5 VIPS All KidMin Teams Need

VIP s All KidMin Teams NeedIn a small to mid-sized church, children’s ministry can easily become a one person party surrounded by children.  This is not safe or wise for anyone involved.  Safety policies aside, the work load for weekly or even event based children’s ministry is too heavy for one person to carry.  Finding the right people to lead and support children’s ministry is extremely important part of leading a ministry team.  We’ll talk more about finding these people in another post.  Today, I’d like to share five VIPS you need on your team for a successful children’s ministry.  These V.I.Ps may not necessarily be in the trenches with you as you lead VBS or Sunday school, but you need them on your metaphorical team.

1. Your Pastor

This should be a no-brainer.  Every ministry needs the pastor’s trust and approval to be successful. However, your pastor is very busy.  I’ve found it easiest to keep an open dialogue with my pastor, keeping him in the loop at all times about upcoming plans and seeking his assistance when I have questions.  Most of the time, this means email or phone conversations, but occasionally it means we meet to discuss plans.  Whenever possible, I ask our pastor to be part of children’s ministry events.

Every pastor will have a different style of involvement with children’s ministry.  My intention is always to involve our pastor at whatever level he or she are interested in being involved.  If this means, he or she would like to be on the VBS team as a crew leader or station leader, that is fantastic.  But we have had just as much success when our pastor stops in at children’s ministry events as a parent and participant.  I always ask our pastor what role if any they would like to play in children’s ministry with no expectations other than prayer support.

2. Your Custodian

Before I started teaching, my student teacher advisor gave me some fantastic advice.  She said “Before you make friends with any of the other teachers on staff, make friends with the custodian and secretary.  When you have them on your side, teaching will be much easier.”  This may have been the most important advice anyone could give a fledgling teacher.

I mentioned before our previous custodian with a glitter aversion.  This same custodian would move heaven and earth to help me set up for an event, happily cleaning up craft disasters of all kinds.  While not every custodian has Steve’s devotion and passion, I have always tried to have a good relationship with our church custodian.  I insist that our kids and ministry team clean up after themselves.  I ask permission before doing anything that might cause problems (such as taping a circle on the floor for preschool VBS children to sit on during circle time). I am happy to do all I can to make their job easier, while heaping on gratitude for their help.  This isn’t just a strategic ploy, I truly do value all that our custodian does to keep our church building in great shape!

Because my custodian knows that I do all I can to take care of our facility, he is happy to help me with set up or clean up after our messes.  I never hesitate to ask for our custodian’s thoughts about any projects or activities.  A few years ago, we needed to turn our preschool classroom into a classroom for 3-5th grade due to class size.  The preschool room had preschool themed stencils on the walls and needed a good paint job.  The trustees gave approval to have the classrooms painted, but there was no money for paint.  Our custodian found a way to get the paint at no cost to the church.  Do whatever you can to  have your custodian on your children’s ministry team (metaphorically)

3.  Your secretary (or office manager or administrative assistant)

In keeping with the above advice about making friends with the custodian and secretary first, do all you can to have your church secretary/office manager/administrative assistant on your team.  I am so blessed to have two fantastic women on our office staff who help me in any number of ways.  From gently reminding me to turn in newsletter articles (that are always late) to helping design handouts and take home items for VBS kids, these ladies are like my top secret weapon for ministry success.  I cannot tell you how often these ladies bail me out- making copies, creating prayer ministry hand outs, ordering supplies and even problem solving ministry issues with me.

4. Your Trustee Chair

Why the trustee chair?  Just like the custodian, your trustee chair can help you out when you are in need of a facility repair or update. Depending on  your church’s policies about facility use, you may need to ask permission before using equipment or changing a classroom.  More than that, I have found our trustees to be helpful in problem solving.  At one point, I had two Sunday School classes that were in temporary spaces.  We had a cart to store one classes supplies, but needed another and had no budget left to purchase one.  My trustee chair found an unused bookshelf and put wheels on it- problem solved.  Having a good relationship with the trustee chair makes it much easier to share your vision for children’s ministry.  The trustee chair can help influence others in leadership to believe in your vision as well.

5. Your Worship Chair (or a member of the worship team)

With the worship chair (or a member of the worship team) on your VIP children’s ministry team, you have a voice in planning special worship events to include children.  My bias is always to include children rather than having some form of childcare (except for very young children).  We have a value in our church about keeping families together for worship rather than sending everyone to age level ministry.  So having a voice in planning special worship events- anything from World Communion Sunday to Capital Campaign Celebrations- makes sure that someone involved has an eye on what children will experience.  Until May, I was a member of the Worship Design team (as praise team leader), so that conversation happened naturally.  I was a bit concerned that this would be a problem when I was no longer part of the team.  However, because of so many years of making children part of the discussion, when there are special events, my pastor or a member of the team has asked for my input.

