don’t know what to do. That’s when I pray in tongues. Tongues helps me open my heart and share with God all of what is inside … it is so good. Have you ever heard tongues?
Everyone’s tongues sounds different… but tell you what, I’ll pray a little bit in tongues so you can hear… (pray clearly in your own tongues. If you have a helper who can pray in tongues, ask them to pray in their tongue too). You see, everyone has their own tongues, their own special language for them and God.
How do you get tongues? Well, it’s one of the Holy Spirit’s gifts, so you can ask God for it. (Explain that if any of the children would like to have the gift of tongues, they can come and speak to you later / we will talk about this more after this session, or whatever is appropriate for your setting.)
Help the children try chatting using some simple questions.
Well, shall we spend some time praying? Let’s try this chatting thing! Okay, spread out away from anyone else – this is time just for you and God.You need to get ready to get comfortable and show me thumbs up when you are ready (discourage anyone from hands together).
Now, I’m going to tell you things to tell God in your head and I want you to tell him that thing, and then when you are finished put your thumbs up or nod at me so I know you are ready for the next one.
- Tell God … your favourite colour
- Tell God … hope you are having for lunch or tea today
- Tell God … your favourite place in the whole world
- Tell God … one person that makes you feel sad inside and why
- Tell God … a joke
- Tell God … a secret you’ve never told anyone else before (or something embarrassing about you)
- Tell God… how you feel about today
- Tell God… one thing you really like about your family
- Tell God… one thing wish was different about your family
- Tell God… the funniest TV show you’ve ever seen
- Tell God… one thing that makes you super scared
- Tell God… how you feel about him, really, honestly, you can say anything
(Click here for 101 ways to start a conversation with God!)
Well done! That’s it! Okay, my challenge to you is to chat to God during the day… remember that he is right next to you and wants to hear anything and everything. Raise your hand if you are going to give it a go? Good.
So before we go, let me talk to God about you for a second (don’t forget to not close your eyes… and try not to say Amen too – it’s harder than you think!). Gosh God, I am so excited that you listen to me and want me to share life with you and I just think it is so cool that you want to share life with each one of these kids. God, will you help them remember to share all the life stuff with you and would you send your spirit to help these kids feel how close you really are? Thanks God, I love you, we love you!
Part 2: Introducing children to ‘catch’
As with the chat talk, the examples used are Rachel’s personal experience: please use your own examples. It is so powerful for the children when we use real examples in our journey with God to illustrate to them how he speaks in everyday life.
Introduce them to the idea of ‘catch’
Who has been chatting to God? Do you like it? Tell me about it, why do you like chatting to God? (field some answers).
What is really great about God is that he chats back to us! It would be a bit strange if he didn’t, wouldn’t it. It would be a bit like this:
(Have a helper with you; throw a ball to them, but they just stand there with their hands down and the ball hits them and falls to the ground.) What do they need to do?Yes, of course, catch the ball! And that’s what a conversation is like – we chat to God (throw ball to helper, who catches it and throws it back) and God chats back. Or sometimes (give ball to helper) God chats to us (helper throws ball to you, and you catch it) and we chat back (throw ball to and fro).
It would be really boring if we talked to God all the time and he never talked back! But the cool thing is that we get to have a relationship with God, which means we can chat back and forth, God asks us questions and we answer and we can ask God questions and he will answer us! We show God stuff, and he shows us stuff. In the Bible God talks about this, and it is written down in Jeremiah 33:3. God says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Isn’t that amazing? When we talk to God, he says that he will answer and tell us stuff we’ve never heard before! I think that’s awesome.
For the following example, you need to have prepared seven pieces of A4 paper that as far as possible are your examples of when you have caught from God in the ways Rachel describes: with your skin/body (please see Rachel’s advice below); with your heart/guts; with your mind; with your emotions; with your eyes/ears; with the Bible; with dreams/visions. Screw each one up into a ball and give them to your helper.
Throughout the following your helper should throw one of the screwed up pieces of paper at you about once every 20 seconds, which you ignore and let bounce off you. You’ll find that the kids won’t focus on what you are saying because they are too busy laughing about the fact that paper is bouncing off your body which you don’t notice. Ham this one up, maybe rub your head and look puzzled as one bounces off it, or “notice” that there is paper on the floor and make a comment about how much rubbish is laying around.
You see, sometimes we complain, oh God never talks to me, I’ve never heard him. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t talking to us! It says in the Bible, in the book of Job, that God is constantly talking! We just need to learn how to catch, we have to learn to pay attention to the ways God talks to us and catch it…otherwise it can just bounce off of us and we will just think oh boo hoo, God doesn’t talk, he isn’t real, when he is talking and we aren’t paying attention. (Keep going until all the pieces of paper have been thrown at you.)
