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1950s-1960s-college-woman-studying-surrounded-all-around-by-piles-of-booksIf you’re like me (and I know I am), you put a lot of emphasis on teaching kids the Word of God every week – and in some cases, several times or venues a week.

I was on staff at a church and had 4 Kids’ Church large groups on a weekend. Add to that a Sunday School hour, Wednesday night large groups (of which I’m involved) and Wednesday night small groups. We also have a myriad of classes and services for toddlers and preschoolers and even some teaching time for infants that our wonderful staff on directors and volunteers oversee and participate in.

THERE’S A WHOLE LOT OF TEACHING GOING ON!

Let me encourage you this week as you plan for the upcoming Wednesday or Weekend and give you a pointer that I just know will give you the confidence and in some cases the “know-how”… and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few years: INFORMATION is POWERFUL when you APPLY IT.

Start preparing early in the week for the upcoming lesson or class time. In other words, if your ministry time was over the weekend, crack open that lesson book or materials on Monday… if your ministry time was on Wednesday; then make Thursday your day to start studying. You don’t have to plan your entire lesson on that day, but at least:

  • Read over the lesson
  • Know and memorize the key verse
  • Look up and read any supporting verses
  • And know the main point of the lesson.

Why should you do this? I’m glad you asked!

…When you start early in the week, it gives the Holy Spirit time to be your helper… instead of (gulp) having to work in spite of you. Think about it: all week long as you pray over the materials you’ve read, the Lord will reveal unique teaching ideas, stories you’ve heard or events in your life that you could work into your lesson. As the day of ministry gets closer and you are planning what that class time should look like, instead of saying, “Lord, what am I going to teach?” …you’ll be able to say “Lord, how do I fit all of these ideas into the lesson?”

Try it – I promise it will work. And as always, if you ever need a teaching idea, I’m just an e-mail away and I’m happy to brainstorm with you! I’d better let you go – some of you need to start studying!

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IMG_0119Back in June we began to pray about an opportunity to take on a Children’s Pastor position at a church. After talking it over as a family, lots of prayer and a visit to that church, I’m happy to announce that we are now the Children’s Ministry Pastor family at First Assembly Community Ministries in Lafayette, IN.

It’s an exciting time as we are just now evaluating the Children’s Ministry and dreaming about the future… along with unpacking a house and trying to get all of my resources to fit in my new office.

I’ll continue my series on “Making Children’s Church Better” as we engage in this new setting. So stay tuned!

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I’ve taught a lot over the years on the structure of a children’s church.

I believe in it!  It’s a place where kids are gathered corporately and worship, learn and fellowship. Those of you who have a Large Group/Small Group format can still benefit from this information as well as those who have a major emphasis on a children’s worship service – AKA: Children’s Church.

One day, while studying to teach on this topic once again at a conference, I realized that the children’s church service was a hybrid of several models. The Children’s Church has mix of the following elements:

  • Education
  • Inspiration
  • Entertainment

Here are the three models:

The Education Class Model –

This model has been used for years and is like a mantra to classic and succesful educators:

  • Tell them what are going to teach them – this is the icebreaker/opener that introduces kids to the lesson.
  • Teach it to them – teach them using all the fun methods that you use.
  • Tell them what you just taught them – review games and follow-up moments at the end of service (take-home papers or bulletins could also fit this heading).

The vaudeville Show Model –

I came across this a few years back after watching Duane Laflin speak about the psychological needs of an audience:

  • Excitement – something that gets the show/service off to a fun and exciting start
  • Introduction – welcoming the audience and helping them to feel comfortable with being there
  • Identification – showing in an exciting way why you are all together or, preview your lesson
  • Involvement – get the audience engaged… Invite people to participate – both corporately as well as individuals… Every kid wants to help
  • Solid Content – This was the feature act – teach the “meat” of the lesson
  • Confirmation – give the audience a chance to respond and let them leave feeling positive about what they just experienced – like an altar call, and a review. The kids should leave with a sense that they can put what you just taught them into practice.

The Intensity Model of a Children’s Ministry Setting –

I’ve used this for years to help structure how a childrne’s church should look:

  • Kids are excited, rowdy and silly at the beginning of a class – match that with some controlled chaos… Fun games, exciting songs, silly or funny characters.
  • About half way to two-thirds thru the class time is when the kids are at their most attentive – teach the most important things during this window… The main sermon, prayer time, worship times.
  • As the class comes to a close, the kids will start to get rowdy again, so end with excitement elements… Review games, songs that relate to the topic, funny characters who need help from the kids in reviewing the lesson.

I hope you can see how each of these models kind of “morphs” together to create a good structure for a children’s church setting.

