Here is a fun activity to do with your kids over this holiday weekend.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July!
Here’s an easy and fun activity for kids and parents. Download this free coloring sheet and create your own masterpiece. Share it on social media and tag LifeWay Kids!
Facebook: LifeWay Kids
Leading a children’s ministry is no small task, but so many times it is the person in a part-time role having to fulfill those full-time duties. Working as a part-time kids director at different churches, I have found three different places that I need to devote my time to be sure that I am creating a healthy ministry environment for myself as well as my team.
Personal Growth—No matter your position in ministry, personal growth in Christ is the first place you need to devote your time. Tim Keller states that in ministry you must “watch your heart with far more diligence than you would have otherwise.” In the hustle of getting your checklist done it can be easy to put the needs of others ahead of your personal relationship with Christ. So many times we (or maybe just me) rationalize skipping our quiet time by preparing our large group message or writing a devotional for the prayer booklet. Yes, God has spoken to me through material that was meant for a 3rd grader, but setting a time to pray and read on your own will benefit not only you but your ministry. Remember, a branch attached to the vine can reach much further.
Invest in volunteers—Having a great team can make or break a ministry. Find a few leaders that you can spend time investing in. I have been very blessed to have had a handful of volunteers that I knew I could depend on no matter what. Invest in those people! Every ministry has volunteers that only show up when they feel like it or never reply to service requests, I know that. But find those gems of leaders that are there every week and make them feel valued. One of my friends in ministry does this so well by writing notes to all of her volunteers at least once a semester. If it is possible, add a $5 giftcard to these little notes. These notes of encouragement go so far because I know that she values me as a volunteer not because I am filling a hole on her list but because of the role I am playing in making the Gospel known to kids.
Take care of the details—Fall festivals, Christmas concerts, and Vacation Bible Schools take lots of planning! In the rush to take care of the next big thing, be sure not to miss the small details that will make your ministry thrive week-to-week. Send out a message every week to your leaders with encouragement and any updates. Have everything prepared for your teachers for Sunday morning so that they can focus on the kids rather than supplies. These little details will eat up time quickly so create a schedule so that your volunteers know what to expect and you will be in a healthier state of mind knowing what is coming next.
It is difficult to have a “playbook” when it feels like you are always running out of time but the biggest thing that I have learned is to rely on God. You hear it a lot for a reason. I have seen the impossible happen and broken lives come back to Him, not because I was doing something right, but because we serve a big God!
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and you may be thinking, like I am, that it’s time for the obligatory post about giving thanks. But, is that the way we should look at this annual holiday? For some, Thanksgiving has always been and always will be about the three Fs: family, food, and football. For the more altruistic of us, this special day is about helping others. For many, it’s an excuse to stand in long lines–or glare at the screens of our smartphones and tablets–to score the best shopping deals of the year.
The Apostle Paul poignantly reminds us to “give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Let’s be honest here. Does the Bible really mean in everything? Doesn’t God know that to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) is virtually impossible? What was Paul thinking, anyway?
Evidently, Paul knew that life would be hard for believers. He writes, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) There are those two stinging words again: everything and thanksgiving.
Recently I memorized Phillippians 4:6-7 and prayed the words everyday, even though during those several consecutive weeks giving thanks was a chore. God reminded me that when we don’t feel thankful, we can still be grateful for God’s good gifts. Jesus Himself says, “If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:11)
What good gifts has God bestowed upon you in your ministry to kids and families? Take a moment to list them prayerfully in your mind, on a piece of paper, or on your mobile device. Start with the names of children and families. Give thanks for your church family, pastor, and other church leaders. Include life’s basic needs God provides you personally–food, clothing, lodging, and transportation–that equips you to minister effectively. Pause and reflect on your list. Did you leave out anything? Is God’s best gift at the top of your list? If not, put Jesus as number one on your list.
Consider tweaking your focus this Thanksgiving holiday by giving thanks to God for His good gifts of church, preschoolers, elementary kids, and families. However, thank God most of all for Jesus and the gift of salvation made possible through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Happy Thanksgiving!
Begin with the Right End in Mind So You Don’t End Right Before You Begin
One of the core principles in educational philosophy is to start with the end in mind—start with what you want the student to learn or how you want the student’s life to change and work back from there. In this blog post we will see how this applies to kids ministry too. We need to clarify our end goal, but that isn’t making believers or even making disciples; it’s making disciple-making disciples. That end goal should then drive all that we do.
Imagine taking a pile of lumber and beginning to cut, nail, sand, and paint it without having a plan of what you were building. You could make the most precise of cuts. Your nailing could be out of this world. And your sanding and painting could be meticulous. But in the end, what good would it be if you just had a useless clump of expertly cut, nailed, sanded, and painted wood?