It is very possible that some of the above people will be actively part of your children’s ministry team.  They may teach Sunday School or help with VBS or another special event.  But even if they never come in direct contact with a child in your church, they need to be part of your team.  Their support and “buy-in” to your ministry will make a huge difference in growing your ministry.

 

Station Days- 31 Days of KidMin Solutions

STATION DAYSOne of the favorite days for kids in our Sunday School is Station Days.  During station days, children rotate between different stations and experiences to accelerate learning.  Stations or Learning centers are a common practice in schools, but we can use them to help foster a growing relationship between the kids in our ministry and God.

There are two types of station days we use:  group stations with a set rotation plan and independent stations where children can come and go as they choose.  Both are fun and have different assets to children’s learning.  Kids love independent stations for the ability to come and go, exploring on their own time table.  Group stations allow you to mix up age levels and tell multiple stories on a theme.  Teachers prepare one part of the story several times in a row.

The first time we experimented with station days, it was Easter and I was looking for something different and fun for our celebration.  I stumbled upon a video I wanted to show, but didn’t have the technology at the time to show a video to the entire group from my laptop (we now have a projector), so I needed to be able to show a small group of kids at a time.  I added a craft station, a snack station and a praise/game station and our first station day was born.  Teachers and kids had a great time and the kids begged for more days like that.

We have used station days as a final celebration day for a unit of study or to kick off a new unit.  Sometimes we follow the story/craft/game/snack formula similar to a mini VBS.  Sometimes it is a variety of activities to help explore a theme like the fruit of the spirit. We’ve introduced prayer station days over the last few months as well which the children really like and give them new ways to experience God.

A few hints about station days

  • Manage your time carefully-the biggest problem with station days is making sure all kids get through all the stations.  If it is a group rotation day, draw up a schedule and stick to it.  If you are doing independent stations, give plenty of warnings as your time together wraps up so that children can rotate to the stations they haven’t visited yet.
  • Explain all stations ahead of time, but have printed instructions as well
  • Make sure to build in time to wrap up stations to drive home the purpose or main theme of your lesson
  • Station days are great opportunities to encourage relationships between multi-age children.  Pair up older children with the youngest kids, which keeps both encouraged and engaged

 

Resourcing Parents- 31 Days of KidMin Solutions

Resourcing Parents
Another of my favorite 31 KidMin Solutions for Children’s Ministries of all shapes, sizes and budgets series brings us to the greatest faith influence in the lives of any child- the adults they live with.  For many children this is mom or dad, but it can be an aunt or uncle or grandparents or eve foster parents.  Each of these situations is complicated, but being a faith influencer doesn’t have to be.  We just need to know how.

Below are resources I like to share with parents (or grandparents, aunts and uncles etc) to help them feel confident in their role as a faith influencer for their child.  There are a variety of options- books, online devotions, and online family magazines.  Some of these I have only recently discovered, so haven’t had a chance to share them yet.

1. Sticky Faith and the Sticky Faith Guide for Families

These two books have done more to shape my approach to parenting my own children than any other parenting book I have read.  Based on a longitudinal study done by Fuller Youth Institute on what practices help develop faith that sticks (hence the title Sticky Faith) after students leave home and go to college, this series gives parents, children and youth ministry leaders and church leaders proven ideas for helping kids develop faith that lasts a lifetime.  Our prayer partner ministry was born out of reading this book.  Rather than load on the guilt about how we’ve failed a generation, Kara Powell and her co-author Chap Clark present hope to parents.  Their ideas are simple and easily applicable to any family.  They suggest trying only a few ideas at a time rather than trying to completely starting from scratch- this is do-able for any parent.  As of today’s writing, Sticky Faith is currently on a Kindle sale for $2.99- get it now!

2. Confident Parenting by Jim Burns

There is a DVD study that goes along with this book, but I have not participated in it.  I have used this book as the basis for a small group with parents in need of support.  Each time I return to Jim’s philosophy of Affection, Warmth and Encouragement being the basis of a healthy home, my soul exhales.  Again, this isn’t impossible, upset the apple cart work, but instead, gentle re-tooling and re-focusing on how our homes can reflect the love of our Creator.  Jim Burns and Doug Field’s online ministry to families HomeWord contains great parenting resources and devotions for the whole family.

