It’s a Good Thing Their Nets Were Empty (A Preschool Craft Fail/Success Story!)

Jesus is my friend ideal

I had planned a simple craft for our preschoolers at church. It had something for everyone–color for the visual, texture for the tactile learners, scents for those who love smells. . . .you know! It was looking  to be a good day.

Preparing to head out of town to a wedding, everything was prepped and ready to go with the sample neatly placed in the preschool room.

We were teaching our littles that “Jesus is Our Friend.” Our craft would help them see how Jesus helped his friends catch fish one day when their nets were coming up empty. He even made them breakfast!!

The picture above is the craft they were supposed to make.

It was pretty cool. The “water” is really hair gel–that’s where the bubbles come from. The kids would work on counting skills as they added the Swedish fish to represent the nets going from empty to full! Our littles love to put stickers on of any kind, so we had the label reminder of the lesson truth. What could go wrong???

Well, for one thing, a blood bath– something that resembled a massacre of fish in a bag!

You see, I didn’t think about the fact that Swedish fish are just sugar and water, and that sugar and water are easily dissolvable.

When I came in early Sunday morning after being out of town, I was confident and relaxed knowing everything was in it’s place. But, that all changed when in the place of the lovingly prepared sample craft, I found this:

jesus is my friend fail

Oh my heck!

What’s a girl to do?

For about a half a sec, I thought about just going with it. I mean, how many parents really keep those crafts anyway? (At our church, thankfully, quite a few.)

It was immediately funny to me. However, as humorous as it was at the moment, I just couldn’t feel good about what was going to happen to those fish over the next twenty-four hours if they went home with our lil HiSKidZ.

After a quick, “OK Lord, what are we going to do with this mess?” I decided that no fish would be going in those bags and our craft talk would now go something like this:

Teacher: “Jesus disciples fished all night and didn’t catch a thing. Their nets were empty. But Jesus helped them to fill their nets. This “water” in our bag doesn’t have any fish in it, does it?”

Lil HiSKidZ: “No, teacher.”

Teacher: “But, now, whenever we play with our ocean bag, we can remember that when things might not be working out, we can trust that Jesus can give us all we need.

Who remembers what Jesus did after He helped his friends fill their nets with fish?”

Lil HiSKidZ: “He made them breakfast!”

Teacher: “That’s right. He made them a breakfast of fish. Real fish, not the candy kind I’m going to share with you today. . . . “

And so it goes. The lesson was reinforced. The kids had a great sensory activity and no additional Swedish fish had to be harmed in the teaching of God’s Word.

Sometimes things don’t work out like we plan. Sometimes, the results are downright murderous! And sometimes, the fail becomes a win!

If the disciples’ nets hadn’t been empty, they wouldn’t have seen the miracle of the catch and the provision of their Lord in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

If our nets wouldn’t have been empty, our preschool craft would have been just another Pinterest fail. Thankfully, it was a great success and an opportunity to see the provision of the Lord in ways we could never have imagined!

5 Things to Consider About God’s Plans for Your Life


When I go on a trip, I like to know where I’m staying. There ya go.I said it. I’m one of those people.  I search for my hotel online, try to get the best deal and make sure the GPS on my phone knows how to get me there. For better or for worse, I want to know there is room at the inn when I get tired.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a compulsive planner, but I do like a little structure in my day-to-days.

Currently, in our Sunday morning children’s services we are teaching through the life of Moses. (Thank you Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids!)

The series begins with an important reminder that God has a plan for us. Ultimately, His plan is for our salvation, and a life filled with worship and faithfulness, walking with Him in love and obedience.

But, we want “the big picture.” We want to know the “big”thing God wants us to do (or that we want to do for God). In focusing on that big thing, we can unknowingly walk out of the boundaries of His plan for us. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle without all the pieces.

Here are 5 truths that have helped me see the big picture:

  1. God’s plan is for us to be reconciled to Him. Is there anything keeping you from Jesus?
  2. God’s plan is for us to know Him. How can you use your time to get to know God more deeply?
  3. God’s plan is for us to share His plan with others. Who can you tell about Jesus?
  4. God’s plan is for us to love, forgive and show others the grace we have been shown. Who do you need to love? Who do you need to forgive?
  5. God’s plan is for us to serve others. How can you use your resources, gifts, talents and heart to help someone else?

