Communicating So Kids WANT To Listen (FREE VIDEO LESSON )

I am super pumped to share this FREE video lesson with you!  How would you like to learn some of the great principles and practices used by some of the most dynamic and effective communicators?

Well, now you can!  In this video, I share some of the best tips and practices that I have learned in my 25 years of Kids Ministry!  It’s a FREE video lesson from my Online Video Course called: “ACCELERATE: Boosting Your Ministry Effectiveness.”

 

Here’s the FREE VIDEO LESSON:

Want MORE helpful videos like this?  You can find them in my  Online Video Course I just created:

“ACCELERATE: Boosting Your Ministry Effectiveness.”

Every lesson comes with video teaching, slide decks, outline, worksheet, audio file, Keynote/PowerPoint so you can teach it to YOUR team!  Check it out HERE!  Available for a limited time!

This Is Why Real Success Often Feels Like Ultimate Failure

If you’ve ever failed, then be of good cheer…you are just like Elijah!

Think with me for a second back to 1 Kings 18. Elijah and King Ahab are atop Mount Carmel. The prophets of Baal are facing off against Elijah to decide once and for all whose god has ultimate power.

The prophets of Baal make utter fools of themselves, spending nearly the entire day doing everything they can think of to get Baal to act in their favor. Of course, Baal isn’t real, so nothing happens.

Elijah then steps up to take his turn. He has a truckload of water dumped on his altar. And then, after praying, the Almighty God sends down fire to consume Elijah’s well-soaked sacrifice.

But as the prophet of God descends the mountain and continues his journey, he becomes incredibly…discouraged.

1 Kings 19:10 is where Elijah vents his frustration before the Lord. He says that despite all his service, and despite the decisive victory on Mount Carmel, the people still haven’t turned from their evil ways. And now Elijah himself is a wanted man!

Elijah feels like a failure. All of his work has been in vain!

But do you remember what happens next?

God takes him up another mountain to show Elijah, and I believe to show us, what the work of God often looks like.

Elijah experiences a mighty wind, an earthquake, and a fire. All of which the Lord was not in.

You probably know it well…

The Lord was there in “…the sound of a gentle whisper”.

God wasn’t going to transform the hearts of Israel through a miraculous display as Elijah might have thought. Rather, God’s work was going to be done in the still small voice the Almighty uses to speak to the human heart. 

This runs contrary to what we all want. We want big attendance, and lots of decisions made, and life-changing experiences all around. I think, too often, we anticipate God is about to work when our effort is peaking…when we’ve gone as ‘big’ as we can.

But as God was teaching Elijah, I think He also teaches us.

God’s work isn’t always most visible in the spectacular moments we orchestrate. Rather, He’s working in a whisper to turn hearts toward Him.

So the next time you think you’ve failed, the next time your big event doesn’t seem to generate the response you’d hoped for, remember Elijah. God is always at work, but often He chooses to do His best work…in a whisper.

This is a guest post by our good friends over at BetterBibleTeachers.com

Justin Graves Band Provides Fun Music For The Whole Family

JGB

I am so excited to introduce you to some friends of mine!  I met Justin, Michelle, and Gabi at a Kidmin Conference in Tennessee several years ago.  I was instantly drawn in by their infectious personalities, melodies, and love for the Lord!

Several months ago, Justin showed me some of the music they had been working on.  He also let me know that his family was expanding their ministry and had made a HUGE move recently.  As we talked, I felt strongly that I should share with my “blog family” all about Justin Graves Band and how YOU can be blessed by their ministry.

The Justin Graves band has a way of connecting with kids through fun, energetic music that teaches God’s Word.  When the JGB leads kids the first thing you MUST know about them is that is is NOT a performance.  They are interactive and intentional in the way they lead.  There is no show, nothing fancy…just true, honest praise and worship from the heart.  It is fun, real and filled with JOY!  Their hope is to encourage kids and families to be Strong and Courageous, always Trust in the Lord and tell them that they are a unique creation created by God for a purpose!