3. Parenting Beyond Our Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Reggie Joiner’s Orange philosophy of uniting church and home to create something more powerful in the lives of kids than either apart can do is fundamental to how I approach children’s ministry.  This parenting book was so encouraging, shaping and important to me as a parent, but also in how I encourage the parents of my congregation.  The Parent Cue is an online Orange resource for parents that is also a favorite of mine with blogs, podcasts, videos and more to help parents share Jesus with their kids.

4. What’s in the Bible website and video series and Jelly Telly

Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, has completed a fun, engaging look at the entire Bible for elementary age children.  I learn things about the Bible every time I watch an episode!  These are both deep and entertaining at the same time with puppet characters such as Sunday School Lady, Chuck Wagon, Pirate Pete and Buck Denver, a newscaster to help explain and share stories of the Bible.  While I have appreciated the content of the What’s in the Bible website, I strongly encourage you to avoid the comments section.  Somehow the comments seem to be a cesspool of ugliness and judgement.

Jellytelly.com is Phil’s online subscription service that has all of What’s in the Bible as well as lots of other video and game content for a very reasonable fee.

 Phil Vischer’s podcast is excellent for adults as well, tackling the news of today from a thinking Christian perspective.  I love to hear Phil and his co-hosts Skye Jethani and Christian Taylor’s conversation about deep subjects because it is all rooted in love and glorifying God above all.

4. HomeFront Magazine

This free online magazine (also available as an app and a print subscription) has so many great articles each month for parents.  The app includes videos, music and even recipes for family dinner ideas.

5. Kevin Leman‘s Books and Resources

When my children were small, Dr. Leman’s books were a gigantic help to my husband and I.  He has written on parenting, marriage and even business and personal growth.  While I’m not a fan of the “Have a New Kid/Husband/You” titles, the strategies presented are fantastic and effective and full of grace and encouragement.

How do I share these resources with parents?  I try to share quotes and blogs that are interesting and helpful on facebook.  I will occasionally share information via the church newsletter or my weekly take home resource as well. Pinterest is also a great way to share resources on specific parenting challenges.

 

Disclaimer:  This post includes affiliate links.  Purchases made through these links help to support this ministry.  Thank you!

My Budget Friendly Craft Cabinet-31 Days of KidMin Solutions

Cost Efficien

I’m back with a list I hope will help all those overstuffed craft closets in church basements.  These are my go-to cost effective craft supply must haves.  Many are familiar to the craftier of KidMin leaders, but I have a few standby supplies that may be a bit off the beaten path.

My overall craft philosophy leans more towards keeping it simple.  I really hate projects that call for highly specialized supplies.  Inevitably, we’ll end up with an odd number of leftovers that can’t be re-used for another project without investing in more random supplies (see a super cool mini chalkboard project from 2006 who’s remnants haunted my craft closet until last spring when they went to craft supply heaven).  So this list is not fancy and most items can be purchased for $5 or less.  Budget friendly for the win!

The Basics

  • Paper– Plain white paper, construction paper in a rainbow of colors, card stock and tissue paper
  • Washable Markers and Crayons-some of my teachers prefer colored pencils for neatness, but most kids would prefer to use markers.  We got the old Mr. Sketch Smelly Permanent Markers (NOT Washable) for our older elementary class, which were a huge hit, but definitely not for younger kids or terribly budget friendly
  • School Glue– I have a cool trick I found on Pinterest for making a Glue Sponge which makes gluing less messy for preschoolers and lower elementary children.  I’m not a fan of glue sticks as they dry out quicker than we can use them.
  • Scissors– It is worth it to get good quality right and left handed safety scissors for the rare cutting project.  Fiskars makes great kids scissors.  We don’t use scissors often as it is usually more time efficient to pre-cut craft items.
  • Chenille Wires– We called them pipe cleaners when I was a kid.  They come in all different colors
  • Stickers– I try to keep a variety of stickers on hand at all times.  We seem to use a lot of star, heart and animal stickers in particular, but I keep an eye out for stickers of all kinds that could be added to a project of any kind.
  • Paper Plates– the cheaper they are, the easier they can be transformed into something fantastic
  • Craft sticks– these come in all shapes and sizes and colors.
  • Yarn– I try to keep common hair colors on hand at all times (though as a redhead, it can be a little frustrating finding a reasonable facsimile for me)