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IMG_0320It Starts When They Walk In…

For this portion of the series, I want to focus on getting the Children’s Church experience started…

…Before you can start the 5 minute countdown, make a grandiose announcement, send in a crazy character, start your Bible on fire, or eat donuts suspended from a rope, we need some kids to come thru the doors. If the kids don’t show up, you’d be starting your Bible on fire for, well… nobody.

But what can you do to keep kids from getting bored from the moment they come into your ministry area?

Engage Them… Here Are a Few Suggestions:

  • Decor- Have your ministry room(s) decorated to reflect the theme of your ministry or the topic that you are teaching. Whether you have the ability, permission and money to deck-out an area for kids or you have to set it up and tear it down; kids know when they are being welcomed and if you’ve prepared for them. Banners, backdrops, balloons, props/scenery and murals will create an environment that kids will remember.
  • Ambiance- Music that is upbeat and fun or anticipatory will help kids feel like this is the place just for them. Light up the room(s) with different colors to help accent and compliment the look of the room. Video clips that are familiar or interesting to kids will make a welcoming experience. AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE – clean up the clutter, vacuum, adjust the temp and eliminate odor!
  • Activities- When kids enter any new environment, their internal intensity changes. Kids need an outlet for energy. So have some energy-outlet friendly stuff ready. Board games, twister, an art station, simple “carnival”-type games, long-jump contests, high-jump contests, follow the leader, quiz games, treasure/scavenger hunts, video games… Use your imagination. I mean, look at it as if “nothing kid-friendly is off-limits”.
  • Relational Interaction- Having the leaders in your areas who are initiating interaction will create a memory and set the temperature for an experience. What do the leaders do? Ask kid-related questions; about their clothes, school, shoes, movies, video games, toys, pets, vacation, friends, etc. Having some conversation starters are important. Read my post about “The Stuff I’ve Kept in my Pockets” These little items will help leaders start conversations and create experiences.

Have I given you something to think about? BTW: You can buy a Bible that starts on fire here… I use mine all the time!

More later.

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Don’t Correct From the Stage

This is critical for me as I don’t want to break the intensity of whatever I’m doing. I always allow other leaders who are not teaching to make a correction with a disruptive child. There are, however, some techniques I’ve used from the stage that help if I sense a disturbance in the force. These are just great teaching techniques in general and you may see the repeated as we getting into the actual presentation part of making children’s church better:

Direct Look

“The Eyes are the window to your soul” — William Shakespeare. I just look directly at the child. If I know what child is causing the disturbance, I continue teaching but look directly at the child until he/she notices I’m looking at them. This usually has the same affect on the children sitting around that child.

Sudden Pause

“Music is the space between the notes” – Claude Debussy. Sometimes, I will suddenly stop talking and freeze my body movement – like I’m taking a long pause. Every child will turn their attention to me and become very quiet themselves. Silence is just as important as the noise of me talking.

Telling Secrets

“Do you want to know a secret?” – The Beatles. Everyone wants to hear a secret. Suddenly speaking in a whisper can gain the attention of everyone in the room. Why? because they all want to hear what you are saying. Especially if you stop what you’re saying, look both ways as if you’re being cautious about who hears you, then begin whispering.

Use Their Name

“… You just call my name…” – James Taylor. Kids love to hear their name (when they’re not in trouble). I will use the child’s name in the story or lesson I’m teaching. For example: let’s say I’m telling a story and the child’s name is, Connor. “…It was time for school and Sally didn’t know what to tell her teacher. As Sally was on her way to school wondering what to do, she bumped into her friend, Connor. And she so badly wanted to ask Connor what he thought. But, she was too embarrassed…” Now Connor, who might be talking to his friend, has stopped to find out what’s going to happen with a boy having the same name…

—OR—

Let’s say I’m teaching an object lesson. I display a hammer and nails and some wood. “Has any one ever seen any of these thing. has anyone ever used one of tools? Hey Connor, have you ever used a hammer before? How about you Owen? You have?” Again, I’m trying to engage Connor by using his name. Sometime, I’ll just say something like, “Connor knows what I’m talking about  – right Connor… you and I know about this kind of stuff, don’t we?” I’ll say it in a fun positive way as if Conner has some special insight or inside track with me.

Get Close

“Just like me, they long to be, close to you…” — The Carpenters. Creating a presence near the child or children is effective. If ever you want an individual or a small group of children to that are being disruptive to give you their attention, stand near them. Sometimes I walk around the rows of kids while teaching.

Abrupt Changes

“Ch, ch, ch, changes…” David Bowe. Change in some noticeable way. Yes, the sudden stop, the whisper can work… but so does any abrupt volume change or pace of speaking. A combo of both is great! Try different voices (make sure it’s appropriate for your moment of teaching).