Check out this video below.  It will help you see the heart behind the ministry!  Then, head over to their website www.justingravesband.com and check out their music!  It’s perfect for church, home, or rides in the mini-van!  I hope you love JGB as much as I do.

“Fresh Prince Of Time Change” (parody of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”)

Fresh Prince Time Change

 

So many of you watched our other “Time Change Sunday” Parody Video (“Time Change Funk”) and asked, “Do you have more?” Well, yes we do!  Here is a great parody of the TV theme song, “Fresh Prince Of Time Change” by Will Smith.  This one stars one of my best friends, Shelby.  You’re gonna love this hilarious video that reminds everyone to Spring Forward on Time Change Sunday! Enjoy!

 

Most Popular Posts Of 2015

2015 leaving

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 is almost over.  What a year it has been.  I am so honored that you choose to share some of your precious time with me as we journey together.  Each person who reads this blog is committed to reaching the next generation with the message of Jesus in the most powerful and effective way we can.

I took some time to check out which of my posts were the most popular in 2015.  It was a banner year for this blog as we added thousands of new followers (and closing in on 30,000 total – crazy!).  Here are the TOP FIVE posts from 2015.

#1 Post of 2015:  “Are You Teaching Your Kids A False Gospel?”

#2 Post of 2015:  “A Children’s Pastor’s Response To The Supreme Court Ruling”

#3 Post of 2015:  “Parents Allow Four Year Old Boy To Become A Girl”

#4 Post of 2015:  “All About Time Change (Parody of ‘All About That Bass’)”

#5 Post of 2015:  “T.H.I.N.K. Before You Tweet”

Thanks to YOU!  You are the ones who “voted” by visiting and sharing these posts.  Continue to help spread the word.  Feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you can!  God bless, and Happy New Year!  I can’t wait to see what God does in 2016!

I would love to hear from you!  What topics would YOU like me to cover in 2016?  Leave a comment here!  I will choose one comment at random to win a $100 Shopping Spree on our High Voltage Kids Ministry store (deadline is January 2, 2016)!

An Illustrated Advent: Engaging Activities for the Season

Today’s post is a guest post by my friend, Adam Walker Cleaveland.  Adam is a pastor, artist and blogger. He lives in Chicago with his wife (also a pastor) and their almost–4-year old son, Caleb. You can find Adam online at awcillustrations.com or adamwc.com.

After working with children and youth for over twelves years in four different churches, I was beginning to feel called out of parish ministry and into something new – something different. Around that same time, I began to rediscover my childhood love of art, drawing and watercolors. It had been probably twenty years since I’d sat down with pen and paper and spent time drawing.

Illustrated Children’s Moments began when I started drawing illustrations to give kids during children’s sermons/moments at the church I was serving as associate pastor. Kids really connected with the style of my sketches, and parents told me that their kids were bringing up the stories throughout the week – more than they normally would. You can see some examples of the types of illustrations I create for this use here, or check out the images below:

EXAMPLES

A few months ago, I began to wonder how I could create something for churches and families to use during Advent, that would help bridge the gap between church and home. Everyone who does done work in children or youth ministry know that the bulk of spiritual formation that happens for kids really happens at home. Parents obviously spend much more time with their kids than children’s ministry volunteers, and so however pastors and churches can support families in that role is crucial.

On November 16, I’m going to be launching An Illustrated Advent: Engaging Activities for the Season. There will be two editions: the Church Edition and the Family Edition. There will be some overlap between content, but they are meant to be used together. A church might use some of the activities during worship or their Sunday School programs, and then kids would have other activities throughout the week at home to do with their families.

I’ve also created a series of Advent coloring sheets that are designed to be used for each of the four weeks of Advent (Hope, Joy, Peace and Love). I decided to enlarge one to 4’ x 3’ and my 4 year old son took it to his preschool Sunday School class at church a few weeks ago, and the kids all had a blast coloring on it.

Coloring

 

Sheets

My hope is that through this new venture, I can create original and fun artwork that will appeal to young children, and provide ways to support parents trying to find ways to continue the spiritual formation in their homes.

