Christmas Musicals Made Simple

November is here which means we are getting closer and closer to Christmas! Are you looking for some kind of Christmas play or musical that is simple, requires minimal rehearsal and can be easily adapted to fit your church’s talents and abilities? KidMin Solutions has two Christmas musicals that were created for exactly that purpose.

 

Ordinary Made Extraordinary

Halloween is tomorrow which means we are eight weeks from Christmas! Are you looking for some kind of Christmas play or musical that is simple, affordable and flexible to fit your church? KidMin Solutions has two plays that were created for exactly that purpose.

Ordinary Made Extraordinary begins with a Children’s Choir director desperately trying to get her choir students ready for their performance, but they are complaining and asking questions. The scene changes to a modern retelling of the Christmas story through a series of monologues by a hotel desk clerk (the innkeeper), a grandmother and choir member (an angel), a sanitation worker (a shepherd) and Mary. We see how God uses ordinary people to make something extraordinary. Cast includes a variety of children, youth, adults of all ages. Traditional carols have been included, but you can substitute songs from your choir’s repertoire.

Click HERE to read a preview, casting suggestions and to purchase the download.

Lessons of Christmas Cover PageThe Lessons of Christmas uses child actors and adult or youth narrators to tell the Christmas story. Can tie into an Advent series focusing on the characters of the Christmas story (Mary, Joseph, Angels and Shepherds). Use traditional Christmas carols or anthems from your choir’s repertoire to help your congregation remember the lessons of Christmas: to be faithful, to seek God, to trust God and to sing and shout his praises for the miracle of Christmas.

Click HERE to read a preview, see casting suggestions and purchase the download.

 

God’s Promised Family of Abraham

The Promised Family ofGod’s Promised Family of Abraham Available for Sale!

This four week unit for Preschool, Upper and Lower Elementary aged students introduces the idea that God always keeps his promises. People fail in their promises, but God never does. By tracing some of the major stories of Abraham and his family, we teach kids that God keeps his promises to love us, to provide for us, to forgive us and to be with us no matter what.

Elementary students are challenged in this unit to read some of the more PG rated stories about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau and Joseph with their parents. By reading these stories together, they see that this family- God’s chosen family to begin a new nation- is not perfect. They make mistakes-sometimes really, really big mistakes. They have great hurts and sadness. We can find great hope in these stories for our own families. Included in this unit is a challenge calendar and brief weekly devotional thoughts to help empower parents to dig into this Bible reading challenge with their children.

Preschool students will playfully discover these same truths, making spoon puppets, playing dress up along the ways. Through playful lesson time, simple crafts and games with caring and faithful teachers, preschoolers experience the unending love of God.

To purchase Pre-School lessons, click here

To purchase Kindergarten-2nd grade lessons, click here

To purchase 3rd-5th grade lessons, click here

Bundles

To purchase both Pre-School and Kindergarten-2nd grade lessons, click here

To purchase both Kindergarten-2nd grade and 3rd-5th grade lessons, click here

To purchase both Pre-School and 3rd-5th grade lessons, click here

Click here to purchase the bundle for all ages God’s Promised Family of Abraham for all ages!

Purchase Upside-Down Jesus (grades K-2)

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Want your kindergarten-2nd grade students to know the upside nature of Jesus’ teachings vs. what humans think? Upside Down Jesus is a Four week unit designed to teach kids Jesus’ teaching on blessings, love, friendship, money and appearances. This unit includes the Beatitudes, the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) and more.

In this unit, children will create a class craft project for someone who exemplifies the monthly memory verse “If anyone wants to be first,he must be the very last and a servant of all.” Mark 9:35. They will also build barns out of spaghetti noodles and marshmallows as they learn about the Parable of the Rich Fool, play with Conversation Heart candy to explore our view of love vs. Jesus’ teaching and find hidden messages in their heart project to uncover Jesus’ teaching about hypocrisy.

 

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Purchase Upside-Down Jesus (both grades K-2 and 3-5)

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Untitled designUpside Down Jesus, a four week unit exploring the upside down ways Jesus taught about life, love, money and people is now available for purchase as part of KidMin Sunday School Curriculum.

In this unit children will explore:

  • The upside down nature of the Beatitudes and make a group craft project for someone who personifies the humble nature of this passage.
  • The upside down story of the Parable of the Rich Young Fool through dramatic play and a barn building activity with marshmallows and spaghetti
  • The upside down way Jesus talked about love compared with our culture’s view of love in advertising and Valentine candy including a science project
  • The upside down way Jesus looked at people- at their hearts, not their actions featuring a candy experiment and heart crafts
  • Memory Verse comes from Mark 9:35- Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last and the servant of all.


