Aaron Armstrong joins the podcast to discuss summer preparation for fall reset.
With VBS season approaching, it’s important to make sure your volunteers feel appreciated. This simple appreciation gift will get volunteers excited about VBS and let them know you’re grateful for them! Click here to download the instructions and tags.
Mark Jones joins the podcast to discuss some simple strategies that teachers should use to create a peaceful environment even when they resemble wild monkeys.
Mr. Mark is the Children’s Pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City where he loves and teaches preschoolers, children and their parents. He is a national speaker to train children’s ministry leaders and parents and founder of Mr. Mark’s Classroom, an online leadership development and teacher-resource company- mrmarksclassroom.com.
Here’s 20 simple things teachers can say to their kids to encourage them each week:
- I am glad you’re here.
- It’s OK that you weren’t here last week, but we missed you.
- How was your week?
- Tell me about yourself.
- I love being part of this group.
- I don’t know.
- Let’s find that out together.
- Can I help you find that verse?
- Do you understand what that means?
- It’s OK to have questions about God.
- I struggle with this too.
- I love you.
- God loves you.
- Trust in Jesus.
- In Christ, you are forgiven by God no matter what.
- In Christ, you are accepted by God no matter what.
- How can I pray for you?
- Let’s pray about that.
- Nothing is more important than God.
- See you next week!
By Anna Sargent
This is the last part of a 3-part series on what makes gospel-centered ministry: gospel-centered teaching, gospel-centered values, and gospel-centered interactions. I covered gospel-centered teaching and values in Parts 1 and 2, which you can find here and here.
In these posts, we discovered that a gospel-centered ministry is a mindset more than anything else, and the third thing that shapes that mindset is gospel-centered interactions. By this, I mean demonstrating the spirit of the gospel for the kids in your relationships. There are dozens of ways to do this, but I will share seven that became clearest to me during my time in ministry:
Our gospel is an incarnate gospel. It’s about a God who came to earth and genuinely liked being with people. He brought children into His lap. He gathered around tables, hillsides, and shorelines with folks from every walk of life. He answered questions—even ridiculous ones, like who would be most significant in the kingdom of God. And He enjoyed asking questions, even though He already knew the answers. Why? Because asking questions produces conversation, and conversation draws out people’s hearts.
Therefore, to show our kids this incarnate gospel, we have to ask questions and then listen to them. Doing so reflects the heart of Christ. It shows them how much we see them, love them, and want to know them, which is exactly what God does with each of us.
Adults rarely apologize to children. This is probably because apologizing is a humbling experience, and we don’t want to look weak. But when you say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong,” you are showing kids your need for the gospel. After all, as a sinner saved by grace, you are humbled at the foot of the cross, and you are weak in God’s sight. Apologizing models confession and repentance to kids and models your own need for the gospel.
Here’s a great litmus test for apologizing: if you would apologize to your mother, spouse, or best friend for doing whatever it was you did, then apologize to the child in your class for doing it.
3. Model preaching the gospel to yourself.
Use moments of sadness, frustration, disappointment, and more to help kids understand how the gospel message applies to their entire life.
For example, let’s say a child runs away from you when you’re trying to correct them. Perhaps they are running away out of shame or fear. When they finally sit down with you, you can explain that running away is something all humans like to do; even Adam ran away in the garden after sinning against God. But the great thing about the gospel is that we never have to run from God again. It doesn’t matter how many times we sin; we do not have to be ashamed because Jesus paid for our sin in full when He died on the cross.
4. Talk openly about your relationship with God.
These kids see you on Sundays and maybe one other day of the week. So talk about what your faith looks like the rest of the time! Talk about the prayers God has answered and the ones you’re still waiting on. Share what God is teaching through your personal Bible readings and how you are growing closer to Him. Ask the kids how their weeks with God went. Did they hear a new Bible story? Did they start praying something new?
The point here is to talk about Jesus normally and casually like He is an integrated part of your everyday life . . . because He is! This shows the kids your daily need for the gospel.