The best way to stay updated with everything is to join the email newsletter list at Illustrated Children’s Ministry. If you sign up – you will receive five free illustrations so you can get a sense of the style and how you might use them at church, home or school. You can sign up here.

Adam Walker Cleaveland is a pastor, artist and blogger. He lives in Chicago with his wife (also a pastor) and their almost–4-year old son, Caleb. You can find Adam online at awcillustrations.com or adamwc.com.

3 Practical Keys That Will Transform Your Kids Church Experience

SLAM Stage

As Kids Ministry leaders, it’s our passion to help children become life-long followers of Jesus.  It’s about getting kids excited about the Word of God.  After being in kids ministry for over 23 years, I’ve also developed a passion to equip other teachers to present God’s word with excellence so that it leaves a lasting imprint on the minds and spirits of the children we minister to.  In order to do so, we need to work with a curriculum that holds keys to unlock doors of opportunity to create a transformational kids church experience.

The big question is: What makes kids church curriculum effective?

As the creator of High Voltage Kids Curriculum I have discovered 3 incredible keys which create that irresistible environment for children.  Over 5000 churches are already experiencing the impact of the principles that I am about to share with you:

Key 1:  Have an interactive approach to teaching

Over the years I have discovered that that number one thing that will help to effectively communicate the Gospel to kids, and to get them really engaged, is to have an interactive approach to teaching.  Many times we have the “lecture thing” going on where we have a teacher stand in front of the class simply “sharing stuff.”  The kids are simply “watching” the teacher and lack real engagement with the content that is being shared.  They often seem disconnected at best.

Studies show that if you just “watch,” you retain 10% of what is being communicated.  If you hear and see at the same time, that number can rise all the way up to 40% retention.  However, if we are able to get the child physically involved in action, they are going to remember 90% of what is being communicated.  Now, there are various ways to accomplish that level of engagement.  At High Voltage Kids we’ve added several components in our curriculum that stimulate this type of interaction.  From the “Watt’s Up?” segment to the “Power Verse” segment to the “Brain Drain” game, we have purposefully incorporated interactive elements to keep your kids engaged.

Key 2:  Never let “media” take your place as the minister in the room

Technology is great.  It’s all around us.  It’s the language that is spoken by our kids.  It’s the environment that they are growing up in.  So, obviously you’re going to need to have media integrated into your lesson plan.  Whether through video, games, or interactive online environments, it doesn’t matter.  Media is an important aspect that will contribute to effectively communicating the subject matter.  However media should NEVER overtake the role of the kids pastor or class teacher.  I know it’s never our intention to have that happen, however there is a real danger of that happening anyway.

Many times, because it the current thing to do, media is the dominant driver of kids church.  I personally believe that’s a wrong approach.  Nothing can take your place as the leader and minister in the room.  Whatever you do through media should enhance what you as a leader and minister are doing, not replace what you are doing.

Key 3: Always take the lesson beyond the Sunday experience

Taking the lesson outside of the classroom and beyond the Sunday morning experience is crucial.  As Kids Ministry Leaders, we have most kids for about one hour a week.  If a kid has perfect attendance, throughout the year, you’ll have them for a total of 52 hours in one year.  We all know that perfect attendance is really an illusion.  It simply doesn’t happen. So, the reality is that you are only having your kids in your classroom for a very limited time.  When you add up those hours, you are lucky to maybe have the ability to minister and impact a kid for only 2 full days (48 hrs) of the 365 days that a year has to offer.  Understanding this limitation forces us to think bigger and bolder.  It’s crucial that we integrate tools that allow kids to take the Sunday experience with them, into the week and into their homes, so they can experience the impact as part of their everyday family life.

At High Voltage Kids we’ve developed curriculum based on these discovered keys.

Because of that, we can facilitate an environment that creates transformational experiences for our kids.  Whether you choose to use High Voltage Kids Curriculum or materials from another publisher, it really doesn’t matter.  As long as we understand these important keys, we can unlock the hearts of the children that we’ve been entrusted with and give them the experience they need to develop a strong relationship with their Father.