A Few Upgrades To Your Craft Closet

  • Washable Paint- I love Crayola’s Washable Kids Paint that comes in a pack of 10 2 ounce bottles.  Just right for basic painting projects (which we do sparingly due to mess and time limits, but the kids LOVE to paint).  You can add a little dishsoap to any tempera paint to make it more washable as well.  If you are going to paint, get good paint brushes.  Using good tools makes the project much more enjoyable.
  • Wiggly Eyes– These come in lots of sizes.  Some are even adhesive, making the gluing process mess free.  Absolutely worth the extra cost for preschoolers.
  • Craft Foam– Again, this is a rare item, but it can be fun for making bookmarks,cards and other projects.
  • Glue Dots– glue dots are so neat and simple to use and have better holding power than basic glue, but they can be expensive, so I save them for special projects only
  • Dry Erase Lap Boards and Markers– Back to School sales at Staples or even WalMart can make these super fun tools more reasonably priced.  Adding a “draw what you think happens next” option to a Bible story adds another level of active listening that even older elementary kids love
  • Felt– A little felt can go a long way.  I picked up a multi-colored package for around $5 several years ago that we’re still using.  Felt can also be helpful for impromptu costume creation

My unique and cheap craft go-to items

  • Coffee Filters– I love to use coffee filters for all kinds of things.  I will be sharing a coffee filter heart activity that is one of my favorite ways to talk about forgiveness later in this series.
  • Toilet Roll Tubes– It is amazing the number of things you can make using a toilet roll or paper towel tube.  We’ve made rain sticks, tree trunks, nativity sets, an assortment of bugs and animals and many more I can’t remember now.  I keep a large tote of these in our craft closet and refill it continuously just in case.  It’s much easier to have a stash of these kinds of supplies than ask for donations by a certain date.
  • Paper lunch bags– We make puppets out of these, but they’re also handy for sending home multi-piece projects.
  • Dried up markers and broken crayons– both can be used to create fun and memorable projects (I used dried markers in a Joseph spoon puppet project that was a huge hit)
  • Plastic Spoons– Spoon puppets are fast and easy and can be used immediately- a great active listening tool for preschool and younger elementary students especially
  • Cotton balls and QTips– forget mini fuzz balls in multiple colors, we run with cotton balls round here. Dip them in paint if you need some color.  You can even color them with markers.  These can double as paint brushes or even glue applicators.  I love a multipurpose supply!

A few clean up/teacher helps

  •  Plastic tablecloths– for keeping tables clean during messy projects without the mess of newsprint which can get little hands full of ink.  Picnic versions can be wiped cleaned and used again and again (though I have re-used the thinner party tablecloths as well)
  • Ziploc baggies of all sizes- I like to create kits for projects with many pieces in a Ziploc baggie rather than passing out all the supplies one by one.  We also keep our crayon packs in sandwich baggies rather than boxes to save space and gallon Ziplocs for any number of storage and craft needs
  • Wet Wipes– to avoid thirty trips to the bathroom to wash messy hands, I keep wet wipes available.  Children with aversions to being messy can wipe off their hands and continue the project, saving the hand washing for clean up time.

One supply it pains me greatly to use- glitter.  A dearly departed custodian of ours would gladly clean up any crafty mess with hardly more than a chuckle at our inventiveness.  But if we brought out glitter, all bets were off.  So in his honor, even many years after his passing, I cannot bring myself to use glitter more than once a year.

What are your go-to craft supplies?  Even scarier- when was the last time you cleaned out your craft cabinet?

How Safe is Your Church? 31 Days of KidMin Solutions

 

Safety in church means something completely different than it did ten or twenty years ago.  Regardless of how we feel about this change, it is our responsibility as children’s ministry leaders to do all that we can to provide the safest environment possible for the children and families we serve.  I take this very responsibility very seriously.

Any discussion of safety in the church can lead to controversy.  I speak from experience.  More than once, policies I have put in place for the safety of our children has caused much discussion and debate.  I will share more of my experience and specific policies in weeks to come.  Today, I simply want to ask some questions to give you some key points to consider when trying to evaluate how safe your church is for children (and youth), primarily related to physical safety.

1. What measures have you taken to ensure safety for children in the physical space you teach in?

Depending on the age level, this may mean baby proofing techniques such as outlet covers, keeping sharp edges covered etc.  There are many checklists for safety available online or check with state agencies for childcare facilities.  Even if you are not required by law to follow these guidelines, they are typically the best practice for spaces where children are learning and playing.

The first time our family visited CUMC, I was horrified to see the nursery outfitted with a full sized crib filled with pillows and full sized quilts, which experts at the time considered to put infants at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  As a mother of young children, I was not comfortable putting my child in the nursery.  The crib seemed to indicate the nursery workers were not aware of the very commonly known warnings about this tragic condition.