This year let’s plan to know God, follow Him, share Jesus, love and serve others as part of God’s plan for us all. As we focus on the little pieces, I can’t wait to see the big picture emerge!



Thanksgiving Day Turkey Craft


Simple. Meaningful. Fun.

These three words resonate with me when it comes to crafting with kids. I am in no way, “The Queen of Crafts,” and have absolutely no desire to ever where that crown. I don’t even want a tiara. But. . .I do like to have fun and simple activities to help focus kids on the real meaning and purpose of the holidays.

We originally made this as part of our preschool classes at church, but this little Turkey Bag Craft may be just the thing for your Thanksgiving Day gathering. It takes very little prep–Win! It cost very little money-Win again! Plus, it can help to keep your kids in the thankful zone all month long as you prepare for Christmas and fight off the temptation to become focused on more than the blessings in our lives-Win! Win! Win!


You will need the following supplies:

1) Brown paper lunch sacks

2) Brown paper (card stock or construction paper) for the turkey head and hands or talons. The word “talons” just seems kind of violent somehow. (A quick google search reveals that, “turkeys do have talons. In fact, they have a large, sharp talons that they will use to peck or grasp the head of another turkey while fighting.”- SO let’s stick with hands for today!

3) Colored paper for feathers, nose, bow tie and the turkey’s snood or wattle. Yeah, snoods and wattles, I think what yours is depends on where your child puts it on their craft!) And you will have tons of fun saying “snoods and wattles” with the littles in your life!

4) Jiggly eyes (you don’t NEED them, but really, who doesn’t love jiggly eyes??!)

5) Glue dots, glue sticks or some kind of child friendly glue or adhesive. (Super glue not recommended.)

5) Something to attach to the front explaining your craft.  You might try, “In this bag, we can see, things to be thankful for from A to Z.” Or come up with something way better!! Remember, I like to keep things simple!

6)  Pieces of paper, each with a letter of the alphabet on it.


Depending on the ages of the littles at your feast, you have a few options. You may want to cut out the shapes you need before hand, enlist some teens to help or just let them have a go at it. (When using scissors at family gatherings, be sure to watch out for any siblings with anger issues or who want to be a cosmetologist when they grow up.)

Now that you have your supplies together. Here’s how it goes together:


  1. Cut out from brown paper a turkey head. (It looks a bit like a drumstick.)
  2. Cut out some noses, snoods and wattles!
  3. Cut out some little “hands.” (See my sample below)
  4. Cut out some bow ties and feathers.
  5. Cut out your A-B-C papers.
  6. Write some things you can be thankful for on the feathers.
  7. Attach the face pieces to your turkey’s face piece–yeah, I just wrote that, and I’m still secure in Jesus.
  8. Attach the turkey face to the inside front of your bag.
  9. Attach the bow tie, hands and message to the outside front of your bag.
  10. Attach the feathers to the back of the bag.
  11. Add the A-B-C square inside the bag.
  12. Every day, have your child pick an A-B-C square from the bag and write or draw what they are thankful for.

I hope you have some sweet fun with this and that your kids will “gobble” up the time you spend together not just celebrating Thanksgiving, but sharing Thanksgiving.


Here are the little hands (see, no talons here–safety first!) we made. We attached them to strips of glue dots to make them easy for our preschoolers to use. Gotta love the glue dots.

(We adapted this turkey craft from several different turkeys we found around the web. Feel free to adapt our turkey to meet your needs. An article from National Geographic states that turkeys are pretty adaptable.)

Just 4 Mondays Left Until Thanksgiving-3

Preschool Lighthouse Craft


We made these super cute Lighthouse Crafts last week with our preschoolers. They were pretty simple, plus the kids and parents both loved them. I got the idea from Pinterest–where else?–but the site they were connected to,–no longer exists.

Thankfully, these aren’t too hard to figure out on your own. Just in case, I’m including some directions as to how we made them.

Our preschool curriculum comes from Karyn Henley’s folder lessons. This month’s theme is “God is with Me in the Dark,” and this week’s lesson was about when God freed Peter from prison in the night.

Children learned that we don’t have to be scared in the dark or at night, because we know that God is always with us. He’s our Lighthouse!