If you are interested in learning more about High Voltage Kids Digital, I’ve created a promo video that will explain some of the incredible value that our online membership has to offer.  It explains how you can experience the power of High Voltage Kids year around for one amazing low price.  HURRY though!  The enrollment window into this membership closes September 15th and won’t open up again until February 2016.  Check it out:

Incredible Innovation In Kids Ministry Staging And Sets

inflateaset

Sharing space with Youth Ministry or a School?  Tired of the grind of having to spend hours setting up and tearing down your Kidmin set pieces?  My great friend, Steve Hogue, has patented an UNBELIEVABLE and life-changing idea just for YOU!

It’s called the “Inflate-A-Set”, and it is incredible!  The idea was born out of Steve’s own plight of having to share space with other ministries within the church and taking too much time to set up and tear down.  He began with children’s church in the school’s gymnasium, which is also the chapel room, which is also where youth church meets on Wed. nights.  Set up and tear down, setup and tear down…maybe you can relate!

Steve’s challenge turned into an inspiration…a true God-design!  God literally downloaded plans for a children’s church set that could “blow up” (ok, so “inflate” is probably a better word).   Simply attach a 1 horse blower and you have a cool backdrop, with a puppet stage or doorway and a place for a rear-projection screen!  Set up and break down is less than 10 minutes! 

This innovative, patented design has not only helped his ministry, but is saving time, energy and money for many churches across America!  Inflate-A-Set officially went on the market in August 2009 and is creating a  lot of buzz.   Inflatable sets are durable, versatile, affordable, and portable!

Check out this video which shows how easy it is to set up:

When I personally saw the Inflate-a-set for the first time, I KNEW it was perfect for Church Plants.  So, my church bought one for a church plant that we wanted to invest in.  They have used it for years and are THRILLED with it.  Want more info?  CLICK HERE to visit Steve’s website and find out how amazing Inflate-A-Set really is.  I have seen it in action and was BLOWN AWAY!

Are You Teaching Your Kids A False Gospel?

Phil Vischer - Vantage

I am at Awana’s “Vantage Conference” and had the privilege of listening to a legend of Children’s Ministry, Phil Vischer (creator of Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible?).  Phil told a story that gripped my heart.

Ted Turner (media mogul and founder of CNN & TBS) is an outspoken critic of Christianity.  Most people know this.  In 1990, speaking before the American Humanist Association, Turner proclaimed that “Christianity is for losers”…and this isn’t nearly the most provocative thing he has said about Christians.  Many know this about Turner, but not many know the story behind his anti-religous sentiment.

Ted Turner dreamed of being a missionary when he was a child.  His sister suffered from Lupus. When she died, it shook his faith profoundly. He couldn’t understand why a loving God would allow an innocent person to suffer. “What had she done wrong? Why did this happen to her? Christianity didn’t give me any answers to that.”

Ted Turner had been taught a simple form of the Gospel that many of us have been guilty of teaching our kids.  “We serve a gentle, loving God. If we act right and do what pleases Him, He will take care of us and prevent us from suffering.”  That is it.  End of story.  But, that’s NOT the real Gospel.

Phil Vischer spoke to each of us plainly and directly.  He said that we have to ask ourselves the same question he had to ask HIMSELF after ten years of making Veggie Tales.  “Did I just spend ten years trying to persuade kids to behave “Christian-ly” without teaching the kids Christianity?”

Phil walked through the three things that we SHOULD be doing a better job with our children:

  • Understanding the Story they are in
  • Understanding the Bad News of that Story
  • Understanding the Good News of that Story

Phil understands that the large concepts of sin, redemption, sanctification, and judgement are difficult to explain to children.  But, kids understand STORY.  “Narrative structure is what we build to find meaning to the events of our lives. Kids instinctively ‘connect the dots’ in their lives.”  So, he came up with an overarching narrative to help explain kids the story of Christianity…

The Story They Are In:  THE BROKEN AMUSEMENT PARK

The world is a broken amusement park.  God created this amazing world with all of its wonders.  He created it to be a wonderful place of enjoyment for mankind and all of the creatures.  It’s a giant amusement park.  Now, modern amusement parks are run by computers.  The computers tell the rides what to do, the lights when to come on and go off, etc.