It’s an absurd illustration, right? Who does that? No one! Instead, you start with a plan and then you work that plan. The same is true in the kitchen—you start with a recipe, or at least know what you are making, and then get after it. Or on a road trip, you know your destination before you begin.
But when it comes to kids ministry, we may not always lead this way. We may not always have in mind the end—our goal—as we plan, lead, and conduct ministry. As a result, we may experience great ministry from week-to-week, but that ministry may not be moving our kids toward where they need to go. So what are we after? Where are we going? What is our goal?
The knee-jerk answer might be that we are helping our kids become believers. We help kids trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. John 3:16 would be the mission verse of this ministry. This answer is fantastic because it’s true. What we do in ministry should drive each and every kid toward trusting in Christ. That’s our desire at least. But then what? If that is the goal, we reach it every time a child trusts in Christ … so we would be done. There would be nothing else left to do. But we know that is not the case, so this cannot be the goal of our ministry.
Perhaps, then, our goal is helping kids become disciples. Trusting in Christ is not the end of the journey, but rather the beginning. We want to help kids grow in their faith and become more Christlike. Matthew 28:18-20 would be the mission verse of this ministry. This answer is even better than the first because it is more complete. It gives context to a long-term ministry to kids, one which hands them off to student ministry and then adult ministry to continue that discipleship process. You can see how this end goal frames our ministries differently than the first. The first would focus solely on evangelism; this one might begin with evangelism, but also would include ways the gospel changes us to be more like Christ. But to what purpose? If we are fully forgiven and righteous in Christ, why grow in that faith? So there has to be even more to our goal than this.
This is important. Our goal is not just to make believers or even disciples; our goal is to help our kids become disciple-making disciples. We want our kids to trust in Christ and grow in their relationship with Him so that they might be able to help others trust in Christ and become disciples as well. This ministry is marked by evangelism of our kids, discipleship of our kids, and evangelism and discipleship training for our kids to reach and disciple others. The mission verse for this ministry would be 2 Timothy 2:2. This end goal gives the deepest and broadest context to all we do. It supplies the greater “why”—it’s not about us, it’s ultimately about God’s glory and God is greatly glorified when more people trust in Christ. That is why we exist. That is why we are left on earth after trusting in Christ rather than being whisked to heaven, so that we can do what we will not be able to do in eternity—make disciple-making disciples.
Brian Dembowczyk is the managing editor for The Gospel Project. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
When the Preschool Minister at my church asked me to teach toddlers during our second teaching hour, I was cautiously optimistic about this new opportunity. I had been teaching pre-kindergarteners for several years and was excited about the change. Of course, adding to the excitement was the fact that I would be teaching one of my grandchildren! Here are some things I’ve learned during the past year:
There will be crying. And, I’m not talking just about the parents. Seriously, if you can get through a session without at least one child crying, write a book because you obviously have made a monumental discovery. One- and two-year-olds will cry. That’s one important way in which they communicate their feelings, needs, and wants. Compassionately comfort the child, even when she may seem inconsolable. In doing so, you are conveying the message that church can be a happy place and teachers can be trusted.
Cleanliness matters. I will admit, I grow wearing of disinfecting every toy and wiping up drool from the floor. However, part of our job is to protect one- and two-year olds. We can’t completely prevent the spreading of germs, but we can minimize children’s exposure to contagions. Besides, if your entire class gets sick, they’ll miss coming to church to learn about Jesus.
Curriculum materials are your friend. Some parents just want to know that their child’s physical needs will be met in a safe and secure environment at church. While that is important and something we must provide, we can exceed parents’ expectations by following a proven teaching plan. When we use and adapt a proven teaching plan, we can make sure learning is taking place. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t sign up to babysit. I volunteer every week because I want even the youngest child to know that Jesus loves him.
Not everyone will understand your intentions. We know from various studies that toddlers are capable of learning more than we think. When you bring sand or water into a classroom of children who just learned to walk last week, you may be viewed as a crazy person. However, we know that toddlers are tactile learners. They need opportunities to touch a variety of objects and materials, as you talk to them about Jesus’ experiences on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Toddlers will go off script. This past weekend, a certain one-year-old girl decided I was her best friend. She followed me around the room and let me know she was ready for a snack. After I fed her more than one mother-approved snack food, I read what was on the check-in form: ONE SNACK. Oops. I told Mom that her first-born enjoyed one, prolonged snack. Toddlers also will go off script by pooping seconds before her parents arrive, or by deciding blocks are for chewing and markers are for body art. Even though Toddlers don’t always follow your well-thought-out teaching plan, they can hear you convey God’s truth while they’re playing.
