The Three Rule Template

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Good thoughts from Andy Partington today–whether it’s in your ministry, your home and your frienships, these are worth considering and applying.

Rules are good. God gave them to us. Not to punish us but to give us a great life to be lived for Him.
So why do we have such a problem presenting them to our children?
Have you ever presented your rules only to find little Mitchell with his hand raised poised to ask “why”?
Did you have trouble answering him?

Here are three easy guide steps to give you a surefire one, two, three, punch rule system that is sure to catch on with your kids, be loved by your workers, and take away stress from your behavior management system.
Let’s take a look.

1. Honor God: This rule is all about our relationship with God. It gets us thinking about why God put us together in the first place and what behaviors would He like best in this situation. The ways we can honor God might be, not to talk unless spoken to, not to leave your seat, or just to simply listen.

2. Honor your neighbor: This rule focuses on how we relate to the people around us. I love rule number 2, and here’s why. Every group has a “bell cow”, the one that makes the most noise and leads the others to wherever the bell cow leads. Once the bell cow gets rule two, he can be a driving force for good.

3. Have an attitude of gratitude: The final rule checks our motivation and attitudes. Whatever may happen, kids need to know that we can have fun during almost anything. If they’ve heard the story before, if they don’t get picked for the game, etc.

These rules can have your personality. There can even be more than three. But these three templates can serve as a general guide for setting up your own kids ministry rules. Do you have any to add or ways to creatively embellish the three rule template?

Andy Partington is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at http://www.andypartingtonblog.com

Get Out There and Insulate Yourself—How to Use Insulation Foam Board to Spruce Up Your Space

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Maybe you are like me and are from a church on a pretty tight budget. I am from a pretty small town with a pretty small budget when it comes to pretty much all things Kidmin—or most all things for that matter. We are also in a location that is pretty far away from major shopping. So we are often pretty limited not only in supplies, but the cash for those supplies. But that pretty small budget shouldn’t hinder you from making things “pretty” around your kidmin space.

Anyway, God isn’t hindered by budgets—those disciples didn’t even have silver or gold, but they did some pretty incredible things anyway. And Jesus didn’t even have a children’s area. He had to share His space (and it was really His space, yknow??!!!) with, well, with the whole world and He never complained. And so, neither will I, well, most of the time I won’t.

This is why years ago we came to the decision that we would not let finances stop our creative minds from doing what we could with what we have to the glory of God.

Here’s the thing:
When it comes to practical ministry and design, one of my favorite things to use is insulation foam board. It comes in different thicknesses and sizes and it is super easy to use. It’s lightweight, easily paintable, easy hangable and easily change-outable!! Your lumber yard will cut it down to a manageable size for you or if you are as blessed as I am they will even deliver it to your door for no charge.
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Here’s How You Can Use It:
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It’s VBS time and we have used foam board to make a time machine, a giant paint brush, a gazillion apps for room signs, check in signs and logos.
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Add a little “pop” to your space
Last year we updated our hallway, which we share with our Christian School by using insulated foam board to create signs and arrows pointing the way to our “big kids” Sunday school class.
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Signage & PropsWe’ve used it to make signs for our KidCheck check in stations and props for our preschool rooms. It’s so lightweight you can hang it with fishing line. It’s easily transportable, and easy to carry.
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It’s not new, but I’m always amazed at the number of people who haven’t heard of using it. Maybe you are one of them! If you haven’t ever given it a try, now may just be the time to spruce up your next space or event for next to nothing–or maybe even nothing if you know someone in your church who just finished doing some insulation! Behold the joy of someone’s trash becoming your treasure!

So go on, get out there and insulate yourself or your space and be sure to let me know what you have done, or if you have another great inexpensive idea for ministry design. I’d love to hear what you are doing.

Bro Tell It On The Mountain

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My coaching friend, Andy Partington, writes these words that I love and share often with our church. I am so thankful for the men who serve with us in children’s ministry every week at New Testament Christian Church.

