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  • June 2009

    This week our theme is “Using Online Technology in Children’s Ministry”. Today we’re going to look at the best way to read the websites you frequent regularly.

    First things first! Some Definitions:

    • A Blog is a made-up name that comes from a merging of two other word. Web and Log: Weblog – shortened to just blog. Basically it’s another name for a webpage. Someone who writes a blog is called a “blogger”.
    • RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You’ll hear most folks refer to it as an RSS Feed or just a Feed. Blog readers (you) can ‘subscribe’ to an RSS Feed using a Feed Reader (such as Google Reader) and whenever a blog is updated, the new article will appear in the feed.
    • A Feed Reader is a service that collects new articles from RSS Feeds that you subscribe to. It enables you to quickly see new posts from all of your favorite websites without having to visit each one. It’s like your own personal newspaper.
    • Subscribing to an RSS Feed means that you have added that feed to your reader and will now receive updates from that site automatically. There is no cost or fee involved with subscribing to a feed.

    Here’s how to get started:

    1. Visit Google Reader and set up an account if you don’t have one already. Be sure to bookmark Google Reader so you can find it again.
    2. Click the Add a Subscription button and type in the web address (http://whatever.com) of your favorite blog. Google Reader will search the site for it’s RSS Feed and subscribe you. Alternatively, if you go to the blog and see a link labeled RSS Feed or Subscribe you can click on it and add it to your reader or cut and paste the feed URl into Google Reader.
    3. That’s It! You should see the latest 10 posts from your entry listed in your reader. Posts will be shown as ‘unread’ until you scroll past or click on them. You can mark entries with a star or keep them unread. This way you can refer to them quickly later if you wish.

    Here are a list of CM Blogs to get you going:

    Note: It surprises me how many of these sites did not have their RSS Feed linked to at all! Remember, you can usually enter the URl into Google Reader and it will find the feed for you.

    What are your favorite CM Blogs? Post yours in the comments and share them with the other readers and myself!

    Here are some Children’s Ministry links collected from around the internets for today.

    help-1400x1400This month we focus on the reasons Children’s Ministers struggle in ministry and ways to avoid burnout. Plus, a very special interview with Fel Bagunu.

    Brought to you by DrawYouAPicture.com and High Voltage Kids Resources.

    Play

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    I interviewed a few kids from my children’s church last week. I asked them what they thought would be the greatest struggles a children’s minister would have. Without exception every single one thought that they, themselves were the greatest challenge.

    “Trying to get kids to sit still and listen.”

    “Kids talking too much.”

    “Making sure we don’t try to leave.”

    Though I’m convinced their answers come from a naturally me-centered world due to their level of development, they still have a bit of a point. For many children’s ministers maintaining discipline in children’s ministry is a huge struggle. It doesn’t really matter how much you prepare that illustrated sermon if the kids won’t still still enough to listen to it.

    Though I thoroughly cover Proper Discipline for Children’s Ministry in a podcast series, and I encourage you to give them a listen, here are a few basic tips for lowering the ‘badness’ level in your group.

    1. Discipline is not a bad thing.

    Many of us hate the word discipline because we were mistreated or abused under that banner. Discipline is not punishment. It is helping children into becoming more like Jesus. Proper discipline is discipling.

    2. Discipline is based on a relationship of mutual respect.

    Children don’t respect people because of position… they respect the folks who they have a proper relationship with. It is only though relationships that we can learn what makes a kid tick. It’s only through relationship that they can see your example. It’s only through relationship that they’ll open their heart to you and allow you to shape them into the person God created them to be.

    3. Discipline is not trying to get a child to be good… but to be Godly.

    For to long we’ve been trying to get kids to be ‘good’ in church. We succeed… but only in teaching them to put on a face when they come to church. Then we wonder why they turn up pregnant or suicidal in their teens. “They were such a good kid,” we’ll say. Teaching a child to be good only teaches them to not get caught. Teaching a child to be like Jesus goes beyond changing their behavior (so that I can get through my service without drama) and becomes more about changing their motivation. We should be teaching them that it’s okay to be themselves, but that they only become who they truly are when they allow the people God has placed in their lives to guide them.

    Feedback? Do you have any? Post in the comments.

