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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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IMG_0245I still believe that one of the best ways to minister to children is with the “Children’s Church” model.

Call it “Children’s Church”, “Kids Church”, “Junior Church”, “Large Group Time,” etc. Whatever it’s called, it’s important to promote unity through corporate worship and teaching.

During this series on Making Your Children’s Church Better, we will explore the little details that make a huge impact. Today, we’re talking “Transitions”.  In the last 7 months, our family has had the privilege of traveling the United States and observe the services for children in churches and at Kids Camps. We’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly when it comes to service planning and presentation… and the transitions stood out the most. So, here are few of my thoughts, tips, ideas and advice for keeping your Children’s Services moving along smoothly:

Know what you’re going to say before you start speaking

  • Have a transitional statement and make it intentional: Don’t start your statement with: “Alright…”, “OK…” and “Well…” These are so common and it makes you sound like you’re unsure about what to say.
  • Consider a “grabber statement” as your first line: “Something REALLY embarrassing happened to me the other day…”; “When I was a kid…”; “I’m bringing my teddy-bear next week! So should you for our pajama day!”
  • Ask the kids a question that you’re confident they will answer: “Does anyone here like candy? I thought so – I’m going to give some away…”; “Don’t you wish you had more money?”
  • Get kids to respond by doing something rather than just raising their hands: “If you’re excited to be here shout ‘Oh Yeah!”; “When I count 3-2-1, Jump out of your chair and give me a big cheer!”; “Give someone next to you a high 5!”; “Knock-knock…I said: Knock-knock…”
  • Affirming statements will surprise your audience: “WOW…The kids in this room are pretty awesome.”; “Good morning, I’m so happy that you’re here!”: “I love getting to be with you – You kids are great!”
  • Get the group to mimic you: Clap your hands in a pattern and point to the kids. Keep doing it until everyone is doing it. Start chanting something that has to do with your segment: “Kids Camp is almost here… Kids Camp is almost here… Kids Camp is almost here…” Motion to the kids to start chanting with you – getting louder and louder as you go.

Music Transitions help to set a mood.

I love Music – it’s powerful and can be so useful in ministry. But like anything, it’s a tool that should enhance the message or segments that have already be prepared. Background music can be found in a variety of places. I personally don’t like using music with recorded lyrics as background music when teaching – I feel that it will detract from what’s being talked about. I also don’t like altar music that is popular worship music if I’m talking over the top – again, it can be distracting. I don’t mind using worship music with lyrics while children are praying during a prolonged prayer time.

I highly recommend the background music produced by Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids, music by friend and mentor Randy Christensen and music by Gospel Magic/Music Producer, Arthur Stead.

Here’s how I use a background music for transitions and segments:

  • For Segments: I prefer to use music to create a mood during a segment When the assigned person begins talking the background music chosen fades in just loud enough to be heard but not overpowering.
  • For Characters: Music that’s used for characters is typically used to introduce the character with a few seconds of the music playing on the front end and to dismiss the character as they leave with a few seconds of music continuing  and then fading away once they leave. When the main teacher begins to interact with the character, the music fades down to a very low level. In some cases the music might change to reflect the character’s dilemma or interaction. In other cases, the music might fade away altogether.
  • For Teaching (gospel magic routines and object lessons): The music starts immediately as the main teach begins talking.
  • For the Main Illustration: The music begins immediately as the main teacher begins talking.

Video Transitions help to set a mood.

Kids live in a visual, digital age and using visuals is so important. There are many ways to use video clips as teaching tools, but this post is specifically about transitions. Again, I highly recommend the background music produced by Brian Dollar and High Voltage Kids.

