It is my privilege to share my Breakout Sessions: “Tricky Messages for Kids” and “Effective Response Times in KidMin” at the AG KidMin Conference 2020.
Here are some of the resources mentioned during the break-outs:
“Tricky Messages for Kids”
Links to Additional Resources:
“Effective Response Times in KidMin”
Follow-up Pamphlets (AGKidMin):
Have you ever wished you had that one new THING, believing it would improve your presentation?
Don’t fall for it! We all love new gadgets, props and things that can be used in a presentation, performance or ministry setting. Try these ideas first and let me know how it goes:
- Pray beforehand.
- Study so you’ll know what you’re talking about.
- Have a plan —When you don’t, they do.
- Meet the audiences’ level of intensity… and then, go beyond it.
- Be animated with your body movements: fill the space around you.
- Be animated with your voice: pace, volume, intensity, tone.
- Make eye-contact.
- Get kids to respond verbally: cheering, sound effects, call and response.
- Get kids to respond physically: standing, sitting, hand motions, moving around the room.
- Use kid-volunteers to help you: to hold props, become instant actors/actresses, to be interviewed.
- Use the names of the children present in the room while presenting.
- Use audio: background music, sound effects, popular song segments.
- Use lighting: adjust the brightness and color.
- Demonstrate a talent, ability or skill that fits the presentation.
- Prearrange for guests (kids, teens and adults) with special talents to be part of the presentation.
- Teach like Jesus (like one who has authority).
What other tips would you add?
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
I 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 your class, service or small-group.
It starts with US. Yes, you and me and our ability to plan ahead, be engaging and go 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 an 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 game tables with UNO cards, Rock-Em-Sock-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 Cart hooked-up.
These activity tables not only give the kids something to do when they 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. However, 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… and these should also be rules that CAN BE followed by the child.
Ron Brooks and I differ on our approach – and yet, we are still friends 🙂 Ron’s approach is pushing a positive outcome 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 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 our kids to stay safe. I want to know that they are supposed to be in the room. I also want to get to know them and call them by their own names.
- Everyone Participates: This way, no one person is left out and we get everyone involved.
- 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.
If you missed it or cannot join us, I will post the link to the podcast at a later date.
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
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