2. How many of your volunteers have first aid or CPR training?

It would be wise to keep a record of children and youth ministry team members who have these certifications.  Even better would be to host a training in your church.  The local hospital or fire department may have certified instructors who are willing to lead a training for a relatively inexpensive fee.

3. What is your screening process for teachers, assistants and anyone who is part of children’s ministry team?

The days of allowing anyone and everyone be part of the children’s ministry team are long over.  We must do due diligence in screening our volunteers.  This should involve an application with references, a background check and an interview.  A screening process like this will give you a sense of who this person is and what their reason for wanting to be part of your ministry team might be.  At Orange Tour, Mike Clear shared a story about someone applying to be part of the check in team.  As the leader was talking with this person, they noticed the way the applicant was watching people put their purses away. A background check turned up a theft conviction.  We want to believe that people who sign up to help with children’s ministry have pure intentions of sharing Jesus’ love with children, but this is not always the case.  A thorough screening process helps us quickly weed out those who have a history that is not compatible with children’s ministry.

4.  What is your policy about the ratio of adults to children in a classroom?

It is never safe or wise for a teacher or children’s ministry worker to be alone with a child.  There should be a two (unrelated) adult policy for all classroom spaces.  This is practical for many reasons.  In the event of an emergency, one adult can get help while the other stays with the class.  The most important reason to hold firm to a two adult rule is the protection it provides against child predators.  Even with the most careful screening process, it is very possible for a predator to become a member of your team.  Maintaining two adults in a classroom keeps an unknown predator from being alone with a child.

But what do you do if you don’t have enough volunteers to make that possible?  What if someone is sick or doesn’t show up?  In this instance, it is essential to have the presence of a roamer.  Our roamers circulate throughout classrooms all morning.  We have begun a walkie talkie system so that we can contact the roamer if assistance is needed in our children and youth classrooms as well as in the nursery.

5.  Do you have an open door policy in children’s classrooms?

Keeping a classroom door open or having windows in every classroom door also provides visibility and security for teachers and children.  Parents feel more secure if they can see into their children’s classroom.  This is a balancing act- keeping children engaged in class activities while allowing for adults to peek in can be challenging, but necessary.

6. What is your church-wide emergency plan?

Does the administrative board have an emergency plan in place in the event of a fire?  What about a health emergency?  What about weather emergencies?  Is there an evacuation plan in case of an emergency?  We hate to think about these things, but it is better to have a plan in place so that leaders can lead wisely through the emergency. This is most crucial when dealing with children.  We must know what to do so that we can stay calm and reassure the children in our care.

Safety isn’t a fun thing to talk about or focus on in church.  We know that God is ultimately the great protector.  But I believe that God has empowered us to do his work in his world.  Part of that work as children’s ministry leaders is to do all we can to keep children safe in God’s House.

 

 

Saying Yes to the Next Generation- Orange Tour 2014

Orange Tour 2014As I shared yesterday, this week a team of children’s ministry and youth ministry volunteers traveled to Lancaster, PA to attend the Orange Tour.  Yesterday, I shared Jon Acuff’s fantastic session about Social Media and Parents.  Today, I will be sharing some of the highlights from Reggie Joiner’s mainstage sessions.

The overall theme of Orange Tour (and Orange Conference last April) is Saying Yes to the Next Generation.  When we say yes to kids ministry and youth ministry, we say yes to some amazing things like laughter and giggles and some not so amazing things like runny noses and diapers and rolled eyes.  Our yes means we have to live with tension.  Reggie shared 8 tensions that we all have to live in and share with our kids if we hope to foster faith that lasts a lifetime.

1. Yes, we can know God AND Yes, God is a mystery

We need to teach our kids that God wants a relationship with us.  We can know him and yet not know or understand him at all.  God is bigger than our understanding.

2. Yes, you can become a Christian in a moment AND yes, it will take forever to figure out what that means.

God is bigger than our momentary experiences.  Our lives may radically shift when we become Christians, but that doesn’t mean that all the bad stuff goes away.  We will still struggle and face temptation after we accept Jesus as Savior

3. Yes, the Bible is all true AND yes, everything that is true about life is not in the Bible.

We should learn all we can in the Bible, but we need to know that not everything we need to learn about life will be in the Bible.  We can seek information from other sources.  The Bible is the final authority on who God is and how he loves us.  But we can learn about life from others too.

4. Yes, trusting God leads to stronger faith AND yes, doubt can lead to stronger faith as well.

Our ministries need to be strong enough to allow kids to question and wrestle with their faith.  If we never allow them to wrestle with questions of faith, they will never own their faith.