Here’s how we made our lighthouses:

Before Sunday:

  1. We purchased cups, medical tape and battery operated tea lights.
  2. We gathered black paper and glue dots.
  3. We put strips of tape on the solo cups.
  4. We cut the black paper into circles, rectangles and squares for the ceiling, doors and windows.
  5. We put the glue dots on the paper for the kids. (Be sure you don’t take off the backing when you do this, the kids will do that when they make the craft.)

Then on Sunday:

  1. Give each child a solo cup with tape and enough black paper to decorate their lighthouse. Help them put these on as needed.
  2. Place the label on the back of the cup.
  3. Remove the little plastic battery thing from the tea light and show the children how to turn their candle on.
  4. Put the candle on the top of the solo cup and cover with the clear cup.
  5. Turn off the lights and let your lights shine!

Our label said, “God in heaven is my light and I can trust Him day and night.” But you can make yours say whatever you want or use a memory verse, etc.


Have fun with the craft and we are praying that God is your lighthouse, guide and ever-present help in times of darkness.

Quiet as Pie–A Deliciously Spontaneous Way to Help Regain Classroom Control


A couple of weeks ago, we were finishing up our Wednesday night program. It was that time of the night where we share some final announcements before car line dismissal begins.

I took a minute to ask HiSKidZ if I had told them I loved them yet that day, and quickly added, “Because I do–more than Oreos!”

They all know  I love Oreos, and that I have to be careful not to get too close to a bag of them. I use Oreos for all kinds of illustrations about temptation, sin and love!!

Of course, as the banter grew, the volume did, too–right when we needed things to settle down so they could hear their names called as their parents arrived. I quickly explained to them I needed them to be quiet as “Mr Dave” started car line.

At this moment I uttered the words, “I need you to be as quiet as. . . as quiet as. . . “

My mind began to freeze as I couldn’t really come up with something for them to be as quiet as. I thought about Oreos, but honestly, when you eat an Oreo, it isn’t always quiet!! They are crunchy little cookies! Dunking doesn’t really help because you hear the chug-a-glug of the swallow. Oreos would not do.

And so I made this statement, “I need you to be quiet as . . . .quiet as. . . .PIE!”

Yeah, pie! I can’t explain it, either.

Honestly, they were as surprised as I was! It was like the whole room became silent at the same moment, and all eyes focused directly on me. But, no one could argue that pie is about as quiet as it gets.

Then, amazingly, for the next 10-15 minutes as we dismissed, our small groups were indeed as quiet as pie. Not a peep. Not even one!

As I saw them respond so well, I sweetened the deal by telling them that the small groups that stayed quiet would receive their own package of Oreos for snack the next week. I didn’t expect that I would be buying Oreos for each of our groups, but I did! Because really, truly, every single child and leader was as “quiet as pie.”

Now, I can’t tell you that if you tell your kids to be “quiet as pie,” that they will all be quiet for 15 minutes, but here are three ways you can help regain classroom or group control when needed.

  1. Be creative. Don’t just do the same ole, same ole. Ask God to fill your mind with creative ways to help your children gain or regain self-control.
  2. Be fun. Find something they don’t expect, and make it fun.Google ways to gain classroom control for some ideas that may work for your kids.
  3. Reward, don’t bribe. Set a standard and then consider adding a reward. Be careful not to send the message of “If you, then I’ll. . .” Instead, use “Because you, I’m going to. . .”

Setting an appropriate, respectful standard for the kids you lead is a win for you and for them, and a great night within safe and honoring boundaries is better than a bag of Oreos!!!

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

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

3D character holding chain together - isolated over a white background
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 or follow him on twitter @tmckeever. Or you can request him as your ministry coach from coaches page at

I Darius You–Freaky Friday


Whoah! Didn’t see that one coming!

More often than not, when I’m reading the Bible, things just sort of pop up that I don’t remember reading or I suppose I just never read before. Maybe I skipped over it, maybe my mind just took a little nap while my eyes continued reading on or maybe I’m justing gettng old and forgot.

Except every now and then you come across things that you kind of think, “Um, hey, I don’t think I would forget that.”

For example:

The book of Ezra.

It has its ups and downs. Life for God’s people as they return to Jerusalem is no easy task. As they work to rebuild the city, the wall and the temple, God is rebuilding their hearts.

Throughout the pages we can see unity, courage, obedience, and commitment. God’s people faced great opposition as well as great favor.

