Simple Ways to Help Kids Grow in their Faith

simple ways
I think I’ve been in “hype” overload. Sometimes I feel like I am constantly bombarded with so much information about so many things at such a rapid pace that it’s hard to keep up. Do you ever feel like that?

While some of this information can be good, even great, practical, and useful our quest for greatness, excellence and the pinnacle of “Pinterestness,” (yeah, I know that’s not a word, spell check already told me, but I’m a rebel!) we often forget that it is often in the most simple of things that we help kids grow in their faith.

Here are a few that we have used in our church lately with great results.

1) Cardboard. Never underestimate the power of cardboard. Our preschoolers have been in a fiery furnace later turned minivan (it was supposed to be a chariot, but I’m not a great designer). Cardboard boxes helped our lil HiSKidZ see that “God is With Them Everywhere,” and it didn’t cost us a dime.

2) Crafts that reinforce the lesson. Whether it’s been our “bigs” or our “littles,” we have reintroduced some simple crafts that help apply what they are learning and promote conversations at home. Adding a picture of that craft to our ministry’s facebook page serves as a reminder for the days when that craft never made it out the classroom door. We don’t do them every week, but we do them just often enough to make an impact.

3) Leftovers. They’re not just for dinner! We recently raided/cleaned out our resource room and found all sorts of things that we brought out to use at an arts table for our VBS family night. Kids and their families could stop by and start creating and they had a blast. Again, the cost was $0 and great connections were made within our families.

4) Theme Snacks. Theme snacks aren’t always simple. But can be easy to find a snack that you can tie in to a lesson as you teach. There are a lot of ways to tie blue jello into a Bible lesson. . . You Know! Two weeks ago, we served iced oatmeal cookies because they look a lot like chariot wheels, and in doing so, Dollar Store cookies became a simple teaching tool to connect our lesson to kids’ hearts.

5) On sight cross cultural missionary for VBS. This year we scheduled an entire session for our missionary at VBS. It helped that he and his wife (she is native to their country of service) are from our church and were back home visiting his parents (of which I am one!) But it was so neat to hear kids making the connection that if this guy who was from our same small town could be used by God in another country so could they. Spending 5 days with a missionary helped HiSKidZ imagine what God might do in them.

6) Love. More than anything, love. It’s that simple.

I’d love to hear what simple ideas you have been using in your church lately. All you have to do is simply share!

5 Steps to Becoming a Children’s Ministry Mentor

mentoring

Monday Guest Blogger Andy Partington shares his insights on becoming a children’s ministry mentor.

As you march up the ladder of ministerial success, take some time and think of how you got there. Sure there were lots of victories. You picked up some valuable lessons from hard knocks. And along the way you picked up some great anecdotes, illustrations, and connections.

Isn’t it time to pass some of that wisdom along? Paul talks about mentoring as a father and son relationship.“11 As you know, like a father with his own children, 12 we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11,12)

We all bring a bag of tricks to the table–a wheelhouse of good ideas that are just begging to be shared with future generations or with our peers trying to minister in their own areas of life. Are you ready to take someone under your wing and become a mentor?

Well, here are five things to do as you decide to share your expertise.

1. Make a list of your strengths and experiences you bless someone’s life with. Start here. After all, you can’t really invest in someone without pinpointing what it is you’ll be sharing. You may just be surprised as you make your list. It’s possible you’ll find some strengths you didn’t know you had.

2. Determine how much time you have to give. I get it. You’re really busy. It’s always good to know your schedule and evaluate how much time you can give. Time can never be saved or redeemed. But it can be invested. And what better investment is there than pouring yourself into others?

3. Pray for and choose someone you want to be with and reach out to them. Let God identify just the right person to mentor. Perhaps you see someone struggling. Maybe someone has reached out to you for advice. Look for a teachable spirit and someone that you actually like. Mentoring is a relationship. So, it will help to actually like the person.

4. If you “connect” initiate some regular time together until your protégé has what they need. Mentoring time doesn’t always have to be a formal meeting. Spend some time together and enjoy a few laughs. Take your mentee along with you as you work. You’ll find that if you connect, it’s easier to talk and you’ll be on your way to sharing your life’s story, wisdom, and passion.

5. Then let them go. Every little bird gets kicked out of the nest in order to fly. Once you’ve passed on everything you can, it’s time to let them work on their own. Hopefully, they’ll be equipped to mentor someone else and pay it forward.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of the ins and outs of mentoring. Let me hear if you have some other great pointers to get out there and start mentoring.

Something’s Fishy—Focused Prayer for Kids (and Leaders)

fish 2

“And pray for my cat and my dog and my goldfish and bless all the world. . . Amen”

While children’s prayers can be heartfelt and sincere, part of our call in their discipleship process is to help children grow deeper in the discipline of prayer.

Because prayer is more than just talking to God, it is both an offensive and defensive weapon in the spiritual battles we face every day, this week in our children’s ministry, we used what we called “fish prayers” to help HiSKidZ grow in their prayer and spiritual lives and walks with God.

