Tag Archives: tips

Altar Time Tips

If your church is big on doing altar times where people come to the front to pray, worship and be prayed for, then chances are your children’s ministry is too. Even if they’re not a regular occurrence, at Kids Camp usually they are. For some of us knowing what to do, say or pray can be a little unnerving. And even if we’re comfortable in the setting, that doesn’t mean our volunteers or youth helpers are.

As someone who started as a nervous, less than eager,  altar time participant myself… here are some things I’ve picked up that may help you, or help those you are training.

Kids will come forward for anything

If you play the right music, dim the lights and say the right words you could have an altar call for kids to ask the Easter Bunny in their hearts and you’d still get a good turn out. I mean, who wouldn’t want the Easter Bunny!! Silly, yes… but important. Important because I truly believe that an altar call is all but useless to those who don’t understand what they’re doing. Some could say it’s good practice… but I disagree. I think that’s most of the troubles we have with our kids and spirituality. It’s rehearsed, practiced. They’ve learned how to look like it’s doing what we want it to do for them… and some of them keep up the act till they turn (if they last that long) 18… then they’re gone. That being said…

Most of the kids who come down have a real purpose

There are a lot of tears at a good altar call. Some kids may come down because they’re doing what is expected… but there are a good bunch who come down because they want something from God. They have a purpose for being there… but it may not be the purpose you made the call for.

It’s important to find out why they’re there

I always ask a kid why they came down. If they don’t know, I pray with them and usually direct them back to their seat. It’s not time for them yet. When they do know, and let me know, it helps me pray for them. Yes, God knows… and it doesn’t matter if I know or not… but I believe that in that situation we’re God’s hands and we can be his Voice. I remember loving it when an adult who knew me and my situation would pray specifically for me. On the other hand I can say that I wasn’t thrilled about being prayed over (and breathed on) by the ‘guy who prays for everyone’ dude. More importantly than me knowing… it’s important for them to know. It helps them focus their mind so they can focus on what they need from God.

Find out why they’re crying

If you’ve got a little girl who’s bawling her eyes out… it can be tough to know if they’re being blessed, if they’re missing momma, or if they’re reliving some horrible tragedy from their past. So when I see that child, I always make a point to go to them and ask a simple question, “Happy cry or Sad cry?” If they say ‘happy’ then I just praise God with them. If they say ‘sad’ then it’s time to help them talk it through. Altar times are great… but they can tear the Band-Aid off a broken heart quicker than anything… and we’ve got to be discerning enough to not walk past a child who is broken and assume they’re being blessed.

Thank God… It’s not about us

It can be a little daunting to be there for a hurting child… knowing what to say or not say. Am I talking to much… not enough? Do I have to have all the answers? Can I mess up in a way that will make this child worse? I’ll say it again… Thank God it’s not about us. I believe this… if our hearts are dead set on pleasing God and helping kids… just pure Godly intentionality… it’s going to be hard to mess up. I’ve found that kids aren’t looking for the perfect answer anyway… they’re looking for someone to talk to. They just want to get it out. They want to hear that God knows… and loves them… and WILL help them. Most of the issues I pray with kids about revolve around family issues. When the situation is bad enough… I just remind them that though they have no control over their current family life… they have every bit of control in the world over they family they choose for their own kids. You can give purpose to their pain if you help them to learn from other’s mistakes instead of repeating them.

Don’t be afraid to reel in a weird-o

You know who I’m talking about. That one guy or gal who just loves to wale and spit and spew and shake your kids till they ‘get the spirit’ or fall over. They have the best intentions (most of the time) but they often can get over zealous and actually do more harm than good. I can’t tell you how many teens I’ve talked to who have left the church because one of these guys got a hold of them. Putting a stop to such things takes guts… and it’s embarrassing for both parties… but it’s the right and responsible thing to do. Better to hurt the feelings of an adult (and in the process, disciple them) than to turn a child off to the things of God forever. I do not believe that spiritual people lose control of their own actions.

The time your children spend with their God is powerful and needs to be protected and shepherded. I hope this article has been a help. If so, or if you have any tips you’ve picked up that will help our readers… post them in the comments.

How To Use RSS Feeds To Read Blogs

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!

Struggling With Parents

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.

Practical Ways To Redirect A Child’s “Super Powers”

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.