During naptime the other day, I heard a loud, crashing THUMP come from my 3.5-year-old’s room. She’s at the age where naptimes when she actually naps are few and far between, but she still takes time each afternoon to spend an hour or two in her room for quiet time.

This day’s “quiet time” had been anything but quiet. There was singing, playing her toy xylophone, shaking and banging on her tambourine, knocking on her window to wave at the people passing by on the sidewalk below, and general merriment.

Sitting downstairs, I tried to focus on my work while (unsuccessfully) balancing tuning out the noise and keeping an ear out for her safety. When I heard the loud THUMP I decided it was time to investigate.

I walked upstairs, opened her door, and saw the 75+ books in her room scattered all over the floor. There wasn’t even a place to step into the room. I asked what she was doing, and her response surprised me: “I’m building an altar to God.”

All I could do was laugh. I asked, “What made you think to do that?” She replied, “Well Abraham built an altar to God -” (thank you Bible App for Kids) – “and I wanted to build one too, but my books fell down.”

Her altar of books reminded me about the purpose and importance of building altars.

In the Bible, people built altars as places of worship, prayer, and sacrifice. But people also built altars to mark a celebration of God’s presence and work in their lives. Abram, Isaac, and Jacob built altars at the place where God revealed Himself. These altars became a response to God’s faithfulness and a memorial of divine encounters. 

In Genesis 12:7-8 (NIV), we read: “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring, I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”

Abram’s act of building altars was a direct response to God’s promises and faithfulness. God had assured him of land and descendants, and in gratitude, Abram erected altars as tangible expressions of his trust in the divine promises. Each altar also represented a sacred space where Abram had encountered God. These altars were not just physical structures but spiritual memorials, reminding him of the moments when the Almighty had revealed Himself and spoken into Abram’s life.

We may not be building altars of stone (or kids books), but the purpose of altars remains: to mark a moment of celebration of God’s presence and work in our lives.

In the fast-paced world of children’s ministry, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities and forget to pause and reflect on the incredible things God has done in our lives and ministries. To pause and celebrate the moments when God’s kingdom overlaps with our realities, and we see the work of the Spirit in the lives of the kids and families we serve.

What altars have you built in remembrance of how God revealed Himself in your life and your ministry in the last year? Big or small, what moments from the last year drew you closer into God’s presence or revealed His power at work?

A challenge for you as we begin the new year: Start an “Altar Moments” list. An altar moment is a moment when you see, experience, and feel God’s presence at work in your life or your ministry. Altar moments may be big, or they may be small, but either way, they are powerful reminders of God’s love and presence. They’re an overlap of God’s kingdom in your everyday life. When we experience an altar moment, we are filled with a sense of hope, joy, and renewed faith. Creating an altar moments list allows you to document and remember God’s faithfulness in your life and ministry. (And this free resource can help!) 

Let’s be leaders who are intentional about marking the moments of God’s presence in our lives and our ministries this year.

Use this free guide to help you start your Altar Moments List, and consider creating a habit of identifying moments of celebrating God’s faithfulness every week. If you want a way to mark the celebrations of God’s presence in your ministry over the span of 5 years, check out our Sunday Celebrations journal, available as a digital download (you download and print) here, and available as a physical printed journal shipped to you via Amazon here.

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