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.

The Only Four Puppets You will Ever Need In Ministry

8-11-14 puppet teacher

Many people find puppets a big plus in their kidmin programs. Whether you are new to puppets, considering using them in your ministry or having been using them for some time, Andy Partington’s piece can help you as your team grows in excellence.

Andy says:

Puppets are expensive and can put a heavy burden on your already labored ministry budget. But fear not, there is a way to continue to build your puppet ministry with very limited funds. You only have to think in ensemble format.

The ensemble is one of the most effective tools used in modern narrative today. Watch any sitcom and you’ll see ensemble put to use. They even have their own category on all the major entertainment awards.

How does this impact you and the dusty half used puppets in your resource closet?
In the ensemble format you’ll notice some recurring characters. There are four types that have existed from the first dramatic writings all the way to today. Dramatic theorists call them the four humors: Phlegmatic, Melancholic, Choleric, and Sanguine. Using these four types and your best puppeteers, you can put on almost any presentation needed in your ministry.
Here’s a breakdown of the four humors:

Phlegmatic: The everyman. This character can often be used for narration. He’s the well balanced guy in the bunch that either tells the story or helps find a solution to the conflict presented by the other three characters. Kermit the Frog has a great phlegmatic personality and is usually seen as the leader of the muppets. Bob the Tomato can also be seen as a phlegmatic personality, balancing the sanguine of Larry the Cucumber. Which leads us to…

Sanguine: The dreamer. The comic relief. The foil to the straight man. Kids love the Sanguine. In early dramatic theory, the sanguine has an overabundance of passion and that causes him to bubble over with personality. Every situation needs a clown and the audience needs someone to lighten the moral. For this, your sanguine is your go to guy.

Melancholic: The victim. The worrier. This is the character that usually makes their entrance after someone utters a line like, “Hey, did you hear about…?” or, “I can’t believe what happened to…?” There’s going to be a conflict and someone has to bear the brunt of it. That’s going to be your melancholic.

Choleric: The hot head. The villain. In most tales there has to be someone who is a cautionary tale or an example of how not to do things. That’s the Choleric. He can easily be interchanged with the Sanguine. The difference is in intentions. The Sanguine means well and is usually just trying to have fun. The choleric either doesn’t know any better or just plain doesn’t care.
These personality types can take either gender. They can also be anthropomorphized animals or objects. The sky is truly the limit.

Keeping your puppet ensemble true to these character types will help you do more with less. Kids will also start to look for certain puppet characters that they relate to and will totally believe them in multiple roles as long as you stay within the character confines of the four types.

My challenge to you is to look around you and notice the four types. Can you find them in your favorite shows, movies? Maybe even in your friends? Once you begin to identify these characters see how they fit into your puppet presentations and start writing for your ensemble.

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

Prayer Time Shouldn’t Be a Rare Time—Helping Kids Grow in Their Prayer Life through Prayer Posters

prayer photo
This month HiSKidZ at our church are learning about prayer. It seems that while we pray a lot, we haven’t done the best job of teaching about prayer, and since even the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, it’s something we should be giving some thought to as we disciple our children in their faith walks with God.

We are loosely using Discpletown’s How to Pray curriculum and tweaking it to fit our own format and structure. Each week this month we are looking at different aspects of prayer connected to the word pray—Praise, Repentance, Asking and Yielding. It’s nothing new, but it’s definitely worth bringing out to a new generation to help them grow in their conversations with the Lord.

This week, HiSKidZ in our Discovery/Sunday School hour will be making these prayer posters to help them understand each of the 4 aspects of prayer that we are teaching.

The idea is so simple.

All you need is four envelopes, a piece of poster board, some tape, some markers or crayons, a hole punch and a piece of yarn.

Tape the envelopes to the poster board. On each one write one of the aspects of prayer. Punch holes in the top corners and string some yarn through them so they can hang their poster up at home.

The idea is that children and their family can write out prayers and put them in the envelopes. Writing out prayers, even simple prayers helps us to focus and think about things like praise, repentance, what we are asking for and yielding to what God is asking us to do.

Dawn Farris is the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog http://www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris

Ventriloquism: The Art of Talking for Two

Andy Partington is sharing some of his insight and experience as a ventriloquist. If you’ve ever wondered about this art form, this one is for you. It’s also for my dear friend, Mr Chuck Webb and his good friend, Danny!