5. Yes, we should enjoy going to church AND Yes, we can enjoy living in the world.

God made the world, it is good for us to enjoy nature, art, beauty.  Church should be the most joyous place in town, but often it isn’t.  It’s ok if sometimes you like being around “non-Christian” things more than Christian things.

6. Yes, your beliefs matter BUT People matter more

If our beliefs keep us from loving people, our beliefs are worthless.  Our beliefs should affect how WE live, but we shouldn’t be using them as weapons against those who do not agree with us.  If we treat people badly because of our beliefs something is broken about our beliefs.

7. Yes, God has an ideal and Yes God uses broken people.

If we are not regularly sharing with kids the broken parts of the people in the Bible we are giving them standards they cannot measure up to.  If the ideal is the only thing presented, people will walk away from the faith when they can’t measure up.

8.  Yes, God is good and Yes, You should do good.

One day, God will make all that is wrong with this world right again.  This doesn’t mean we can’t serve him by doing good to others.  Don’t say God is good unless you are doing good.  If you say God is love, love others.  If you say God forgives, you must forgive others.

If we don’t say yes to these tensions, we set kids and youth up to reject what is true.  Kids will miss how big God is when we don’t share both what is true and what is real.

How are you managing these tensions in your ministry?

Cueing Parents about Social Media-Notes from Orange Tour

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SCULPTURE & ARTYesterday, some of the children and youth leaders from our congregation traveled to Lancaster, PA for Orange Tour at the Worship Center.  If you are unaware of Orange Tour, it is a one day conference for children, youth and lead pastors.  Reggie Joiner, CEO of the Re-think Group and other leaders share great tools, tips and techniques for reaching the next generation.  I will be sharing what I learned over the next several days.

The most personally applicable session our team attended was a session with Jon Acuff on curing parents about Social Media.  Jon is the hilarious blogger behind Stuff Christians Like (both blog and book) as well as business/motivational books like Quitter and Start.  He’s also a very savvy social media user and leader.

Jon began by stating that there are two types of parents who talk to him about social media.  First, there are parents who feel overwhelmed trying to keep on top of all the available apps and social media.  Then there are parents who don’t have a clue about social media.  Jon defined social media as any technology that lets us share information about ourselves with someone else- this includes texting, email and xbox as much as facebook, twitter, instagram and the other forms of social media we typically thing about.

For parents who are overwhelmed keeping up with social media, Jon encouraged us to give up the fight and instead change our focus.  Instead of worrying about staying ahead of social media, we need to chose to focus on never changing truths- this is what we believe.  This core focus becomes our filter for all social media.

Jon shared five things parents need to do when thinking about their kids and social media.

1. Talk to kids about it before they use it

We need to talk to our kids about the social media they may be using before they start using it.  We start training our kids about driving long before they turn 16, why shouldn’t we talk about social media this way.  This is about helping them to understand each form of media little by little until they are ready to handle it on their own.  Jon talked about giving children small windows into the internet by allowing them access to a few websites (pbskids etc.)  As they grow, do things together- google things together while explaining that certain phrases can be problematic and lead them to places they don’t want to go.  Look up funny videos on YouTube together while explaining that recommended videos may not be appropriate.  If we begin sharing these tips while they are young, they will be wiser when they are ready to have their own accounts.

2. Be curious and ask questions

Kids don’t understand the real life filter between online life and real life.  We have to teach them it’s like a virtual sleepover, inviting people into our homes to stay awhile.  We must teach them to only share information with people they know in real life, just like they would only invite a friend to sleep over at your home that they know well.

Questions to ask our kids about social media:  What social sites are you on?  What do your devices do?  (this lets your child be the expert which they love.) What do your profiles do? Which of your friends have devices?  What are your friends posting?  Did you create anything?  Have you seen anything?

Each of these questions open doors to communication with our kids.  When we ask what their devices do or what their profiles do, we allow them to be the expert and show off a little (it’s also important to do a little research on our own to be sure there are not features to a media our kids are unaware of or are not sharing).  These conversations open opportunities for you to offer gentle encouragement and wisdom about the media your kids are participating in.  Social Media can be a bonding opportunity, we just need to enter the conversation with gentleness and love, not judgement or fear.

3. Leverage social media’s potential for good

Jon shared Philippians 4:8 as a great filter for how we approach social media.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

If we focus on the true and honorable things of social media, we can harness it’s potential for great things for our kids.  This comes with responsibility.  Our kids need to know they are building a digital footprint that will last a lifetime.  College admissions teams are checking social media profiles.  Many employers are doing so as well.  If our kid are aware of how their online behavior may impact their future, it changes what they do.

