Great Family Project: “The Christmas Prayer Chain”

prayer chain christmas

Looking for a great and easy-to-do project for your family this Christmas?  My wife, Cherith, started this Christmas tradition in our family when my kids were just babies.  It has meant a lot to our family, and I hope you will find it meaningful as well.

What you need:

25 strips of construction paper (approx 2 inches wide and six inches long); a sharpie marker; glue

What to do:

1)  Prior to Dec. 1st, gather your kids together and take turns naming the name of someone the family will pray for (friends, family, pastors, teachers, and others)

2)  Write one name on each strip of construction paper, then glue each strip together end-to-end, linking each to make a long paper chain (see graphic above).

3)  Place the Christmas Prayer Chain on the mantle or on the Christmas Tree

4)  Starting Dec. 1st, gather the family together to remove one link of the chain and pray together for the person listed on that link.

5)  This is a wonderful way to countdown the days until Christmas and have meaningful family prayer time.

May you and your family enjoy your Christmas holiday!

Lessons For Kidmin From The Penn State Child Abuse Debacle

The news from the Penn State scandal has dominated the news cycle for the last week, and it has dominated my thoughts as well.  I couldn’t believe the heinous crime that was perpetrated on young at-risk boys in such a public place for so long.

There are many lessons to learn from this tragedy and it’s aftermath.  We spent a good deal of time in our staff meeting today discussing this.  Here are some of the BIG lessons I believe we in Kids Ministry MUST learn from this:

1)  We must be VIGILANT in protecting His children.

Every child must be vigilantly protected.  We must have policies, processes, and procedures in place that put safety for God’s children at the HIGHEST priority.  Some of the policies we have in place at HVKM are:

*  Six month rule – an adult must have attended our church for a minimum of six months before being allowed to work with minors.  NO exceptions!

* ALL adults must go through a criminal background check process

*  No adult is EVER alone with a minor – not in a car, not in a classroom, not in a hallway, NEVER.  This not only prevents the opportunity for abuse, but also protects the volunteer from false accusation.

2)  When you see abuse taking place – INTERVENE!

It is not enough to just “pass the info up the chain.”  A child is in the act of being harmed, intervene!  Scream, yell, throw something, call the police, draw attention to the area like a crazy person.  Do whatever it takes to cause the abuse to stop.  Then, report it immediately!

3)  Never allow the failure underneath you to remain.

Coach Paterno wasn’t the one who perpetrated the acts, but he was the one who allowed the person who did to stay on his team.  Then, he tried to just ignore the problem and hope it went away.  When a leader allows a member of his/her team to continue in moral failure (of whatever nature) unchecked, then that leader is equally to blame.  It seems easier to just ignore the problem – it never is in the long run.

4)  The truth will always come to light.

The Bible puts it this way, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” – Numbers 32:23

We need to talk with our volunteers about this issue.  Remind them of the importance of protecting all of God’s children.  They are innocent, fragile, and precious!  They are the gifts God has given us the opportunity to serve.  We CANNOT fail them by not protecting them.  We must be VIGILANT!

Let us also pray sincerely for the victims and their families.  Recovery from abuse can be a life-long journey.  God, in His infinite power, can help bring peace and healing to hearts and lives that have been broken by the abuses of others.

For more great info on this subject, see my friend Roger Fields’ post!

Discipline In Kidmin pt. 2

WEEKLY KIDMIN QUESTION:

“How do you handle discipline issues at your church?” – submitted by “Anonymous” in Dallas, TX

In my last post, I explained what our discipline policies for Kidmin. If you want kids to follow your policy, follow through with established consequences. Consequences help kids own their behavior and teach them to make better choices. Here are the established steps we follow when applying consequences.

1.  Remind the child of the rule they have broken.
2.  Official Warning
3.  Move the child to a different seat
4.  Remove the child from the room (bring them to office)
5.  Pastor discussion
6.  Parent meeting
7.  Suspension for one week
8.  Suspension for three weeks
9.  Permanent suspension (we have NEVER had to do this so far)

Above all, let’s take a POSITIVE approach.  You get what you celebrate!

Discipline Issues In Kidmin pt. 1

WEEKLY KIDMIN QUESTION:

“How do you handle discipline issues at your church?” – submitted by “Anonymous” in Dallas, TX

Discipline is a hot button issue for people who work with kids.  While public and private school systems have five days a week to instill a discipline plan with students, the church typically has about one hour per week to do the same thing.  It’s important to have a clear system in place.  The last thing you want to do is expect volunteers to come up with their own discipline plan without guidance or expectations.

Successful Discipline comes down to two words:  CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

There is no way that kids can be expected to be held accountable to follow rules that are never clearly communicated to them.