Get Them Standing

“The mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure” — Donal Blaney. You need to discern if your group has been sitting too long. If it’s obvious that the reason the children are squirming, talking and being disruptive, is that they have been seated too long… I find a reason for them to stand and do something. Sometimes, I just have them stand and repeat something back to me. Maybe in a silly voice or as fast as they can. Then it’s boys vs girls. Then it’s Kids vs Leaders.

As I stated earlier; these techniques are great teaching techniques in general. That’s it for rules. next time we will focus on other areas of Children’s Church.

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Enforce the Rules By Keeping the Kids Engaged

Want some harsh but honest criticism? Read on… if you’re feelings are easily hurt, then skip down to the next point and take the chance that you will still have issues with children following the rules.

You’re still here. Ok, ready?

Don’t be boring.

…sometimes kids behave the way they do because they are bored and disengaged with what’s happening around them. Be a more exciting teacher, storyteller, announcement person, offering presenter, welcome guy, etc. Whatever your segment is, make it as fun, interesting and/or exciting as you can.

Recognize children who follow the rules

It’s not enough to just point-out to a child that they’re being naughty. You can often times change the atmosphere and give the rest of the audience reason to suddenly sit-up, sit still, listen, smile, etc. It’s called recognition. And it works. Every kid wants to earn an “A”… every kid wants to be noticed for doing good. When I sense there seems to various children chatting with each other and squirming about. I start my segment by “noticing” a child and making a big deal about their behavior:

“Hey everyone look over here at Chloe! Chloe, you are doing such an great job sitting up and paying attention. I love how you do that… you’re an amazing kid.”

Suddenly, every kid will want to meet your expectation.

Offer incentives from time to time.

Incentives have often times been misinterpreted as “bribes”. Perpetuating the statement: “I don’t want to bribe the kids to behave.” I understand…

…but, a bribe is defined as a payment offered to someone to do or allow something evil.

I define an incentive as a reward. I love to reward kids. But, I don’t offer incentives every time I teach children. You would need to decide for yourself if you should ever offer rewards… what those rewards should be… and how often would a reward be offered.

I enjoy giving out rewards that relate to our series. We did a back to school series – we gave away various school supplies and the kids loved it as equally as when we did an entire series that used a different kind of candy each week so we gave away that particularly kind of candy. We didn’t always just hand it to kids who were well behaved. Sometimes, you could be chosen to answer the review questions or play the review game and we would reward the players of the game. You might consider reserving prizes for special days or when you realize after a few weeks of children not paying attention, you need and incentive to offer to kids who are engaging in the service.

Focus on Ministry More than the Rules

It should go without saying – you’re there to pastor the kids, not be an enforcer. The rules, like any teaching method, should only help enhance the ministry that’s already taking place in your service. I like kids to know I’m firm, but fun… fair and even flexible. I would rather just remind kids of rules and focus on teaching the Word of God.

Next time, (and I promise that part 4 will be last of the “rules” posts) I will give you some tips and ideas for those times when you need to enforce the rules or just remind kids of the rules while you’re still teaching. Thanks for all the great feedback during this series. Please share on Facebook and Twitter – and please comment.

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IMG_0292Rules are not a fun subject – but I believe they are necessary!

Regardless of the lack of actual comments on the last post – I was encouraged with the feedback from twitter, Facebook and with personal messages from friends, and fellow KidMin leaders. Hey, I even got a shout-out from the Kids Pastor at our church during children’s church while she reviewed the rules with the kids 🙂

Here we go with Part 2:

Consider Changing the Rules to Fit Your Needs

That’s why I have a rule that says: “Obey All Rules”. It gives us license that if we need to make a rule to help the kids learn, we will. If a leader has noticed a lack of participation with our worship times in previous weeks, he/she can say something like: “Today we are adding an extra rule… it’s called ‘Everyone Participates’. If it’s time to sing, we want everyone to sing, if it’s time to learn, we need everyone paying attention…”

Make Warnings & Consequences Fair and Helpful

You wouldn’t dismiss a child from your service with a harsh lecture in front of the other children should that child break a rule and it’s their first infraction…. would you? Of course not. It’s not fair.

Let’s face it: kids get excited and will respond with outward expression. If something exciting happens and kids exclaim: “WOW!” cool – it’s what we want. Right? We want children engaged – so make sure you and your leaders can discern when the breaking of rules is a reaction to what’s happening —OR— it’s a problem of the child just doing whatever they want and it’s distracting or interruption the service.

I tend to allow 2-3 personal, verbal warnings from a leader who is not teaching. After that, the child is moved back a row or 2 (I always try to move a child back —OR— off to the side if they are already a few rows back). This is usually serious enough in the mind of the child that they will try harder to follow the rules. If the child is still having a hard time, I have them moved to the very back row (we keep the back row of one of the sections reserved for this purpose). The child is told that before he/she can leave that they will need to have a short meeting with their parents and a leader.