Your ministry needs a few good men. It may even need a little more than a few! We’re blessed at my church to have men serving in every area of children’s ministry. But it wasn’t always that way. A few years ago our programs were entirely staffed with women. Now all of these women were gifted in teaching and serving in a multitude of areas. They were and still are valuable leaders and assistants in reaching and teaching children. But something was missing?

Boys need Bros
The basic needs of boys are the same today as they were 100 years ago, even though we live
in a society that has experienced many changes. Boys desire to be part of a group their own age that accepts them for who they are. They seek the attention and affirmation from male role models that they have what it takes to become men. What do the boys of your church need most? Boys need a relationship with Christ, and they need the men of your church to spend time helping them become men that God can use.

Finding a Bro
Alright, guys have a tendency not to respond to the same recruiting techniques as women. First, let’s just take guilt completely out of the picture. Let’s end those whiny pleas that the nursery or Sunday school is filling up and there just isn’t anyone to take care of these precious little blessings.

We know it’s true.

It’s just not the story that men want to hear.

Instead, let’s define a role that men will respond to and see themselves in. Storytellers, builders, thinkers, listeners, helpers, leaders, and visionaries are all labels that men will wear proudly, and they are all positions that you probably need in your children’s ministry, today!
Give the men of your church the opportunity to really hear your vision for children’s ministry and to know the roles that are available. If they are gifted in those areas they’ll be drawn to them. Listen to the conversations in the halls. Find out who builds. Find the hobbyists and enthusiasts who live to talk about their passions. Find the fathers who talk about activities that they do with their children. Once you have that list of men in your head, think of ways that they can be included in your programming.

Lead a Bro
Men will respond to strong leadership. I’ve seen it time and time again. If a weak leader is in place, women volunteers will be motivated to circle the wagons and step up into the void.
Men tend to do the opposite. A weak leader usually leads male volunteers to exit the ministry and find another place to serve that has well defined parameters and an efficient model of service. So, give good leadership and be prepared for a more testosterone filled teaching time!

Let a Bro be a Bro
This really works for anybody, male or female, but for someone to really feel at home in a ministry position, it must be truly theirs. Give your workers the space they need to truly personalize their experience. Allow them the opportunity to assist in setting goals, making plans, and evaluating their experiences. The children of your church and community need the unique talents and gifts that these men possess.

Andy Partington is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at andypartingtonblog.com

It’s OK to Give Up in Children’s Ministry

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Here is a challenging message from Kidology Coach, Todd McKeever, about transitioning to a new ministry. Some of his tips can be easily applied to help you in your existing ministry as well.

It is amazing, and yet very sad, when you can watch a children’s pastor move from one ministry to another children’s ministry and they sink terribly at the new one.

As many of you know I have moved from my last church to my new one here in Des Moines, Iowa, as the Family Life Pastor for First Church of the Open Bible. Making this move from my last to my new has caused me to look at my ways, systems, processes, and is challenging me to also “Let Go” of some great things that I would have used at my last church and to pick up some new ways for my new church.

This is what has me thinking through the terrible mistakes many children’s pastors will make as they, too, make their new moves into a new ministry. I have never seen where the children’s pastor wasn’t knowledgeable enough to succeed or could have learned to do the new; it was they didn’t want to “Let Go” of the old and comfortable for the new, exciting, and challenging.

To avoid this you need to learn about your new place of ministry. What are the things you need to know? Being an efficient and effective learner will reduce your window of vulnerability to loss. Here are a few things I am personally spending time on:

Before I even arrived:
* Read up and asked questions of my network about this church and the team members who are here.
* Spent tons of time talking with my new Senior Pastor
* I created a list of questions that help guide my learning once I got here.

Right after I arrived:
* Met with my direct reports, and we settled on how we would communicate.
* I listened and arrange myself to be in places where I could here volunteers talk. They would all bring their own perspective to what each of the problems and strengths were here.
* I would also, in this step, re-do my questions–some as I was able to target them more specifically because I was armed with more knowledge.
* Always kept my senior pastor in the know of what I was thinking. In this piece I started to learn of things I had to let go of to pick up some new stuff.

