What If We Could Change the World?

10-15-14  Dawn
We can. We do. We will. We are changing the world right now.

No doubt, we’ve heard it before, but I believe we need to hear it again and we need to hear it often.

We make a difference. We influence. With each step we take and each word we say, life changes. It may not seem like it, but it does.

We leave a mark, be it ever so tiny, for good or for bad. It may last just a minute or it may last forever.

Whether it is through what we do or don’t do, we are making a difference.
So make we need to make that difference count.

As a children’s ministry leader, I know with every fiber of my being, that the world is changing exponentially for our children.

And we are part of that change.

In the things we say or the things we don’t say; teach or don’t teach.

In the time we give or don’t give.

In the priorities we choose or the things we choose not to prioritize.

What we do may seem small to some, but we are changing the world, and this knowledge allows us to press on knowing that as a part of God’s Kingdom, each small thing we do is part of something BIG, something powerful, and something eternal.

What will you change today?

Praying with Mike and Ike

mike and ikes 2

I love it when kids pray!! And I love “Mike and Ike” candies. So when the two spontaneously come together it just becomes one of the BEST DAYS EVER!!!!

This year I’ve made it one of my prayers to help HiSKidZ grow in their walk and talk with God. I’m always looking for great ways to incorporate praying into their everyday life, so no doubt I was excited when God combined one of the desires of my heart with one of the loves of my life.

Here’s the fruit-tastic story.

Sunday night we were meeting with our 6th grade Discipleship group, and that meeting involved an impromptu Wal-Mart run for some pumpkins, and added to the pumpkin run was a snack run—because who can go to Wal-Mart and get just what you came for!!

Those in charge of the all important errand, to the joy of my soul returned to the church with 3 awesome pumpkins and 6 boxes of colorful, fruity goodness also known as “Mike and Ikes.”

We opened them all up and dumped them in a bowl (the “Mike and Ikes” not the pumpkins) and began our study of the gospels.

We quickly chewed our way through Matthew and onto John while also chewing our way through the “Mike and Ikes.” My alarm went off to let me know we were almost done for the night, and reminding me that I wanted to have prayer time before heading home.

Since corporate prayer is a pretty intimidating thing to some of our kids and we didn’t have much time, I thought, “Why not use the “Mike and Ike’s” to help teach the kids about prayer.”

IMG_8330

So we dug into the candy bowl, and each choose one more candy, revealed its color and came up with a prayer request that coordinated with the color of Mike and Ike they had chosen.

When we invited Mike and Ike into our prayer time, our prayers went from the general, “Thank you for a great night and help us to have a good week at school,” to some more specific prayers like:

GREEN
Lord, help us grow in our faith and be strong in you.

PINK
Lord, help us to be kind to our friends and even the people who aren’t our friends.

BLUE
Lord, we want to pray that people will know you and want to be saved.

YELLOW
God, we want to live so that we can be a light for you in the world.

ORANGE
Jesus, help us to tell others about you so they can know about your love and light.

RED
Lord, help us to show your love to those around us.

Our prayer time wasn’t long, but it was focused and memorable. Using those candies helped kids to make a connection, learn to pray more specifically and gain confidence in praying aloud as the body of Christ.

Taste and See. . . .Mike and Ikes, teaching kids to pray and the Lord are all very good.

cross country
In case you were curious about those pumpkins. . . .our service project for the night was weeding around the church sign. At the last minute we decided to go get pumpkins to add a little fall color! Little did we know we’d be adding color to spruce up more than the flower bed!

5 Things to Know About Social Media and Your Child

Today’s blog post is adapted from a parent talk my non blogging kidmin son, Trevor Farris, has put together for the church where he is a children’s pastor. I asked him if I could share it, because I believe every parent needs to be aware of what’s going on in their child’s social media world. Trevor ministers to some super amazing kids and with some even more amazing volunteers at Valley Real Life is Spokane Valley, WA. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check it out.

Social Media is big, but think about it—it’s the smallest that it is ever going to be.

Every day, more videos, tweets, pictures, and blogs are being uploaded onto the Internet than ever before. This chart from domo.com gives some pretty convincing evidence that social media is big–every minute of every day. Go ahead, take a second and check it out really quick.

every minute of every day

Those are some insane statistics! As more and more websites and apps are being created, it’s nearly impossible for adults to keep up . . . but. . . it’s not for your kids.