Our younger children made fish refrigerator magnets and our olders made bookmarks to help remind them to pray the fish way. (Yes, of course, we practiced our fish faces, fish sounds and fish tales!)

Here is what we shared this week with our kids; and our leaders and parents loved it, too, since this isn’t just a great way for kids to pray, it’s a great way to pray for kids.

fish prayers

Our younger children made fish refrigerator magnets and our olders made bookmarks to help remind them to pray the fish way. (Yes, along the way we practiced our fish faces, fish sounds and fish tales!)

Here is what we shared this week with our kids (and our leaders and parents loved it, too.)

F=Faith
Pray for faith. The disciples prayed for Jesus to increase their faith and we can learn from their example. We talked with HiSKidZ about how the world can chisel away at their faith, so we need to pray that God increases our faith and the faith of our friends.

I=Integrity
First we had to explain integrity. Our simple definition “doing the right things for the right reasons” helped kids to understand that they could pray to be honest, sincere, helpful, kind, forgiving, generous and more. Since we have used virtue based curriculum in the past they understood praying that the words adhered to our walls would be adhered to our hearts.

S=Salvation
As we talked we found that most of our kids were not praying for people to get saved. It didn’t take long to realize that prayers for people to “be saved” were most definitely in God’s will, and we became excited to see what God will be doing as we begin to pray for our family, friends and classmates to know Jesus as their Savior.

H=Holiness
HiSKidZ define holiness as “being set apart for God.” Again when asked, most realized they had never considered praying for their life to be set apart for God. Our older kids even concluded that one of the reasons many kids grow up and don’t follow God could be that there weren’t enough prayers being prayed for them to be set apart for their whole life.

Just as a fish can swim deep down into the water, HiSKidZ and their leaders went home this week with a new tool and plan to help them go deeper in their relationship with their Savior and Friend, Jesus.

Jump Start with Job Descriptions

08-18-14 Jump Start

Whether you are making out job descriptions or looking through them to find a place to serve, Andy Partington’s insight on children’s ministry job descriptions is a great resource. Read on to learn more. . .

All good things begin with a plan. Filling a spot in children’s ministry is no exception. Here are some tips to help you create a super job description for your ministry that will help you define, explain, and ultimately sell this job to the right person.

Here’s the Hook

Every story I’ve ever loved hooked me from the beginning line. In your job description start out with a brief introduction that really speaks to what the job is about. The truly passionate volunteer will read this brief, paragraph long opening and want to read more.
Let’s say you need a Game leader for Kid’s Church. Your introductory paragraph should definitely mention phrases like “opportunities to play with kids”, “stir excitement and light hearted competition”, or “helping kinetic learners to grasp the lesson with both hands.” (It’s an active job. Use lots of action words!)
A good hook will help you to reel them in with the rest of the facts. The introduction is also the place to lay out the ground work for all the detail stuff to follow.

Benefits

“You mean, I get something for volunteering?”

Before you tell them all the stuff that they have to do, let them know what they get from serving. If they’re going to be privy to firsthand knowledge, if they’re going to be part of a dynamic team, if they’re going to get to lead the parade of ministry success, these things need to be listed here in order for them to see that being a part of this ministry means something, and has some pretty neat perks too.

Responsibilities

Alright, you just laid out all of the great swag that they’ll get from serving. Now, it’s time to tell them what they’ll actually be doing. A well defined list of responsibilities not only keeps a volunteer on task, it lets them know right up front what’s expected of them. Also, laying out these responsibilities from the top will keep you from having to redefine and re-present them again and again.

Time Commitment

People are busy. Giving your volunteers a heads up on how much time they’ll be spending in a given field will help prevent burn out and let those special Children’s ministry champions plan ahead on giving the appropriate amount of time to be successful.

Length of Commitment

Sometimes volunteers need a season of down time. It helps to give a set period of time that they’ll be serving. This can vary by position. A Sunday School teacher could work anywhere from a quarter to a full year. A nursery volunteer could roll off each month. Don’t hesitate to put this in writing. If the volunteer is passionate about the ministry, they can always sign-up for a longer commitment.

Training and Equipping

It’s very important to let your volunteers know that they’ll get the training and resources that they need in order to do the job well. This part of the job description is the perfect place to let them know how you’ll have their back. It also gives them an idea of how much time they’ll be spending in meetings, conferences, and training seminars.

Qualifications

What are some of the commitments that you’re asking your volunteers to present?
In your job description, let your volunteers know what skills they need to have in order to successfully complete the task.

Special Qualifications

This is a great place to list those special passions that you’re looking for in your next children’s ministry teammate. This is that final spot to really lay out the type of person that will be used in your particular ministry or program.

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

Fiery Furnace Snack for Kids–Taste and See Sunday

fiery furnace

This month our preschoolers are learning that “God is With Them Everywhere!” Today their lesson was specifically about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and their visit to the fiery furnace because they wouldn’t worship the king’s statue.