  • For Segments: As I am finishing my segment, the media team already knows my final statement. as soon as I say the final word in my final statement, they know to start the video. The video plays for a 3-5 second duration when the next person begins talking. As that person begins talking the video fades away and just a screen shot of the video remains on the screen.
  • For Characters: I do create intro animated and static videos (videos in which there is no movement on the screen, just an image that relates to the character) with music in the background to help introduce the character. again the music-video is typically used to introduce the character with a few seconds of the music playing on the front end and to dismiss the character as they leave with a few seconds of music continuing  and then fading away once they leave. When the main teacher begins to interact with the character, the music fades down to a very low level. In some cases the music might change to reflect the character’s dilemma or interaction. In other cases, the music might fade away altogether.
  • For the Main Illustration: I believe a good “bumper” video can be a great way to transition into your main message. A “bumper” video is similar as a transition video used for various segments, but it’s customized with the title of your series and/or the title of the message. It’s only 10-20 seconds with music and video footage or animation that relates to your topic. Many curriculum companies include “bumper” videos for Large-group times. A “bumper” video can be easily created with the modern video editing software as well as creating animated slides in PowerPoint and Keynote that can be exported as digital video files. Perhaps I will demonstrate how I use Keynote to accomplish this in a later post.

A few More Thoughts

  • Timing is Crucial from Segment to Segment: In other words, if there is a leader on the stage presenting the announcements and I am the next person who is supposed to present the offering. I don’t want to be hanging out in the back of the room waiting for the person on stage to finish and motion to me or have to introduce me so I know when to start making my way up to the stage… thus leaving an awkward moment of silence or an awkward moment of the leader having to figure out what to say while I’m meandering my way to the stage.  Instead, I want to know the list of announcements… and their order… and what the previous leader’s final statement will be. As the final announcement is starting, I make my way to the front. During the final statement, I start to walk on stage so I can begin my segment.
  • Stop Introducing the Next Person: Unless they are a guest-speaker or someone who is not known to the kids. Otherwise, use the methods already listed to make the transitions smoother.
  • Have a Microphone in your Hand or on your Ear: That way, when your segment starts, you’re not speed-walking to the opposite side of the stage to get it. Or, your not aimlessly searching around and asking,”What Mic do I use?” BTW: make sure it’s been tested and is functioning properly.
  • Props or Visuals In Place and Ready: If your segment begins with you walking on stage and picking up a prop, hand-out example, offering bucket or other visual — double-check that its in it’s place and ready to be used.
  • Get Everyone On the Same Page: Do meet with all presenters and the media team so everyone knows how to handle the transitions. It might be necessary to have a walk-thru rehearsal where media cues are practiced and opening and final statements are practiced. I suggest using PlanningCenterOnline.com to plan your services that will include the lengths for segments and transitional/media cues. There is a free version that can get you started.

You can find even more videos at WorshipHouseKids.com

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Over the years I have certainly heard the argument that Gospel Magic is of the devil…

that it’s associated with witchcraft or sorcery… that we are in league with Harry Potter etc. And for those situations, I have always had with me either a document by Randy Christensen: “The Magical Method”

…Or Bob Hill’s: “Should a Christian Do Magic?

Just copy and paste the text into your favorite word processor and create a document or brochure you can hand out – be sure to include the author’s name and copyright information.

But to be perfectly honest with you, the biggest complaint I’ve heard over the years from people about Gospel Magic is that people end up remembering the magic and NOT the message. The performer or presenter was a great magician… but had a tough time “Marrying” the Method and the Message together.

The second complaint I’ve heard over the years is that the magic was just a gimmick to get the audience interested in what the presenter had to say… the presenter, then, turned out to be a very boring and/or long winded speaker. In which case, they don’t remember the message and didn’t care about the magic because the audience felt duped into listening.

The reasons I hear this complaint are as follows:

  • Wrong Motivation
  • Poor Prep
  • Poor Presentations
  • Un-Assessed Presentations
  • Performers/Ministers Unwilling to Make the Changes

Come on people! WE can do better than this!

We are talking about presenting the Word of God. And the last time I looked into my Bible, it says that if we aspire to teach others the Word, we will be held to a higher standard:

“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
–James 3:1

I don’t care if you are a Pastor, Evangelist or a Performer who presents the Word… YOU have be entrusted with the greatest message in the world! Take that as a challenge to your motivation, preparation, presentation, assessment and the willingness to make the change.

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564736_597514190259187_754582564_nIllustrating the Word of God for kids is a good thing.

I have often heard the argument:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

It’s sad, really. It’s sad because I have watched effective Children’s Ministry communicators shy away from taking advantage of great and creative methods in their presentations because of that statement alone.

I was teaching several workshops on creative teaching methods at a children’s ministry conference where I overheard several criticize me and other workshop leaders for placing an unhealthy emphasis on the methods.