There have only been a few rare cases in which we had to dismiss a child by calling their parent during the service.

By handling the consequences this way, it’s fair because the child gets to remain in the room and receive ministry and participate in worship. It’s fair because the parent get’s to part of the solution. It’s helpful, because the child is moved further back where fewer children will see that child if said child chooses to continue in their behavior.

Let me just state that there are at least 2 more parts to this subject – why so much? I guess I have a lot to say about it. Please feel free to share and comment.

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I was honored to find out that JamieDoyle.com was featured…

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.06.10 AM…at #61 of the Top 100 Children’sMinistry Blogs at ministry-to-children.com (an awesome site BTW) I’ve had the honor to be part of this list for the past few years.

Thanks to the site’s creator, Tony Kummer and to those of you out there that cast your vote

There’s a tool that was added to the list that I think is the best idea and a great resource to those in KidMin. It’s a custom google search engine to search the Top 100 Blogs in the list – and it works great!

GO HERE to check it out. I searched several of my favorite topics. My search on Volunteers pulled-up 100 posts within those blogs.

Do yourself a favor and bookmark this page!

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I hate rules… I really do.

I prefer to do things my way, on my time, with little to no restrictions. That’s how creative people tend to thrive. It feels like freedom – like the sky’s the limit. But I’ve come to realize that I’m sometimes most effective when parameters are defined and a specific objective has been communicated so I can creatively work toward a goal. So, I guess rules are a good thing.

And they are a good thing in your children’s church. Rules are necessary and they can help you reach your objective with kids. It can help kids reach the objective of having a better experience at church.

So without further ado – I give you my thoughts on rules in Children’s Church

Make Only a Few Rules

If you want kids to follow rules, they need to be able to remember the rules. If you give them a list of 10 rules for your hour and fifteen minute experience, it could come across as overwhelming. Kids interpret “overwhelming” as “boring” and may find the list unattainable and stress-inducing. It may cause certain children to disengage or “tune-you-out” when it comes time to review the rules – in turn, tuning-you-out during other parts of the service. If you have more than 5, consider either trimming the list or finding a way to separate the rules for specific scheduled events. For instance: if you have an activity time before and/or after the service (crafts, board games, drawing tables, video games, lego tables) there could be specific rules for that scheduled time: Keep all activities at their own tables; Walk-don’t run; Everyone gets a turn; Respect others at each activity, etc… This might help scale down your list for the service time.

Make Rules that Are Possible to Follow

Remember, these are kids. The rules in your Children’s Church need to be reachable by children. Don’t have unrealistic expectations or rules that have no purpose except for you to flex your authoritative muscle. This could be confusing for the children or, again, overwhelming.

Make Direct Rules

I believe if rules are direct, they leave little to interpret for the audience you’re teaching or ministering to. I like rules that get to the point so we can explain/review them or remind the crowd and move on. Rules like:

  • “Don’t Talk With out a Microphone.”
  • “Don’t Leave Your Seat Without Permission”
  • “Wear Your Name Tag”
  • “Obey All Rules”

These are the rules we’ve used in our Children’s Church Experiences for over 16 years… and they’ve worked for us. Each rule is simple and direct and the last rule leaves it open if any leader would need to make a rule to fit the day or situation.

“What about sounding too negative?” I get it – I really do get what you’re asking. Instead of saying: “no talking”, say: “please stay quiet and listen” — OR — instead of saying: “Don’t Leave Your Seat”, say: “Please Say In Your Seat”. Trust me, you’re not going to offend children by being direct. But if that’s what floats your boat, be as positive as possible.

Another idea I’ve seen is using the name of the Children’s Church time as an acronym:

“KIDS Church”

  • K- Keep your hands and feet to yourself
  • I- If you need to speak raise your hand
  • D- Don’t speak without a microphone
  • S- Stay seated unless called on

(I just helped someone out there come up with some rules didn’t I?)

Announce the Rules Ahead of Time

Your children won’t know the rules unless they are reviewed each service. This accomplishes several things:

  1. It reminds the children what the rules are and what is expected of them during the service time. This can be done with a video announcement, someone live explaining the rules, someone explaining the rules to a character of some sort (puppet, costumed character, clown, etc).
  2. It allows you to confidently address an issue if a child is bending or breaking one of the rules. A leader in the room has the advantage of looking at a child or group of children and simply stating: “Remember, there’s no talking without a microphone.”
  3. Perhaps you need to meet with a parent following the service to discuss their child’s choice to consistently disobey the rules. You have the confidence of knowing you can refer to the rules that are reviewed each service.

So there you have Part 1. In the next post, I will discuss tailoring rules, how to handle the consequences, incentives, and some tools I’ve used for refocusing a large group while I’m teaching. What other rules would you add? What rules do you have?

Comment or share this post if you dare.

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