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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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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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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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There are many things you can teach on in a Children’s Ministry Large Group format (AKA Children’s Church/Kids Church). Just search the web for curriculum and there’s some great stuff out there – (BTW, I’m a huge fan of High Voltage and the stuff on the SEEDS website).

But I know for a fact that we need to get back to helping kids KNOW the Word of God. Every year, I try to do 2 things: Teach a series on the importance of the Word of God… and teach individual lessons on the importance of the Word of God other times of the year.

Right Now, I am doing a series called: “THIS IS BIG” It’s a series we’ve written using independent/stand alone resources (like video clips and music) that emphasizes the BIG plans God has for each of His people… and the thing that is pushed most of all is the importance of knowing, memorizing and using the Word of God.

Later in the year, we will teach through other series. Rest assured, I will find a way to either:

  • Add a week on the importance of God’s Word
  • Find the service in the series that has an emphasis on the Word and take advantage of it.

Why would I do this? Why should you do this?

  • Kids need to know what the Word says – the storms of life beat against the lives of children just as much, if not more than adults.
  • The devil would like it if children were ignorant of his plans – he always tries his hardest to influence the weakest will or understanding.
  • Because you can – If you live in a country like the USA, the spiritual climate is changing drastically and the world will look very differently in just a few short years.
  • It strengthens a child’s walk with God
  • It teaches kids to feed themselves God’s Word
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Memorize It

Knowing what you’re doing is different than planning what you’re doing. Again, you can start collecting your ideas and putting together all the stuff to make the service a success. But, if you don’t know WHAT you’re doing in the moment… it can create a moment of confusion, embarrassment or the sense from the audience that you aren’t prepared for them.  Even though, some of these items may be similar to the earlier section on Preparation… this list really is really all about “knowing” your service.  Memorization in a kids service has very little to do with knowing each service word-for-word or action-for-action – it has more to do with knowing the details enough to keep things moving along for so the audience will stay focused for maximum ministry results.

  • Know and be able to quote the main scripture – you’ll want to reference back to it during your teaching times.
  • Know and be able to quote the main idea or key point you want the kids to walk away with… you can’t get something into a kids world until it’s in you’re first.
  • Make and use a schedule of the service – As I mentioned in the last post, I prefer Planning Center Online. It gives you ways to schedule each item in your service and assign it a time. You can also use it to schedule team members for each item.
  • Outline your stories, object lessons, gospel magic routines, illustrative sermons and even skits. It’s not necessary to have it all memorized word-for-word. But if you know the main points and can elaborate on them, you’ll be more confident as you teach.
  • When doing an illustrative sermon or when many props and visuals are being used in one service, put them in order of their use on your table, in your box or from left to right on the stage or presentation area.
  • Make your team aware of what props and visuals you are using so those items don’t get touched, moved or end up getting put away before the service starts (I’ve had it happen).
  • Put a bookmark in your Bible where the main Bible story is found. Mark the passage with a highlighter or red pen… You ARE opening your Bible with the kids and having THEM read Bible stories with you – aren’t you?
  • Make sure everyone understands their cues for their parts. Music cues, key words, graphics on the screen or knowing that “…immediately after such-and-such happens…”, is when the next person needs to be walking on stage will help keep transitions smooth.
  • It helps to have a rehearsal with others involved, even if it’s just a walk-thru of each thing happening in your service.
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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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If 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. For me, I have 4 Kids’ Church large groups on a weekend (one on Saturday Night, 2 on our main campus and I travel between those 2 services to teach/preach at our second campus most weeks) 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!

That’s why I’ve started a simple “training by e-mail” campaign for our lead teaching staff.  Each week I will send out an e-mail to our teaching staff with an encouragement and a tip that just might help them reach new heights.  I would like to share those e-mails with you in blog-format each week… if you follow me on twitter, you saw that I did a series of around 15 tips for teaching in kidmin a few weeks ago – these coming blog posts are those tweets elaborated. So, here we go:

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.

THIS WEEKS TIP:

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!

Be blessed,
Jamie

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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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