To help teach our story, we built a cardboard box furnace, expressed a little creativity with a super fun craft (that’s a future blog post for sure, for sure) and to top it off enjoyed the tasty snack of fiery furnace fun pictured above.

jace in the fiery furnace

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there was really anything “fun” about the guys’ experience in the furnace that day. But, I did think, as I looked at the faces of the little bears we used to represent “Rack, Shack and Benny,” that perhaps they were experiencing some pretty great joy in the fact that God was indeed with them everywhere–especially in the midst of the BBQ fit for a king.

One of the teachers told me that they asked the children what happened to the guys when they went into the furnace. The teacher expected them to say that God was with them, but instead one of the kids piped up with, “They got all burnt up!”

The teacher, a little taken aback, replied, “No, No, God was with them and He saved them.”

The kids responded with some “Woahs. . . .”

I have to wonder if I’m not a bit like my preschoolers sometimes. Do I fail to realize that God is with me in hot times? Do I forget that I can have joy in the midst of trials? Can I be as happy as the little bears on our graham crackers knowing that I can trust God no matter what?

The Spirit was speaking through today’s little snack and helped remind me that God IS with me everywhere and the joy of the Lord is my strength.

Taste and See. . . the Lord is good.

Asana and Other Great Tech Tools for Children’s Ministry

8-15-14 admin asst

Todd McKeever loves his tech and continually shares his favorite apps and programs for use in your ministry, job or home. Check out his new favorites here today.
Now that I have made a move after years at a 5-6000 member ministry to one that is only 400-ish (isn’t God funny with the paths that He will take us) I am needing to learn some new skills. One of those is seeking out some tech goodies that will help me still get the results of having a large paid team.

Today, we will hit on a couple of tech goodies that I am finding to be helpful in getting the results I need while not having the paid admin team around me. In a medium size church we are still at the point where the children’s pastor can fall under the one who is expected to do it all. Seeing that there usually are not as many formal ways of communication, or systems are not set up for great follow-up, things fall through the cracks.

Welcome – Asana and/or Trello

Asana provides the accountability your team needs to move forward and do your best work without having to be tied to email. Asana offers a great way to collect your task that only you need to work on or it can assign a task to a team member or members that you choose. You can assign due dates and as people work on it, if there is any correspondence, it will keep all of it in that area so everyone on that project can see the conversation taking place. (It can also be made private.) You can set up a daily email to be sent to you for updates on every project and so much more. Watch some more about Asana.

Trello is a different feel than Asana. Trello is simple on the surface, but cards have everything you need to get stuff done. Post comments for instant feedback. Upload files from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive. Add checklists, labels, due dates, and more. Notifications make sure you always know when important stuff happens.

Here are 2 more tools I urge you to check out, I’m not going into detail with them, but I do use these as part of this process for myself.

EasilyDo

Refresh

With any of these tools it should help you have that feel of having a full-time team while you are at a small to mid size church. Don’t allow the size of your church now to effect your productivity for the Kingdom.

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

Growing in Times of Ministry Drought—A Family Vacation Object Lesson

Growing in the Seasons of Drought blog picture

Children’s Ministry, like many other forms of ministry, can be prone to seasons of drought. Many of us who serve as children’s pastors or volunteers often endure long seasons where we don’t attending worship services (because we are teaching), aren’t being poured into (because we are pouring into others), face continual shortages of team members (because of enough reasons to warrant another blog post), wear too many “hats” serving in too many places (because of the same shortage of team members), and are often overlooked by leadership and adult ministry with an “out of sight out of mind attitude.”

While many times creativity, enthusiasm and growth are the song we sing, many other times fatigue, discouragement and disillusionment take over. We can become dry, weak and in danger of burn out.

This past week I have been on vacation with my family, and we have been driving through many areas affected not only by drought, but also by the stress of high temperatures. Grasses in most areas were dry, brittle and brown. But in a few places we saw patches of lush, green fields. The reason? Irrigation systems.

Some farmers were using irrigation to ensure that their crops were being taken care of and continued growing in the midst of harsh, hot, dry, stress inducing times.

As a kidmin leader, I love a good object lesson, and this one was too easy to pass up. In the dry, drought or stress filled seasons of ministry we need to be sure that we are being spiritually irrigated.

So the question of the day is, “How do we keep growing in desolate times?” Here are a few examples of how we can stay hydrated in dry times gleaned from our family vacation.

1) Faith–Trust God to fill you. Stand on His promises that He will care for you in hard times. Don’t give into the temptation to believe that your circumstances can’t or won’t change. Those plants weren’t worried about being watered, and we can trust God to take care of us in dry times as well.

2) Prayer–Pray for wisdom, strength, and refreshing. Then keep praying that God brings workers for your fields, encouragement in these end times, and joy through your trials. Just as God provided a farmer to hydrate the fields we can trust God to provide people in our ministries—after all, He was the One who told us the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few and that we should ask Him for workers for the fields.

3) The Word–Take in the living water of God’s Word DAILY. It’s so easy to skip a little time here and there and not even realize it. Like the farmer daily irrigates his crops, be sure to take time, and make time to let God’s Word refresh you.

To be honest, sometimes droughts pass quickly, but there are times when it takes a while before the drought will pass. But we can still grow, and even flourish when we allow ourselves to be spiritually watered through on a consistent basis through faith, prayer and the Word of God.