Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.

All throughout the year, we all are planning events and programming for our department.  And as we do it is important that we do not let opportunities pass us by that we can use for ministry.  When I am planning an event, there is one very important question that I need to be able to answer:

 Does this event include an opportunity to draw people closer to the Lord?

The answer, must always be YES.  That doesn't mean that there has to be an altar call at the event, but what it does mean is that the event MUST be Christ Focused.  Sometimes that means giving people an opportunity to fellowship with other families in the church (like at a picnic), but most of the time, it means making sure that the focus of the event is on the Lord and not just on having the event.   This will always mean more work on your part, but it's worth it.

Let me give you two examples of what I mean.

1) Water Wednesdays
In the summer it is hot and kids want to be outside.  So every summer, we have Water Wednesday's at church.  The kids bring a towel and expect to play all sorts of water games.  But each week we also focus on a Bible Story where water is an important aspect of the story.  Part of the games are planned to bring attention to that focus as well.  For example, one week, when the story was focused on how God held back the water of the Red Sea, we had the kids try to build a wall with water balloons. Not an easy task.  Try it sometime and you will see.  After they tried with all their might and could not get the wall to be very tall at all (Usually not more than two or three balloons high) we were able to talk about how, while we could not make a wall of water even if it was in balloons, God was able to build a wall of water using nothing at all...except the water.  Of course, a water balloon fight was also on the agenda that evening as well, but game was able to point toward the Bible Story...even amidst the fun of the evening.

2) Trunk N' Treat
Every year, there is a Trunk N' Treat at my church around Halloween.  In case you have never been a part of such an event, basically the idea is that there would be cars with decorated trunks in the parking lot with people handing out candy to the kids and in the gym would have games and food for those who attend to enjoy.  Just doing that would have been easy.  Play some games, decorate some trunks.  Everyone has a great time.  But that would not necessarily have pointed people to God.  So we decided to do a bit more. 

Because we wanted to make sure the event had the proper focus, my Children's Council and I decided to give the event a theme:  God's Blessings.  We told the people who decorated their car that they could decorate it with whatever they felt was a blessing from the Lord for them.  This allowed for much diversity in decor' but also kept the focus where it needed to be.  Then in the gym, every game and every area had a blessing theme.  Below are a couple of the signs that accompanied two of the games.

This was a simple fishing game where the kids throw a fishing pole over a curtain and pull out a

We used the game to remind them that we have a job to do.  We are to be Fisher's of Men.

The Cake Walk is an easy game where they walk in a circle while music plays and when it stops the person on the winning spot get's a snack cake.  

 We used the Cake Walk to remind the children of the sweetness of God's Word. 

 Even the table area (where folks could sit and  wait or chat) was the "Blessing of Rest".   

In my opinion, it is important to take every opportunity to point people to the Lord.  And if we can do it using things that they see often, then perhaps the next time they see that thing (like a fishing pole or a snack cake) they will be reminded of the blessings associated with those things in our games.

Every event, program, or activity should point people toward the Father.  Does it take more work to do that?  Yes, indeed.  Does it make a bigger impact on those who attend.  That is our prayer.

How do you keep the Main Thing the Main Thing?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Have a wonderful week!!! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fabulous Websites

In Children's Ministry, there are always things to learn.  You can never know everything about working with children and learning from others in Children's Ministry is a great way to continue to grow.  Below are a few sites that I enjoy and I hope you find them as helpful as I do.

Imagine Family Ministries - This site, written by Rev. Jill Waltz, is simply choc full of awesome ideas to improve your ministry as well as helpful articles about current issues and events.  She also provides links to documents and lessons that you can download and use yourself. On a personal note,  I have known Jill for most of my life and she has long been a mentor of mine, so I can unequivocally say that she is a top notch Children's Pastor, unbelievably creative, and simply a fantastic person.  You will not regret adding this site to your list of favorites.

Kids Reaching Kids - If you are Nazarene (as I am), you will enjoy this set of missions themed handouts.  There are 6 themes and 4 sets of worksheets for each theme.  I love the worksheets, but without a direct link, the website is a bit difficult to get to, so you will want to make sure to keep it tagged as a favorite if you decide to use them.

Flame: Creative Children's Ministry - This is a blog that is full of all sorts of fun ideas from prayer stations to object lessons and more.  I have used it many times.

Ministry-To-Children - This site is full of printables that you can use as well as lesson ideas.  Everything is free on the site, making it an excellent resource for anyone with a tight budget.

Spaghetti Box Kids - This site is NOT a ministry site, but it has some really fun ideas for activities for kids.  I like to take activities that might not generally be used in ministry and make them usable.  For example, this site had some neat magnet games that I was able to use when we were talking about how the love of God "attracts" people to Him.