    This past Easter we did a super simple Candy Hunt in our gym after the main service for our pre-school and elementary students. Parents and families were naturally invited along to watch. We had half of the gym reserved as the field for the hunt and invited the families to spread themselves all the way around the court.

    I quickly explained what was going to happen. We were going to have four hunts. One for pre-schoolers, one for 1st-2nd grade, another for 3rd and 4th then a final one for the 5th graders. I was clear that everyone would get a chance and that they needed to wait for their group.

    We started the hunt and things went well for a while… but during hunt number three it became apparent we had a lot of older kids… and quite a few younger kids involved. I darted around removing them from the field and noticed that that most of them were returning to parents who had egged them on. In once case in particular I walked up on a parent giving their 18 year old son and 3 year old daughter instructions on how to pick up even more candy.

    It was enough to make me want to shut everything down! How could these parents not appreciate our efforts enough to respect a few basic rules? On a greater level, how could I expect my messages on Sunday to get through to children who’s parents morals counteracted and contradicted everything I was teaching.

    On the way home, broken and angry, I chose to pray it through. I knew God would give me a different view on things. He first gave me pity for those parents. What kind of life must they live that stealing candy off a gym floor makes things seem more fair and right? He also helped me to realize that rather than canceling future hunts, we just needed to do them during the main service and remove the only discipline problem at the event. The Parents.

    I’ve met more than a few children’s ministers who have had experiences like mine and have developed a real distain for parents. This is a real problem. See, we’re here to partner with our parents. We cannot afford to see them as the enemy… even if it seems they’re heck-bent on convincing us they are.

    Let’s look at some common reasons CM’s struggle with parents:

    They’re inconsistent in attendance.

    Yes there are parents who just don’t care… but after a bit of digging I found that most of my parents do come, but their kids are with another parent every other weekend. With the rest of them… accept, pray, get over it, and make every moment you do have count.

    They bring children but don’t want to help.

    When you’re short on help, it can drive you crazy to see parents dart by the door, pushing their kids in not even looking inside to see how much your struggling with the kids you already have. It’s easy to begin hating on them. It can make you feel like a babysitter and an unappreciated one at that. The truth is that even if that’s all you were, giving those parents a child-free moment to spend receiving from God is one of the best gifts you could give your kid’s family. It really took me having my own children to fully understand and appreciate that.

    They don’t understand the spiritual potential of their children.

    I’ve heard CM’s say this, and it’s always with an air of superiority. Makes me want to slap them. How can someone with this mentality every hope to partner with parents for the betterment of the family? When did CM’s get to the point where we think we can take responsibility for every child’s spiritual well-being? God gave that job to the parents. Do we know better than God? If they’re not doing it right, it’s up to us to humbly help them.

    They struggle against our policies.

    I’ll give you this one. Some of them do push hard against anything you expect/need them to do in order to keep a smoothly running program. It’s annoying… but it’s always a minority. We just don’t notice the good parents in these situations. Plus we see them when they’re late for church and late for lunch. Is that really a fair time to make a judgment about someone?

    They don’t give us the respect they give other pastors.

    Stinks huh. We don’t get the respect because we don’t carry the responsibilities he or she does. We may think we have it so bad and he has it so easy… but trust me… you’re better off being told you’re a kid’s pastor because you’re a big kid yourself than dealing with a church-full of issues.

    They don’t support us by disciplining their children properly.

    I’ll give you this one too. A properly disciplined child is a rarity in this world we live in. But rather than fight against it, we need to adjust to compensate for it. CM’s can get a lot of pointers from the public school system. They deal with the same things we do… but on a daily basis so many times I find they’ve evolved to it faster. They have things that work without relying on the parents to back them up.

    I hope it’s obvious that most of those reasons are actually perceptions of reality, not necessarily reality itself. It my feel that these things are true… and in some cases with some parents they very-well may be, but in general, most parents are doing the best they can and want to do better. We typically judge parents by a series of instances and lump them all in our minds into one huge parent prototype and judge them all by that conception. It’s not fair, not true and not right. It’s a tool that Satan will use to keep you at odds with one of your greatest resources… your kids’ parents.

    Tune in tomorrow for insight into ending the mental struggles with our kids’ parents.