Recently I was reading about King Darius showing favor to God’s people. It started out pretty innocently. Darius was searching for proof that King Cyrus has indeed issued a decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

seal for decree

It turns out that Cyrus did issue the decree and so Darius sends out his own royal memo instructing the building of the temple to continue with the cost being picked up by the royal treasury.


But there’s more!

The trouble makers are told to leave the Israelites alone and make sure they have everything they need daily–without fail–so that “they can offer sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the well being of the king and his sons.”

Nice! Darius obviously had a pretty good idea here who God was and what he is capable of.

But then, he adds these words to the end of the memo:

“Further more I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to be pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. And for this crime his house is to be a pile of rubble. May God, who has caused his Nme to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.

I, Darius, have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.”

Holy Cow! That’s pretty intense.

I guess not only did Darius have a good idea who God was and what He was capable of, he also had a pretty good idea who the people around him were, and what they were capapble of.

Honestly, I can’t say that I completely understand this whole thing. I’ve read that it was

Five Reasons Why You Should Help Your Kids Learn The Books of the Bible–Taste and See Sunday

group final
Six of our eight Bible Book Champions!

Today was a celebrating day!

This summer HiSKidZ in our 9am service have been working to learn the books of the Old Testament and a key word for each book to help them understand what the book is about. Our first service class is a relatively small group of kids (maybe 15-20) in the 1st-6th grade. About half of them memorized the O.T. books and recited them today. Woohoo!

Next week, they will recite the books and the key words. I am so proud of those who dedicated themselves to the task. Age was not a determining factor, there were kids in every grade who accomplished their goal and they were rewarded today after church with a pizza and ice cream party.

morgan and jackson2

It would be awesome if we could get all our kids on board with this, and we are quick to note it’s not just about memorizing 39 book titles. We repeatedly remind our kids that learning the books of the Bible isn’t just so they can eat pizza and ice cream or to be able to say, “Hey! I know my books of the Bible.” There are 5 top reasons we think a child (or an adult) should know the books of the Bible.

Here they are:

1) It’s God’s Word. We need to know all we can about it. Knowing God’s Word helps us to know God.

2) Learning the books of the Bible helps those little Bible tabs we buy make more sense!

3) When we learn the books of the Bible, we can become more familiar with what’s in the Bible, which gives us confidence, rather than insecurity, when we need to use our Bibles.

4) When you know the books of the Bible, you can begin to find things in the Bible. When you can find things in the Bible, you can grow and you can help others to grow.

5) Learning the books of the Bible helps you understand God’s purposes for His people. (For example: Almost 1/2 the Old Testament are books of the prophets which reveals to us how much time God spent warning us of the consequences of our behavior. This, in turn, reveals to us how much He loves us.)

Learning how to use the Bible–whether in paper or as an app on a phone or a tablet–is a skill we, as believers, need to acquire if we are going to be able to utilize the gift we have been given in having God’s Word at our fingertips.

Youtube has a zillion great songs, rhymes and raps that can help you help your family gain knowledge, skill, and confidence in beginning to handle God’s Word. One of my favorites right now is The Bible Book Bop by the GoFish Guys.

Taste and See!



Today as I work on planning for the weekend services, I am working on finding creative ways to “engage” the children our teams minister to. That word engage pops up everywhere. We need to be “engaging” our babies, our toddlers and preschoolers, our elementary students and of course, the junior and senior highers need to be kept “engaged ” as well. Then there are the adults, they need to be engaged. After all, if we aren’t engaging people, they won’t come, or if they come, they won’t stay. So we search for videos, games, songs, crafts, graphics and methods to keep them entertained and “engaged.”

So what, exactly does it mean these days to engage someone? Well, it could mean some of the following:

  • To occupy the attention or efforts of someone
  • To attract and hold fast
  • To attract or please
  • To bind, as by pledge, promise, contract or oath

As I read through these definitions I’m quickly reminded that I am called to be engaging God. It’s His attention I desire. It’s Him I live to please, and it’s Him I pledged, promised and made an oath to give first priority and all allegiance to.

So as I continue on with my planning for today, I will still be looking for ways to hold the attention of our young students, but I will do so while engaging the One who created them and knows them best. The One who desires for them to know Him and who longs for them to bind their hearts to His. Because at the very core, it’s not our church or our programs we want to attract them too. Plain and simple. . . It’s Him.