#kidmin Daily and Childrensministryblog.com Daily Journal are both great "papers" for lack of a better term.  Each come out every day and both are set up like a newspaper, but they are totally Children's Ministry oriented.  I enjoy both of them and they both have great articles that can enhance your ministry.

I could go on, but I'll stop there for now.  What's your favorite website for Children's Ministry?  I'd love to hear.

Until next week...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bargain Shopping for Ministry.

I am known as a bargain shopper.  I love looking for inexpensive things that I can use for ministry.  But bargain shopping is not a quick prospect.  It takes time and patience to find those elusive deals. However, I can send you in the direction of a couple places that I have used over the years and they have amazing deals...if you watch for them.

First off, let me direct you to a department store that you might not have thought about before for ministry.  Kohls is a phenomenal place to check for bargains.  Especially in the toy area.  I have, on more than one occasion, found items that were formally $50 marked down to less than $10 and then because of a special promotion they are running end up getting the item for $5 or less.  Granted, you have to keep your eyes out for these deals, but they are there and a quick check in their clearance area each time you are in the store can yield amazing buys than can be used for prizes or simply to enhance your play area at church.  It's also a great place if you are looking for clothes to send to a missionary or with a Work and Witness team.  They often have fantastic sales on off season items.  However, if you are sending the items with a mission team, they might be perfectly in season for the place they are going. 

Next up, Ollies.  This store is a great place to find books for your nursery or even Bibles to give away as gifts.  They have all kinds of items in the store, but it is the book section that has come in the most handy for me.  I was recently able to purchase 8 or 9 books there (mostly hardback or board books) for a weekly preschool story time that I lead and the cost was just over $20. If you have an Ollies near you, I highly suggest you check it out.

Online, my favorite website for bargains is Christianbook.com.  They are constantly having big sales and I often can find things that will make great giveaways or just additions to my own library for incredible prices.  Just recently, they had a wide variety of hardback books on sale for $.69 - $1.99 each.  For someone on a rather tight budget, this site is awesome.  And they have lots of things other than just books.  It has everything you would find in any other Christian Bookstore...just usually quite a bit cheaper. 

There are lots of other places and websites I could add to this list, but that's all for this week.  What's your favorite place to shop for ministry?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Prayer Stations

Prayer is something that is easily overlooked when teaching children because they have such a short attention span.  It's not that we do not teach them to pray, but we often do not give them the credit they deserve in their ability to really understand what prayer is.  When given the opportunity, children can often pray very touching and heartfelt prayers.  And they come to the Father without any pretense.  They are simply willing to talk to God...which is, of course, exactly what prayer is.  But, sometimes we all need help focusing our mind and prayer stations are a great way to do just that.

I absolutely love doing prayer stations with children.  The first time I did them, I wondered if they would be able to stay quiet and focused, but they did then and they have ever since at every church I've ever done them at.  There is something about doing stations like these that seems to calm the hearts of all the children and they really enjoy them.

If you've never done prayer stations, let me tell you that they don't have to be elaborate to be effective.  They do take time to prepare though, so give yourself the time necessary to put them together.  When I am looking for new ideas for prayer stations, I generally go to Pinterest.  If you type "prayer stations for kids" in the search bar, you will get tons of ideas.  I am including some pictures of some of the prayer stations I have done at my current church.  Most of these ideas I got from Pinterest.  I'm sorry I don't remember all the sites that Pinterest took me to, but many of my ideas come from Flame: Creative Kid's Ministry and then just made them fit my own group of kids. There is a brief explanation of each station with the pictures, but more detailed explanations are available if you contact me through this blog.
At this station they were to write out on several Popsicle sticks things they were thankful for.  Then they made a poster picture out of the Popsicle sticks.

This station talked about the importance of being forgiven and gave the children the opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

Here the children were to draw a picture of what they wanted to do when they grew up.

This station gave the children the opportunity to discuss the problem of hunger in the world and what they could do to help.

This station focused on praying for healing of the sick and injured.

Here the children built a "house" and gave thanks for their own homes.

I love this station.  The children sit in front of a mirror filled with affirmations as if God were speaking to them. It reminds them that they are indeed "fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139)

This one gives the children the opportunity to think about what is most important to them...and decide if they would be willing to give that thing up, if God asked it of them.

If you have never done prayer stations with your children at church, I hope you will try them in the future.  They can be a powerful way to teach the children that prayer is so much more encompassing than the few minutes we pray in church.  It has power and God will indeed speak to us, if we let Him.