Imagine a virus in the operating system of the computers that run all of the rides and attractions. It now isn’t functioning as it was intended to function.  The “Dumbo ride” dumps kids on the ground, the lights go off in the middle of a show.  The virus is wreaking havoc on the systems of the amusement park.  Sin is the virus. It has infected ALL of us.  It has infected the world itself – and the world is SICK.

The Bible is the story of why the world is the way it is and what God is doing to fix it.  Our role is – “We are the Red Cross. We are the ones who can explain why things are the way we are.”  When someone gets dumped out of the Dumbo ride, we should be the first ones there to help them, explain to them WHY, and help point them in the right direction.  This is a story that kids can relate to – and helps them understand the overarching story they are in.

The Bad News Of That Story:

Sin is hard to explain.  But, that doesn’t mean we ignore that part of the story.  It is CRUCIAL.  If kids don’t understand what Sin is, they will NEVER understand who Jesus is or why He came.

Now, Phil isn’t suggesting that we walk into the 3 year old class and proclaim the dangers of SIN.  The topic of sin and judgement is not EVERY age appropriate.  Before they hear about a God that is a judge who is angry and wrathful, kids need to hear about a God who is loving and forgiving.

That’s why Phil makes sin visual.  It’s a virus.  Adam and Eve can’t be with God because SIN can’t be with God.  Suddenly, the world is not perfect anymore. Thus, the BROKEN amusement park.

We can’t shy away from the BAD NEWS.  Until you understand the problem, none of the rest of the Bible makes any sense!!!

The Good News Of That Story:

God doesn’t want to leave us like this.  He wants to save us. He wants to save us from:

  • The STAIN of sinkeeps us from God (God wants to clean us)
  • The POWER of sinkeeps us doing the same thing over and over again (the more we listen to the whispers, the louder it gets) this is remedied by Sanctification
  • The PRESENCE of sinwe still live in a world that is drowning in sin.  The effects of sin on our world is seen every day.  (when God returns to JUDGE the world, He will rescue us from this with a New Heaven and New Earth)  

“Judgment” has become a bad word in our culture. It represents “looking down on people.”  In truth, Judgement means “setting things right!” If there is a bully picking on a small child, it is right for an adult to step in and say, “NO, you are NOT going to do that!”

Judgement is when God steps in and sets everything right.  He fixes everything.  Makes the bullies pay for everything they have done wrong.

Why did Jesus need to die?  Because we have ALL been bullies at one point or another.  We have ALL done mean things and broken God’s laws.  God didn’t want us to have to pay for our sin, so He became human like us and paid the price for our sin.  That’s what God has done for us.

Finally, Phil challenged us all to teach our kids:  “Once we are saved, what is NEXT?”  What is NEXT for us is NEW LIFE!  We become a part of the Kingdom of God.  We live supernatural lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, revealing God through US!

The Apostle Paul described the Christian life as, “We proclaim good news, we live good lives, we do good works!”

  • Proclaim good newssharing the WHOLE story of the Gospel
  • Live good liveslives marked by the absence of fear, full of peace and love
  • Do good workswe help, we love, we are the Red Cross in a broken world

We aren’t just sitting around waiting on Heaven…we become superheroes –  helping others to experience God’s best for their lives.

Teaching this to our kids is done best by SHOWING them with your own life. They will learn much more of what we show than what we say. We need to be the example that they can follow.

So, are you teaching your kids the WHOLE Gospel?  Or are you teaching them a rosey, pristine, in-a-nice-little-box gospel that is not preparing them to become the Christians God has intended them to be?