By focusing on the good of social media, we can also give kids opportunities for evangelism- posting pictures or links to church events and tagging their friends.  Kids can connect to a cause they believe in.  It can also allow them to pursue a passion- creating a YouTube channel, a blog, a Tumblr about their passions and interests.  With parent involvement this can be a very positive opportunity to channel social media for your child’s good.

4. Go Dark As A Family

Take time to turn off the media and be together.  Make the devices go to bed when you go to bed- parents set the example for kids.  Do activities where devices can’t be involved.  Turn off the phone for certain times together.  Practice latergrams- take the photo of your kid being awesome, but wait to share it when the moment is over.  Find ways to disconnect from media regularly.

5. Remember What’s at Stake

We have to teach our kids how to relate to people face to face.  The more we are online, relating through screens, the more we need actual conversation.  Social media is great but it creates problems too.  Problems like performance anxiety-how can I ever measure up to x?  Social media creates loneliness.  Self esteem is at stake.  There have been studies that show looking online for thirty minutes is more damaging to a girl’s self esteem than looking at women’s magazines (that have been proven to be very destructive).  We must remember what is at stake for our kids and help them manage it and learn from it.

 

 

Active Listening- Day 7 of 31 KidMin Solutions

Active

If you ask many preschool and elementary Sunday School teachers one of the hardest parts of teaching their age levels, you may hear a similar refrain- keeping their attention.  Kids are easily distracted, particularly younger kids.  I’ve seen studies that say a child’s attention span is about as long as their age- 3 minutes long for a 3 year old, 10 minutes for a 10 year old.  While there are certainly children who do not fit this trend, it is fairly accurate.

So what is a teacher to do?  One fun method is something I call active listening.  In active listening, you give children something to do while you are teaching.  They are actively involved in the lesson.

What kind of activities are effective?  One of my favorite tools is play dough.  We give them play dough and have them mold it into shapes as we tell the Bible story.  It isn’t so important that they are making the shape that we mention (like a heart), but that their hands are occupied.  For younger kids, this can extend their focus to get through a whole Bible story and help them retain what you have been talking about.

Another form of active listening that works well with younger students is helping them be part of the story by giving them an action or short phrase to repeat throughout the story. In a lesson about Noah’s ark, we had our kindergarten-2nd grade children shake a rain stick at a certain cue and repeat part of the memory verse at another cue.  Children have to focus to hear or see the cue.

Adding an element of surprise- a sound cue, a silly prop or costume- can also help children focus. The first time you introduce the surprise into the story, they are delighted by the surprise.  From then on, they are waiting for that fun surprise again.

With all active listening techniques, the teacher must manage the class carefully.  We want children engaged, not over excited.  Teachers who are not confident in keeping children engaged with a lesson without tipping over the edge to over excitement may want to stick to simpler methods like play dough.  I will share some classroom management techniques later in this series that will help with this as well.

Finally, it is important to keep adding fresh twists on the active listening technique.  If children know that they are going to use play dough each week while you tell the Bible story, they will stop paying attention to the story and just make whatever they want.  They may also get bored with play dough and not be as engaged in what you are teaching.  Variety is the spice of life may be a cliche, but especially for kids, it is true.  Keep innovating and trying new ways to engage your students.  KidMin Solutions Sunday School Curriculum will be full of fun and engaging ways to teach kids about God’s great love.

31 Days of KidMin Solutions

Finding Your Backup 31 Days of KidMin Solutions

ON NOW

Tomorrow I am taking a team of six children and youth ministry volunteers to Orange Tour in Lancaster, PA.  This is the second year I have attended and look forward to learning and growing with the team that I love so much.  So this week’s focus of our 31 KidMin Solutions will be on teams and on the things I learn tomorrow.

As I was inviting different team members to attend this one day conference, many of my fantastic teachers and leaders told me they couldn’t go because they couldn’t be away for a whole day during the week (because of travel time for us we will miss both drop off and pick up times at school).  This got me thinking about how often we as parents, particularly moms, take all of this child-raising on ourselves.  We forget to invest in back up- friends and family members who can help us out when we get in over our heads or just need a little help.

Today’s pace of life is blinding and our kids are involved in more and more things, which makes it harder to invest in relationships beyond our spouses and our kids. But we need back up, in life and in ministry.