Keep It Simple

Don’t develop so many rules that kids can’t remember them from week to week.  The rules I have used my entire ministry are the C.O.O.L. Rules (these are NOT original)

Care about your neighbor – don’t be a space invader

Only get out of your seat when you have permission

Obey the leader and don’t interrupt

Let’s work together – and be WINNERS!

Keep It Consistent

You have to be consistent in how you apply discipline.  Wavering in your discipline approach weekly causes confusion with the kids.  Being extra sensitive and calling down everyone one week, then being extra care-free and allowing all kinds of disruptions will NOT help your kids at all.  Be consistent.

In my next post, I will share what our specific steps are for dealing with discipline issues.  So, don’t miss “Discipline Issues In Kidmin pt. 2”

Does a Kidmin Volunteer have to be a Christian?

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“In a small church, it can be difficult to get enough volunteers since you are just starting out.  What do you think about people who aren’t
Christians volunteering with kids?” –
submitted by Dan in Santa Monica, California

I understand that many of you will have differing opinions than I have on this subject.  I want you to know that it is OK – and I welcome the discussion.  Please leave comments below.  Let’s share our approach and reasons for it.

My personal opinion and conviction on this matter is that all volunteers in Kids Ministry should go through a screening process.  Part of that process should be affirming the fact that they are committed believers and daily followers of Christ.  I think it should definitely be a requirement.  Here are my reasons:

1)  Kids Ministry is not child-care – it is discipleship.

Kids Ministry is exactly that – Kids MINISTRY.  It is working hard to share the Gospel with the children through our actions, words, love, and concern.  We are to teach the children to be life-long followers of Christ.  It is very difficult to teach what you have not yet become – a follower of Jesus.  As John Maxwell always says, “We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are.”

2)  We must protect the kids.

I think you have to have the HIGHEST level of safety and security.  By ensuring that every person that works in your Kids Ministry is saved, has been trained, and has gone through a background check process – then you can assure parents that you have done EVERYTHING you can to ensure their child’s safety.

3)  We must protect the volunteer.

Allowing someone who is not a Christian to become an influence in the lives of children is setting them up for failure.  Asking someone who is not a Christian to “act like a Christian” only when they are around the children is not only asking them to “be a hypocrite”, but it is setting them up for failure.  There are tremendous repercussions when that happens, not only for the child, but also for the volunteer.  Remember, Jesus said, “It would be better for someone to tie a mill stone around their neck and be thrown into the sea than for them to cause one of these little ones to stumble.”

4)  We must have a higher standard in Kidmin.

I personally think that Kids Ministry should have the HIGHEST standard of any ministry in the church, not the lowest.  I understand that in a small congregation it can be hard to get volunteers.  That means we have to work doubletime to communicate the vision and goals of the Kids Ministry.  INSPIRE others to be involved, don’t GUILT them into it.  I think the higher the bar is raised, the higher level of volunteer you will end up with.  If we won’t require someone to be a believer in order to work with our most prized possessions (our kids), then what WILL we require salvation in order to do?

5)  It’s not discrimination.  It’s wisdom.

Those who do not yet know Christ are one of THE REASONS we exist as a church.  We love them and are motivated to pray for them, love them, help them, and demonstrate Christ’s love to them.  However, we can not have those who do not yet agree wholeheartedly with what we are teaching be involved as a leader in the lives of the kids we are responsible for.  Too many opportunities for confusion to be sown in the minds of the children.

6)  It’s not about being “perfect.”

Many who have a differing opinion on this subject may say, “Well, no one is perfect.  Even the Christian volunteers you have are bound to eventually slip up and make a mistake, have a wrong attitude, say a cuss word, etc.”  This is true.  No one is perfect.  It’s not about whether or not they will make a mistake or not.  The bottom line is – we have to take every precaution we can to ensure that those we place in leadership over our children are going to represent Christ to the kids.  They are the “only Jesus” many of our kids will ever see.

7)  There are many other opportunities to serve.

I never turn someone away outright.  I explain to them the reasons behind my decision not to use them in Kids Ministry, then redirect them to an area in the church where they are not working with minors.  I might even put them on one of the Kidmin teams that does not interface directly with kids (setup, cleanup, etc.)  I do see the importantance for them to work alongside those are committed believers so as to be able to see the love and service of Christ weekly.

I also commit to pray for their salvation and step up my efforts to communicate Christ’s love to them through my life.

Again, I welcome your comments and other points of view?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Let’s discuss…

Developing A Heart Of Worship In Kids pt. 2

kid worship

(CONTINUED FROM PT. 1) 

4)  Allow the kids to come around the front.

This will help them take the move towards worship. Teach the kids of worshipful positions, (raising hands, closing eyes, etc…), and lead them in praising using these styles.  Let them know that these positions can help them in proclaiming their desire to worship God and focus their attention on Him.  (“I raise my hands as I am reaching out towards God; I kneel in reverence and honor to God’s presence; etc.”)