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5 Core Truths of KidMin Sunday School

5 Core Truths of KidMin Sunday SchoolWe are getting very close to launching the product lines of KidMin Solutions! I’m deep in editing and tech mode right now and hoping that by the end of the week (Yikes!) we will have the Christmas Play Collection and KidMin Sunday School curriculum available for purchase.  I will be posting a few sneak peeks in the next few days, but I wanted to start by sharing the 5 Core Truths of KidMin Sunday School. Each lesson I write and share with you is built around these core truths.

God Made You

By reminding kids who made them on a regular basis, we impress on their hearts their great worth. The more we explore this topic by talking about how God Made Us, the more we add to the picture kids hold in their heads of who they might grow to be.  I’m currently writing a unit about Kids in the Bible (available in November after we’ve tested it and edited it). The four week study has 4 Big Truths: God Made Me to Know Him, God Made Me to Listen for His Voice, God Made Me to Be Brave and God Made Me to Use My Gifts. We take the core truth that we are all God’s masterpiece, created for a purpose and explain and explore that to widen all of our understanding of who we are in Christ.

God Loves You

We all need the constant reminder of how much God loves us. We tell kids over and over in every imaginable way that God loves them- No Matter What.  No matter what we do, God loves us. We can’t earn that love. We don’t even deserve that love, but it is as true and as sure as our next breath. Kids need to know that. Parents need to know that. If we only succeed in getting this truth into the hearts and minds of the kids and families we serve, we are doing pretty well.

 God Forgives You

I have come across so many people who for one reason or another have drifted away from God and feel like they can’t possibly come back to church until they clean up their act. How would these people’s story be different if they had the simple and bombastic truth that God Forgives Us written in their hearts. God’s forgiveness doesn’t end, it doesn’t come with strings attached- fix this and be good for this amount of time and we’ll see kind of manipulations. God forgives when we come to him and freely confess and turn away from our sin. Even when we mess up and sin again the same way the next day…we come back and do it all over again and God Still Forgives Us.  It’s mind boggling. It’s life shaking. Let’s do all we can to help kids and their families understand this deep down to their very soul.

God is With You

We all feel alone sometimes. But we are never alone. No matter how solitary and painful the walk may be, God is with us. God is holding us together, giving us strength, working within us. Kids need to know that even when it feels like there is nowhere for them to fit in, they always fit with God. God never runs away or turns his back. He is always with us.

 God Calls Us

Kids need to see that they were created for a purpose. For the kid who never gets picked in gym class or sits alone at lunch, they need to know there is a reason they are so different. They have a calling that goes beyond the moment and into forever. But they also have a calling as a follower of Jesus to love others the best way they can. We talk about our calling being an every day kind of thing. If we’re paying attention, God is calling us to do all kinds of things- take care of his earth, smile at the new kid, say I’m sorry when we are wrong. Giving kids an idea of how they can serve God in their actual real lives makes it much clearer for them to follow God.

We need all five of these truths to create a full picture of who God is and our relationship to him. While our core truths are all God-centered, they are also Trinity centered. The Holy Spirit Calls Us…Jesus Calls Us…God Calls Us. All are true and important. As children grow, we get deeper into these truths, giving them a solid foundation of faith for them to grow into and own for themselves.

Brick by Brick

Re-building Time

As you may recall,  our church had a catastrophic fire on May 4, 2015. You can read a little of our fire story here and here. Since that day, we have been doing ministry with scotch tape and glue and bandaids (metaphorically speaking). Nearly ever part of our ministry has been tweaked and re-evaluated out of necessity. Today, I’m sharing a few strategies and lessons learned through this summer of re-building.

1. In a Crisis, We NEED to Have FUN!

The only thing I knew for sure when we started planning for VBS was that it had to be off the charts fun for the kids and the leaders. With all the emotions coming out of the fire, we needed to just get messy and silly and have fun with kids. We needed to laugh. We needed to throw cheeseballs at each other and dump water on each other’s heads and do the things we normally would never do for fear of the mess. Having fun with kids while teaching them to Trust God in All of Life’s Messes pushed the lessons deeper into their hearts. Fun is a balm to weary souls and a way to connect deeper than we ever think with the kids we serve. They won’t forget the lengths we went to and the messes we endured for them this summer- and NEITHER WILL WE. Fun and silliness matters.

