Monthly Archives: August 2009

5 Super Simple Ways To Bless The Socks Off Your Kids


5. Remember their name.

For me, this is a huge problem. I’m terrible with names across the board. I carry my drivers license so I can prove who I am… to myself. Nametags are great… but learning the names of your kids (other than the ‘bad’ ones) is huge. Remembering them after their out of children’s ministry is even better.

4. Tell on them to their parents when they’ve been extra good.

Sometimes in the chaos of a Sunday good behavior can be taken for granted. The last thing we want is our parents to start rolling their eyes when we approach them. Start telling on your kids when they’ve been caught being good. It’ll help you stay positive and the kids will love you for it.

3. Eat lunch with them at school and meet their Teacher(s).

With permission from a parent or guardian I have never had a problem getting in to eat lunch with one of my kids. I usually show up a bit early so I can meet the Teacher, see the classroom and most importantly, their own desk. This is especially good for your ‘bad’ kids. You might be surprised how good they are in school… or how they’ve improved since Kindergarten.

2. Get yourself invited to eat dinner at their home.

This is easy. Just ask the kids to bug their parents. You’ll get invites! It’s an excellent way to get into a family’s life. Have mom and the child give you a tour of the home and see the kid’s room. Remember a few things and mention them from the stage the next week. Watch their face.

1. Call them on their birthday.

A postcard is great… but a phone call on the day (or even the week) of their birthday has a greater effect on children and families than any other single thing I have ever done. If you have a small group, you’re probably looking at 2-6 calls a month. Put them in your planner and remember to check. Make weekend calls on Friday. Make Sunday calls in person with hug.

Expected & Rewardable Behavior: When to Reward a Child’s Good Behavior and When Not To

Natural Rewards & Consequences

Children, at their core, are simple creatures. They’re not so different from us. Behavior that has benefits to them is repeated. Behavior that has negative consequences are not. Two simple categories right? Yes… but they both apply in two ways. Let me break it down like this:

  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring benefits will be repeated.
  • Good behaviors that have naturally occurring (seemingly) negative consequences will not be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring benefit will be repeated.
  • Bad behaviors that have a naturally occurring negative consequences will not be repeated.

Basically I’m trying to point out that some good behaviors are their own reward… other good behaviors are not. Some, like cleaning a room, have built-in benefits. Others, like telling the truth, can seem to have consequences rather than rewards for our kids. Our goal as proper disciplinarians is to exaggerate the benefits of good behavior and the consequences of the bad. This becomes especially important when life seems to reward the bad and punish the good. Parents are wise when they provide incentives for children to choose the right over the wrong in spite of naturally occurring consequences.

Rewardable Behavior & Expected Behavior

If you’ve read any of my other articles on Proper Discipline then you know that I believe in setting Minimum Standards for your Child. Minimum standards help you to be consistent when discouraging unwanted behavior. On the other end of the spectrum is what I would call Expectations. Expectations is a fair and achievable set of goals we set for our children’s behavior.

Have a look at the diagram below:


Anything between your Minimum Requirements and your Expectations is Expected or Good Behavior. Note that even the color of the background has a purpose. Expected behavior is not Perfect Behavior. Children are still allowed to have moods, bad hair days and etc… as long as they don’t drop below our Minimum Requirements. Anything above our Expectations is Rewardable Behavior… and anything that drops blow our Minimum Requirements is punishable. I keep this diagram as a mental image in my mind when dealing with my children. Placing a mental pin on based on their current behavior helps me know what my reaction should be.

Practical Application Time

Enough theory… let’s put this into practice. There was a time that my daughter got a Skittle every time she went potty. Back in the day going potty was an action that rose above her expected behavior at the time since she was still wearing diapers. Once that behavior became standard and expected, the reward was removed. I’m not going to be giving her Skittles for the rest of her life! That girl goes so much she’d be bigger than me by now!

I also don’t reward her for keeping her room clean. It’s expected behavior and it has it’s own reward. She loves her room once it’s clean. She’s learning to put things away faster so she can enjoy it once she’s done. Currently there are rewards for eating or at least trying certain foods. My girl is a very picky eater… and though we don’t make her eat things she outright doesn’t like… we insist that she tries one bite each time we have it. Our Minimum Requirement is that she eat at least one bite. Our Expectation (or Goal) is that she will develop a taste eventually and eat it all. She is praised verbally when she tries the food, and she has gotten better at it, but we save dessert for when she eats a fair bit or all. Recently she finally decided she liked mashed potatoes (told you she was picky) and she was rewarded.