So here are 5 things you need to know about Social Media, your child, and what you can do to be more informed about it.

1. Your Kids Probably Know More Than You About Social Media
This is by no means an insult. They simply have the time to learn! With texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, KiK, AskFM, Omegle, and a million other options, they can absorb more budding technology than we can dream of. And they use it for everything! So what do you do?

2. Ask Them to Teach You
You don’t know if your child is ready for SnapChat? Ask them about it! Are you not sure how Instagram works? Ask your son/daughter! You need to know what your kids are doing, because there is so much that they are able to do on their iPods and phones. But please understand this—you don’t need to know more about technology than them…just being aware is a huge step.

3. Remember ANYONE Can Use Social Media
Speaking of being aware…it is really easy to lie about who you are on the Internet. Your children may not be sharing information with the person that they think they are. Make sure that your kids are using appropriate social media (Honoring age restrictions is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED), and are familiar your rules on Internet etiquette.

4. Community in Isolation
Kids and teens today have hundreds and thousands of friends. And if they are anything like me, they don’t know who most of them are! If someone sends me a friend request on Facebook, and I have a mutual friend…BAM! we’re friends now. And they can have all these friends at their fingertips while they sit in their bedroom alone. They don’t have to go out and have conversations. Be sure to have “Tech-free” times in your home when personal interaction is required to keep your kids checked in to reality.

5. #Hashtags
For those of you who still don’t understand hashtags, you are not alone. Hashtags are sort of like little file folder tabs that help you created to help you find what you are looking for on a certain topic. Let’s say you and your family go on a short vacation to Six Flags St. Louis for Spring Break. Your daughter posts a selfie from the line of the Batman ride. And the caption says, “I LOVE SIX FLAGS! #RollerCoasters #Family #SpringBreak.” But you need to realize that when she clicks on the “#SpringBreak,” she has access to ANYONE’S pictures that have that same tag. Think about that. I’m assuming there are pictures from Spring Break Cancun on the Internet that you’d love for your kids to never see. Know what hashtags your kids are using, because they can have access to all sorts of things they probably shouldn’t.

In short, talk to your kids about what they’re doing online and on their phones. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to have a different set of family rules than other families you know (or don’t know). Give them rules and guidelines that keep them safe, and as you expand those guidelines as they get older continue to have conversations with them. *

Three Ways Going P.R.O. Helps Kids Grow Spiritually

helping kids go pro

To really grow, we have to let God work inside of us. I mean, we can try to do it on our own, and we can try with all our might, but in reality, it must be God who moves and works in us to bring about change.

To help kids to learn to rely on Jesus to help them grow spiritually rather than striving to “be good” on their own, teach them to go “PRO” by using these three simple concepts based on the acronym PRO.

1) Pray—Begin by asking God to seek your heart and show you where He wants to work. As He reveals any areas that may need to change, confess them to Him and . . .

2) Repent—More than just changing our actions, repentance involves a change of mind trusting God’s way over ours. True repentance is the action that shows a change of our hearts and minds from our way to God’s way which means we will. . .

3) Obey—We want our kids to learn that in order to grow we have to obey God’s will and follow His Spirit and His ways. Spiritual growth will come when as our hearts learn that obedience is a gift of love and should be the first choice of those who belong to Jesus.

We all know that few of our students will go pro in their favorite sport, but by using a phrase they already relate to, we can help them learn through prayer, repentance and obedience how to go pro in their spiritual growth with the Lord.

Raising Up Kids to Serve in Children’s Ministry–A Lesson from the Laminator

how did you do that
A couple of weeks ago our church shook things up a bit and had a small group open house on a Sunday morning. This meant changing up our services and where and how we did some things in our children’s ministry area.

Since we were beginning some new teaching on “Growing the Fruit of the Spirit,” I decided that maybe this would be a good time to pull out the old laminator from my Children’s Ministry Bag-O-Tricks and let the kids spend some time making a “Fruit of the Spirit” placemat! (And yes, I did think that perhaps it would use up some time since we had no idea how long these things take.)