5. Do not show favoritism.
We do not show favoritism because God does not show favoritism. This is a massive aspect of the gospel. The gospel is offered to everyone, no matter where you are from, what you look like, how much money you have, etc. The gospel also affirms the dignity of every human being, declaring that all have been made in God’s image, fall short of the glory of God, and need His grace. All are equal in the sight of God.
To reject favoritism shows our kids that God does not prefer certain kinds of children over others, which is a message they might not hear anywhere else. If you sense yourself discriminating against a child in your ministry, address the issue right away through confession, repentance, and potentially asking for help from other leaders with that child.
6. Do not give up on them.
Children can be a challenge sometimes. They can act up and act out. I know all too well what it’s like to see “that kid” walk through the door and groan a bit internally.
Without the power of the gospel, we are just gritting our teeth and getting through the lesson. But because of the gospel, we know we are fully loved even in our sin. So by God’s grace, we don’t give up on our kids because they keep making the same mistakes. We ask Him for patience and perspective, and we trust that just as God is not finished with us, He is not finished with them.
7. Use personal illustrations when teaching the Bible.
This final idea is for teachers preparing a large-group lesson. Use personal illustrations in teaching. I suggest this for two reasons:
1) We want children to start empathizing with the people in the text.
2) We want kids to learn that none of us have “graduated from the gospel.”
By empathizing with people in the text, I mean instead of thinking of Jacob’s life as a historical lesson to learn from, we want the kids to think of Jacob as a real person, someone they can relate to, and someone who needed God too. Present Scripture less like a history book and more like a family-of-God story.
Consider a lesson on King Saul wanting to kill David. You could just tell the kids what happened and talk about how Jesus was a better king than Saul. You could also add something like this:
“King Saul is not the only one who struggled with jealousy. Just this week, I became jealous as I was scrolling through social media. My friend just got a new house, and I want one!
Did you get jealous of someone this week? The gospel reminds us that God does not withhold good things from us, and if He does, it’s because He knows that the good thing isn’t the best thing. Whenever you are jealous, remember that we can trust God to give us what we need because He is so good, He already gave us Jesus!”
Using personal, age-appropriate examples of how you still need the gospel as an adult shows that Christians never “graduate” from it.
In the end, a children’s ministry that prioritizes gospel-centered interactions is honest about our collective, desperate need for God. In such a ministry, the gospel is not stagnant. It is not something to simply learn or memorize. It is not a final point in a lesson or a formula for success. Instead, it’s our driving motivation for showing up in ministry. We want to give these kids the gospel just as we, ourselves, have encountered it.
For more on gospel-centered interactions, check out the following books:
Show them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids by Jack Klumpenhower
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Give them Grace: Dazzling your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt
Summer is almost here! Are you headed to camp this year? Download our free Packing List printable to prep for camp. Share this download with kids in your ministry so they can get excited about camp, too!
Jonathan and Emily Martin join the Podcast to discuss why worship with kids is so important.
By Sarah Humphrey
I’m not sure about you, but I wasn’t 100% prepared for parenting when I became a parent. In fact, I was mostly clueless. Like many parents, learning how to raise kids came with a new need to read up on the topic, have a lot of prayer, trial, and error in my process, and also a lot of truth and grace about my present reality. What I didn’t know, I started to study. What didn’t work, I started to change. And what I did well, I continued. Just like learning anything in life, God has been gracious with me as I’m still learning to steward the lives of little ones, whether my own children or other children I encounter in life or ministry.
Over the course of the last eleven years, I’ve compiled a short list for myself on the top 8 things I’ve noticed children need from a healthy caregiver. This has also helped me tremendously as a person, because all of us are still living with our childhood in tow, and watching children grow brings out the inner-child in us as well.
Most people are juggling a lot of things at this time, whether school work and mask mandates, transitioning job responsibilities, or simply the demands of house and home. In a time when life can feel overwhelming, a short list can help us focus and come to a place of peace in our caregiving.
Here are the top 8 ways I’ve learned (and am still learning) to steward the grace of parenting:
- Be present. Being aware, hands-free, and focused shows kids that they are important and that they matter. Knowing this early on provides connection, comfort, and safety.
- Be prepared. Showing my kids that I have thought of them ahead of time makes them feel loved, seen, cared about, and nurtured. When I’ve taken care of myself, I can much more easily take care of them. Self-care is a great way to be able to remind yourself that you have to fill your cup before pouring it out.