    How I Podcast: 2009

    June 22, 2009 · 1 comment

    A lot of time has passed since I wrote the first How I Podcast post. I’ve gotten better/different equipment and simplified a lot of the process. I figure it’s time to update/rewrite how I podcast. [click to continue…]

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    Over the years I have noticed something. It seems to me that children’s ministers can be some of the most heavily burdened people in ministry. Why is that I wonder? I have some theories.

    It’s one of the most important ministries in the church.

    Statistics show that if a child hasn’t made a decision for Christ by age 8 they aren’t likely to at all. But do we really need statistics to know that children are precious to the Kingdom? They are living potential. Our enemy works tirelessly to attract, warp and destroy their lives. We are one of the folks on the front lines defending their souls. It’s not easy.

    We wear many hats.

    Children’s Ministers do more than preach on Sunday morning. Often times we’re Game Leader, Worship Leader, Puppet Team, Check-in Coordinator, Sound Person, Maintenance, Security and Janitor. Even if you’re blessed enough to have folks who do most of those things for you it is still your responsibility to see that they’re done… and your consequences to suffer if they’re not.

    We are responsible for their safety and wellbeing.

    No other minister in the church is in precisely the same situation we are when it comes to the safety of our congregation. Where else are the ministers completely responsible for the very lives of the people they minister to? Nowhere. From the moment the kids are dropped off till the minute they’re picked up, they might as well be our own kids. It’s a unique and challenging situation. We must keep them safe from the outside world and one another… all that while trying to keep them spiritually safe as well.

    We must discipline and teach.

    A minister can never just get up and preach. We’ve got to be entertaining, engaging and great at holding the attention of a crowd. If you’re a children’s minister, you’ve also got to keep them from hitting, throwing, talking, moving, sleeping and whatever else comes into their mind during your well prepared, heart-felt message. They say that preaching a typical sermon is the equivalent of an 8 hour work day…. but add to that the distractions, redirections and normal interruptions… make that a 16 hour day.

    We minister to multiple people groups.

    I remember when I thought being a Children’s Pastor meant that I would only work with children. Boy, was I wrong. Sure we work with kids… but we’ve also got their parents. We’ve got leadership we answer to as well as trying to be a part of the congregation as a whole. Let’s not forget our own volunteer staff. We’ve got a ton of folks to please… and often with conflicting expectations. It’s like having to juggle 5 balls, but only being able to juggle 3. To juggle them all, we’ve got to take turns… and someone is always being left out.

    We’re often separated from the Big Show.

    We do service during the big service so automatically we’re removed from the greatest spiritual and physical resource at our church. The spiritual food we so desperately need and the human resources we need almost as badly. This often leads us to believe that we are alone. The only ones who care. That parents are our enemy and that the Pastor is unappreciative. If that won’t wear you down, I don’t know what will.

    I find it interesting that it is the circumstances of my own ministry that stand the most chance to ruin my ministry. Circumstances… not Satan… so once again my worst enemy is me. How can I combat these when they are mandatory side-effects of ministry well-done? We do not fight them at all… but rather become aware of each and compensate for them.

    It’s an important ministry… but it’s not YOUR ministry.

    God put the burden for training up a child on the children’s parents. The trend today is for children’s pastors to consider themselves the end-all-be-all for their kids’ spiritual well-being. The only problem is that we are literally incapable of bearing that responsibility, though many of us try. Not only is this arrogant, it’s dangerous. Our job is to be another voice from God in their lives. We are just another seed planter. We cannot make it grow. The Word does that on it’s own. That’s why we say it’s living and active. Free yourself from the total responsibility. Cast that burden where it belongs, on the shoulders of God Himself. Keep doing what you’re doing, but leave the results in His hands. It’s not your word…. it’s God’s Word.

    Delegate anything someone else can do.

    They won’t do it like you would. They may not do it as well. But you need to give pieces of your ministry away. We may think we’re being considerate… not wanting to burden others with our work… but we’re actually being prideful. Who are we to decide that they can’t handle a hard job? Are we the only ones who are tough enough? See how prideful that sounds? Your ministry will never grow any larger than you if you don’t give bits of it away. And if you keep doing it alone, your ministry will shrink right along with you as your burn yourself out. For more listen to Episode 9 – Delegating our Responsibilities.