2. Building Relationships Within the Community Matters

Our congregation has a history of being involved in our community.  We made sandwiches and handed out water bottles and flood buckets for flood victims in our area, we gave donuts, coffee and handwritten notes of appreciation to the teachers of our community as part of our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness campaign. We reach out to our community. Never in a million years did we do that strategically to get something back from the community- it was all about serving God and bringing him glory. But in serving Him and building relationships with the schools and community leaders, we have been overwhelmed with support and assistance from those same leaders. Susquehanna University offered us space to worship. Area churches held fundraisers or took up special offerings for us. We held meetings in the library and community rooms. The offers of help and support were so numerous it literally took weeks to sort through them all.  We may not see these community leaders in worship with us, but we know for certain the work we have done to love and serve them has made an impact. We need each other- churches, schools, city government and neighbors. Investing time and resources outside our church walls to serve our community is valuable and WORTH. EVERY. EFFORT.

3. Great Ministry Does Not Have to Be Expensive.

Mess-a-Palooza VBS ended up costing around $1,000. I realize that may seem expensive to some, but it is less than half what I expected to spend using the curriculum I had purchased (and we were going to be doing that really cheaply to make it happen). Remember, we had absolutely NOTHING to start with- every item in my supply closets and cabinets were thrown out in the clean up process. Every marker, paper and bucket was a new purchase. We held Mess-a-Palooza at a local park so a good portion of our budget was related to being there- donations for the use of the park, signage we probably wouldn’t have made if not at the park etc.

If we had run this same VBS at our church with the supplies we already had, I think we could have done it for a lot less. And here’s the kicker- WE HAD THE BEST VBS EVER! That’s not me bragging about my product- that is what I heard from team members and kids who attended. We had a blast getting messy and learning to Trust God. It was awesome and I can’t wait to do it again next summer.

4. Take Time for Rest and Sabbath 

This is a lesson learned from doing the opposite for much of the summer.  Summer is always a crazy time for me. But this summer was like any busy summer we’ve ever had on steroids. The demands of creating a VBS from scratch in 8 weeks, continuing to write each week’s Sunday School lessons (while taking into account our strange classroom space and limited classroom resources), unending inventory sheets to be completed with pricing information, continuing to edit and work on the behind the scenes of this website and keep up with the needs of my family was overwhelming. I didn’t always manage it well. By the beginning of August, the stress and anxiety were wreaking havoc on my whole being. I knew I had to make some changes.

My amazing husband helped me tremendously in finding space for rest. We took a last minute trip as a family to NYC to see some incredible theatre, making memories and sharing laughter that was sorely needed. But I also started reminding myself to settle down, to be gentle with myself and to make space for quiet, for study and for worship. I am still working on finding space each day and each week for the things that refresh my soul and draw me closer to God. What works for me isn’t going to work for everyone. I may share a little more of this later this week for those who need ideas.

5. TRUST GOD!

At every turn in this season of messiness and heartache, God has provided everything we need.  His leading has been so clear to me when I remember that he has this all under control. My worry or stress is not going to make a bit of difference (in fact it usually makes things worse). When I lean into God, he gives me what I need, far more abundantly than I can imagine.

All summer, two verses that I have loved have come to mind over and over again.  The first is the theme verse of Mess-a-Palooza VBS:

Do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

We talked all summer about how God is with us. He’s so strong and mighty he can hold us up in one hand (with one hand tied behind his back we sometimes joked). When it all got too much, I sang our favorite Seeds Family Worship song with this verse. (Here’s a great video by another kids ministry with that song)

The other verse I have remembered over and over was the theme verse from one of our previous capitol campaigns.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Ephesians 3:20-21

He has and will continue to do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine. His power is at work within me and within our church and within all who call on his name. Any glory from the re-building process or anything we have done this summer goes fully and completely to HIM.

 

Coming Attractions and Behind the Scenes

Coming AttractionsI’m a person who loves movie previews and behind the scenes stories for TV and movies.  I love the peek at what’s coming up and what happens behind the scenes of my favorite media.  So today, I’m giving you a peek at what I’ve been working on, what’s coming up and how it’s all being put together.

Coming Attraction # 1- Sowing Seeds Sunday School Curriculum

This is the curriculum I’ve been writing since this site began.  We’ve piloted and edited all the lessons and are very excited that 4 units will be available in SEPTMEBER!  Sowing Seeds Sunday School Curriculum will be an ala carte curriculum- you buy the units you are interested in for the age levels you need.  There will be preschool, early elementary (Kindergarten-2nd grade) and upper elementary (3rd-5th grade) as well as an option for all ages.  Our first units will be: In the Beginning (a six week look at the early stories of Genesis), The E Squad (a 4 week journey with Elijah and Elisha focused on God’s power), Upside Down Jesus (5 weeks of exploring some of the upside down ways Jesus saw the world) and The Promised Family (a five week unit tracing the promises of God to Abraham and his descendants). I hope to have video tutorials and previews for these lessons posted in the weeks leading up to our grand opening.