5)  Don’t be afraid to have quiet moments.

Often, we are afraid of “dead air”.  While these moments can be horrible for the fast-paced portion of our Kids Ministry program, they are often beautiful moments in worship.  Let the children express their personal praise and worship to God without being directed from the microphone.  Too often we are quick to fill up the space in quiet moments.  Allow the kids to “be still” in God’s presence, listening to His voice.

6)  Move into the Word from Worship

We break up our fast-paced praise time from our slow-paced worship time.  It has been very helpful to place the slower paced worship directly before the Bible Lesson.  The kids’ minds are ready to receive, because they have broken free from distraction and the Holy Spirit’s voice is heard clearly.

Worship is an integral part of the life of a Christian.  Don’t be afraid of teaching the children in your ministry how to worship God freely and without inhibition.  I have heard many Kids Pastors say, “My kids just aren’t old enough to worship God with any depth and meaning.”  I have been in many churches and worked with every age range – I have never seen a group of kids who could not be led into God’s presence.  They are eager to worship.  Teach them how, demonstrate it for them, and pray for the Spirit to lead them into God’s presence.

“Developing A Heart Of Worship In Kids” pt. 1

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“We usually do sets of 3 songs, 2 fast and one slower.  We’d like to have extended worship occasionally but how best can we handle that when some of the kids are not mature enough spiritually for more than a few minutes of worship?”  submitted by Dorrie Champagne – Agawam, Massachusetts

Worship is an important part of the Christian life.  It is a time of devoted focus toward God, expressing our love to Him.  In order to develop a heart of worship in children who are new in the faith (or young in age), there are some practical steps you should take.

1)  Understand each child’s journey into worship

As Children’s Leader, we need to take the children on that Sunday’s journey to the place of worship.  Understand that every child is coming from different places into kids church.  This includes the personal atmosphere that each child brings in with them.  Some kids are coming out of Sunday School or small groups where they have heard a lesson, played games, done crafts, ate snacks.  Other kids are coming from a home where there is major stress, may have witnessed an argument that morning, didn’t have breakfast, had too much breakfast, didn’t get enough sleep, don’t feel well, etc.  Be sensitive to each child’s journey, and do your best to help them along the way.

2)  Teach regularly about worship.

Explain the reason for worship – “to show and express our love to God.”  As often as possible, teach on the meaning, the methods, and results of worship.  Why do we raise our hands?  Why do we close our eyes?  Is there a “perfect” way to worship.  We tell our kids “It is not so important HOW you worship, but it is important THAT you worship!”

3)  Make sure you and your leaders actively demonstrate worship.

When you are actively engaged in worship, the kids see this, and it sends a strong message to them that worship is important.  If you or your leaders are not actively engaged in worship, this sends the opposite message.

Kids will imitate what they see.  Actively engaging in worship for kids often starts here, but it needs to move to the arena of inner purpose.  Kids are great at reading the group acceptance of worship.  Many kids lift their hands and go through the motions only because that is the accepted thing to do.  Do not be blind to this social reason for worship.  Let it begin here, but help them move to making it personal.  It’s not about imitation and duplication.  It is about adoration.

MORE TO COME in pt. 2…

Recruiting Volunteers pt. 3

picking up where pt. 2 left off – here is the conclusion of my thoughts on recruiting volunteers…

8)  Develop a job description and communicate CLEAR expectations.

You can’t expect a volunteer to “just know” what they need to do.   When possible, give a complete list of expectations in writing to avoid confusion.  There is nothing worse than giving someone a job to do and not clearly communicating expectations.  The volunteer has no way to know if they are doing what is expected or not.  This breeds confusion, so communicate expectations ON PAPER so there is no question as to their duties.

9)  Partner the new recruit with an effective member of your team.

The best way for someone to learn how to do their job effectively is to watch someone else in action.  Find the member of your team that is really knocking it out of the park and connect the new recruit with them for at least three weeks.  Allow them to observe not only what they DO, but what they DON’T do.  Leave the door open for the new recruit to come back and ask questions when they feel it is necessary.

10)  Encourage your entire volunteer team to be “relentless recruiters”.

It is important that YOU are not the only one pumping up the ministry and asking others to be involved.  People expect the Children’s Ministry Leader to recruit.   The very best recruiters are the ones who actively involved in the ministry on a volunteer basis.

People expect the Children’s Leader to say, “You’ll love it!  Come join the team!”  But, when one of their peers who is involved in Children’s Ministry speaks to them and is excited about it – that speaks much louder!

Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 2

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“When recruiting, how do you help potential volunteers respond out of the right motivation (God honoring, using their gifts, etc) instead of guilt?” – submitted by Donna Leupp in Peshtigo, WI

Picking up where Pt. 1 left off – here are more principles to follow when recruiting volunteers for your Kidmin Team…

4)  Develop a ministry application for volunteers to complete.