After being there for a bit:
* Met with key parents and got their ideas and feedback
* Met with the kids and got their ideas and feedback
* Talked with the community people and asked what they knew or thought of my new church
* Met with area children’s pastors
* I would also, in this step, re-do my questions–some as I was able to target them more specifically because I was armed with more knowledge.

I find for me that if I spend the right time asking the questions I will soon discover I need to let go of some old tried and true things that are comfortable, and pick up some new and unknown ways to help the ministry God has blessed me to be part of. If you don’t, the result is never good.

Pastor Todd McKeever is the Family Life Pastor at First Church of the Open Bible, Des Moines, IA. You can find out more about him at http://www.toddmckeever.com or follow him on twitter @tmckeever. Or you can request him as your ministry coach from Kidology.org coaches page at http://www.kidology.org/page.asp?i=242

The Office—The Whys and Hows of My Kid Friendly Space

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This week I had some visitors in my office. As they came bursting through the doors they exclaimed, “Ms Dawn! You have the best office ever!! It’s just full of so much fun!”

Seriously, few more precious words could ever be said to me about my office. I have always wanted my office space to be a kid friendly place. Years ago, when I first got an office, I was the volunteer coordinator of our children’s ministry program. I didn’t want the office to be seen as “my office,” but rather “the office” where children’s ministry took place, where other volunteers and of course, kids were welcome.

So I painted the former closet now turned office a beautiful color of noxiously perky orange (Yeah, I was orange, when orange wasn’t cool!) and we let the fun begin.

I’ve moved office space since that time. After being asked to consider a color other than orange for my new walls, I chose a lovely shade of white—but added vinyl adhesive polka dots! And, there are the orange curtains, an orange desk chair, orange tractor seat stools and tall table. There is gum ball machine, some sponge balls, a partial Mr. Potato Head collection, bouncy balls, a mini fridge, electric fireplace, and a zillion other kid friendly attention grabbing things. (No, my office isn’t really that big, it’s just well rounded!)

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People often comment about how much fun my office is, although not always with as much enthusiasm as today’s guests, and it makes me smile to realize that my office isn’t just a fun place, but instead it is a place that kids can relate to, connect with and enjoy. When they feel those things about my office, they also feel those things about me. They gain a sense that I am someone who “gets” them, and that I am someone they can trust.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to bring a smile to a kid’s face through my office space:

1) Color. You may or may not be able to paint your walls some crazy color, but even if your walls are white like mine right now, you can still make it pop with some great accessories, wall art, press ons, curtains, furniture, etc. (Most of what I have came from yard sales or someone else’s left overs.)

2)Toys. Keep some cool toys in your office. They don’t have to be the latest; they just have to be something kids will relate to. Currently one of our kids favorites is a sparkly filled water bottle, some old hand puppets, and my paper clip holder (it looks like a lady and the paper clips are her hair—the kids love it!)

3)Snacks. Since man cannot live on gumbballs alone, I try to have something on hand like fruit snacks or granola bars. Need to talk to a parent? A snack is a great way to occupy their child. Want to get a child talking? Have them sit down over a pack of fruit snacks and chat about their day.

4)Fun Furniture and Office Supplies. From my orange tractor chairs to my zebra striped stapler to my stiletto shoe tape dispenser, kids love the creatively eccentric things they find in my office. I even have a polka dotted broom that rests on top of a curtain rod. Why? I don’t know! I guess the question is, “Why not?”

So everyone now and then I look around my office and decide it’s time for something old to go out and new to come in. This helps to keep my view of ministry fresh, and keeps my focus on the heart of children and the precious responsibility given to us to help them understand how much Jesus not only loves them, but He “gets” them.

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3 Things Every Boy Needs To Hear

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In the coming weeks, I will be sharing some blogspace with two friends of mine in the children’s ministry world. Today’s post is from Andy Partington, children’s pastor in Louisiana.

A lot of time has been spent in my ministry on recruiting men, fathers especially, to volunteer with children’s ministry. Our church has been blessed with a great group of guys who work the nursery, pass out snacks, go on camping trips, drive vans, and lead worship for our kids. It’s a great privilege to see men and women serve alongside each other to reach boys and girls for Christ.