Phil Vischer quote vantage

How To Lead A “Creative Team”

creative-team

Ten years ago, when I first began creating High Voltage Kids Ministry curriculum, I remember being scared to death.  I had never tried ANYTHING like this before and had put it off for many years already.  You see, I had felt God leading me in this direction but wasn’t willing to take the leap.  When I finally decided to jump, I assembled a team of 10 of my best leaders in a room, and we proceeded to craft the very first High Voltage release, “Got Questions?”  It was a wonderfully collaborative process, and the end product was amazing.

When it came time to work on the second series, “BUGS”, I took a radically different approach.  I sat down in front of a computer and tried coming up with everything on my own – start to finish.  I wrote the lessons, the games, the video scripts, etc.  It took 4 times as long, and it was an excruciatingly painful process.  I realized through that experience – creativity flows much easier when it is done in community.

Now, every time we set out to do a new curriculum series (which is about every 6-8 weeks at this point), I assemble a Creative Team to help with the process.  I thought I would share some of the lessons I have learned as I have worked with my Creative Teams for the past 10 years.

When Working With A “Creative Team”:

 1.  Choose a creative location

The environment bears a lot on the final result of the creative team.  Choose a place that inspires creativity.  Sterile atmospheres tend to “dull” a team.  Choose a place to meet that has personality and energy to it. It needs to be a place free from distractions, though.  Creative people are often EASILY distracted.

 2.  Set some ground rules

You want your meeting to be “free flowing” without becoming a “free-for-all.”  Let the team know that they can share ideas freely without fear of being shut down.  However, tell them that the entire team has to agree not to purposefully crack jokes or make remarks that do not inherently add to the discussion.  Let them know that you will serve as the mediator when things get off track.

3.  Work as the rudder, not the engine

During the process, you want your team to feel a sense of ownership of the ideas.  Don’t come into the meeting with a list of ideas that you are already committed to.  It’s OK to come prepared with ideas, but only share them as they become necessary.

Allow everyone to share their ideas openly, without criticism.  Tell them, “There is no such thing as a bad idea.”  Now, there is no way to implement EVERY idea.  But, exercise caution before you dismiss an idea.  You don’t want to do so too quickly.  Sometimes one suggestion sparks another that leads you to where you ultimately want to go.

As much as possible, allow the team to come up with the ideas. Help steer them in the right direction.

4.  Deliver your ideas in the form of questions.

Rather than say, “Here’s an idea…”  Instead, present your ideas in the form of a question, allowing the team to react to it.  I remember when we were working on our series called “Five 4 The Fight” which focused on five scriptures dealing with Spiritual Warfare.  I had an idea that we needed to do a “boxing theme” with this series.  Well, instead of  walking into the room and announcing,“We need to do a boxing theme.”  I said, “We’re talking about spiritual attacks.  It’s you against the devil.  What’s a modern, tangible way that we can illustrate that one-on-one fight for kids?”  The team naturally gravitated toward Boxing (although one guy wanted to go the direction of WWE Wrestling, but we quickly passed that up, LOL).

Now, if the team isn’t moving forward and you want to insert your idea, you can even be more direct in your questions if you need to.  “Would boxing be a good metaphor for a one-on-one spiritual fight with the devil?”  Then, when the team begins to talk about it, they will start to feel ownership of the idea.  The creativity will flow much smoother that way than if you dictated what the topic was going to be.

 5.  Don’t be afraid to “table” the discussion

We all have deadlines.  Sometimes, there can be a LOT of pressure to not walk away from the meeting without ALL the creative ideas fleshed out.  Although it can be helpful to “press on” at times, other times it is better to just walk away for a period.  Take a break.  Go for a walk together.  Come back tomorrow, if you can.  It is often better to walk away to “sharpen the saw” than to keep trying to cut down the tree with a dull blade.  Meeting a deadline no-matter-what can often result in a poor product.  Don’t let yourself make that mistake.  Walk away, get refreshed, then return to knock it out.

Well, those are just five principles I use when leading my Creative Team.  Do you work with a team to help you in the creative process?  What are some of the things you have learned that you could share with this community?  Please LEAVE A COMMENT and share with us!