Plus, I mean, after all, who doesn’t love a good church-made placemat???? And did I mention it was LAMINATED???!!! Because it was!

So HiSKidZ got busy with their base mats, glue-sticking on their fruits of the Spirit until finally the moment of magic arrived. It was time to LAMINATE!!!! (Yes, there was that kind of excitement in the room, and they still seemed to have no real idea of the awesomeness they were about to be a part of!)

One by one they came in awe and wonder at this amazing machine I had obviously kept hidden from them for the span of their entire lives. (For their safety, or the safety of the laminator, I suppose)

“How does it do that?”

“OOOO! It’s hot!”

“What’s it doing in there?”

“Hey! My thing looks so much prettier when it comes out.”

“Where did you get that?”

“I think my glue melted.”

“Can I do it?”

“Here I’ll do it.”

“Hey, get out of my way. I’m helping Ms Dawn.”

“He’s not letting us have a turn.”

After a quick intervention so no one lost their Fruit of the Spirit, (including me) we continued on.

And on and on it went. They couldn’t get enough of the amazing plastic melting machine and the technology of transformation that was happening right before their very eyes.

It was then that I realized how much I had been keeping from them, and I began to ponder how many other amazing wonders were used in preparing things for them to use rather than allowing them to know the joy of using them for themselves.

Things like envelope glue pens, three hole punches, three hole paper, those super long giant staplers, spiral book binding machines. . . the list is probably endless.

But more than keeping them from experiencing the joy of the tool itself, I had taken from them the joy of serving with the tools.

And so, in large group time on this Small Group Sunday I learned this most valuable lesson:

Lead a child to the laminator and you have equipped him for the day, but teach him to laminate and you have equipped a children’s volunteer for life.

fruit of the Spirit placemat

Why You Should Answer the Call to Volunteer in Children’s Ministry

answer the call

My heart is so burdened. I often write for those in children’s ministry—volunteers or other children’s pastors. But today, I’m writing to those who need to hear and respond to the call of God to help out in their church’s children’s ministry programs.

There appears to be a serious shortage of people who are willing to make a commitment to helping children know Jesus. Across the country, in large and small churches, east coast, west coast and mid west, churches and children’s ministers are struggling to find people to serve in their ministries.

It’s a spiritual battle, and it is taking place within the walls of our churches and within the hearts of God’s people.

Children’s ministers are no longer called to minister to children, but to empower volunteers to serve. It has even been suggested that 85% of a children’s pastor’s time should be delegated to recruiting, equipping, encouraging and appreciating volunteers.

Yet churches and parents often still expect that same children’s pastor to invest 85% of their time teaching, encouraging, planning events and equipping children.

Since 85% + 85% = 170% of their time, well, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Jesus knew it, and so He told us, “Ask the Lord of the Harvest to bring workers into the field. For the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.”

Truer words have rarely been spoken. Children are so receptive to the love of God. Children are hungry for people to invest in them. Children want to be led. But the window of time is short, because children aren’t children forever.

And like the leaves change and fall with the seasons, a children’s open to the things of God has a very short window.

Don’t wait to be asked. Your children’s pastor or ministry leader may be swamped under the demands of a 170% work schedule. People often have a zillion reasons why they can’t serve in children’s ministry, but here are five I’ve come up with as to why you should consider answering the call of God and making the call to your children’s ministry leader.

5 Reasons to Answer the Call to Serve in Children’s Ministry

1—You have a chance to be a part of leading children to Jesus. Without Jesus, people are going to hell. With Jesus, people can be saved from hell. Care enough to help save a child.

2—You have a chance to be a part of leading children to Jesus. Repeatedly in God’s Word people found their way to Him because someone else led them there, and sometimes they did it when they were tired, beaten, shipwrecked or endangered. In the U.S., out of all those, we can probably only claim tired. Come and lead a child to Jesus.

3—You have a chance to be a part of leading children to Jesus. God promises us that He will equip us and strengthen us for His mission. Trust God to empower you to help lead a child to Jesus. He’s very reliable, and trusting Him can change your perspective and your life.

4—You have a chance to be a part of leading children to Jesus. To paraphrase Mordecai when he talked to Esther, if you don’t do it, someone else will, you may be in your church for such a time as this. Children’s Ministry may be a little dangerous sometimes, but so is the alternative.