Guess what? I can agree with the statement:

“…if we, as children’s leaders use unique and entertaining methods, that children will remember the methods and not the message.”

However, I can only agree with that statement with the following addendum:

“…as long as most of the time, energy and emphasis is placed on the method and very little time, energy and emphasis is spent on the message.”

Unfortunately, the aforementioned addendum is rarely heard… thus holding back the children’s ministry specialist from embracing the effective methods that are available to him/her.

And all of that is worked out in the planning stages of the message. 

In the next few posts I want to explain a few things that should be happening BEFORE the presentation starts… and hopefully, you, the children’s ministry leader – a teacher of God’s Word, can find freedom to “Marry” the message and the method so you can bring your messages to life.

Stay tuned…

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Everything a kid tells you is important.

You may not think it’s important, but to that kid, at that moment, it’s the most important thing in their world.

We as adults have, over time, developed a filter called: “THE STUFF IMPORTANT TO ME” filter.  And we react accordingly.  If someone tells you something that is interesting to YOU or in some way creates a commonality – YOU naturally react with genuine interest.  YOU react with attention.  YOU react because YOU actually care.

But when someone tells you something that you have no interest in, you may try to react as though you care – because you don’t really want to offend the person trying to tell you something.  But you’re not really listening, are you?

When that child walks up to you and shows you his loose tooth… this is a big deal – no wait! It’s a BIG DEAL!  When she tells you that it was her birthday yesterday… it’s a BIG DEAL!  When a kids tells you that his family is taking him on vacation to “Happy World”, it’s a BIG DEAL!  When she explains that her dog is lost… it’s a BIG DEAL!  When they point to their new shoes… it’s a BIG DEAL!  You all know what I’m talking about. It happens all weekend long… and that’s a good thing!

But, how many times have you had one of these experiences only to usher that child to his seat and tell him politely that he can tell you later? After all, it’s time to start class, right.

To a child, you may be the most important person in their world at that moment that needs to know this information.  Your reaction will determine their significance at that very moment in THEIR WORLD. And if you’re the one who made them feel significant at that moment, you have earned their attention from that moment on.  Try it – I promise, it works!

Turn on your listening ears the next time you’re with kids and Be blessed

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A very wise man in ministry recently told me this in regard to a conference we were both at.

How does this relate to what you do in KidMin:

  • Do you show up with half a lesson ready? Then, start prepping earlier in the week… or better yet – earlier in the month.
  • Do you show up with a “it’s just a few kids” attitude?  Then, see each child as an individual, spiritual being who has a destiny that you get to help shape.
  • Do you have old posters hanging in classrooms that have nothing to do with that unit of curriculum anymore? Then, throw them out and put the new ones up.
  • Do you have cluttered classrooms and environments? Then, have a clean-up day and get your teachers involved.
  • Do you have major repairs that are needed that would be obvious to a first-time visitor? If you don’t know, get a neighbor to walk thru your building and give you some feedback.
  • Do you have outdated curriculum rendering your storage/resource closets irrelevant because someone said, we should save this… just in case?  “Just in case” has come and gone my friend – buy a box of Hefty’s and get to work.
  • Do you use certain teaching methods that you like more then the kids actually like? Then stop and have some help evaluating how you teach kids – this is not about you.
  • Do you deliberately hold off on moving forward on the dream and vision God has given you for KidMin because of a lack of money? Then do the leg-work and communicate the vision so you give God and avenue to get you the resources to move forward.

Please do whatever you can to make these changes (and others)…
Because if KidMin is worth doing, it’s worth doing well if it’s worth doing at all.

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Perception is a powerful thing.  Everyone has a bunch of perceptions that order their world. And, everyone has a bunch about you and your ministry that may order your world.  So play to it.

In other words; the vast majority of people in your church have a perception about you and your ministry based on what they experience with you and your ministry… That means that they experience the weekend with you and your ministry.

What they see and experience on the weekend is typically their perception of what the rest of your world is like. That can be a good thing or a bad thing.

The good thing is that if you pull off a successful time of ministry their perception of you and your ministry is that you are successful for the most part and that you have stuff together and are moving forward.  Don’t let them make you a liar!  If you pull off a successful time of ministry and their perception of you and your ministry reflects the same, make sure the rest of your time, during the week, is as quality as it can be.