It can be really hard to ask for help.  A year ago, I was very sick during a week when my husband was out of town.  We typically split the kid taxi duties, so it was already going to be a challenging week for me to juggle three kids’ activities along with homework, meals and all the usual home stuff.  The first day, I turned to my small group and asked for prayers.  All offered help with meals, running kids one place or another, but I turned all but one down even though I was feverish and coughing.  The next day, I was feeling even worse and finally broke down and asked for help.  Two friends took my kids to different activities, another ran to the store for me. It was so hard for me to call in my back ups, even as flu ridden and miserable as I was, but I did it.  And in doing that I learned how important it is to have back up systems.

My small group of women meets weekly at my kitchen.  We study God’s Word, we share our struggles and our joys.  We text each other pictures of vacation.  We share the ridiculous and the wonderful of raising kids and living life.  I have texted my group to rant about silly things, to share good news and hard things and they do the same. They are my back up system for all things.

My husband has a back up system as well- a weekly trivia team that he plays with every week.  While their original purpose was to play trivia (and win as much as possible), they have become a system of support for each other as well.  It looks different, but my husband could call any of these men in the middle of the night and they would drop everything to help out just like my group would.  Our families are friends and spend time together outside of our meetings/trivia nights.

Who is your back up?  Pray about how you can develop relationships that can back you up in the little things and big things. Maybe your Children’s Ministry team can be your back up.  My group began as the VBS Leadership Team.  For years, we met regularly to share the planning and preparing for VBS each summer.  Often, we worked together on other children’s ministry events.  This is still our primary mission.  We’ve just grown over time to be so much more.

Do you realize you need some back up, but don’t know how to find your people?  Start something- ask some of your children’s ministry team to study the Bible together, get a group of people who share a hobby and work together.  Find ways to connect with other people you really like in a deeper way- a regular coffee date or lunch appointment, walking or running together, whatever will allow for relationship to grow.

Here’s the hard part- you have to be willing to open yourself and be vulnerable with them in order to have a deep back up system.  You can’t just talk weather and kids stuff and expect to have the life giving and sustaining relationships that will support you in good times and bad.  It’s awkward and hard and terrifying at times, but so valuable.  Don’t back away when things get real.  Dig in deep.  Pray together, grow together.  You will gain so much more than you ever lose when you lean into deep relationships.

Activate your back up systems.  Ask for help and welcome and receive their offerings.  We were not created to live life in a tiny bubble of work, kids, house.  Make relationships with others a priority in any way you can.  Your whole family and ministry will benefit.

31 Days of KidMin Solutions

My Favorite Bibles for Kids of All Ages: 31 Days of KidMin Solutions

halfwayDay Five of our 31 Days of KidMin Solutions series- so far we’ve covered the story behind KidMin Solutions, a fun craft, partnering your congregation with the children of your ministry, and kindergarten Bibles.  I promised yesterday that I would share my favorite Bibles for all age levels.

For preschool children, I love the Jesus Storybook Bible.  The pictures are beautiful, the language is simple and gentle, even for some of the scarier parts of the Bible.  It is a Jesus centered children’s Bible- the story of Jesus is weaved through each story.

Our elementary children all receive the Hands On Bible.  I love how fun it looks and the colored inserts and maps are great.  One of my favorite parts of this Bible are the tools at the back of the Bible.  There is a fantastic section with big questions  like why was the Bible written? and Why can’t I see God? It also has great charts that show some of the simple people, things and unsung heroes God used in amazing ways.  I love the family devotions section as well as a resource area that tells kids where to go in the Bible when they are feeling a certain way (angry, sad, tempted, alone) or need help with confidence, forgiveness and more.  Finally, there is a great dictionary/concordance.  I love teaching kids how to use these resources to dig deeper into God’s Word for direction and help.

Youth Bibles are trickier I think, probably because I’m not made for youth ministry.  When I began purchasing youth study Bibles, I asked our pastor for help.  He had been the one who requested adding youth Bibles to our Bible drive (see yesterday’s post for more on that) because during Confirmation it was challenging to have so many different Bibles and translations for 6th and 7th graders to work from.  At that time, we purchased the Youth Study Bible in NIV.  This Bible has many great study helps, but looks much like an adult Bible.  This fall, I purchased the Youth Quest Study Bible for our 6th graders.  I like the information provided in the sidebars of each page.  The design seems a little more interesting and appealing.  In the end, I really like both options.  I am somewhat limited in my youth Bible search because we wanted to have Bibles in NIV due to Confirmation and other curriculum needs.  There may be other translations with cooler, more youth oriented features.

The most important thing is to get God’s Word into our kids’ hands.  We are so blessed to have so many options available.  I tell my kids regularly how fortunate we are to be able to have different Bibles for all the ages and stages of childhood.

Please note:  this post contains Amazon links that are linked to my Amazon associate page.  I may receive a small fee for any purchases made through these links.