You see, (name of helper) has been throwing me messages and I have been completely ignoring them! They were real, but I didn’t notice. God talking to us is like that. He’s communicating with us all the time – we just have to pay attention and catch what he is saying. And it isn’t hard at all!
When God made us, he made us for the whole purpose of hanging out with him, chatting with him, talking back and forth, and being in relationship with him. So that’s how he made our bodies. He made our bodies to catch everything he wants to say to us, and because he is pretty clever he doesn’t just talk in words, he talks in a whole bunch of ways that our whole body can catch. Shall I tell you some of the ways we can catch?
Let’s look at the messages (name of helper) was throwing at me. These are some things that God told me in my life and I caught them in different ways, and I thought I would show them to you. Let’s see …
Throw one into the group. Catch! Open it up. What is it? The child shows it around and brings it up front and shows everyone. Then you explain it to them, using your own examples. Repeat until all the examples have been used.
- Skin/body. I try to be really careful on this one because above all, I don’t want the kids to only experience God physically through what I say, so I tend to draw a picture of a person and say “our bodies were made by God to feel him and we often can feel what God is doing in our bodies and on our skin, we feel lots of different things, so don’t forget to pay attention to catch with your body!” I deliberately don’t say some people feel burning or tingling or warm;I just want them to experience God in new and unique ways to them.
- Heart/gut. Sometimes you just know something but you don’t know how (you can describe this as ‘knowing in your knower’!), like if you see someone getting bullied and you just know that you should go over and help. For example: moving to England, I just knew that I knew that I knew that God wanted me to move to England. Every time someone mentioned England, my heart beat faster and I knew that I was supposed to go there.
- Minds. Some people’s minds catch from God. They may see a picture, or a word may pop into their head that you feel is from God. Just like if I say the word ‘house’ a picture of a house might drop into your mind, or you may see the word ‘house’ in your head. This is a picture of me surfing – I was chatting to God about all this God stuff, and how I felt scared of it, and he gave me this picture in my head. And I thought, me surfing? I don’t surf? What does this picture mean God? And I felt that God was saying that he was like the wave, the ocean. He is really big and really powerful, but that he is going to teach me how to surf, so that being with him would be fun and powerful and nothing to be afraid of, but be excited about!
- Feelings (emotions). My example was a picture that was all blue, and say once I was feeling very very upset and I asked God for help and I felt peaceful, I felt the wonderful calmness that wasn’t from me, but from God.
- Eyes and ears. Sometimes people see actual things with their eyes that is God talking to them (the example given in the course is of a child who saw an angel protecting her bedroom) or hear God speaking with their ears.
- Bible verses. God speaks a lot through the Bible. You might be reading the Bible and a verse suddenly jumps off the page at you, and you realise God is showing you it specially; or you might feel that God is directing you to a particular verse. I have a great piece of paper that a kid wrote that he got from God that says, “Philadelphians 4:12 and 13”: the child didn’t know there was a book called Philippians, but had clearly heard from God!
- Dreams and visions. God often speaks through dreams and visions – visions are like movies running in your head when you are awake.
Help the children try catching using simple questions
Okay, so are you ready to try? What we are going to do is give everyone a piece of paper and put some coloured pens around and we are going to ask God a question and catch his answer. If you want to draw or write what you caught from God, great! Let’s do that now.
You can have all the children ask a specific question like “God if you could play one game with me right now, what would it be? Why that game God?” or “What is one thing about me that makes you proud?” or you can suggest to the children that they ask any question they want. There are positives to each approach and will depend on your children.
Give every child a piece of paper and put the pens on the floor, telling them not to touch the pens just yet! Play some music and explain that this is just to help us catch – so we aren’t distracted by little noises like someone coughing. You can also suggest that you find it helps to close your eyes so you aren’t distracted, and put my hands out in front of me like I’m waiting to catch a ball (as a reminder that God wants me to catch). Then pray for the Holy Spirit to come, tell the children what the question is you would like them to ask God, and then wait; wait as long as you need to. After about a minute, gently instruct the kids that they can quietly pick up a pen and start drawing or writing if they have caught from God, but not to worry if they haven’t. After several minutes, remind them to catch with all the different parts of their body. If you are able to, have team members going around and engaging with the kids about their pictures, helping those who are struggling to hear, helping kids ask God for interpretations, etc. Keep on waiting until you sense the majority of the kids are ready.
When time is up, I ask the children if anyone found it hard to catch and affirm them all that catching from God is about learning to recognise his voice. The more we hear it, the more we will learn to recognise that it is God talking. So it’s okay if some days we find it harder to catch. God is talking to us and we all will get better and better at recognising his voice as we keep doing it. I also ask if some kids did catch from God and encourage all the kids to keep trying at home.
If you have a prayer shack or a place where children can go to meet God during your sessions, remind the children they can go there to chat and catch with God at those times. Encourage them to chat to their parents or a leader if they want to understand more.
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