Sit down and put together an application that not only gathers pertinent contact information, but also asks probing questions that give you insight into the person you are considering.  What are their likes/dislikes?  What experience do they have working with kids?  What are their gifts and talents?  What do they consider “success” in ministry?

This should ALWAYS include a criminal background check and personal references.  We all know too well of incidences where children are harmed by adults within an organization/charitable group.  Churches are no exception, and it is our responsibility to make sure that the kids who come to learn about God at church are well protected.  There are many places online for you to get background checks on a limited budget.

Having an application also elevates the importance of the ministry in the applicant’s eyes AND in the eyes of your parents.  It speaks volumes as to how serious you are about running a safe and secure environment.

5)  Recruit volunteers based on their GIFTS.

Never recruit a volunteer simply to complete a task.  In other words don’t say, “I need someone to take care of my 5th grade boys class.”  Rather, offer people opportunities to make an eternal difference by using their spiritual gifts.  Study the application and see what the volunteer’s spiritual gifts are.

This will help you ensure that you don’t put someone who is gifted in teaching in charge of taking attendance and doing administration.  It will make sure you don’t put someone with the gift of hospitality in charge of organization the supply closet.  This way, every spiritual gift is honored and used for the sake of the kids.

It requires trust.  Trust in God to bring the right people to your team – and trust in your ability to place people where their gifts will shine!  Pray!  Believe!  God will lead you in the process!

6)  Ask the advice and consent of other Staff Pastors and your Lead Pastor BEFORE placing someone in their area of ministry.

This may be hard for you to believe, but you don’t know EVERYTHING.  🙂  Your pastor or other staff may be aware of situations in the recruited volunteer’s life that precludes them from being involved in ministry at the present time.  This may involve spiritual issues, emotional issues, or family issues.

Also, the volunteer may be involved in many other areas of ministry that you are not aware of and may be stretched too thin.  The last thing you would want to do is place someone in ministry with the kids, have them make a strong bond with the kids, and then have them “burn out” because they are stretched too thin.

Quite honestly, it would be wise to get input from your Pastor even BEFORE you approach the volunteer.  It will help you immensely and save you a world of hurt!

MORE TO COME in Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 3…

Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 1

Recruiting Volunteers

KIDMIN QUESTION:

“How do you get folks in the church to volunteer when they think it is the Children’s Pastor’s job to do the ministry?” – submitted by Mike Benintende, N. Versailles, PA

This is one of the most difficult tasks of a Kidmin Leader – Recruiting Volunteers.  I can tell you, there is no magic formula.  The only way to recruit successfully is by CONTINUOUS hard work and adherence to a few key principles.  In the next few posts, I will share some of those keys that I have learned.  Hopefully they will help you to build a strong team of leaders to serve the children of your church.

Keys To Recruiting A Volunteer Team:

1)  Don’t recruit from a NEED, rather recruit from an OPPORTUNITY.

There is nothing worse than a Children’s Ministry Director standing up in front of the congregation and saying, “We are so overwhelmed.  We HAVE to have help!  PLEASE HELP US!“  That tells the person listening:  “There must be a reason no one is working with them.”

NEVER use the phrase, “No one wants to help! OR I can’t get anyone to help me!”  That’s like my son starting off a question, “I know you are going to say NO, but…”

Rather than moan about how much we need help, choose to celebrate the growth and excitement of your Kids Ministry.  Don’t talk about what you DON’T have, talk about what you DO have – opportunities for the member of your church to make an eternal impact on a soul for whom Christ died.

2)  Recruit from the VISION of your ministry.

Start by raising the value of children’s ministry inside your church.   Share stories in church services about life change in children or have volunteers share stories about how their lives have been changed.  Serving in children’s ministry is an opportunity to honor God—not a duty or a task (Col. 3:23).

You are recruiting by giving people an opportunity to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of the children of your church.  Explain to them, “God is going to accomplish His plan in the lives of  the children in our church.  The question is not ‘WILL God do it?’ The question is ‘WILL YOU be a part of it?’”

3)  Recruit One-On-One and Face-to-Face.

Rather than putting a blurb in the bulletin, a video announcement, or a pulpit spot from your Senior Pastor, recruit by approaching people one-on-one and having a meaningful conversation with them.

Pray ahead of time who God is preparing to serve (Luke 10:22).  Once He leads you to someone, approach them.  Don’t just walk up in the hallway at church – that doesn’t communicate value to someone.  Instead, invite them to lunch, call them on the phone, or go out to eat with them after church.

Explain to them that as a result of what God is doing in your Children’s Ministry, an opportunity has arisen.  You have been praying about who the person should be to serve in this area.  You felt led to talk to them because you feel that they have the right gift mix to be able to make a Kingdom difference in the lives of these kids.

MORE TO COME in “Recruiting Volunteers Pt. 2″…