I’ve recently decided (after years of presenting Biblical Truths to children) that learning to present an object lesson effectively is one of the “Great Equalizers” in presentation-based children’s ministries. (One of the other ones is: effective storytelling… but, that’s for another post).
I love puppetry, ventriloquism, magic tricks, juggling, cartooning, crazy characters, etc.
If you want to learn more about a great organization that promotes and trains people to do those things, go to FCM.org
However, I’ve also come to realize that not every presenter at our various church locations has an interest in pursuing these various illustrative methods. But, if they can learn to effectively present an object lesson, they will elevate the experience for the children in the audience.
With that said, here are a few things YOU can do to help you better present an object lesson:
KNOW WHAT you are going to say: Script it out… even just bullet points
DO something with the Object/Prop —OR— Demonstrate what it does
INVITE a volunteer or volunteers to use the Object/Prop if it’s appropriate
Have a PLACEitstarts so it’s hidden to begin with – This creates surprise
Have a PLACE it goes to once you’re done – Sometimes its goes back to being hidden and sometimes it stays on display so you can refer back to it
SIZE and COLOR… Make sure it can be seen and understood when viewed
MUSIC in the background can help carry the message and create atmosphere
Over the years I have certainly heard the argument that Gospel Magic is of the devil…
that it’s associated with witchcraft or sorcery… that we are in league with Harry Potter etc. And for those situations, I have always had with me either a document by Randy Christensen: “The Magical Method”
Just copy and paste the text into your favorite word processor and create a document or brochure you can hand out – be sure to include the author’s name and copyright information.
But to be perfectly honest with you, the biggest complaint I’ve heard over the years from people about Gospel Magic is that people end up remembering the magic and NOT the message. The performer or presenter was a great magician… but had a tough time “Marrying” the Method and the Message together.
The second complaint I’ve heard over the years is that the magic was just a gimmick to get the audience interested in what the presenter had to say…the presenter, then, turned out to be a very boring and/or long winded speaker. In which case, they don’t remember the message and didn’t care about the magic because the audience felt duped into listening.
The reasons I hear this complaint are as follows:
Performers/Ministers Unwilling to Make the Changes
Come on people! WE can do better than this!
We are talking about presenting the Word of God. And the last time I looked into my Bible, it says that if we aspire to teach others the Word, we will be held to a higher standard:
“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” –James 3:1
I don’t care if you are a Pastor, Evangelist or a Performer who presents the Word… YOU have be entrusted with the greatest message in the world! Take that as a challenge to your motivation, preparation, presentation, assessment and the willingness to make the change.
Illustrating 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.
Everywhere you look there are ideas to be used in children’s ministry… just waiting to be unlocked! They could be hidden in the pages of book, the display fixture of a store, an interesting commercial on TV, during a conversation about a topic you never thought you’d be talking about, happening in a new song on the radio while you’re waiting for the light to change or in a moment of misfortune.
When you go out and about in your day, here are some ways to harvest those innovations so you can keep your ministry sharp:
Keep Your Eyes Open – always be saying to yourself: “What could this be? How can I use that? How could my church benefit from having/knowing about this?
Be Deliberate – Visit places that are interesting and unique… ON PURPOSE. There’s that one store in the mall that has unique displays. There’s that one park with playground equipment like no other. There’s that one 2nd Hand shop that always seems to gather interesting items.
Use Up Your Smartphone’s Memory – If you have a smartphone, you should be taking pics, capturing video, taking notes and recording voice memos of your surroundings and experiences. Invest in more memory if need be.
Catalog Your Finds – Evernote is a great way to organize the ideas and notes you collect so you can return at a later time to be creative. If Evernote is not a consideration, have a place to keep those ideas so they are not forgotten: Open a document program on your computer and keep a running list of those ideas… store pics and video on a hard drive… if nothing else, keep a notebook handy.
Visit The Bigger Guys – There’s that church near you that is bigger and has more resources at their disposal. Perhaps they have some innovations and things that could be adapted for your situation. They’re usually willing to share their thoughts and ideas.
Visit The Littler Guys – Often the drive of the newer/smaller church’s leaders pushes them to try newer things quicker… after all: Necessity is usually the mother of invention. These guys have HAD to figure out how to solve problems; and in the process might have created the new process.
Empower The Team – You’re not the only one in your ministry that can do the aforementioned. Encourage your team to do all of these things! Bring it all together once in a while for a “Show and Tell” session: Everyone puts what they’ve collected over the last weeks or months their finds. Get out the whiteboard and start to map-out the finds into usable ideas whether your church or ministry ever uses them or not… you’d be surprised where these session might go.
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
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…)
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.
It begs the question: Whatever happened to Preparation A thru G?
Children’s Church Services/KidMin Large Group Times are my passion. So, in an effort to help you do a better job, or inspire you to go to a new place with your Children’s Church Services, I’ve decided to start a posting on what will bring your services to life. In this series, I’ll not only give you practical advice… but, I’ll also tip my hand as the the “stuff” I use to make it all happen:
Read Your Curriculum or Lesson/Sermon Materials Early in the Week
Read the main scripture
Read the supporting scriptures
Know or come up with a main phrase the kids will know when they walk out
Pray for guidance
Start a creativity file for each lesson and start filling it with ideas and resources you come across – http://kidology.org and http://CMConnect.org are great places to find resources, ask questions and get input from KidMin leaders all over the globe!
Outline your topic and put together a service schedule Planning Center https://www.planningcenteronline.com is perfect as it has a way to add times to each event in your service schedule. They even have a free version so you can try it out with your team.
Meet with everyone involved in the service and make sure they are all on the same page – http://Dropbox.com is a good way to share information with your team and http://www.nozbe.com works well as a project management with a team of people.
Your enemy is not your pastor, the board, your volunteers or the parents
This whole #kidmin calling isn’t about you
Drink some coffee
Change your voicemail (don’t make it goofy)
Find a way to serve another #kidmin leader in your community
Find a way to network face to face with other #kidmin leaders
Clean up your office, desk or storage closet (it’ll make you feel good!)
Hug on your spouse and kids
… that is all for now – trust me, you’ll come up with more.
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Hi my name is Jamie Doyle and although, I am the Children’s Ministry Pastor at River City Church in Lafayette, IN; everything in this blog is my opinion, and is not necessarily the view of River City Church.