“To be a Ventriloquist is to be an actor. A ventriloquist hast two parts to play. The part of himself is called the “straight man” in show business. The part the puppet plays is that of the “Comedian”. While your little stuffed friend will help you, you are always the actor. You will act as one person and you will make him act as the other. When you are a good actor/ventriloquist people will actually feel as though they are watching two very real and two very alive performers.”- Clinton Detweiler, The Maher Home Course of Ventriloquism

Truth be told, the above is actually the hardest part of performing as a ventriloquist. When you achieve the primary goal of allowing your audience the privilege of believing that there is a very real back and forth going occurring on stage and one of those involved is a scrap of fabric, wood, and buttons then you’re truly experiencing ventriloquism in its purest form.

But how?
When you sit down, popcorn in hand and watch a movie you begin with the desire to be pulled in and involved in the action that flickers across the screen. You want the hero to win, the bad guy to get foiled, princesses saved, and dragons slain. Although you know that it’s all technical work, good acting, and a terrific set design, you are drawn into the Magic of the act. If it’s a well done production you really live the parts with the actors. For a brief time you are drawn away from everyday life and you step temporarily into the world of make-believe. The above can also happen when you and a puppet talk on stage.

And the best kept secret of all of this is that the audience wants to go there. Every person sitting in front of your performance, story, sermon, etc. wants to be transported to that place that you’re taking them. They’re providing all the mental fairy dust that you need to boost the room up and ship them off to worlds unknown. Especially, children! They are naturally equipped with a double dose of imagination fuel.

So, with that being said, I want to take a little time to tell you that this illusion, this trick that you are going to find a near infinite amount of use for in your ministry, is capable of transcending the barriers between reality and imagination. But it takes a little work and will sometimes seem like a futile task. And when broken down it can really be a magic killer: after all, you’re just talking to yourself.
But, if you hold out and see your performance through the eyes of the children and adults who watch and wish to be carried away to whatever world you create, you will be rewarded for all the time you’ve put in thousands of times over.

It’s truly an art form. It’s great entertainment when done well. And in the hands of a person called to share the gospel, it is an invaluable tool.

Andy Partington is not noly the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana, he is also a ventriloquist. You can find out more about him at http://www.andypartingtonblog.com

When Your Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Left

strengthen my hands

I’m wrote this as we headed into our last day of VBS, and for those of you who lead or direct the VBS in your church you know that means it is almost time for celebration for all that God has done and it’s almost time for REST!!! (Maybe I needed a little rest more than I thought because I forgot to click “publish” after I finished this!)

REST is not a four-letter word. Ok, well, maybe it is, but not that kind of four-letter word!! Rest is a word ordained by God as a way to reflect, remember and restore. But, sometimes rest really isn’t an option. There are circumstances out of our control. There are deadlines to meet, responsibilities to be kept, and commitments to be fulfilled. Just saying, “No!” isn’t always an option.

So what can you do when your “get up and go has got up and left,” yet you still have work to do?

Here are three things that have been helpful as I push through exhausting times.

1) I pray the Nehemiah prayer from Nehemiah 6:9: When people were tired and facing discouragement, Nehemiah prayed, “Now, strengthen my hands.” For sure, sometimes we need to step back and take a break, but sometimes, for a short time, we need to pray and have others pray with us, “Lord, strengthen my hands.”

2) I consider what David told Solomon as Solomon prepared to become king in 1 Chronicles 28: “Acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart, and understands every motive. . . Be strong and do the work.” When I’m tired, I think back to these words, and realize that if God has called me to this work, He will give me the strength to complete it. Then I get back to work!

3) I think about Paul and his words in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28: Often when I am feeling tired, overworked, stressed or depleted, I look over Paul’s words and realize my “hard” circumstances can’t compare to his. Paul saw his challenges as opportunities to bring glory to God. When I remember this I begin to get my praise on, my prayers focused, and my priorities centered and “do the work.”

How often you might need to use these tips may depend on your circumstances, temperament and work or ministry situation. But you can be fairly certain that a time will come when we will want to give up when God will want us to give in, take on His strength for our hands, do the work and give Him the glory.

Image taken from google images

The Three Rule Template

07-28-14Three Rules Ruler Clip Art
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