Coming Attractions # 2- Simple Christmas Plays

Also in September, we will release several simple and adaptable Christmas plays for your ministry. Each play has flexible casting options, using children, youth or adult performers and can include congregational singing and special music. Staging, costuming and technical demands are simple and flexible.

Coming Attractions #3- Mess-a-Palooza VBS

Our VBS Leadership team has kicked around the idea of creating our own VBS curriculum for a long time, but it always seemed so daunting to even begin.  It’s amazing the clarity a little church fire can bring.  The curriculum I had purchased was completely unusable in our new portable/outdoor setting, so the idea of writing our own curriculum became more possible.  Our theme came from our real feelings that all of our church life is pretty messy right now. We used Gospel stories of Jesus entering into people’s messes to teach kids (and ourselves) to trust God with all of life’s messes. It was an amazing success.The curriculum and add on options will be available to you in our store in November 2015.

Behind the Scenes

Some of you might be wondering what children’s ministry looks like in our strange circumstances after the fire.  It looks a lot like your children’s ministry without the storage or equipment.  Sunday School re-started about a month after the fire in the basement of our temporary summer home-the chapel at our local university.  We’re in one room, which for our size class is not ideal, but it’s do-able. We are using a lot fewer supplies because we don’t have anything.  Literally every part of our children’s ministry equipment, supplies and library were thrown out in the post fire clean up.  In between writing VBS and Sunday School lessons, I priced our inventory of supplies for the insurance settlement. We have only begun purchasing replacement supplies in the last two weeks. For the most of the summer, we’ve used the basic supplies we have at home (construction paper, markers, crayons etc.)

This is all really, really messy.  The number of things that we can’t do like we usually do catches me by surprise all the time.  Sometimes it’s something simple, like the fact that we didn”t have a copy machine until the end of July, so I had to print everything at home, or not have copies. We have always shared space with the preschool, so decorations and clean up has always been intentionally simple, but this is taking simplicity to a whole new level. We are getting settled into another temporary (but more long term) space, which requires all new planning and logistical decisions. I think all of this experience will make me better able to serve all of you. It has been painful and frustrating, but I know that God will continue to use it for his purposes.

Later this week I will be sharing about what the rebuilding process has looked like for us. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for renovating and strengthening your own ministry.

To the Church in Crisis: Our Children are Watching

To the Church in crisis

As I’ve shared here and here and here, our church suffered a catastrophic fire early this week. Below is a message from me to the our church, but the overall message would apply to any church in any time of crisis.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are facing a greater trial as a Body of Christ than most of us ever anticipated.  The future is full of uncertainty.  Almost every plan we had in place for the coming months are on hold or even shelved permanently.  Things we held sacred may not make sense any more.  It is hard, my friends, so very hard.

In the midst of this season of questions, I want to remind you of something very dear to me: our children and youth are watching every bit of this crisisTheir faith is being shaped by the words we say, the decisions we make and the way we behave.  We have a great responsibility to the next generation of believers to do this well.

Several years ago, we spent five weeks repeating those words in worship and Vacation Bible School – No matter who you are- TRUST GOD!  No matter how you feel- TRUST GOD!  No matter what people do- TRUST GOD! No matter what happens- TRUST GOD! No matter where you are- TRUST GOD!  Are we prepared to live this out right now?  We have to be.  The stakes are too high.

As we move forward, there will be strong feelings and opinions.  By nature of being displaced, we will have to do church differently.  We have to trust that God is directing our decisions.  I am reminded of King Jehoshaphat’s prayer in facing three armies swarming around Judah, ready to attack in 2nd Chronicles 20.  In verse 12 the king prays “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are fixed on you.” Can we fix our eyes on God and trust him to lead the way?

Can we dig deep into the promises of Scripture that our God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble?  Do we trust that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?  These are words your children have memorized over the last several years.  Now is the time to show them that we believe them.

Every one of us will have times over the next several months when we aren’t completely on board with a decision being made by leaders within the church.  That will always be the case.  How we choose to express those feelings matters so much more now.  If we are full of love and grace for one another, trusting that we are all trying to follow God the best way we know how, our kids will see that.  They will see a body of Christ working hard to BE the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  May we tattoo these words across our foreheads and inside our hearts as we move forward.  There is no wound quite so deep as a child hearing bitterness or ugliness about their parent from an adult church member.  As a leader with children who serves the children of our other leaders, this is so dear to me.  Be kind to one another…tenderhearted…forgiving one another as we have been forgiven.  This is a season where grace has to be the ultimate goal in all things.

