A young mom approached me after children’s worship one Sunday and asked if I could spare some time to meet with her son later that week. “He’s been talking about becoming a Christian,” she said, “and I just want you to make sure that he’s ready.” I wanted to say, “You’re his mom. Can’t you tell me if he’s ready?” I knew she was a woman who had grown up in the church and was fairly grounded in her faith, and yet she didn’t feel equipped to help her son make the most important decision of his life. She’s not alone. A dad in our church recently told one of our staff, “I know what it means for me to be a Christian, but I don’t know how to express it to my son. I just don’t have the words.”
That’s why we designed Kid Splash, a family experience that’s revolutionized the way our church helps kids and parents fall in love with Jesus and talk about faith at home. At Kid Splash a skilled communicator walks families through the plan of salvation using big, colorful props, video clips and creative storytelling. Then, kids and parents split up, giving kids the chance to do an activity to reinforce the gospel message and parents the chance to ask all the questions they want. Finally, we reunite families and send them out the door with fun souvenirs that give them the tools to continue the conversation at home.
At Kid Splash, we take something we do really well—creatively communicate the gospel to kids—and something parents do really well—walk with their kids through everyday life—and combine the two for maximum spiritual impact.
Here’s how we do it.
Get the word out.
Two months before the event we promote Kid Splash using every communication tool we have: the church website, postcards and stage announcements in our children’s ministry rooms and in the adult worship service. We sell Kid Splash as a fun beach-themed experience where kids and parents will discover what it means to follow Jesus. It’s not a class … it’s a party.
Set the mood.
We only do Kid Splash twice a year to make sure our numbers are big, because we want families to feel the energy the moment they step into the room. The night of the event, families walk into Kid Splash where high-energy music is playing and movie-style trivia questions flash on the screen. Because Kid Splash is beach-themed and because we’ll be talking about baptism, all of the questions have to do with water, the ocean, fish, and the Little Mermaid.
We kick things off with our worship and motions team leading families in heart-pounding worship songs. The goal is to get their blood pumping and to help them engage with God. A big start lets families know that Kid Splash is going to be fun, loud and all about Him. After worship, we throw beach balls into the crowd with icebreaker questions taped to them to get families talking.
Present the gospel in a way kids will understand.
At Kid Splash we call this part “God’s Story” where we explain the plan of salvation using foam props to represent key words from John 3:16. These oversized pictures of a cloud, heart, globe, gift and cross represent the words God, Love, World, Gave, and Son, allowing us to teach the verse one word at a time. To wrap up, we use a prop from a favorite Willow Creek lesson—a tower of giant ABC blocks—to walk families through the steps of Admitting sin, Believing in Jesus and Choosing Him to be their forever Friend.
We use concrete language, free of churchy jargon, to make sure kids and parents understand the plain truth of the gospel message. No “sanctifications”, “propitiations” or “justifications” allowed. Even the word “salvation” can be confusing to a child or an unchurched adult. To keep them on their toes, our teacher has kids and parents turn to each other and discuss points along the way. Above all, the presentation has to be clear, compelling and able to speak to both age groups.
Provide a direct invitation for parents.
Kids aren’t the only ones who come to know Jesus at this event. At the end of “God’s Story,” the teacher addresses parents that if the Holy Spirit is speaking to them that night, then it’s a great time to make the choice to give their lives over to God. No pressure, just an opportunity for adults as well as kids to respond. I did this at our first Kid Splash and had a dad come to me at the end of the night, asking to be baptized. Within two months of the event, eleven parents who had attended believed on Jesus as their Savior.
Give families process time.
While the first half of Kid Splash brings families together, the second half gives kids and parents some age-appropriate time to process “God’s Story” and what it means for them. Kids go to breakout rooms to do an activity that gives leaders a chance to personalize the gospel presentation for each child. Meanwhile, a teacher talks to parents about how to determine if their child is ready to make a decision to follow Christ. We make it clear that there is no magic age and that ultimately no one can be 100 percent certain about the condition of their child’s heart. However, we do give parents the following questions to prayerfully consider while navigating this decision.
- Who is initiating this decision—you or your child?
- Does your child know the story, the basic facts of who Jesus is and what He did for them?
- Does your child have an awareness of personal sin? Until they can express regret over specific sin in their lives, they cannot understand their need for a Savior.
- Is your child emotionally mature enough to understand the decision they are making? In other words, do they get it in their heart as well as in their head?
Provide take-home resources.
We believe that the best part of Kid Splash happens after the event when families get home and start talking about what they learned. So we send them out the door with a Kid Splash Home Edition DVD and workbook to make sure they have plenty to talk about. The DVD is a video of the same “God’s Story” lesson we do at Kid Splash, broken up into five-minute segments, each focusing on one of the main points from John 3:16.
- God – God is holy and perfect.
- Love – God loves us and created us to be His forever friends.
- World – The world and its people are separated from God by sin.
- Gave – God wants to give us the gift of eternal life to remove our sin and restore our relationship.
- Son – Jesus bought this gift for us when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.
The workbook includes a week of devotions, family activities and Bible studies to accompany each segment of the DVD.
Also in the workbook there is an exercise called “The Jesus Letter.” In this exercise, kids take a quiet moment at home to write a simple letter to Jesus to express their faith. With the following prompts, children articulate what they believe and why they believe it.
You are . . .
I love you because . . .
I’m sorry for the times I . . .
I want to follow You because . . .
This letter gives parents a window into their child’s heart and helps them gauge what their child understands. It also makes a precious keepsake that parents can use to remind children of their young faith in Jesus for years to come.
Send families out inspired.
At the end of the night, we reunite our families and wrap up the event with an inspirational video of kids and parents who were baptized over the last year. This sends families out on a high note and gives them a picture of people just like them who crossed the line of faith.
The rest is all follow-up. The staff and volunteers are available for questions after the event and offer to meet further with any family who needs some extra counsel. The coolest part is that few families take us up on it, because now parents feel equipped to handle this conversation on their own.
Kid Splash may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a fresh, fun way to start salvation conversations with your families, then maybe it’s time for you to take the plunge. Come on in. The water’s fine.