  • Some behaviors have their own rewards and consequences.
  • Parents need to make sure good behaviors are rewarding and bad behaviors have consequences especially when life rewards bad behavior or punishes good.
  • Expected behavior is appreciated but not rewarded.
  • Rewardable behavior is that which exceeds your expectations at the time.
  • Today’s Rewardable Behavior is tomorrow’s Expected Behavior.

If this made any sense at all… or if you have questions… please post them in the comments. If there are ever any more specific questions I can answer concerning discipline, please email me at

Four Things I Need To Remember About Dealing With Angry, Manipulative Parents


Last night was a trying evening for me. Most of the parents we serve a awesome, grateful and accommodating… but the mom I dealt with last night was none of those. I don’t know what got to me most… her behavior or the way I responded to it.

In a nutshell, she had three children. One was nursery age. The Nursery was full so she tried to sneak her newly-turned three year old into an older class without checking in. I stepped in and corrected the situation. Mom was angry and started talking trash.

Here are some things I learned that will help me deal with this type of person in the future.

1. You can’t reason with them.

They know what they want. They want to be rid of their child. This type of person wouldn’t care if they were dropping their child off at a homeless shelter… they just want what they want. Don’t waste your time trying to appease them if you can’t give them what they want. Just like a troll on a forum, it just gives them more of a platform to spew anger.

2. Trust your policies and procedures.

These folks will lie… they will tell you their way had been done before… that everything was fine last time… that you told them such-in-such. Though you’ll want to believe them… trust your people. Trust that they followed the policies and procedures until you’ve spoken to them and learned otherwise. Do not assume your volunteers have disregarded everything you’ve taught them just because one person says differently.

3. You can’t serve everyone.

I have a huge heart for people. I hate it when I’m put in the place of looking like a bad guy… but that’s not my role unless someone is behaving in a way that forces me to squash that behavior. My ministry has the potential of being a great resource and help to families… but if someone is unwilling to follow simple, basic policies… they are rejecting all of that. The part that kills me is that they don’t even know what they’re missing. I understand that people have issues… but Children’s ministry functions within a set of rules. Those rules are not just for fun… they’re for the protection of the folks we’re ministering to… and those who are ministering. When we have someone who can’t do the basics of following procedure… well, there are plenty of churches out there who have more heart than sense… they can go to church there.

4. Did they have a point?

After all of the drama and bad behavior I still need to ask myself… Did they have a point? Was there something we missed? If I don’t ask that question and attempt to answer it seriously, I risk being a ministry who believes they have ‘arrived’. We always have room to grow and improve. In this case I realized that if we’d simply had enough workers in the Nursery, there would have been no issue at all. I understand at least part of the frustration my parent felt.

What would you add to this list? Share you insights in the comments.

Inflate-A-Set… A Genius Solution For The Space-Challenged


I met a few friend from Daytona Beach, Florida yesterday. He’s a Children’s Pastor with a lot of creativity… but not a lot of space. He shares his children’s ministry room with other ministries just like I do. He got tired of moving heavy sets each week and decided to do something about it.

The product of that need was something he calls Inflate-A-Set. It’s a super portable, light weight set frame that inflates like a moon walk but works like a rear screen and puppet stage.

I’m going to be saving my pennies to get me one. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for!

They’ve just got a business card style site up for now… but it’ll give you something to look at.


How A Family Handles Major Life Changes


Change is the name of the game around here at my house. I’ll wait to reveal what those changes are until after they have taken effect… but in the mean time just know that they are potentially good changes… but life altering.

Since my mind was on change in the context of family, I thought I’d write up a post on some of the steps Jenn and I have taken, between the two of us… and our children.

1. We’ve talked out everything… over and over… again and again.

Change is scary. It pushes all of your buttons. When the change is life altering, it can easily affect your security, relationship, stress level, moods and stress level. It’s important for couples to share those feelings. We found that we were sharing a lot of the same feelings.

We’re not just talking about feelings though… there are a lot of potentially scary choices to be made when change happens. It’s important to hear one another out when considering your options. Two are better than one and a marriage comes with a different perspective built right in.

We men like to talk things through once. We set our mind toward a goal and start heading that way. It’s already done in our minds… but my wife isn’t like me. She seems to forget the big picture and wants to go through it all again. She wants to know that everything’s still okay… and that things are still going the way we wanted them to go. This isn’t weakness… it’s balance. Someone needs to see the forest… and someone else needs to watch out out for the trees.