I love this church and its people so much.  May we be knitted together in Christ’s love today and always.

In Christ’s Love,

Amanda

Mother’s Day

TheMother’s Day is complicated in my experience.  I think it’s a loaded holiday for all kinds of reasons.  There are people for whom this day is extremely painful- people who have lost their mothers, women who are struggling to get pregnant, mothers who have lost a child, mothers whose relationship with their children (or mothers…or mothers in law) are strained or non-existent, people who were hurt by or have difficult relationships with their mothers.  If one holiday causes that many people pain, it is very difficult for me to celebrate it in church.  This was always a struggle for our worship design team when I was a worship leader.  It remains a struggle for me in children’s ministry.

On one hand, I want to give kids an opportunity to honor their mothers.  I love mothers.  I am a mother.  It is hard, soul draining work.  I love the idea of honoring other mothers on a special day.  However, there may be children in my ministry who have no relationship with their mother. There may be children who were adopted and are just finding out, making the concept of family and mothers very complicated.  There may be children in my ministry who doesn’t have a mother.There may be a child whose mother is abusive or addicted or otherwise toxic. This child could work hard on a special project for that mother and have it rejected or ridiculed or worse.  How could I put a child in that position?

My solution over the last few years (and we do something similar for Father’s Day), is to talk about all of the awesome women in our lives.  We start with moms, but also add in teachers and aunts and friends’ moms and women in our church.  We sometimes make a big poster with all their names on it and pray for each of the women by name.  If we make a special project to take home, we tell children to make it for any woman who has loved them well.  Most kids are going to choose their mom (and if there’s a child choosing a teacher over their mom, we might gently suggest they make more than one project so Mom’s feelings don’t get hurt).

Any Mother’s Day or Father’s Day projects that we make tend to center more on who the person is to the child than any stereotypical male or female gifts.  I am a woman highly allergic to flowers with the brownest thumb on the planet.  Every time my child comes home with a flower pot filled with plants I know I will kill by week’s end, I’m filled with guilt.  That’s not a gift that honors me.  So we might do a handprint picture with kids adding five things they love about mom/grandma/awesome woman.  I love anything that can be a remembrance of who the child is at this moment in time. That is a gift that honors all mothers/women.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are hard days for many in our church families.  Proceed with sensitivity and compassion to all you serve.  If you have ideas that have worked in your ministry setting, please share in the comments!

Helping Elementary Kids Cope With Disaster

God is With Us

 

As many of you know, there was a catastrophic fire at Christ United Methodist Church last night.  Our hearts are breaking, but we are trusting and leaning on God’s grace and mercy to carry us through.

I wanted to reach out to all elementary parents with some words and tools to help you explain to your preschooler what has happened.

  1. While the building is lost, Christ United Methodist Church and Agapeland are not. Pastor Ryan, Ms. Jaime and all Sunday School and Children’s Ministry staff are safe. (Younger elementary children may still think we live at the church)
  2. God will take care of us through this hard thing. We are amazed at the many ways other churches and members of the community are rallying behind us already.
  3. The church will go on and so will Agapeland. Leaders are making plans for our temporary church and preschool home and will be in touch soon.

Ways to help your child process grief or fear because of the fire

  1. Talk about what has happened as simply as possible. Fewer words are better.  There was a fire and the building is broken.  The church was never about the building, but about the people and the love of Jesus we all share.
  2. Art or journalling are great outlets for children to express their feelings about the crisis. Make art supplies and journals (even a composition notebook) available for your child.  Take time as a family to draw or write about your feelings together.
  3. I have created a YouTube play list of some of the songs we have been singing with the children over the last few years that have Scripture that I have found encouraging. Dust off those Seeds Family Worship CDs and play them in the car.  These songs are comforting and the Words are true.  The same is true of old VBS CDs and Bible Points.
  4. Keep as much of your normal routine as possible. Worship may be different, but everything else should stay as normal as possible.
  5. There will be hard questions and sad moments for all of our families. It is okay to say I don’t know and it is ok for your child to see your sadness.  As parents, we think we need to keep it all together for our kids and have all the answers.  We don’t have to.  God will give us what we need. It’s actually a good, faith building thing for a child to discover that we don’t have all the answers.
  6. If you feel your child needs to see the building, stay as far away as you can. Standing in the alley or in the parking lot as far from the building is safest.  The building is not structurally sound and there is much broken glass and debris that would be dangerous for children.

“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is a people!”

I will have some Scripture verses and devotional thoughts for this week soon.  Please know I love you all and am praying for us all in this crisis.