5—You have a chance to be a part of leading children to Jesus. We are in danger of raising another generation of children who don’t know Jesus. If you are reading this today, God is calling you to do something about it. Think about it. If you knew God was calling, wouldn’t you want to answer the phone?

Ok so those five reasons were really just one reason. But, what more reason do we need to serve than the privilege to partner with God to lead a child to Jesus and to see them saved from hell?

Answer the call. Make the call. See what God will do. Then write and let me know!! There’s nothing I love better than a great story of God at work in people’s lives.

Coming soon: What you can do to help when you are just not a “kid person”—not everyone is y’know!

Choosing Your Words Wisely in Children’s Ministry

3 kids laughing 09-08-14

Guest blogger Andy Partington is not only the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana, but he is also a gifted ventriliquist and entertainer. His tips on using words to keep children engaged are helpful whether you are a performer, teacher, storyteller, group leader or someone who just loves working with children. You can find out more about him at http://www.andypartingtonblog.com

I have this tendency to think faster than I talk. I don’t stutter, but what usually ends up happening is my words tend to come out funny. The first letter of the second word likes to swap places with the first letter of the first and I end up creating an entirely new vocabulary.

As a child, this occurrence bothered me.
Kids laughed.

As an adult and performer I tend to use it to my advantage.
After all, kids laugh.

Saying it Silly
Now in the grand scheme of things there is a hierarchy of words in the dictionary based on silliness. It may not always be easily seen to the beginner, but years and years of copying Merriam Webster’s big book through disciplinary action has taught me that this is so. Over the years playwrights, clowns, and vaudevillians have always held to the rule that the hard “k” sound is particularly funny. I haven’t the slightest reason to give, but through practice I’ve always tried to include it in my routines. For instance, if I’m picking a random city or locale, I’ll go with “Kalamazoo” or “Kisatchie” as opposed to “Baltimore” or “Springfield.”

Children also respond to their own unique fun words that seem to be universal. “Spaghetti” is a word that usually draws laughs. It’s also one of the favorite foods that kids yell out most often when asked. Perhaps there is humor in familiarity paired with the natural mouth feel and silliness of the word. This is great fun to explore and play around with. During your next message or performance, take a little time to throw in a few new words or try out some of the examples above. Then see if you can find a reason for all the chuckles. If you can’t find the cause, who cares?
Kids are laughing.

Funny Names
Another way to make kids laugh is to use funny names. Go for something meaningless and stupid. It’s always best to stay away from hurtful or descriptive names, because we’re in the business of making laughs, not psychological scars.

At a recent church, I was blessed with two girls named Joyce. I could have easily gone with “Joyce 1” and “Joyce 2”, and that would have resulted in a few smiles. But inspiration hit and I realized that I had one Joyce and a copy… another Joyce…a resulting Joyce…a re-Joyce…Rejoice!

Also, you might have noticed that parents have become increasingly clone worthy in their naming and that you might have a room full of Austin’s, or Hunter’s, or Reginald’s. The common classroom quick fix is to add the last initial to the name..Ex. Austin A and Austin F.

But we want kids to laugh.

How about something completely different?
How about some nonsense?
Austin A and Austin “Potato Salad.”

Okay, first off…it’s dumb, but kids laugh.

The second thing is that I didn’t point out which one was given the silly name. So, it works out that neither of them has to wear a label that they didn’t necessarily desire and they both get to claim it if that’s the attention that they want. (9 out of 10 times they both want to be “potato salad.”)

Mostly Magic Words
I have a lot of props in my act and tend to name them completely off the wall names that, through repetition, help the youngsters to easily identify what I’m doing based on what prop I’m holding and referring to.
A few examples are: My screen remote is called a “flurb.” My puppet trunk is called the “box-o-stuff,” and I often refer to any kind of magic wand or pointer as a “spatula.”

All of which garner laughs with very little mention. Returning kids will even mention these items when I fail to on a regular basis.

This helps us in two ways.

One, they laugh.

And two, they repeat.

Parents are constantly stopping me and asking if I’m the guy who taught their kid this. When parents notice, word of mouth grows.

But most importantly, kids laugh.