But there is another reason I have for bringing men into our ministry to children. In the community around us and all over the country it seems there is an absence of fathers. A boy may grow up in a two parent household, but the true paternal role is rarely ever seen. Boys have a list of essential needs that only a father or male role model can supply. We need to make sure that they hear:

“I love you”
It’s a basic human need to be loved. We were created to love and be loved by God. Despite this fact, it can sometimes be a huge hurdle as a man to express love to your sons and an even larger one to the boys that aren’t a part of your household. Yet, the need is still there. Find ways to say it, to show it in the way you live, to be an example of love to even the greatest discipline problems that you face. It will make such a difference and you will begin to see trust form in the eyes of the young men that you serve.

“I’m proud of you”Often times, it’s easy for the men in children’s Sunday school classes to become the “enforcer of rules” and the major disciplinarian in the class. This is absolutely fine, but we miss out on an opportunity to serve and show Christ-like love by not telling kids the good things that they’re doing. Point out when boys are well behaved. Take time to mention how good they did during the relay or scripture memory game. Give praise when praise is due. All too often, our boys don’t get the praise they deserve from dads and men in ministry.

“You’re good.”
This is a little different than “I’m proud of you”. I think everyone can benefit from knowing that we have the potential to be virtuous. The statement “You’re good” transcends pride and acknowledges that a boy can have and does have value in your eyes. I’ve seen this simple phrase melt the hearts of the most hardened elementary bullies.

I hope that this list of things that boys need is helpful to you. It’s certainly not exhaustive. Can you think of other ways to reach out and touch the lives of the young men in your church or community? Maybe there are some things that you felt you didn’t have that you needed growing up? Maybe there was a memorable moment in your development that you can look back on and bring to the table as you minister to your sons and the boys under your care.

Andy Partington is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at andypartingtonblog.com

Thanks for the Memories–Mama Mia Monday

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I spent last week teaching at our local church camp. It was a great week! Teaching God’s Word is one of my all time favorite things to do, and teaching it at camp is like the icing on the cake of Bible teaching goodness.

While talking with some campers, they asked me how long I had been coming to camp, and although I wasn’t quite sure exactly how long it had ,I did remember one of my first times teaching was at a week of camp I went to when our son, Connor, who is now 26 was in the 7th grade.

“Woah! That’s a long time ago.”

“Thanks, campers.”

What made it especially cool though was that Connor was our missionary for the week. He now serves in Russia as an English and Bible teacher, and I am so thankful for the memories that we have made and are continuing to make as we have these precious opportunities to serve God together even though we are miles apart.

I told them how we used to teach upstairs above our slightly dilapidated bath domes and in shelter houses scattered around the camp. I recounted how I had taught in one of the shelters near our old outdoor chapel (before we got air conditioning in a retreat center) and had written the key points to my lesson in chalk in the beams of the shelter house. And I told them how the last time I checked (a couple of years ago) the words were still there.

So, of course, we took a quick adventure to see if anyone had yet dared to erase the “immortal” words of the summer of 2001, and alas they had not–the words were still there. The picture above is reinforced the heart of lessons on being servants of God.

That summer as I taught those lessons Connor was a camper, and he and I never told anyone that we were related. Oh a few people knew, but as I told stories of my sons and some of our teachable moments, the spotlight stayed off Connor and on God and His Word. At the end of the week, we had the “big reveal” and as I told the campers that my son was actually at camp as a camper, they wouldn’t believe it and we had a great laugh and made a great memory.

In the years since, both my boys and I have spent quite a few summers together at camp. Through those times of serving together, we grew as family, we grew in our faith and we lived out the words of the shelter house as we became servants of God. And we made memories. Lots of them.

Mama Mia! Lots of memories. Memories of rap songs, baptisms, a guy named Pierre, mildew in the camp, catching snakes, heat stroke, “keep away from the water balloons!” going back to the beginning and so much more. Oh so much more.

So Mamas, let me encourage you today that a great way to make lasting memories with your children is to serve with them–side by side. Find a project, go on a mission trip, serve at a camp. . . .let God grow you closer and bind your hearts together as you serve Him together.

Mama Mia! I’m thankful for the memories!