Pastoring Children

Share this Post

Yes… I’m trying to sound smart.

The word “philosophy” conjures up images of intelligent, well-educated people having deep discussions to better understand the meaning of life. Let me be clear: I want to make sure the people in my church better understand ministry to children. So, I developed this philosophy of ministry to articulate why we do what we do:

Welcome to, our Children’s Ministry Program for ages birth – 5th grade.  Around her, we take children and ministering to them very seriously.  We know that children are the church of tomorrow, but they are also the church of today.  That’s what our Children’s Ministry is all about – training kids now!

The Children’s Ministries is set-up as one department, allowing us to develop and maintain a consistent flow of ministry with our church from ages birth – 5th grade.  Each level builds and prepares young people for the next step.   We want to teach the Word of God to every age group at their own level, while preparing them for the next class and a lifetime of service for our Lord.

By presenting the Word of God to children in an exciting way that they can understand, and by leading them into a relationship with Jesus, there can be a generation that grows up loving God with all their heart.

But, the Children’s Ministry Staff can’t accomplish this alone!  We want to champion YOU: THE PARENT… Each week in our E-newsletter, we will have important information that they have learned at church. Take time during the week to instill these concepts in your child.  And then take time to show them how to apply these ideas to everyday life.  You will not only grow closer as a family, but you will see your child become spiritually stronger!

This information is included in our parents’ information brochure and will grace the WWW on our church’s website. It’s also something that our entire children’s ministry team understands… we constantly keep it in front of them. If this helps you, use some of the content to create your own.

Share this Post
Share this Post

When children walk into your ministry area, you should be the most exciting, most encouraging, most “want-to-be-around” person they encounter!

Here are a few things you can do to make a child’s day in your KidMin:

  • Smile at them and let your eyes light up when you see them
  • Look them in the eyes when you talk with them
  • Talk TO and WITH them… Not DOWN at them
  • Be super interested in any news they share with you (remember: it’s a big deal to have a loose or missing tooth, a new haircut, new shoes, a new stuffed animal, etc).
  • Notice and point out their shoes – trust me on this one
  • Shake their hand – they think this is very grown-up
  • Engage in any activity they are doing and have fun while doing it
  • Publicly “Catch” them behaving during class and compliment them
  • Always call any prizes you are going to give away: “Mine” and “My” as in: who is going to win “my candy bar?”
  • If they tell you sad news, pray with them… right then and there
  • Offer to thumb-wrestle any of them for a best 2 out of 3

The list is incomplete… obviously!

What would you add to it?

Share this Post
Share this Post

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!

Share this Post
Share this Post

IMG_0540

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.

Share this Post
Share this Post

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

Share this Post
Share this Post

stress-2I have become a firm believer that the blame for many of the discipline issues we face in children’s ministry cannot be placed completely on the children.

After all, most of the time, children are just being children – they have not been deliberately sent by the devil to disrupt you class, service or small-group.

It starts with US. Yes, you and me and our ability to plan ahead, be engaging and going the extra mile. In this way we aren’t just disciplining children- instead we can attempt to steer children who are simply being children so they can have a positive experience, learn something new, stay safe and encounter and almighty God.

We have to handle the discipline issues before the discipline issues ever start:

Have a PLAN for the Kids from the Moment they Arrive Until the Moment they Leave. Be properly prepared to carry-out that plan in your service or class… Remember, if you are not prepared and you don’t have a plan, the kids are always prepared with their plan… and they will begin carrying it out.

This doesn’t mean you have to be super-rigid and run a military-reform school. You can have free-time,or activity time, but schedule it and make the time-frame seem intentional.

Give Them Something To Do. When kids enter your room, do you expect them to just sit there and wait until you’re ready? Again, they will interpret that as boring. Have activities and engaging things ready so when kids enter your room, they have something to do besides implement their own plan. We have a game table with UNO cards, Rock-Em-Socke-Em Robots and Jenga Blocks. We have a LEGO table. We 2 long tables covered with paper so kids can draw whatever they want. We have Speedstacks tables with timers. Occasionally, we have the old Nintendos with Mario Card hooked up.