- Be intentional. Looking for the ways to support or participate with your kids is one of the easiest ways to create healthy connections. Whether it’s getting up a few minutes early to make them breakfast, washing the clothes they love to wear, or clearing my calendar for events that matter to them, the simple act of intentionality makes everyone feel seen and valued.
- Be truthful. Kids love the truth. They are most often literal thinkers, and they need caregivers who will spend the time teaching them all the “Why’s” of life. Knowing the truth helps them feel safe, confident, and smart.
- Be encouraging. As much as we are truthful, we also need to be encouraging. Kids thrive on enthusiasm and support. Knowing that they are being guided, supported, and loved helps them thrive within themselves and with others.
- Be a good listener. Listening to kids is one of the smartest things we can do. Kids are usually honest. By hearing their requests, feelings, and thoughts, we show them that we care.
- Be patient and graceful. Kids are learning so many new things every day. It can feel overwhelming at times! Imagine being in a new city and not knowing how to get from one place to the next. Children can often feel that way in a big world. Take the time to slow down and be gentle.
- Be playful and adventurous. Being around children brings out our sense of fun and imagination. Take the time to be spontaneous, enjoy laughter, and have an out-of-the-box day or activity. As adults, it’s so important that we remember that the world is in God’s hands, and we can rest in that!
More than anything, enjoy the little ones in front of you. Caregiving takes a lot of energy, focus, and time, but there are few things more fulfilling than nurturing the life right in your midst!
Sarah is a wife and homeschool mom to three kids while also working as an artist, author, and voice actor. Her writing and doodling can be found in her devotional, “40 Days to a Joyful Motherhood” and her voice in several commercials, children’s books, and audiobooks. She loves encouraging women and kids to embrace self-care, utilize their gifts, and become leaders in the community around them.
By Jenny Whitaker
Last summer, Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) around the country were mostly either done virtually, in homes and neighborhoods, or not at all. I love VBS, and the idea of cancelling it—for any reason—was never an option.
We had to find a way to do VBS because it’s an important and fruitful tool in the hands of the local church, especially in this day and age when statistics show that the average regular church attender is coming to church one to three times a month as opposed to one to three times a week just a couple of decades ago (It’s Worth It, pp. 107-18).
Still, the thought of trying to do a virtual VBS seemed daunting. As I thought about the many small churches around our community and region, I wondered if virtual VBS was even a possibility for many of them. So I reached out to some of those local churches and asked if they’d be willing to partner together to reach as many kids as possible, and graciously, they said yes!
I was among a small group of leaders who hosted a virtual VBS for more than 45 churches from around the country. We know of at least two children who accepted Christ that week, and I’m certain many more seeds were planted not only in the hearts of the children who participated, but in the families exposed to the gospel we shared every day that week.
Without that partnership, what we did wouldn’t have been possible—not for my church or for the many others who partnered with us.
This year, I’ve traveled across my state, Florida, and talked to other kids ministry and VBS leaders around the country, and while many of us are opening or beginning to open back up for in-person ministry, VBS is still on the chopping block for many churches due to a lack of volunteers, budget resources, or perhaps other reasons.
Even before the pandemic, 61% of churches did not host a VBS due to a lack of teachers and volunteers (It’s Worth It, page 98). How many more churches will be forced to cancel VBS this year for the same reason?
Based on what we learn from Lifeway Research’s 2018 study on VBS, I would argue that we can’t afford to cancel VBS this summer, for a number of reasons. But most importantly, VBS is one of the largest evangelical outreach opportunities a church will have in a given year.
Additionally, even in the COVID-era, with its lack of volunteers and lower attendance numbers, VBS is one of the only events all year long that offers discipleship engagement and mobilization for the entire church body; there’s a way for everyone in your church to get involved.
This Lifeway Research study also revealed that 80% of those attending church one or more times per month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but only 39% of people are doing so. VBS is the perfect opportunity for people to do what they think they ought to be doing.
