How to Be a Better Presenter – Part 1 There, I said it! You can be a better presenter in front of a large-group of children. It’s different than a Sunday School Class or Small-Group… it’s more of a balance of teaching and performing at the same time.
I was honored to be included in a podcast episode of the Kids Ministry Collective hosted by Tom Bump.
You can find out more about Tom Here. I got to give my honest thoughts about using visual, performance arts in KidMin settings. I joined the episode along with Jarred Massey – who is a dynamite Kids Pastor in Illinois – check out his site here
or, if you don’t uese iTunes… listen it Here:
— OR —
You can WATCH the interaction on YouTube:
Rules 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.
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:
- 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:
- 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).
- 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.”
- 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.
I 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.
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
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.
- Make the story of Jesus come alive
- Greet every kid with anticipation of the day
- Give a salvation opportunity
- Inspire your leaders all this week leading up to the weekend
- Give the kids something to remember their experience by
- Present something the kids have never seen before
- Keep a record of attendance, salvations, first-time guests, returning guests, etc
- Thank God in advance for the victories won
- Celebrate your results with your leaders
Whether you choose to use Gospel Magic or not, there are some things you should be doing in any creative presentation method that will help you to create an experience with your class or audience:
As you tweak your routines or put the finishing touches on a prop; ask yourself:
- How am I creating an experience for my audience?
- What else can I do to add that little extra ‘whoa’ in the moments that I’m with them?
- What will these kids talk about when they leave?
- What am I doing to advance my skills as a performer/presenter and ‘experience creator’ so my program stands out? And not just from others… but, from the last ‘experience’?
Be Willing To Face Evaluation From Others
These are vital questions – and they need to be answered if you plan on succeeding as a performer/presenter. No question about it, you’re going to have to subject yourself to criticism and evaluation. Find a coach or several coaches whom you will allow to freely comment on your presentation. Record yourself on video and invite those who are already successful in the realm of children’s ministry presentation to view your presentation(s)… they can help you. Invite also, those who are trained and seasoned in drama and theater to view your presentations and get their insight.
You Have The Potential To Be Amazing
If you love what you do… kids will love you, you will feel very fulfilled at what you’re doing. Put that all together and you’ll be at your best as a presenter. And when you’re at your best – it will show up in your presentations- therefore, it will help you to create a stronger experience.