2. We’re in total agreement… about everything.

It’s always been a thing with us… we don’t make any major life changes without both of us ‘feeling’ it. It’s mandatory in our family. Even if I’m totally sold on something… if I don’t have her support… I don’t even try it. Why? Because even if I’m right… but I don’t have her beside me… it will fail anyway. The ends do not justify the means.

I truly believe that God even thinks this is a good idea. Our past is full of choices that we made in unity that I know were His will for us. We’ve NEVER made a bad choice together. Never… except our 2nd child. 😉

3. We’re moving slow.

A wise man once told me, “You’ll always miss God[‘s Will] going too fast… but you’ll never miss Him going too slow.” Once we’ve made our decisions we always make a commitment to take things very slowly. This gives God plenty of time to talk to us and  redirect us if He needs to. We also commit to never making a single choice that we can’t instantly un-make if He calls us to. It’s just how we roll. I can’t see my own future… but God is there. We trust him to lead us.

4. We’re putting one another first.

Change is typically done to improve things for everyone involved… but not always. Sometimes the change benefits one over the other. In a marriage that should never matter. True love doesn’t keep score. It is not selfish. It puts the needs of the other before their own. Even without the Bible stuff it just makes sense… when you keep your spouse happy… it makes your life better.

5. We’re not telling the kids.

Though our children are a huge consideration in anything that we do… they are not a part of the decision making process itself. Granted, they’re 4 and 1 years of age… but even if they were teens… the job of directing this family lies in our hands.

As it is, since they are so young, we’re just going to trust steps 1-4 to gently carry them through the transition. Plus, if they don’t have the ability to understand something… it’s not for them to know yet. All it will do is unlock parts of their mind that they should be having to deal with until their older anyway.

If you follow the podcast and the blog… then I  know you’re dying to know what the deal is. So are we… but in the mean time just know that it’s good stuff… but we still need to be careful. Keep us in your prayers.

Set Minimum Behavior Standards For Your Child

Every parent has goals for their children. Not just goals for the future… but what we want from them now. Most of us have a mental picture of what we expect from our children. A list of unwritten rules and expectations that we constantly refer to and use to help judge their behavior by.

The problem with this ‘picture’ is that it typically changes depending on our mood, our location or situation. When we’re short tempered we can be too nit-picky and when we’re happy, it’s sometimes easier to let things slide that we shouldn’t. If you’re a person who’s prone to being hot-tempered, like most men I know, we sometimes won’t discipline because we can’t trust ourselves to be good judges of behavior because we’re over reactors.

One way to overcome all of these issues is to set minimum requirements for your child’s behavior.  Minimum requirements are the least amount of behavior that you will stand for in any situation.  When you set minimum requirements it doesn’t matter what your mood is.  Whether you’re in a good or bad mood, if your child steps below those minimum requirements you know you have to step in and correct the behavior.  This is especially good for those who don’t trust themselves to be consistent in discipline.

For example, my expectations for bedtime for my four year old daughter is for her to brush her teeth, brush out her hair, no whining, no complaining, and 9:00 PM bedtime.  Anything less than this behavior needs to be corrected.  This is the case whether I’m in a good or bad mood.  My minimum requirements for dinner are different.  She eats the same thing we’re having, she doesn’t have to eat it all but she must taste everything at least once.  She can’t take forever to eat and no complaining.  Any behavior less than those requirements gets corrected.

Of course my standards are higher.  My expectations for are much higher.  I expect more than the minimum but anything above the minimum doesn’t mean to be corrected.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be rewarded either…  But we’ll talk about rewards another time.

So setting minimum requirements for church, home, extracurricular activities, school, chores and whatever else can be a great guide for parents.  They help us know when to step in and help kids to change inappropriate behavior before it becomes bad behavior.  Think of it like a pain of a candle flame that causes you to pull your hand back from the pain that keeps you from burning your hand off.  It’s uncomfortable, but better than the alternative.

In future posts will talk about rewardable behavior and expected behavior.  Battle of the teacher comments and feedback on setting minimum behavior standards or any other discipline topic in the comments below.

Children’s Ministry Raw


This weekend we recorded our JAM City children’s church service using four cameras and an portable audio recorder. I spent most of Sunday afternoon and all day Monday putting it all together and editing it down. The result is a 56 minute video cut into 10 minute segments available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube.