And in 2018, Cigna found that younger generations reported they were the loneliest generation, with loneliness levels reaching epidemic levels. How much worse must that statistic be given the isolation kids around the world have faced this past year due to COVID? Kids are in need of connection, even if it is virtually or on a smaller scale, and the church has an opportunity to offer it this summer through VBS.
If cancelling isn’t an option, what should local church do if they don’t have the resources to host VBS this summer? I say the solution is working with other local churches for a combined gospel-focused effort.
It seems like an obvious solution, but working together comes with its own set of challenges. Logistics aside, we must admit that working together will require some adjustments on the part of the local church when it comes to how we define success.
VBS is often a ministry that provides the numbers and metrics that many of us value and often use to measure our success in a given year: How many unchurched people in the community did we reach? How many church prospects were identified? How many people were reached by the gospel through the church? How many baptisms did we do?
These metrics aren’t bad. In fact, these are the very metrics we’re using to show how valuable VBS is to the ministry of the local church. But when those metrics keep us from working together because they might lower or alter our numbers, then perhaps we need to reconsider how much value we put into them.
In 2017, VBS reports showed that more than 2.4 million people were enrolled in Vacation Bible School, and that of those, 65,301 salvation decisions were made, and 160,926 church prospects were identified (It’s Worth It, page 73). Those numbers aren’t likely to change if we give people the opportunity to attend VBS.
That said, working together will require some creativity and flexibility when it comes to reporting the victories, as well as launching a successful follow-up strategy. Follow-up is a critical part of Vacation Bible School. It is essentially a mission trip in your backyard. And like any mission trip, it is important to extend that week of discipleship by connecting the unchurched and new believers with a local church.
Last year, our team planned with the end in mind. By knowing the importance of connecting people to the local church after VBS, we developed a strategy we felt would best serve those we were ministering. As people registered, we made sure to get their address, and based on their proximity to a given church, we shared the information of any family without a church home to the church closest to them and let that church do the follow-up. Did it alter our numbers? Of course. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But what does working together look like? And how do we do it successfully?
I wish there was a formula every church could follow, but like anything in ministry, it really depends on your demographics, the community you are serving, and what gifts God has blessed your specific church with.
For our church, we’re struggling to find enough volunteers to staff the same size VBS as we’ve hosted in the past. Truthfully, even with reducing the size of our VBS, we’re struggling to get enough volunteers—and that’s not uncommon this year. Almost every other children’s leader I have talked with has a similar story.
What we do have, however, is a facility that can house hundreds of kids, if we can find the volunteers to teach and serve them. By simply partnering with one or two smaller churches in our community, we can safely welcome as many kids from our community as will come by using the combined team of volunteers from our three churches.
We’ll get creative about identifying prospects, we’ll celebrate every child who makes a salvation decision and worry about whose report it will go on later, and maybe we’ll get creative about baptisms and have a joint service one day to see all our VBS kids follow through in the step of obedience together. The point is this: We’ll work together in humble submission to the Father to further His Kingdom instead of getting caught up in the growth of our individual churches.
At VBS, statistics show it’s not about if we reach a child for Christ; it’s about how many we’ll reach. The 2018 Lifeway Research study showed that 95% of American parents agreed that VBS positively influenced their child’s spiritual growth. With that much fruitfulness, we can’t afford to cancel VBS without putting up a fight. And in this battle, we are stronger together than we will ever be apart—especially with the challenges we face in this season of ministry.
Whether you pool human or financial resources with other local churches and do VBS in person, virtually, in a neighborhood, at home, or some combination of the above, VBS offers an opportunity unlike any other ministry all year. Children and families need to connect with Jesus and the local church; it’s worth considering how working together can make VBS possible during a summer when it might otherwise not be.
Lifeway offers numerous resources to help equip VBS leaders to do VBS strategically in this season of ministry. To find those resources and more for a “kids ministry from anywhere” time visit lifeway.com/kmfa.
This post first appeared on lifewayresearch.com
Jenny is the children and family ministry director of Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., where she lives with her husband and three children. Jenny is a writer for Lifeway Kids curriculum and enjoys training children’s ministry leaders across the state of Florida.
Print this fun coloring page for kids to color this Mother’s Day! Download the coloring page here or share this link with families if your church is meeting virtually.