    Secure your ministry

    If we’re responsible for those little lives… then we’ve got to be responsible with them. That means we’ve got to run background checks on every volunteer. Set-up some sort of secure check-in and out procedure to ensure that kids are going home with the right people. Write up and enforce policy to protect those kids against predators, and your workers against the appearance of evil. This sounds like an overwhelming task, but it will provide a lot of peace when you know you’re providing a safe place for your kids to interact with Jesus. For tips on where to start with policy listen to Episode 13 – Policy & Procedure.

    Establish and train a consistent discipline policy.

    Kids do a lot better when they know what is expected of them… and understand the consequences of not living up to to those expectations. Our job is not to make a child be good… it’s to help them become more like Jesus Christ. You’ll never change a kids life by putting them in time-out… it’s only God’s Word that can do that. Establishing a discipline policy will help you get over your discipline issues so that you can do real ministry. Need more? Check this out: Proper Discipline in Children’s Ministry.

    Be a consistent minister.

    You may have a lot of people to serve… but who we’re really serving is God. We can’t please everyone…. but we can live to please Him. The way we do that is through consistent obedience to his Will and his Word. If we focus on that… the rest will take care of itself. We don’t have to wear one face around the kids and another around the parents. Being a God-honoring minister/human being will bring respect from each people group. It will keep you focused on a consistent source of appreciation, love and acceptance.

    Stay involved.

    Does your church have two morning services? Lucky! If not you’re going to have to work hard to stay connected. Cancel one service a month if you must. Do Sunday mornings and cancel the evening services. Delegate the service prep and performance to someone else and go to big church once in a while. Suggest pre-service Pastor’s Prayer so that you can know what’s going to happen in big church. Ask your Pastor to let you know what you missed during staff meetings. Just knowing can be a great connection. But remember, it’s not anyone’s job to keep you connected… and you have no ministry outside of the service you provide to that body. You’ve got to be a part of it to be effective in the least.

    What issues do you struggle with in your ministry to children? What do you do to compensate for the natural consequences of a well-done ministry? Share in the comments.

    It’s Friday. Time to let our hair down at CMMonthly and share some of the logos I’ve had the honor of doing for children’s ministers across the country.

    kings-kids-copy (1)

    powerhouse-site

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    kidzone-web 

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     logo_small

    I offer high-quality, low-cost art through my site DrawYouAPicture.com. If I can do anything for you, let me know.

    Before you dive into this post, you should first read Helping Kids Use Their Super Powers For Good, the post this post is a follow-up to.

    “Any practical suggestions for redirecting some of the “bad” powers toward Christ-centered purposes?  For example, my wife had a child who liked being the center of attention in music time, so she had him hold the poster-board with the lyrics.  He got to be up front (which he loved) and learned to serve the other kids at the same time! What do you do with the very active child to redirect his energy while in a group setting?” question submitted by reader Austin.

    Austin already has the right idea… or at least his wife does. 😉

    I don’t know if there is going to be a hard-set way to redirect every child’s ‘powers’. Every child is so unique and every situation requires a different approach. We can look at things from one step back though and give some suggestions to help folks come up with their own ways to harness and redirect our kid’s energies.

    1. Learn That Kid

    What makes them who they are? What kind of family-life do they have? How do they act at school? At home? Typically I’ve found that every challenging child has at least one environment that they thrive in. I find that area… study it to see why it’s working, and try to weave that into my program… or at least their part of the program. Is it the leader? The group dynamic? The discipline structure? Something is pulling the best from that child and I’m going to find out what it is and harness it for myself.

    2. Imagine Their Potential

    God has a plan for every person. A plan to prosper them and not to harm them. Every good and perfect Gift comes from God. God also works everything out for the good of those who love him. Knowing these things means that I must believe God has a plan for my kid. He has a set of gifts and talents that God wants to use. It’s my job to have a vision for each child that is shaped by what I know about how God feels toward his children. Every negative must be seen as a positive. I know that seems to make no sense… but God has a plan right? It may require a lot of prayer… but you must have a clear viision of what God possibly has in store for that child. We’re not talking about knowing exactly to the day what God will have them doing… but more of a view of the kind of person God created them to be.

    Once you have that vision, you can then…

    3. Provide An Atmosphere That Draws Them To Their Potential

    Our goal is not to make them be good… it’s to help them become like Christ. We’re not, no not never going to change a child with time-outs and conferences with parents. God will change a child’s heart when we provide situations where his intentions for their ‘powers’ are presented. When a child is allowed to be the Godly version of themselves, and they are accepted and loved… it will create an appetite for using their energies for more good. It’s a simple concept really. Most things concerning God really are simple… but simple doesn’t mean it’s not difficult.

