DIG - Children Delighting in God

DIG logo

DIG at BeFree is a children’s ministry serving kids ages infant through middle school. Here at BeFree we believe God speaks to children about His redemptive story and they can respond to Him individually and within a community.

What do children do in DIG?

In recent decades, children’s ministry has become increasingly louder and more action-packed in an effort to grab the attention of today’s youth. We’ve heard startling statistics about large percentages of young adults leaving the church, and many churches have reacted by borrowing from the entertainment culture in hopes of being “relevant” and “engaging,” making church “fun” to stem the tide of attrition.

We at BeFree Dover have the same desire to disciple children toward lifelong relationships with God. But we’ve chosen to pursue that mission in a counter-cultural way, out of the conviction that children of all ages are capable of experiencing meaningful encounters with God.

Young student interacting with lesson on Noah's Arc

In DIG, we aim to create an atmosphere for meeting with God, carving out space in our harried world for quiet and stillness, so children can listen to God himself speaking to them, and grow to recognize the voice of their Shepherd.

Catherine Stonehouse and Scottie May, in their book Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey, explain:

We do want children to know basic biblical facts, but our ultimate purpose is so much bigger. We long to see them meet God and get to know God, not just know about God. Children experience God as they enter the stories of Scripture and see God in action, discovering God’s character as the story unfolds and as they hear their self-revealing God speak to them in the narrative.
— Stonehouse and May

The following are distinctives of the reflective engagement method we practice in DIG:

1. Atmosphere of Worship

In preschool through elementary school, our classroom schedules imitate the Order of Worship repeated weekly in the regular service.

  • We welcome children; we introduce ourselves; we come to know and be known.

  • We sing praises.

  • We quiet ourselves in this special place so we can listen to God.

  • We hear God’s voice through his Word.

  • We respond as individuals (using art materials).

  • We share in community what God has taught us.

  • We pray.

  • We break bread with our snack (or join the service for communion).

  • We avoid games and one-size-fits-all crafts because we want the focus to be on God’s Story and our individual places in it. We don’t want kids to rush through any part of worship to get to the “fun stuff."

2. God's Story

Teacher and DIG student circle group

Central to our worship with children is God’s story, as revealed in scripture. God’s story teaches children what God has revealed to humanity about his character and his redemptive purposes. It also shows them that they are a part of God’s Great Story. The Holy Spirit is the real teacher here as the Word of God speaks.

God’s Spirit is the Teacher. As adults our role is to set the stage so that young learners and worshipers can enter the story, be open to God’s word, and listen for what the Spirit will reveal.
— Stonehouse and May

3. Wondering Responses and Sharing

After God’s Word is read, we invite wondering questions about the story. This practice communicates to children that they can actively engage with the story AND with God! They’re not just a passive audience. Teachers and children alike share what the story stirs in their hearts. As we listen to children, we’re given a window into their encounters with God. As they share their reflections, they participate in Spirit-led community with one another. No one is forced to share, but they are acknowledged and affirmed as they do.

Young female student showing a drawing

4. Listening and Reflecting

Our quiet time of private reflection in DIG gives children an opportunity to listen to the still, small voice of God, as they work out their response to him using art materials. This practice is a realistic reflection of what our relationships with God are actually like outside of the weekly church gathering (see 1 Kings 19:11-12). We listen to God, and we respond to him.

Example of lesson using play-doh figures on clipboard

5. Co-Pilgrims

Jesus demonstrates in the Gospels a counter-cultural way of being with children. When his disciples bickered over who would be the greatest in his kingdom, he said,

I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
— Matthew 18:3-5
Teacher and student smile over portfolio

The reflective engagement method assumes that we have something to teach one another – adults and children alike. Some of our finest teachers in the DIG program are older adults whose wisdom and humility have guided them toward children’s ministry. As these adults lead worship in their DIG classrooms, they show respect for the children, and children respond in especially rich ways when they sense that they are a valued part of God’s kingdom.

Parents, I invite you to come worship with us some Sunday and experience spiritual fellowship with children!

Grace Cooper headshot

Grace Cooper, Children’s Ministry Director

Grace grew up in India and graduated from Sheffield Hallam University, England with a BA in Business Studies. She met her husband, Jim while interning at Turbocam and moved to New Hampshire in 2006. After working in accounting for a few years, Grace took a break to raise her three daughters, Rebekah, Julia, and Anna. After moving to Dover in 2015, Grace started attending BeFree Dover in early 2016 and has enjoyed serving on the DIG team for a couple of years before coming on as the Children's Ministry Director in 2018.