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.

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.