By Dema Kohen
All children are familiar with fear. Fear blocks their view of God’s greatness and draws all their attention toward the challenge they are facing. Fear robs them of joy and peace and makes them feel utterly powerless.
The experience below is designed to help the children in your group do two things: own their fears by admitting them to the group and disown their fears by surrendering them to Jesus. It can be instrumental in empowering kids to overcome their fear!
DISCUSSION STARTER: STRESS-O-METER
Fasten the “Stress-O-Meter” to the whiteboard where everyone can easily see it.
Explain to the students that this poster depicts some of the biggest stress factors—things that make many kids feel anxious and fearful.
Go over each stress factor to make sure everyone clearly understands what they are.
Give each student a sheet with 12 dot stickers. Ask them to look over the sources of anxiety on the poster and distribute their sticker dots in proportion to the level of stress they experience from various factors.
For example, if when they think about the future they really worry about losing a loved one (think about it often and lose peace over it), they may want to put 5 or even 6 stickers next to it.
If they occasionally worry about getting a bad grade, they might put two stickers next to it. If they never or hardly ever worry about being picked on by bullies, they can put just one sticker next to it or none at all. The stress factors listed on the poster are:
- PUBLIC SPEAKING
- PARENTS ARGUING
- NOT HAVING ENOUGH MONEY
- TAKING A TEST
- GETTING SICK
- PICKED ON BY BULLIES
- BELIEVING IN GOD
- LOSING A BALLGAME
- MAKING FRIENDS
- BAD GRADES
- PERFORMING ON STAGE
- MOVING AWAY
- DEATH OF A LOVED ONE
- PARENT LOSING JOB
- TOO MUCH HOMEWORK
Once everyone has placed their dot stickers on the chart, count the dots together and determine the top three fears. Give students a chance to offer comments and talk about some of their fears.
Ask if there are any other fears that they’re experiencing which are not mentioned in the chart. When we did this activity with the children in our church, they were extremely open and brought up the following fears: doing something new, riding a roller coaster, going to bed (having bad dreams), things that they can’t control, pets (losing a pet, being bit by one), future, viruses on devices, siblings (annoying, being mean, losing their things).
You always want to start with where the kids are and give them a chance to voice their fears. For some children this type of vulnerability might seem scary and threatening, however don’t rush to save them and make things easier for them. Real change happens only when we become real.
You don’t want to force them to talk, yet you do want to make them feel comfortable and safe making it easier for them to be real about their inner thoughts and feelings.
If children are eager to openly talk about their fears, take it as an indication that this topic is relevant to them and impacts them in a very profound and personal way. If they hesitate to talk, it’s a signal that either they’re not interested in this topic (very unlikely) or that they don’t feel safe enough to openly talk about their inner world (more likely).
Take note of their responses and be sure to work on improving the emotional climate in your group. Emotional safety is foundational for heart-to-heart conversations.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: PERSONAL TESTIMONY
Now that the children are thinking and talking about fears, it’s time to build a bridge between where they are now (FEARFUL) and where you want them to be (FEARLESS).
One of the best ways to accomplish this is to have one of the teachers share a real-life story of how they overcame their childhood fear. Real-life stories are very powerful and kids connect well with them. A real-life example will give children a picture of a life that’s not held back by fear and will inspire them to overcome their own fears.
Note: When choosing a personal story to share, make sure that it is age-appropriate and that it specifically deals with the topic you’re exploring.
LIFE APPLICATION: SAFE IN GOD’S ARMS
The opening activity encouraged children to identify some areas where fear controls them. And through the personal testimony, you gave children hope that they too can overcome their fears. Now it’s time to help them take the final step—releasing their fears to God.
Sit everyone in a circle and bring out a cuddly stuffed animal. Share a short story that has to do with this toy (if you have one, of course). Pass it around and have everyone hug it.
- Why do you think people like to have stuffed animals around? They’re cute; they feel good to hold; they’re fun to play with.
- How do you feel when you hug an animal like this? It feels warm; cuddly; good.
- Do you ever hug a stuffed animal when you’re scared, lonely, or sad?
- How is the feeling you get from hugging a stuffed animal like how it feels to trust Jesus when you’re scared or sad? Jesus comforts me; I feel happy when I remember that He loves me.
- How is trusting Jesus different from hugging a stuffed animal? Jesus is really alive and has power to help me.
Just before Jesus went back to heaven, he made a promise to his followers. Let’s look at that promise. Give each person a copy of the “Safe in God’s Arms” template. Point out the Bible verse—Matthew 28:20. This is the promise I’m talking about. Let’s read it together.
Jesus never promised that life will be easy, but he promises he will always be with us. And having Jesus with us is even better than having a teddy bear or an older brother, or even parents, because Jesus is the Son of God, and he has power to help us! Jesus is with us in tough times.
Have kids (and adults) use the space on the handout to draw or write about something that makes them afraid. You may want to play Newsboys’ “You Hold It All” in the background. Allow 3–4 minutes for drawing and writing, and then ask volunteers each to tell about the fears (concerns, worries) they put on their handout. Kids may be surprised to learn adults have fears too, and even though they’re grown up, they also trust in Jesus to help them in scary situations.
How does it feel to see Jesus with his arms around you in your scary situation? Wait for answers. The next time something bad happens to you, remember that Jesus is right there with you, and he will see you through.
After several children had a chance to share, take time to pray for each of them or have them split into groups of 2–3 and pray for each other.
Send them home with the posters as a visual reminder to always place and leave their fears in God’s hands. Hopefully, the next time fear tries to overwhelm them and steal their peace, they’ll find strength and courage in knowing that Jesus is with them.
IF YOU LIKED THIS INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE,
YOU WILL DEFINITELY LIKE THE FEARBUSTERS
5-WEEK SERIES TEACHING CHILDREN
TO FACE AND OVERCOME THEIR FEARS.