Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Building a Team

One of the easiest pitfalls in Children's Ministry is trying to do everything yourself.  Let's face it, you know what you're thinking and sometimes it can be tough to make others see what you are seeing in your own mind. But, trying to do everything is a recipe for disaster.  If you really want to have an effective Children's Ministry, you need a team.

In my church, we have a Children's Ministry Council and I don't know what I would do without them.  They are an invaluable resource.  If you don't have a similar team, I highly suggest you build one.  But, in order for your council, or team, to be effective, you need the right people on your team.

1) A huge part of what your council can give you is history.  More than likely, you are the "new kid" at your church.  Whether you have been there a few months or a few years, you are still the "newbie" compared to those who grew up in that church.  So, connect with their memories to help guide you in new ideas.  What worked well in the past?  Why did it work?  What was a huge flop?  What made it fail?  These are things that you simply can not know unless you were there.  So tap into those resources and when building your team, make sure there is at least one person on it who has that historical knowledge. 

2) Bring in someone from all the areas of your ministry.  For me, I have representation for Nursery, Preschool, Sunday School teachers, and Volunteers.  Your church might include Bus Ministry, Special Needs, Aftercare, or a myriad of other ministries.  Just make sure each one is represented so that you do not accidentally leave any area out when you do your planning.

3) If you can, include someone who is especially creative.  At one church, there was a young lady in the congregation who was incredibly artistic.  She did not generally work in the Children's Department, but she was on my council because she gave us much needed input when we were trying to design themes or sets.

4) Involve at least one parent in your Council.  When you are planning events, it can be easy to get caught up in what is going on at the church, but it is important to know what is going on in the life of the families as well.  A parent can give you feedback about upcoming school events that might conflict or, and perhaps this is most important, help you to reign in your plans if you are trying to plan too much.  You want to provide ample opportunities for your families, but you don't want to overwhelm them.

It is important to note that these council members can overlap in what they represent.  For example, on my current council, I have 6 people plus myself, and they represent all the areas I mentioned above because they are involved in more than one area.  At least three grew up in the church, all volunteer in various services, one teaches Sunday School, one teaches Preschool, and two are parents.  The council doesn't have to be large to cover all the bases.

Once you have your council, use them.  Don't make big decisions on your own unless it is absolutely necessary.  I bring to my council all the activities for the upcoming year and we plan them together.  They look at various VBS options and we choose together.  The same goes for Christmas programs, or any big outreach event.  If more than half my council is against an idea, we set it aside.  We work as a team, and though, I am the leader, I never want to be seen as the Lone Ranger.  After all, it is not MY Children's Department.  It is OURS and it should be treated as such.

Build yourself a team that you can depend on and then watch how your ministry grows. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Knowing when to say "No"

It happens to all of us. Janie has a program and she really wants you to come, but Bobby has a sporting event at the same time and he also really wants you there, plus there are four pressing items calling your name in the office as well.  You can't do everything.  You simply can't!  You want to. You feel like you need to.  But you can't.  Take a breath.  You are not alone.  We all feel this way from time to time. It's okay to say "No" sometimes.  It does not make you a bad Children's Pastor.  Sometimes we have to make tough choices when it comes to our time.  But here are a few things that I have learned that help me in my prioritizing.  

Don't neglect your time with God.  It's easy to get caught up with planning your Sunday and Wednesday lessons.  You can easily get caught up in your preparation and find that you are only reading/studying for those services.  You forget that you need your own time of refreshment too.  Because we are reading our Bible and studying Scripture for work, it is easy to neglect doing the same for our own personal growth.  I know.  I've gotten caught in that trap myself.  But if we do not make time for our own spiritual growth, we will not be able to help others grow.  Set aside that time.  It's important!

Make your family a priority.  If you are married, set time aside for your spouse and your children.  They should not be getting your "leftover" energy.   You, and your ministry, will be better off when you make sure that your family is a priority.  Married or single, whatever day is your day off, keep it.  Guard it.  It is important for you to have time to rest too.  Whether you spend your day off gardening, reading a book, watching a movie, or playing ball with your kids.  Your day off is not an optional part of your week.  It's important to keeping you and your family strong both physically and emotionally.
Don't try to make every single event.  Ask the kids in your department for their game schedules, musical event dates, or awards programs at the beginning of the school year.  If they give them to you (and sometimes they won't), then put some of them on your calendar and plan to be at those.  Don't try to hit them all.  If you only have 5 or 6 kids in your department, it's possible, but if you have 20, 30, 50, or more...you simply can't make it to everything.  So schedule what you can early and then try to stick to that schedule.  Be flexible for when something big happens, but don't try to fit every single thing into your schedule. 

