Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reading your Congregation...

Reading your congregation is one of the most important things we need to learn to do in ministry.  Have you ever been in a service where the speaker is "fired up" about what he/she is saying, but one quick scan around the room tells you that everyone else is ready to head home?  It's easy to be so excited about what you are doing or what you've planned to miss the cues that those listening to you might give, but it is important that we keep watch for those cues.  They will tell us what we need change, if we are connecting with our listeners, or if we are losing them.  And it's something that we need to be aware of no matter the age group we are leading.  Here are a few key things I've found to watch for:

Granted with you work with kids, there is going to be a bit of fidgeting.  It's just part of being a kid.  But if they simply can't sit still...and it's more than just the normal one or two kids who struggle to sit still, you may be losing their attention.  Try to change up what your saying (maybe use and accent or funny voice for a moment), insert a quick moving game where they get to stand or stretch for a minute, or even give a two minute break where they can get their wiggles out.  But constant fidgeting may mean you've lost their attention so do something to get it back.

Clock Watching
People who constantly watch the clock, or kids who constantly ask the time, may be ready to leave.  They have other things they want to do and sometimes they have had all the "learning" they can take at the moment.   My Dad has this awesome line that I think he got from a professor years ago and I love it.  He says, "The mind can only absorb what the seat can endure." It's so true.  You can only sit for so long and then you will do about anything to change positions.  Clock Watching can be a sign that the "seat has endured all it can," so you need to finish up quick.  Now if you are leading a children's service sometimes the Pastor goes longer than you, but it's ok.  Finish your service and then do something fun while they wait for their parents to arrive. (Side note: If the child asking the time is new to your group, they may be nervous about being left behind...reassure them that the people who brought them will be back to get them.)

Do you have chatty kids in your department?  Sometimes it's because they are just very social kids but sometimes, especially if it happening with children who normally are not chatty, it's because they are bored or don't like the activity happening at the moment.  If you have difficulty getting the kids to focus during a particular song, perhaps they just don't like that song.  Remove it from your rotation for a while and see if there is a change.  If they are constantly chatting and not listening during the craft activity, maybe you take away the craft for a time and see if the problem improves.  Simply take note of the activity happening when the "chattiness" begins and see if a change in that activity brings a change in behavior.

These are not all the things you will see from your congregation, but if you've not been reading your congregation, perhaps they will help you begin to do so.  They've been helpful for me.

Until next week!  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Our Faith Still Holds...Even When Our World is Rocked

It's easy, when you are the one in charge, to feel like you must always have it together.  And to some degree we do.  After all, we need to be prepared, we need to be able to make changes on the fly, we need to be able to roll with the punches that come on any given Sunday and sometimes that means keeping our cool when we'd really rather blow our stack.  Those are the normal situations that we all need to be prepared for in order to do our jobs.

But then there are other times...times when something happens that will knock your world for a loop and when it does, it's ok for the kids to see your emotions.  Sometimes they will be good things.  We don't mind sharing the good stuff with the kids in our department.  When you are expecting a new baby in the family, if you achieve a milestone you've been working hard to reach, or when you are given a fun surprise we enjoy sharing those moments with the children and those we work along side in ministry.  But sometimes, it's not a good thing.  It's something that hurts us deeply like the loss of a family member or a scary diagnosis.  It's ok for the children to see that you are hurting too.  I'm not a counselor, but in my opinion, it's good for them to see how we react to such news.  Why?  Because they will have good and bad times in their own lives and seeing how other Christians walk through those times is a powerful witness.

Several years ago, I was living in California and I received the news that a beloved Great Aunt had passed away.  She lived several states away and I knew that there would be no way that I would be able to attend the funeral.  I was crushed by her passing.  Then it just so happened that on the day of her funeral, I was to lead a weekly Chapel for the school in our church.  I couldn't bring myself to lead the music, so I asked someone else to do that for me, but I  decided that I would bring the lesson.  And that day, through tears, I told those children about my Great Aunt and what an impact she had made on my life.  You see she was a Christian too, and I told them how even though she had been ill for a long time, it had never taken away her love for Jesus or her love for other people.  The kids could see that I was hurting, but wanted them to know that I was sad for me...not for her.  That she was in heaven enjoying a reward she richly deserved and that I wanted to be a light that shined for Jesus as brightly as hers had shined.

