Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Everyone is sick!!! What do I do?

We have all had those moments when we think we have everything ready for an upcoming service when all of the sudden it seems the plague has hit the children's department and all of your volunteers call in sick at the last minute.  Ok, it probably wasn't all of them, but it sure seemed like it at the time.  Those times can be incredibly stressful, but hopefully you will find the following tips helpful to make those services a bit less problematic.

First: Always have a back up plan
Have an idea of what you will do in the instances that someone calls in sick.  For example, if my Preschool teacher calls in sick, I know that I will simply bring the preschool in to my regular children's church service.  I may need to add an extra activity or modify a game so they can play, but it is a workable fix in a pinch.  The Sunday School teachers know that if a teacher doesn't show up, they may have kids who are a grade older or younger than their normal classes for that one Sunday.  It's not a perfect plan, but it works when unforeseen incidents occur.  Plan for your own department, what is your "Plan B" for when a volunteer is sick.

Second: Have a back up lesson ready for each area
There are lots of "one time" lessons that fit in any time of the year.  Pick one you like and put it together as if someone other than you were going to lead it.  Make sure that it has any craft supplies, copies, or object lesson items with it.  Then set it aside in a folder or a box (depending on how much stuff is needed for the lesson) that can be easily pulled out if you wake up some Sunday and you are the one who is ill.  It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be complete.  Then you can call up one of your volunteers and say, "Fran, I'm horribly ill this morning.  Would you and Nancy fill in for me?  The lesson is all ready and in the box labeled IF PASTOR IS ILL next to the filing cabinet in my officeEverything you need is in the box.  Thank you so much."   If you have volunteers who lead concurrent services with yours (preschool, preteen, etc), ask them to put together a similar box for their own services that can be pulled out if they are ill or called away for some other emergency.

Third:  Have a list of substitutes you can call
Not everyone is willing to be a consistent volunteer in the children's department, but there are probably a few people in your church who help with special events and would be willing to substitute in emergencies.  In my church, all volunteers need to have background checks and go through a child abuse prevention training course. Because that is the case, we can not just ask anyone to fill in.  So, having a list of names who have been through the training and are already background checked is a huge blessing.  Many of those who have taken the training to be a part of a special event (like Vacation Bible School or Camp) are also very willing to step in if I need them in a pinch.

It's never easy when we get those last minute calls telling us that someone will be gone, but with a little preparation, those calls don't have to be quite as scary to deal with.  

Until next week! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I am not a very crafty person.  Don't get me wrong, I like crafts, but I'm not great at creating them.  Plus, many times they are expensive if you have to purchase supplies for very many kids.  So, in order to be cost effective, I usually only do a craft on Sunday Morning (our biggest service) if it is a special event or project, or if I found one that was inexpensive and provided a needed way to enforce the day's lesson.

However, some children learn better by doing something like a craft or a project as opposed to simply listening or watching a lesson.  So, it is important that we find ways to include crafts in our lessons from time to time.  Below, you will find a few places where I have found inexpensive and fun ideas to use.

Hobby Lobby
Hobby Lobby has amazing sales.  If you know you are going to be needing a craft for an upcoming lesson, you may want to watch their ads.  If you download their free app, you will regularly get a 40% off coupon you can use if the item you need is not on sale.  I always do at least a few crafts around the holidays, and if I go there directly after those holidays I can get the next year's craft for very little money.  It's awesome!  

Dollar Tree
Dollar Tree stores have great craft supplies for very little money.  Things like decorative rocks, glass vases, tissue paper, craft sticks and more can generally be found there for $1.  It's a great place to restock your essential craft closet supplies.   

Oriental Trading 
I love this website!  It has all sorts of crafts (and prizes and decorations) for very little money.  It's a huge blessing for my budget.  As an added bonus, they are dependable in their shipping.  I know that generally I will get whatever I order in less than a week even if I don't pay for expedited shipping. 

I have lost count of the number of times that I have stopped at Pinterest and found just the craft or object lesson idea I needed!  Plus, often the people who are posting these ideas are also on a tight budget so generally you can easily find ideas that are easy on your wallet as well.

Those are a few of my favorite spots for craft ideas and supplies.  I'd love to hear where you've found  bargains. 

Until next week!  Have a very Merry Christmas!!!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hospital visits

Hospitals are familiar places for pastors. We visit them often, but when you go to visit a child in the hospital or the immediate family of the child...it's a little different. So, this week, I want to share a couple tips for those times.

More than likely the child in the hospital is nervous or afraid. Hospitals can be scary places for kids, so it's important that you bring comfort and cheer if you can. Remind them that God is taking care of them and pray for them while you are in the room. And, if possible, leave the child smiling.

Take a small gift
When I am out shopping, I look for small items that I can keep in my office to take to kids when I visit them in hospitals. Small stuffed animals, simple toys, or activity books can bring some joy to a child. It doesn't have to be expensive, just something they can play with while they are recuperating.

