Thursday, February 18, 2016

What is a Family Service?

There seems to be a misconception among those outside Children's Ministry as to what a Family Service really entails.  Most Pastors that I have talked to assume that it is a service that caters to the children and therefore will not be as thought provoking or challenging to adults.  This could not be more wrong.

However, for most Pastors, a family service means the following:
The children are in the main sanctuary.  
There will be one part of the service that is especially for them (sermon in a sack, object lesson)
A few or all of the children might sing a song or be a part of a choir song
There may be a packet that they work on that goes along with the sermon
Some kids might even help with the ushering duties. 

That is what most Family Sunday's look like across the country (including mine) and those are good.  Kids need to be a part of a regular morning worship service and be witness to what the Lord is doing among the larger body.  It is important that children are in such services and I am in no way devaluing them.  BUT, that is not a FAMILY Service.  It is a Sunday Morning where we are aware that children are in the room so we have made slight changes to the regular order to help them be a part of the ADULT Service, but it is not a true FAMILY service. 

 A true Family Service ministers to the entire family equally.  From children to grandparents, all are included and all are involved.  And not just a little here and there, but literally engaged and involved throughout the entire service.  It is no wonder that there is confusion because many people have never been in such a service.  And I will be the first to tell you that they are truckloads of work to put together.  No exaggeration, I usually want at least 6 months to plan a Family Service and get all the pieces and people in place for it. (It could be put together faster, if your church does them fairly often, but if it is "new" it's going to take much longer to put together.)  However, when you do a true FAMILY is amazing.  Everyone is a part.  Everyone is engaged and God can move in mighty ways.  So what does it look like?

Many people will be involved on the platform.
The Music led will connect across the generations. 
The Bible won't just be read, but it will come alive in some fashion.
Multiple techniques will be used to reach all types of learners (touch, visual, auditory, etc)
The Lesson/Sermon will be taught and reinforced throughout the service in various ways
Multimedia tools will be utilized.
Those in the congregation will be encouraged (but not forced) to participate 
No part of the service is specifically set for any age group, but all age groups are engaged  throughout the entire time. 
The Word of God is taught in unexpected and memorable ways.

Do you see the difference?  A true family service is for the entire FAMILY of God.  Not a "kid's service", not "adult church", not even "teen oriented".  It is for everyone equally.  And if you are willing to put in the work to put one together for your church...they can be absolutely amazing.  If you'd like more information about Family Services or would like to see an outline of one I have led in the past, let me know.  I'd be glad to share.

Until next week!  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Theology is important

There are people who think that kids are too young to understand theological concepts or to understand the sacraments.  But if they are taught in a way that is simple enough for them to understand, they can and they should learn them.  Now, I'm not saying that you have to start a full out theology class in your Children's Department, but including some basic teachings can be great!  Lessons on Baptism, Sanctification, the Altar, Communion, and more have been huge blessings in my department.  Here are few things I've used and found helpful in my own teaching.

Keep is simple
I know lots of pastors and theologians who love to talk about the minutia of theology.  But if we want anyone outside the clergy to be interested in it, we need to keep it simple.  Take one concept and then make it as simple as possible.  Children don't need to understand everything at once, so small bites are best. For example, about a year and a half ago, I did a lesson on what an Altar is and why they are important to us.

        Simple concept to start from: Altars are places where sacrifices happened.  So if it is going to be an altar, something has to die.  
         Relating the lesson: (I GIVE UP)  When we go to an altar, we are going there to give up something.  It might be to ask for forgiveness for a sin or maybe we are giving up something that God has told us is not good for us.  But, we go to the altar to let go of something in our lives.  That something has to "die."  So, though we don't do animal sacrifices on altars anymore, we are still using them as places to let go of those things that hinder us in our lives. The altar is a place where we give up the things that keep us from God.  

Make it interesting
For many people, when they hear that you are going to be studying theology, their eyes start to glass over because they are just convinced that theology MUST be boring.  But theology is simply the study of God and God is NEVER boring, so don't let your teaching be dull.  If you don't find what you are teaching interesting, neither will your kids.  Find an object lesson, use a game, or plan a craft, but do something to make the lesson stand out.

Make the lesson fit their lives.
Anything we teach has to connect with the lives of the children we are teaching.  It doesn't do much good for them to learn about God if they don't see how what they are learning affects their lives.  To go back to the altar lesson I mentioned above, it was important that they see that while the altar was used for sacrifices in the Old Testament, that it was still important today because we are still sacrificing things on them.  They are special, not because of what they are made out of or because of where they are placed, but because they are places where we go to give up the things that keep us from God. 

Check out your Denominational Resources
Some denominations (mine included) have lessons available that can help you teach some theological topics like Communion, Baptism, Salvation, and more.  Check out the tools that are available to you and then make them your own.  Not all lessons fit all kids, but most lessons can be changed to fit any group with a little extra work.  

I love helping kids understand what we believe and why we believe it.  I hope this is helpful for you as well.  
Until next week! 