There will always be things that you need to do in the office.  Board reports, expense vouchers, and all kinds of other paperwork takes our attention.  However, certain things will come around continually and can be planned into your routine.  If you are expected to turn in a report to the Board every month, make a notation on your calendar when you plan to have it done each month and then stick to that deadline.  If you are supposed to attend staff meetings weekly, make sure you have them scheduled several weeks out so that you do not accidentally overbook yourself.  Set aside a time each week where you catch up on paperwork.  It could be a hour, a morning, or even a day.  However long you need, set that time aside.  For example, for me, on Tuesdays I try to do my paperwork (including the week's "to do" list) and begin preparation for Wednesday's services.  Then on Wednesday, I am free to run any errands that might be necessary for the evening service.  Planning out your week, helps make sure that you can get everything done and hopefully nothing falls through the cracks.

There will always be things that come up that we have no control over.  You may have to skip a family event to see someone who has been taken to the hospital.  Your calendar may get moved around to accommodate a child in crisis.  But if you prioritize the things you can control, you will be better prepared physically, emotionally, and spiritually for those unplanned emergencies that come your way.

'Till next week...


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What to do when you have a tiny budget...

If you work in children's ministry, it is more than likely that your budget is very small.  And when you are trying to do all the things that need to be done (services, activities, games, programs, etc) that budget can disappear rapidly.  But there are some things that you can do that will help stretch your dollar as far as possible.

First, plan in advance.  If you want to be able to get the best prices on things, you generally have to shop early.  Last minute deals are always a possibility, but they are often hit and miss.  Try to have a plan of what your big events for the year will be at least a year in advance.  Then you can be constantly on the look out for bargains for those events. 

Second, hunt for bargains.  It is never too early to shop for supplies.  If you know that every year, you are going to need a craft for Christmas, then shop for that craft during the after Christmas sales in your area.  You will probably be able to get a craft that you would not have been able to afford otherwise for much less than you had hoped to spend.  The same can be done after every holiday.  If you have an Easter program every year, shop for the next year's items right after Easter.  If space is an issue (as it is with many of us), look for only the bigger ticket items. If something you wanted to use was cost prohibitive prior to Easter, it will probably be at least 50-75% off right after Easter. Remember, in nearly any department store, there is a clearance section.  Make a habit of checking it out.  You may come across an amazing deal that you would have otherwise missed. 

Third, compile a list of places (online or in stores) where you can get the best prices on everything from curriculum - to decorations.  I have a list that is about four pages long of free or low cost programming, websites, and other ideas that I would be willing to share with anyone interested.  Simply comment below with your email and I'll send it to you. 

Finally, connect with other children's workers/pastors/directors in your area and share your curriculum and ideas.  Every year, we all buy curriculum and supplies for any given program that we are doing.  But after we use it, it generally sits on our shelves collecting dust.  If you team up with other churches and share your curriculum everyone wins.  Not only does the curriculum get more use, but you also get to connect with other people who love sharing the love of Jesus with children in your area.  It is an absolute win/win.

We all have to be good stewards of the resources that God has given us.  But there are ways to make those resources stretch if we are willing to do a little extra work. 

Until next week, as my Dad says, "Be blessed, and be a blessing!"

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Music, Music, Music!

When you are planning your worship service for kids, it is important that you have fun music, but it is equally important (at least in my opinion) that that music also have a message that will stay with the children long after they leave your department.  Because that is so important to me, I rarely do "fluff music."  You know what I mean.  The songs that the kids love, but have little to no spiritual value.

Looking back at my own childhood, I loved to sing "Father Abraham," but at no time in my life have the words of that song come to mind and given me comfort or helped me understand what God might have for me.  Music has a way of coming back to us at the most unusual times and when the kids in my department grow up, if a song from their childhood pops back into their heads, I want it to be something with some spiritual meat to it.  So, I'll admit it...I'm extraordinarily picky when it comes to music, but below you will find a few of my favorite artists and songs for kids worship. If you want to know more about the groups I mention, just click on their name and you will be directed to their site.