    Practical Ideas On Redirecting Super Powers:

    • Active Kid – Add lots of music with full body motions to your time. Allow this child to lead on stage. Break your time into clear segments. Perhaps even moving around the room for different activities. Repeat expectations weekly and be consistent in enforcing them.
    • Talkative Kid – Include talk times in your program. Give this child a chance to tell others about their day. Maybe you start the class by asking kids to rate their week on a scale of 1-10 and then explain why. If you’re telling a bible story, involve this child as a narrator, or an actor to repeat lines you feed them in real-time. Be clear that there are times to be loud, and times to be quiet. Talk times are for talking, quiet times are for listening. Let the class know when it’s one or the other. This way the talkative child knows when they can let the words fly.
    • Quiet Kid – No one thinks about the quiet kids… but often times they’re disobeying as much as the loud kid… but they’re quiet so we don’t mind if they don’t participate. It’s okay to be an introvert, we’re not going to try to change their personality… but we are going to require a minimum amount of participation. You don’t have to sing, but you do need to stand. You don’t have to pray, but we do need a prayer request. Whatever it is make your expectations high… but your requirements low. That way this child feels more comfortable doing the requirement because they aren’t required to do the expected. Make sense? There are ways this child can contribute that they will be comfortable with. Maybe they draw, write, play, or like to share. Maybe talk to Mom and have their pet visit the class. This will make them the star of the show… but all the scary attention will be on the dog. So it’s all good.
    • Rambunctious Kid – You know that boy who always ends up fighting because he plays so rough? Yeah, that kid. God gave him toughness and boldness. Help him by giving him some responsibility over some younger kids. You’ll be giving him the chance to feel big… but in a giant teddy bear sort of way. He’ll soon learn that God gave him his powers to protect others rather than damage them.
    • Joker Kid – The kid who isn’t bad… they just like to make everything funny. This kid needs attention. He does. He’s a performer. Help him, like Austin’s wife did, by providing positive experiences where he can have his 15 min’s of fame, but it’s not all about him. Doing service projects is a great way. Having a reward system in place that offers badges or other rewards that are given in a public setting in front of peers and parents. Some leaders might struggle with the urge to keep this child needy rather than fulfilling because it seems self-centered. If the church doesn’t fill it positively and absolutely, the world will be more than happy to do it for us.

    Do you feel unable to handle your own kids? Feeling under talented and over worked. Remember, God has given you your own set of Super Powers… ask him to reveal any secret powers and to enhance the ones you know about. And remember, he called YOU to these kids. Not because they’re easy… or because you’re perfect for the job… but because he needed your particular set of skills and your faithfulness and willingness to get the job done through you.

    postcard

    If you’re like me, finding the negative in your ministry is a lot easier than seeing the positive. It’s not that we can’t see the good… it’s just the things we’d like to see changed and improved are constantly in our faces where the positives are typically those things the are running smoothly and therefore more easily ignored. Yet another case of the urgent outweighing the important.

    It’s mandatory for folks like us to compensate for that by finding natural ways to see and glorify the positive. We can do that by finding a simple way to give some praise to the people in our programs who are making that happen.

    One of the things I’ve done in the past… and need to start doing again… is committing to write out and actually mail one postcard per week to someone that I noticed was going above and beyond. I had a bunch printed at Preferred Print with our logo… but it’s not the front of the card that matters. I’d write out a brief note on the back mentioning specifically what I caught them doing right during the last service, sign it, and mail that puppy out. The feedback was amazing. Folks would keep the card on their fridge for months and months.

    Not only is such a little thing a huge blessing to the person you’re praising, it will help you to look for (and find) the positive things that are happening all around you. Though it is important to walk around and look for things that need improving (thanks Jim Wideman) doing nothing but that can quickly make folks like me feel that there is nothing excellent going on and that everything is less than it should be. Even if that’s reality… even if it is true… there are still folks putting their hearts and souls into your ministry and they’re doing a lot of good along the way to where you all want to be.

    Recently I tossed the remainder of the cards because we updated our logos… kinda got out of the habit. Guess it’s time to submit another postcard order. I’m thinking about a design featuring my son…