Children live in a world that likes to blame God for any pain they endure, and I want my witness to be that God walks through those painful times with us.  They also live in a world that likes to forget God when times are good and I want them to see that He is with us during those times as well.  I'm not saying that we need to share everything that goes on in our lives with the children, but when something rocks our world...they need to know that those things do not rock our faith.  At least, that's my opinion.

Until next week.   

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Misunderstanding Children's Worship

It's unfortunate, but often people will look at what we do and think of it as "less than" church.  As if it is not as important, or has less teaching value than what happens in the adult service.  But that is simply not so.  And it is important that you know that it is not so.  Children's Ministry is hard work and when anyone belittles that hard work it is discouraging.  So this week, I want to show you something that I think you will find interesting.

If you look at the graph above, you will see the various parts of a worship service.  You will also see how many of those parts are generally found in a Children's Worship Service and how many are generally found in an Adult Worship Service.  This is not to say that Children's Church is better than Adult worship, but simply to point out that there are more aspects to it.

Recently, someone let me know that they didn't feel that adults would feel like they had been in church if they were in a Children's Worship service as opposed to an Adult Worship Service.  I was incredibly offended by that remark simply because, in my opinion, if the adults who help in Children's Church are not also being ministered to in a service, then I have not done my job.  The service is geared for the children, but the teaching should fit any age group.

We are ministers of the Gospel.  We have been entrusted with teaching the most easily molded and trainable group of people within the church.  People often forget that most people form what they will believe for their lifetime before the age of 14 and that puts a massive responsibility on our shoulders. 
Don't allow those who really do not understand what you do, to make you feel less important than any other parts of the church.  All the parts of the church are important and we are all a part of the Body of Christ.

I hope you know that what you do is making a huge impact on the Kingdom.  Thank you for the important work that you do.  Thank you for giving to children.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Snacks as Object Lessons!

Snacks are commonplace in Children's Ministry.  And it's awesome that they are because they can be amazing tools for teaching a part of the lesson. Though I'm not one to give out a snack in every service, if I can use snack time to reinforce the day's lesson, then I am all for that.  So this week, I want to share a couple of lesson reinforcement snack ideas that I've found online or made up myself.  I hope you find them as fun as I do.

Goldfish crackers (or the generic equivalent)
These can be brought out to reinforce several scripture such as how we should be fisher's of men (Matthew 4:19) or if you put a few pieces of melba toast with it or croutons it could be a mini version of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-44) that you could use as an object lesson before they ate them.  But they could also be a cool lesson about Jonah and the whale.  Give each of the children a handful of goldfish and let them eat all but one.  Then you could say something along the lines of, "Look at that fish in your hand.  You could swallow it up so easily and in fact you've already eaten several and it was no problem at all.  Now imagine that you were a whale and that little fish was a person...Today we are going to talk about a person who was swallowed up by a whale as easily as you've been swallowing up those fishes."  From there you could continue your lesson on Jonah and the whale.

Homemade Pretzels 
Last year I came across this website through Pinterest that explained how the pretzel was created as a Lenten food and how the shape actually mimicked a common prayer position for early Christians.  I found it fascinating so I used it on my lesson about about Lent.  I mixed up the dough a head of time and had small portions of it divided into cupcake holders.  Then each child got some dough and made their own pretzel that baked while I taught the rest of the lesson and then they got to eat them.  It was such a fun way to teach about Lent.   We are going to do it again this year, but this year they will get to make two pretzels so that they will have one to share with someone else and explain how the pretzel relates to Lent.

Armor of God Snack 
The website, Life's a Bowl of Cherries, had a great idea for a snack that represented all the parts of the Armor of God.  It is easy to use and fun for the kids!  We gave them all the pieces and had them create their Armor of God as we told them step by step what each piece of food represented.   

There are lots of other snack ideas out there that really help to reinforce the lesson you are teaching.  I hope you find these three a good starting place!
Until next week!