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South Carolina Children’s Ministry Experiences Holy Spirit Outpouring

When the passion for children to experience the Holy Spirit met the boldness of a first-grade girl, multiple kids encountered God in a powerful way.

Every Sunday, Annie’s* mom brings her to the children’s service at Christian Life Church, the timid first-grader, always with colorful beads in her braided hair, brings a fresh question about Jesus.

Then came the Sunday when children’s pastor Bella Edwards shared a message about the Holy Spirit: “This gift is for you,” she told the 90 children ages six to 11 years old. “Listen for His voice to come accept this gift.”

The group waited. For a full minute, no one moved. Then suddenly, Annie, seated on the back row, stood and came forward.

Annie’s bold response unleashed the floodgates. With the tiny girl leading the way, other children followed.

What ensued was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit among the first- through fifth-graders at Christian Life Church in Columbia, South Carolina. That February morning, all 17 who went forward to the altar were baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Edwards, 26, notes that none of it would have happened without careful preparation to introduce the Holy Spirit to her flock. Pivotal in this was the Assemblies of God Kidmin’s Session guides on elevating worship in children’s ministry. These guides are available free of charge.

Edwards’ own journey seeking Jesus, during which He called her to children’s ministry, unfolded during her adolescent years. She watched college football in the late 2000s with her dad, a former Florida Gators football player. Like more than 100 million others nationwide, she did internet searches for Scripture references that standout Gator quarterback Tim Tebow wrote in his eye black.

In high school, someone sponsored her trip to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, where she met Jesus.

She returned to Southeastern to study ministerial leadership. There, Chris Corbett, department chair for the School of Ministry and Theology, became her mentor and professor.

Corbett’s impact on Edwards’ walk with Christ extended to hearing the voice of God, including the practice of silence. Years after Edwards’ graduation, Corbett regards her among top students impassioned for children, for families, and for Jesus.

“I remember Bella’s deep passion from the very first moment we met. That passion just grew,” says Corbett, noting Edwards’ involvement in a local church’s children’s ministry while studying at Southeastern. “She always gave 100 percent. I am so forever grateful she’s a part of my life.”

When Christian Life named Edwards as children’s pastor in 2020, she carried Corbett’s teachings on spiritual formation into her ministry.

“(There are) kids in my church who were in situations like I was in. The Lord set me free,” she says. “The Lord rescued me from the brokenness of my home for this.

“(Children’s ministry) isn’t a steppingstone for me. This is my life.”

So, when Assemblies of God Kidmin released its free Sessions guides on how to elevate worship in children’s ministry, she embraced it. Its topics focus on practical ministry such as how to praise God, raising hands in worship, praying over friends, sitting in silence, and waiting on God.

While Edwards was excited about launching the curriculum, instead of immediately diving in, she laid the groundwork by calling on her ministry team to pray for the upcoming season.

The goal is connecting children with the Holy Spirit beyond surface-level altar times “rather than us just always talking about it,” she says. “The gift is for them, too.”

When the teaching began in the fall, Edwards and her team lingered on each point.

“We wanted God to sit within them. Repetition for kids is everything. We wanted them to fully understand every new point we talked about before moving on. If it took us three months to get us through one point, it took us three months,” she says. “We let the Spirit lead us.”

In December, Edwards introduced the Holy Spirit, “the greatest friend you’ll ever have,” she told the children. “It’s a secret language... prayers that will always be God’s will over your life. So, I said God wants you to have this.”

She showed them what her Holy Spirit language sounds like by praying in tongues on the mic while stressing that everyone’s language sounds different.

“You could see kids lean back and clench their chairs,” she says. “Some hadn’t heard of it. Some had and thought it was something silly. But the room felt different.”

And the Holy Spirit broke through, with Annie’s bold response leading the way.

At the altar, “Everybody was touching, crying out to the Spirit, pure emotion and joy and beautiful yelling, exalting who Jesus is,” Edwards says. Older children prayed for the first- and second-graders. “That was so beautiful.”

Since that first outpouring in February, eight other children have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Christian Life Church.

“Now we’re seeing them choose to enter into the presence of God with their own relationship with Him instead of us setting it up for them like we were,” Edwards notes.

That marked a complete turnaround. “Not one Sunday have we not seen our kids in the presence of the Lord,” she says.

Reports the ministry team has heard from children include seeing an angel hovering over the service and calls to missions and vocational ministry. Edwards’ favorite response has been a weeping girl unable to explain in words how she felt the presence of God.

“The kids are showing us He's there with them. It’s incredible!” she says.

Edwards points out that leading children in the baptism of the Holy Spirit looks differently from church to church.

“Get in the prayer closet with God. He knows the kids in your ministry. He knew our kids needed time,” she says.

*name changed to protect privacy of minor

Deann Alford

Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.