Go Fish  I love using the music from Go Fish.  It is powerful, it's fun, it's catchy, and the kids love it.   Their version of "Shackles" is below, but I would also suggest "My God," "The Sunday School Swing," and "The Solid Rock" (the last two of which are with Denver and the Mile High Orchestra).  You can get all of these songs (and many other really cool ones) on the Vacation Bible School DVD's from Go Fish.  They have put out several VBS programs and they are very good, but even if you don't use their VBS, I would suggest you purchase the music.  You can also get it on their new Worship DVD's.  It's good stuff and your kids will love it.
Phil Joel (Deliberate Kids)  I love the Deliberate Kids albums.  There are two of them and they are both full of amazing music.  Below is a video I found on YouTube of "Good Morning."  This would be as close to "fluff music" as I generally would use.  But this song is awesome for teaching kids about greeting folks.  We do motions (which you can either make up or probably find online), but whenever they are singing "Good morning, good morning,..." they walk around and greet one another like you often see adults doing in services.  It's a great way to get them out of their comfort zone.  I also love the songs "Strong and Courageous," "Armour of God," and "Boom-Chaka-Laka" (sounds like fluff, but isn't.)  Great music, great words.  Just great songs all the way around.

Group Publishing   I have used many songs from Group over the years.  They have lots of really good ones.  Their versions of "Amazing Grace," "His Great Love", "To God Be The Glory" and so many others are upbeat, and fun and full of great Scriptural truth.  But I love their slower songs for our prayer times.  Songs like "You Gave", "Love the Lord," or "You are My All in All" are a great way to prepare our hearts for prayer and I use them often. Group has lots of music DVD's that can be purchased through their site and the motions for the songs are usually on those DVD's.

Hillsong Kids   I really like a lot of the songs from Hillsong Kids.  Great words, kid friendly, and the music is often songs that the parents may know as well, so the family can worship together.  Below is a sample of their music, but they have lots out there.  You can find it on YouTube as well as their site.
So those are just a few of the songs and artists that are out there that are great for Kid's Worship.  What are some of your favorites?  Leave a comment and let me know.  I'm always on the look out for more music.  

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Three Books and a Program

Everyone who works with children has certain things that they use consistently.   Those things will be different for everyone, but we all have those certain books we go to when we need an object lesson, a game, or an idea.  There are many places you can look on the web for ideas (and I do), but we all need a few books handy too. I'm including a link to where each of these can be purchased if you would like them for your own library.  Just click on the name of the book.

#1.  Really Big Book of Kids Sermons and Object Talks
I love, love, love this book.  In fact, next to my Bible, I have probably used this book (and the next one on this list) more than any other in my library.  Why?  Because it has something for nearly any time of year and any sort of lesson.  Need an object lesson on obeying others, perseverance, putting others first, sacrifice, or perhaps on encouragement?  Maybe you'd like to talk about a person of faith like Fanny Crosby, Samuel Morris, Watchman Nee, or Corrie ten Boom?  Or perhaps you'd like to talk about a specific holiday like the Feast of Tabernacles, Mother's Day, Epiphany, Shabbot, or Pentecost?  You can find object lessons and/or kids' sermons on all of those things and so much more in this book.  It really is full of amazing stuff.  Depending on where you buy it, it can cost up to $40, but it is totally worth it.

#2  The Big Book of God's Amazing Animals
This is another book from Gospel Light and it too is full of awesome object lessons.  This time they revolve around different animals.  Some you will be familiar with, and others perhaps not, but the kids love learning about them.  When I use these, I make a PowerPoint presentation of the animal we are talking about.  That way, as we learn about the animal, they can see what it looks like too.  Sometimes the PowerPoint is a true/false quiz about the animal (a tip from the book) and that is a lot of fun.  Also a plus with this book is that each lesson comes with a reproducible take home page.  I love that the kids can use that page to go home and tell their families what they learned about God through learning about that day's animal.

#3 More Than A Movie Night
I am not a fan of doing anything without a purpose.  Whether it is a game, a song, or an event, I feel that there needs to be a purpose to the evening.  That is why I am a huge fan of this book.  It shows you how to have a movie night that goes beyond just showing the movie.  It includes snack ideas, games, and a Biblical lesson.  The movies are secular, but the lesson is not.  It even shows you how to follow copyrite laws when showing the films.  This is a great addition to any Children's Ministry library.

Finally, I wanted to share with you about a program that I use to display our media each week.  Over the years, I have tried or used Media Shout, Easy Worship, and a couple of others and they were all fine, but my favorite is Proclaim.  And the reason is simply because it works.  I rarely have an issue with a video not working or something not showing the way I had hoped.  I am still learning all there is to this program and so have not yet figured out how to play my music through it (except in video form), but I still LOVE it.  I can run it from my iPad or from the computer.  My workers can sign in and have the information on their devices if they want to as well.   And, it is the only program that I have found that allows you to purchase it monthly if you so desire.   The basic package is about $20 a month for a group of 100 people or less, so it is very affordable.

Those are my tips for this week.  I hope you find them useful.  If you have any you'd like to share, I'd enjoy hearing from you.   Have a great week in the Lord!