No set. No fancy lighting. No amazing costumed characters. Just a bunch of passion and a great group of kids (it was a ‘rain Sunday’ so not even a large group of kids). 😉

I’ve edited out a lot of our more fun segments to focus on the ministry portions… but I plan to make those available as separate clips shortly. Stuff your missing is: Rules & Regs, Jumps, Offering, Praise & Worship, and Game Time.

If you have any questions about anything you see in the video… leave a comment below and I’ll get right back to you.

Link: JAM City Children’s Church Video


I’m a big fan of If you’re not familiar, it’s a site with one item for sale each day at a great price. They have a set amount for sale, and when it’s gone it’s gone. I’ve probably spent more money over at over the years though… same concept except with t-shirts.

As of this morning at 12:00am they’ve launched a brand new spin on the theme: Every day we can expect great deals on gadgets, games and toys for children. Even has gotten into the spirit by selling a fort making kit.

I know I’ve got this added to my bookmarks. I would imagine any children’s pastor looking for great prizes for special events would find it in their best interest to check it out daily.

I wonder if will do their own version of the BOC?


Free Game Show Controls

I found a page full of free Game Show apps for use on computers for children’s ministry. The games include 25,000 Pyramid, Sale of the Century, Deal or no Deal, Family Feud, Press Your Luck, Blockbusters, Countdown, Wheel, Match Game, 1 vs 100, Million Dollar Password, Scrabble and more.

There is even a Deal or No Deal Banker’s Offer Calculator

Free Game Show Controls

What Is Proper Discipline?


Discipline used to be a dirty word to me. It still has a sting to it. I had a hardcore ex-military step-father who loved to throw it around while he rampaged around the house demanding perfect order. His demands on us changed moment by moment based on his moods. A good mood meant we could be ourselves, even careless and carefree with our behavior. A bad mood meant we wished we didn’t even exist enough to leave a footprint in the carpet. This wasn’t proper discipline.

When it was time to have my own children, I was outright scared. I was terrified that I wouldn’t know how to bring up my children properly. Don’t we learn from the example? Don’t the statistics say we tend to repeat the bad traits of our own parents? I didn’t want to… but was I doomed to put my children through the same tortures I endured? That was when learning proper discipline became very important to me.

Discipline is more than “getting onto” kids, correcting them, spankings and time-outs. Discipline done right is just another word for Discipling, literally making your child into a follower of your example… a disciple. Therefore…

Proper discipline is achieved when we provide a relationship of love and consistency where children are shown the consequences of sin and the benefits of obedience.

Proper discipline starts with love.

We all love our kids… but love isn’t all hugs and kisses. Love holds a child down while they get their shots… because it’s good for them. Love exposes a child to food they don’t originally like. Love forces a child to focus on things they don’t have much interest in like homework or cleaning their room. Love is also patient and kind. It is not rude, self-centered or easily angered. Proper discipline starts with proper love.

Proper discipline is consistent and predictable.

When children think about crossing the line… they need to know even before they do it what is coming. Your response shouldn’t be based on mood or circumstance. We achieve consistency by having a vision for who we want our child to be, being patient and selfless, and having a set of expectations and basic rules established ahead of time. When children experience the same discomfort when they make mistakes and the same encouragement when they make good choices… they will move away from one and toward the other. This is greatly enhanced when they see the principals you set for them lived out in your own life.

Proper Discipline has consequences for bad choices.

When a child steps over the line, it needs to be uncomfortable for them. The consequences of the transgression need to outweigh the benefits. A child may want to loose their temper because it feels good to get so angry… but if the consequences of the behavior are severe enough, they will choose good behavior because it’s not worth it. What are those consequences? That’s where knowing your own child comes into play. Some parents use time-outs, some spank, some use isolation or loss of benefits. It’s all about what works best with the smallest effort from you… and doing it consistently.

Proper Discipline has benefits and encouragement for good choices.

This is the part most old school disciplinarians don’t get. It’s not enough to discourage bad behavior, you’ve got to encourage good behavior. Focusing only on the bad only teaches a child to not get caught. Focusing only on the good creates a child who believes they are entitled and can do no wrong. It’s only in the balance of both do we see the results we want. I don’t believe you have to reward every bit of good behavior… but encouragement is free and should be given liberally. It’s easy to catch a child being bad… we almost look for badness by default. I try to catch my daughter being good too. If I see her share her snack with her brother… I’m going to brag on her to her mom so she can hear. They like hearing you talk about them a lot more anyway. 🙂

More on consequences and rewards in future posts.

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