But this also means that there are less opportunities for what I like to call the “Compensation Factor”. This factor is when you have had a great week: You and your team have planned, strategized, worked hard and have had a successful week.  Now comes the weekend.  If one of your team members makes a mistake, shows up late or forgets something… you as a leader use the “Compensation Factor”. You say to yourself: “Sure they were late, but they worked hard this past week and they’re hardly ever late.  No harm done, let’s just keep going!” You compensate.

Unfortunately, the average church-goer-parent-type-person wasn’t there for the previous week.  They didn’t see the hard work this team member did or the extra effort made.  They only know what they see over the weekend. Therefore, they cannot compensate. Suddenly, there is a perception created that this is how it always is.

So, how do you play to other people’s perceptions? How do you build better perceptions in others? The answer: Just be perfect all of the time. Easy enough, right?

There is only one thing that creates a stronger “Compensations Factor” then seeing the hard work earlier in the week.  RELATIONSHIPS.

If you and your team are creating relationships with the parents in your church, there will be the perception that you and your team are personable, relational and pastoral. But don’t let it stop at a perception – Don’t let them make you a liar… make it who you really are!  Relationships are powerful. When someone has a relationship with you and they know that you care; if there is a mistake, an oversight or a transgression in your ministry, they can compensate with: “but, they care – and I know it”.

By no means does this give you license to let your ministry fall all over the place. Always do your best. Plan on having successful times of ministry.  Because those days will come when everything falls apart in a comedy of errors. It’s in those times that it’s nice to have relationships with the people around you to help you get back on track and pull it all back together.

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Have a very happy Easter – make it incredible for the kids at your church!

  1. Pray
  2. Make the story of Jesus come alive
  3. Greet every kid with anticipation of the day
  4. Give a salvation opportunity
  5. Inspire your leaders all this week leading up to the weekend
  6. Give the kids something to remember their experience by
  7. Present something the kids have never seen before
  8. Keep a record of attendance, salvations, first-time guests, returning guests, etc
  9. Thank God in advance for the victories won
  10. Celebrate your results with your leaders
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Ok, this is totally hypothetical here – but, if you only had one minute left in your career as a KidMin; how would you spend it?  This extreme grabber is meant to get you thinking about making the most of every moment. Ephesians 5:16 is pretty straightforward about this point.

Would you call all your workers and thank them?  Send an inspiring e-mail/tweet/FB? Pray? Play with a puppet? What does the “MOST” of every moment look like in your mind’s eye?  Better yet, what does the “MOST of every moment look like in God’s Mind?

I’ll tell you what it looks like…

Read the Ephesians 5:8-17.  It mentions things like: Knowing what pleases the Lord, knowing His will and refraining from foolish deeds of evil.

Now, stop reading this blog and make the most of the minute that you have left.

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Anticipation – Create It… Maintain It… Satisfy It.

I believe in the old education model.  I believe you can use it in your #KidMin services to create, build and satisfy anticipation.  What is the old education model?  I’m glad you asked!  Here’s what it looks like:

• Tell them what are going to teach them

• Teach it to them

• Tell them what you just taught them

Notice that you’re doing the same thing over and over again.  It’s called repetition.

And believe it or not, repetition works.  And believe it or not, repetition works.  And believe it or not… you get the point.

You’re doing the same thing over and over again, you’re just going to do it in a different way.  Throughout, you’ve got to have anticipation that will keep kids on the edge of their seats.  Here’s how to use the old education model to create, keep and satisfy anticipation:

Tell them what are going to teach them –

This is the icebreaker/opener that introduces kids to the lesson or topic.  In this moment that happens at the beginning, you’re going to introduce a problem, dilemma, big question, challenge or a cliffhanger that you can refer back to throughout the service.  Here’s an example:  You have a character named Herman enter with a bottle of mustard.  He says that he’s going to: “…teach that guy a lesson by squirting mustard all over his new bike!” You attempt to talk him out of it but he won’t listen.  He leaves angrier then when he entered.  You tell the audience of children that today would be a good day to talk about “Revenge: what does God say about it?”  Go into a scripture memory game.  You’ve just created a cliff-hanger that kids will want to know what happens.  You’ve created ANTICIPATION

Read more over at CMConnect.org

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