SPRING HILL — A church within a church is how a children's ministry leader describes the Kids for Christ program at Christ the King Full Gospel Worship Center.
"The children have a service of their own," said Lori Allen, 45, who, along with her husband, Michael, heads the children's ministry for 5- to 12-year-olds at the church. "We take their input as to what they want to do."
The idea for a special children's program came from the pastor, Allen Sabo, and his wife, Maria.
"Kids for Christ started with a vision that Pastor and Maria have had for some time, having seen children's programs work well in New York, where they were before," Allen said.
"The children participate in their own service on Saturday evening and Sunday morning," Pastor Sabo said. "We have some of the children lead their own praise and worship. They also have all kinds of activities, like campouts and sleepovers. They are very big on supporting World Vision (a Christian humanitarian group)."
In April, the group was growing beyond the capacity of the small room next to the sanctuary, so the church began renting another building for the children's ministry in the Village Square plaza. The children's building is set up much like the adult church, complete with pews.
The Allens encourage the children to take turns leading the praise and worship by singing and playing the tambourine and other instruments. They also use music DVDs that have children singing in them.
"They have microphones and a sound system," Allen said. "Since we've moved to the new building, they've even formed their own prayer chain and are excited to be praying for one another's needs. They see what the adults do and grasp the idea."
The Allens provide arts and crafts and lead a Bible study. Currently, the series being taught is on the names of God. A 12-week interactive program using crafts and DVDs on the Ten Commandments will begin Aug. 27 and 28.
"One of the things we do to encourage attendance and participation is to allow the children to accumulate Bible bucks," Allen said. "Every three months, they go shopping with that money from a little store we set up with items that are donated."
For the next four months, children will save their bucks to shop for Christmas gifts for their families.
Sabo said that many churches ignore children.
"You put them in a corner somewhere or turn a movie on and let them sit there until we're done," he said.
The Bible has an admonition about that, Sabo said.
"Scripture tells us in Proverbs to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he gets older he will not depart from it. That's basically our theme — to train children to love the Lord and have a relationship with God in order to change their lives and live a life that's productive."
Having a church for kids has allowed some children to participate who might not otherwise.
The grandparents of one boy told Sabo how much the program has helped their grandson, who couldn't sit still very along and was verbally abusive to them.
"He's been in the kids' church, and from the reports I've gotten, he's taking part in discussion and sits there through the whole service," Sabo said. "He just feels more welcome with kids around there his own age."
Between 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesdays, the teenage girls from the church provide a program for the Kids for Christ children.
"Beginning this month through September, the midweek focus is about Torchlighters, which is a DVD series about real-life heroes all around the world," Allen said. "They also have discussion after the show with popcorn and then go on to activities with friends."
Sabo said the Allens are gifted children's ministers.
"God has put the kids on their heart," he said. "It takes very special people to work with children. They work with these kids in a way that's unbelievable."
Allen said she wants kids to know that Jesus loves them.
"They are made special by the Lord," she said. "We just want to encourage the good things that they can tuck under their belt and take with them."