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Never Stop Learning

One thing all Children's Pastors have in common is that we are busy.  We can easily get lost in all that needs to be done.  However, if we want to be effective in our ministries, we need to keep learning.  There are always new techniques for teaching, new musical groups to check out, and more training to be had.  We may not be able to stay on top of everything, but it is important that we do what we can to stay current.  Here are a few ways to keep up without overloading your schedule even more than it is already.

Subscribe to a Magazine 
There are some great Children's Ministry Magazines out there.  I highly suggest you subscribe to one and then when it comes, take a couple hours to check it out.  It's an easy way to learn about things that are bombarding our kids, find out about a new VBS, or even get some needed encouragement.  You might check out KidzMatter Magazine or Children's Ministry Magazine.   Both are just full of great information!

Attend a Conference or Workshop
There are lots of Children's Ministry fact there are so many it can be a bit overwhelming.  Especially when you start looking at the price of the conferences.  However, there are are some great ones that you can attend that won't break your budget.

CMConferenceThis is the most affordable national conference I have ever found.  Even if you register late, it is less than $200 and it is AMAZING.  There are scholarships available so it really is affordable for everyone.

If you are Nazarene (like me), you should watch to see if there will be a SPARK in your area.  This is an amazing 3 day conference and full of awesome workshops and lots of fun.  It is growing across the country, so check out the Equip to Engage website to see if there is one near you.

Group also offers a variety of training you can check out.

If you keep your eyes open, you are bound to find a conference or workshop that fits your needs and your budget.

Blogs and Books
There are lots of blogs and books out there that you can easily access.  I like to check out blogs because they are bite size pieces of information and easily accessible.  But if someone tells you they enjoyed a certain book, check it out.  Personally, I am looking forward to reading "I Blew It" by Brian Dollar because I believe we learn more from things that didn't work than we do the things that go smoothly.   I've also heard great things about "Sticky Faith" by Dr. Kara Powell and Dr. Chap Clark and it too is on my "to read" list.

As for blogs, I am partial to the Imagine Family Ministries blog by Rev. Jill Waltz.  She always has wonderful articles as well as really useful resources.  I also enjoy checking out Children's Ministry Blog Daily Journal put out by GJ Farmer, the Children's Ministry Daily Paper put out by Commander Bill, and the blog journal by Corey Ray Jones.  All three of those blogs are set up like daily newspapers and are full of awesome content.

Choose what works for you, but keep learning.  If we let ourselves get stale, we will no longer be the effective ministers that God expects us to be.

Until next week!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


There is a very old argument in Children's Ministry and it's all about prizes.  Are they ok?  Should they be used?  Should everyone get one.  Should they be candy?  If you asked a large group of Children's Pastors these questions, you would probably get lots of answers.  Some would be adamantly for using prizes and some would be just as adamantly against using them and some would be in the middle.  I am only one person, but I have served in several churches of various sizes and cultures and below you will find my thoughts on the subject.

Are Prizes Ok to use?
Sure!  I say, if you want to use prizes in your ministry feel free.  But, be aware that they do not work in every ministry setting, so figure out what will work best for you.  Some places a small prize that you can give out often (like candy or stickers) is best and other places one large prize that the kids really have to work for is better.  Also check your budget.  If you have not set aside funds for prizes, then I wouldn't suggest using them unless you plan to purchase them with your own funds.  Every church is different and every group of kids is different so see what is going to work best for your group before you make your decision.

Should I use candy as a prize? 
Personally, I love using candy as prizes.  Mostly I use it if I don't know the kids very well.  For example, from time to time I will speak at a Family Camp or a Kids Revival.  Usually those kids don't know me well and I may need a hook to get them invested right away.  For me, I tell them that they need to pay close attention to all that is going on because I will randomly ask a question and if they get it right, I will "chuck candy at them."  They get a kick out of my throwing it across the room...mostly because I have terrible aim and it rarely gets where it's supposed to go without help from the kids.  In my own church, I don't use it as often.  Occasionally I will hand it out after a service just as a treat before they leave.  If you do decide to use candy, be very aware of any children with allergies and have alternatives for them.  Some gummy snacks, goldfish type crackers, or even a fun pencil make good alternatives. 

Does everyone get a prize?
Not always.  In my church, we often have teams and all service the teams will compete for points.  The winning team gets to choose a prize.  I actually have 3 prize baskets.  One has larger prizes (generally costs $1-2 per prize), one has very small prizes, and one has candy.  Some weeks the winning team is the only one to get a prize.  Some weeks the winning team will get a bigger prize, second place gets a small prize and everyone else gets a piece of candy.  Some weeks no one gets a prize.  I am inconsistent about this on purpose.  Too often kids get into a "I deserve a prize" mentality.  The lesson focus can get lost with the thoughts of possibly getting a prize.  So sometimes, we don't do prizes.  It's not to be mean.  It's to keep the prizes as something that is a fun surprise and not something that is just expected.  

Prizes can be a fun addition to your classes, but it's important that they are just  If they become the only thing the kids are coming to class for, then we need to do some revamping of the rest of the curriculum.  Prizes can't be our linchpin in ministry to children.  Your service should be as engaging to the kids without the prizes as it is with them.  That way, if you do give any out, it's a treat...not an expectation.   At least, that's the way I view them.

Until next week!