If it's serious...
Most of the time, kids go into hospitals for common procedures like having tubes put in their ears, setting a broken arm or leg, or some other procedure that might entail a short stay. But sometimes, it is more serious. Sometimes you may have a child that is facing a chronic or even deadly disease like cancer, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, or any number of other things. When that happens, the previous two tips are appropriate, but know that this child probably knows more about doctors and procedures than you ever will. Their treatments, while not pleasant, are a part of their lives at this point in time and should be treated as such. Often, they really want to "just be like other kids", so treat them like that. Don't ignore their illness, but when you can, don't make it the focus either. Show them compassion and love and remind them often that God is with them.  They get tired of being the "sick kid," so do all you can to just let them be a kid.

I'm not an expert on these matters, but these are things that have been helpful for me.

Until next week...

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Making Missions Memorable

My parents were Missionaries for a time and while they were stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, I found out what it meant to have family literally on the other side of the world.  Not just across the country, but across the planet.  At the time, I was living in Sacramento, CA and if you pulled out a globe and put one finger on my city and one finger where my parents were, they were almost exactly opposite sides of the world.   Until then, though I had always liked learning about missions and was proud of our mission programs, I didn't really understand what it might be like for those on the mission field who were so far away from their loved ones.  I decided that we would make Mission Education a much bigger part of the Children's Department than it had been up to that point.  Here are a few of the things I have done to help our Mission Lessons have a more memorable impact.

1) Adopt a Missionary Family
In our denomination, each church is given the name of one or two Missionaries that they can connect with on a regular basis.  Because I went to college with a few people who became Missionaries and also through my parents, I have the honor of knowing some of our Missionaries personally.  Because I do, it makes news about the things happening in their areas of the world stand out and makes me more connected with what they are doing.  I want our kids to have that connection too.  So, every once in a while, we will adopt a missionary family and the kids send them letters or packages, we Skype during a service (when the time difference allows) and they love getting to know the people who are living in another country.  You can even connect via your Children's Ministry Facebook or Twitter feeds too.  We try to stay in regular contact for at least a year.   It's a great way to make missions come alive in a very real way.  

2) Mission Stations  
I am a huge fan of using hand-on activities to connect the kids with a particular lesson.  Several years ago, I created some stations for my department that specifically taught about different sorts of missionaries.  Each station had an activity that taught the basics of what that type of missionary would be doing.  For example, at the medical missions station the kids played "Operation."  At the station for translators the kids had to decipher coded messages. (I realize that is not exactly translating, but it got the point across.)  The Work and Witness station (These are short term mission trips where those on the trip tend to build or do repairs on buildings), the kids built a picture frame in the shape of a house using popsicle sticks or they painted a sun catcher. There were about 9 stations total, but you could do as many or as few as you like.  

3) Mission Lessons and Prayer Stations  
Several years ago I wrote a series called "Mission Possible" where each week we would look at a specific country and learn about the mission work and Missionaries in that country as well as what it would be like to live in that country.  I included a game popular with the children from that part of the world as well.  At the end of each lesson, the kids rotated through simply prayer stations meant to remind them of the things we had talked about and help them pray for each area we mentioned.  It was a lot of fun and the kids really enjoyed learning about each country and how God was moving in those places.  

I hope you find these ideas helpful.  If you've done a mission's lesson or program that your kids loved, I'd enjoy hearing about it, so please feel free to leave me a comment telling me all about it.

Until next week!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Using Ordinary Objects in Ministry

It might seem like a small thing, but this week I want to encourage you to use as many every day items as you can in your ministry.  Why?  Because those items that we see every day can make a huge impact when they are used in an object lesson or a sermon.  Allow me to elaborate on what I mean.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned doing a Sermon in a Sack during our Family Sunday services.  During this time of the service, one child brings in a mystery object and I have to come up with a brief sermon about whatever they brought.  I don't see the object until it's time for the sermon and the curiosity about what is in the sack is part of the fun.  I've done this in almost every church I've ministered in and this is what I find happens:

1) The adults look forward to finding out what is in the sack as much as the kids do.

2) The kids start getting picky about what they will put in the sack because THEY start getting reminded of Bible stories by what they see.  (Example, "We can't put that toy food in the sack because remember God provided food for the Israelites." "Tommy, don't put a boat in the sack, remember Jesus was in a boat when He calmed the storm.")  They want to stump me, so they figure if they think of a story associated with the object that I will easily come up with one too.

3) The adults will start trying to figure out what Biblical truth can be taught from the object too...and often it is different than what I used.  I know because they come up to me after the service and tell me what they were reminded of by the object. 

Do you see what I'm getting at?  The kids and the adults start seeing what God can teach us through those every day objects even before I ever open my mouth.  The same can be said when an ordinary object is used in a planned object lesson or as part of a sermon.  Every time the kids see that object, there is the potential that they will be reminded of the Biblical truth that it was used to teach.  And, perhaps even more important, they will start looking for what God can teach them through the ordinary items that surround them in their lives.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't use unusual objects in our ministry.  I just wanted to remind you of the amazing tools of ministry those ordinary objects can be.

Until next week...