When 7-year-old Ian saw the huge white tent outside the Billy Graham Library, he grabbed his sister’s hand and started to run.
“Halt!” said his mom, Rachael. “You are not acting like a warrior or a gentleman.”
The little boy hung his head, but when his mother tousled his hair and smiled, he knew he hadn’t misbehaved too badly.
“I am just so excited to get a crown and see the other warriors and princesses,” said Ian. “There’s even a knight in a suit of armor up there!“
Little sister Kara, who is 5, wore her own tiara and a ruffled pink sundress. She hid behind her mom at first but grew bolder when she began to see the other children under the tent.
The trio from Gastonia, N.C., were among more than 550 who came to the first Readers Theater at the Billy Graham Library July 24, featuring author Kelly Chapman.
Along with her husband, Brit, Kelly brought to life characters from her books, Princess with a Purpose and A Warrior Prince for God, through a stage performance and interactive lessons designed to teach kids what it means to be sons and daughters of the King of kings.
One young mother drove from the Winston-Salem area with her two daughters, 9 and 4, because “the girls just love princesses and love these books. They are biblical yet fun.” She also wanted to visit the Library with her own mother who “absolutely loves Billy Graham.”
“This was our first Readers Theater and we are very encouraged and excited by the response we received,” said Sonya Johnson, promotions manager for the Billy Graham Library. “It was a blessing to see the faces of the little children and hear their excited laughter as they learned how to be princesses and warriors for Jesus.”
Kelly and Brit drove from their home in Houston, Texas, to attend the July 24 event. Brit owns a commercial landscaping business, but plays a key role in the ministry as one of many teachers in the Warrior Prince Academy. Brit also makes an appearance in the book, A Warrior Prince for God, as Coach Britmore, and later, Sir Britmore.
“He looks a little bit different in the book,” said Brit, laughing. “He’s got about 60 more pounds of muscle.”
It’s been seven years since Kelly wrote Princess with a Purpose, shortly after her daughter, Kendall, then 4, told her mom she wanted to be a princess and asked where she could learn to be one: “Is it Disney World?” she asked.
That’s when God gave Kelly the idea for the book a little at a time.
A few years later, Kelly’s son, Luke, was singing along to a song from the Princess with a Purpose CD and stopped short. “Mommy, I’m not a princess,” he said. “What about me?” Along came book two.
“We need to listen to our kids,” Kelly said. “The Lord will often talk through them.”
Today, Luke and Kendall, now 10 and 13, help with the ministry founded by their mother. Royal Purpose Ministries doesn’t just teach kids about their own identity but shows them how to honor and obey their parents and respect other adults.
It hosts camps and other events that include puppet shows, music and crafts. The boys might make wooden swords when talking about the armor of God. The girls might bring home small mirrors that they learn to point upwards to reflect God in all they do.
When asked about practical ideas that anyone could follow at home, Brit said parents can continue princess and warrior training by reminding their kids that “God made them the way they are” for a reason.
The Chapmans realize that not all kids have a mom and dad at home—one reason the main characters in the princess book live with their grandmother.
“A lot of times, it is kids who come from broken homes that really need the message that they are special, that God has a plan for them,” said Brit. In the Warrior Prince Academy, he uses the story of David and Goliath to demonstrate that God gives everyone talents that can be used for His purposes.
Girls learn the same lesson by talking about Esther – a fearful young Israelite who stayed focused on God and saved thousands of lives.
Another way parents can encourage their kids to be godly is to “live it out,” Kelly said. “If parents don’t believe who they are in Christ, then why should their children? Their children are looking to them.”
Let your kids see you being intentional about reading the Bible, she said, or asking for forgiveness when you make mistakes. Above all, let them see what a real relationship with Christ looks like.
“I think that would make the greatest impact on this generation,” said Kelly.
At the close of the day, the event at the Billy Graham Library was quite memorable for Kelly. “Mr. Graham’s humility and devotion to the Gospel has really touched my heart. Visiting the Billy Graham Library has been on my Bucket List.
“Needless to say, I was beyond honored to be a part of this fun family event,” Kelly added.
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