These activity tables not only give the kids something to do when the enter the room, it is a way for them to connect with each other… and it’s a way for our leaders to engage with the kids and build the relational bridge (see below)

Don’t be Boring! If kids interpret what you’re doing as “boring”, they will have something they interpret as “fun” ready to go. Use variety, and relevant teaching methods. Use a child’s natural intensity level when planning your services. In other-words: put fun, exciting and fast stuff on the front end of your service. Put the serious stuff in the middle. End your service with fun, exciting and fast stuff. See my series on the Kids Are Bored

Aim at the older children with the stuff and aim at the younger children with the length: Use music, graphics, video clips, characters and verbiage the older crowd will relate to… the younger kids will “aspire up” and want to be like the older kids. But, use a minute per year of age for each segment. If the youngest child in your service is 6 – You have 6 minutes max for each segment. See my post on How a Child Interprets Their World

Have Clearly Stated Rules Ahead of Time. These should be rules that BOTH the child and parent understand… abd these should also be rules that CAN BE accomplished by the child.

Ron Brooks and I differ on our approach – and yet, we are still friends 🙂 Ron’s approach is pushing a positive out come from the children ie. I Can Listen, I Can Show Respect, etc. For more of Ron’s view on rules, head over to his post.

Mine are direct and straightforward:

  • Don’t Leave Your Seat Without Permission – I emphasize that there will be times that permission is given. I also state that leaving your seat and invading someone else’s seat with your hands or feet is leaving your seat.
  • Don’t Talk Without a Microphone – I want the kids to know that there will be times to answer questions, but wait until the microphone is put in front of you. There will be appropriate times to laugh and cheer – but wait for something funny to happen.
  • Wear Your Name Tag – I want these kids to stay safe. I want to know that they are supposed to be in the room and I want to get to know and call them by their own names.
  • Obey All Rules – This covers the first few rules, but it also covers any instruction or directive that is given by any of our leaders.

Consistently Review the Rules. Kids cannot follow your rules if they don’t know what those rules are each week. We carve-out a time at the very beginning of our service to review the rules. Sometimes it’s quick and takes all of 2 minutes to review and explain the rules. Sometimes something fun happens… like a character enters who has the wrong idea about what the rules are. Sometimes we have a quiz-show and get kids from the audience to state our rules. Either way, guests will know what’s expected and regulars will be reminded.

Consistently Enforcing Those Rules. Make sure you and your leaders know when the best course of action is to sit with a disruptive child; when it’s time to separate children to different seats; when a child should remain afterwards so a discussion with a parent is necessary or when a child should be removed from a service or classroom and a parent needs to be notified. Read my last post on confronting parents.

Offer Incentives. Don’t just skip over this section. I have people all the time think that it’s wrong to bribe kids. Bribery has very little to do with incentives. Here’s my thought: Every kid wants to earn the trophy.  It’s really about the recognition for following the rules. Sometimes offering a tangible reward (candy, points for their team, points or “Bible Bucks” for your prize store, etc) is a great way to reward children – they all want to win the trophy. Other times, just “catching” kids who follow your rules with a lot of positive recognition in front of everyone else will make them want to earn it again. Both methods make others in the room want to earn the same trophy.

Enter a Kids’ World. Be relational. This earns you the right to be heard and respected – thus, eliminating a whole lot of discipline issues. Before I teach a group of kids, I love to walk around, give high-fives, fist bumps and shake hands. I ask funny questions and play as many of the games and activities as I can with the kids. I try to notice new shoes, haircuts, dresses and the toys kids bring with them. It let’s children know that I notice them and see them as a priority – not an afterthought.  See my post on the Stuff I’ve Kept in my Pockets.

Deliberately Approach “Those Kids”. You know the ones… these are the kids that you secretly hope are on vacation each week. They are the children who are consistently rambunctious, disrespectful and you seem to have issues with them any time they are in your class or service. I have had to make it a priority to pray for those kids during the week. I have asked God to give me compassion for these kids we typically define as “problem children”. And I believe that God has given me compassion for these kids.

Walk up to those kids each time they darken your door, get down on their level, look them in the eyes, smile your biggest and most sincere smile and tell them how happy you are that they are there. Ask them about their week, Ask them what was the funnest thing they did that week in school, invite them to play an activity with you. You will notice a difference.

I realize this has been a long post, but hopefully it’s given you some ideas as to how you can handle the discipline issues before they really become issues.

To listen to the radio show with me, Ron Brooks, and Tom Bump on March 20, 2014 – 7:00 PM Mountain Time.

If you missed it or cannot join us, I will post the link to the podcast at a later date.

Share this Post
Share this Post

It’s inevitable – Parent Confrontation

If you haven’t had to do it in your children’s ministry yet, then there’s probably something wrong. It doesn’t happen every week, but it will be a regular occurrence if you have to deal with discipline issues. There are some important factors to consider when confronting parents and having to explain a discipline issue. After-all, you don’t want to be known as the minister who is constantly a negative bearer of bad news or unpleasant to deal with.

Here is a concise list of the things to keep in mind if and when you will have to confront parents about their child’s behavior and actions:

  • Be respectful.
  • Look into their eyes.
  • Remember they are the authority figure in their child’s world.
  • Be clear and concise – explain what rules have been violated and the actions already taken.
  • Do yourself a favor ahead of time: have clearly communicated policies and rules in the classroom that both the child and parent are ALREADY aware of.
  • Be willing to offer an exception if it’s obvious the rules/policies were not known ahead of time.
  • Be forgiving, showing mercy and grace – Be willing to offer another chance.
  • Have a plan for moving forward with the child – If is this just a warning: what will the plan for the future be should we have trouble in the next few weeks?
  • Ask the parents to help you know what to do if the issue(s) ever surface again.
  • Pray a positive prayer over the Parent(s) and child before they leave.
  • Follow-up with the parent and the child later in the week.

What would you add to the list?

Share this Post
Share this Post

These past weeks, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve taught on the Word of God for our Children’s Large-group format.

Here are the Topics taught and the basic synopsis of each lesson:

  • “God’s Word is Strong” We used the story of the Wise and Foolish Builders and discussed how we will face storms in life. We can build our lives on many things: wealth, fun, friends and stuff. Unfortunately, those things will let us down. But if our lives are built on the Words that Jesus taught, we can stand strong.
  • “God’s Word Inside” We used the story of Jesus being Tempted by the devil and yet, Jesus had the Word of God inside of Him so he could use it wherever he went. We will encounter temptation every day! If we will put the Word inside, we can have it with us wherever we go.
  • “God’s Word is Sharp” We used the story of David and Goliath and emphasized the fact that it wasn’t necessarily the stone that won the fight… it was the message that God had already spoken that He would fight our battles for us. David knew that message and used it to win the fight. We ended this particular service by providing places where kids could pray what the Word says – We posted scripture verses around the room and invited kids to pray those verses over their struggles, trials and problems. It was an amazing altar time.

These were 3 lessons that were part of a longer series called “This Is BIG”. In years past, I have done entire 8-12 week series on the Word of God. Here is a snapshot of some of the past lessons we’ve taught in those longer series’:

  • The Bible is God’s Word
  • God’s Voice
  • The Word Inside
  • The Real Truth
  • The Word In Your Mouth
  • God’s Word is Like a Hammer
  • God’s Word is Like a Sword
  • God’s Word is Forever
  • God’s Word is Strong
  • Where Does Faith Come From?
  • What Do Your Feet Look Like (Beautiful are the Feet…)
  • God Keeps His Promises
Share this Post
Share this Post

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
Share this Post
Share this Post

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

Share this Post