I’ve been teaching preschoolers and children at church for three decades, and I’m still learning. I am more convinced now than ever before that teaching toddlers the Bible is of utmost importance. In fact the tedious preparation, the smelly poop, and the incessant crying are definitely worth it.
Landry Holmes is the Manager of LifeWay Kids Ministry Publishing. A graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Landry served on church staffs before joining LifeWay Kids. He is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. Landry also teaches children at his church in Middle Tennessee. He and his wife Janetta are the parents of two adult sons and two daughters-in-law, and the grandparents of four adorable grandchildren
At CentriKid, we share the gospel with kids by connecting spiritual applications with many of the activities throughout the camp day.
We have a training session for connecting the gospel to every activity with kids. This is a page from our playbook that is available for you to lead your ministry as a more gospel centered kids ministry.
Download the free Training Plan that includes a guide for the session, links to the handout for participants, & training videos you can use as part of the session.
For your kids ministry or for parents in your ministry, here are some great additional resources:
We know the importance of clearly sharing the message of Christ to kids and camp gives many opportunities to connect God’s Word to camp activities. My prayer is that this training will give you confidence in connecting every activity to the gospel.
With this training session, we are opening up the playbook and equipping kids ministry leaders to train their volunteers with the same materials and plan that we use to train CentriKid staffers. Thousands of adult leaders experienced this training session at camp in 2019 and we hope this resource is valuable for many more to be trained in connecting the gospel to every activity with kids.
Jeremy Echols leads the CentriKid Camps team. He, his wife Emily, and their precious daughter love their church, their neighborhood, and spending time together. Jeremy loves to read, watch sports, and grill burgers.
Rest is often the first task to fly off our to-do lists. Fall Fests, VBS planning, kids’ discipleship, volunteer recruitment, and staff meetings occupy much of our time, and they are worthy investments. Yet, if we’re not careful to prioritize rest, we’ll find ourselves flirting with burnout, experiencing exhaustion and lack of motivation that led us to ministry in the first place. Practicing regular Sabbath rest actively propels the longevity and continuity of your ministry. As you plan your ministry goals and calendar for the upcoming year, consider these three elements of rest to strengthen your ministry and personal walk with the Lord.
Sunday is the busiest and least restful day for a KidMin leader, but that doesn’t mean you are not called to rest. In the midst of your official schedule, you are called to Sabbath. This type of rest is not just about sleep, vacation, or taking a break. It is an active practice of being filled with the Lord. Make room in your calendar for Sabbath rest. Plan for it and honor that time. Give yourself permission to delegate or say no to certain tasks so that your soul can be nourished and refreshed by the Lord. Look ahead to the times you know you will spend extra energy or effort, and calendar purposeful rest for yourself both before and after these events. Rest is not a sin; it is not laziness. Sabbath rest honors God and your ministry as you lead in His strength.
Life is loud, especially ministry life. Take time to identify and silence the distractions that pull you away from a gospel focus. Schedule regular time to get quiet before the Lord. Let a few people know where you’ll be and get alone with God. Leave your phone behind. Be still before Him without any distractions, and let the God who called you to this ministry satisfy your heart and soul as only He can. Ask Him to show you areas of your spiritual, emotional, physical, and social life that you have neglected or ignored for too long. Allow Him to fill you and remind you of what matters most.
Evaluate your ministry and your personal life. What is the most effective rhythm in your ministry that leads you towards kingdom work? Is there anything that you are giving more time and energy to that doesn’t match your vision or goals? Is there anything you need to say no to? Identify the core values of your ministry and consider how your calendar reflects these values. Invite people who know and care about you into this conversation. Ask for honest evaluation of how you are balancing your ministry responsibilities with your personal life.
Kids ministry is rewarding work that is worth the effort, time, and sacrifice. To continue serving the kids and families God has called us to, we must consider how to Sabbath effectively and appropriately. Take time this week to consider how you can steward your time and incorporate Sabbath rest in your regular rhythms of life so that you can continue serving faithfully and joyfully to this beautiful messy life of Kids ministry.
Kayla Stevens is the Content Editor for LifeWay Kids Discipleship. She is a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and William Carey University. Kayla lives in Nashville, Tennessee and has served in Kids ministry for over 10 years.
Use these fun ideas to show your volunteers you appreciate them! Click links below to download PDFs.
S’more Thankful – Fall Appreciation
Sweet as Pie – Thanksgiving Appreciation
What is the driving force of your kids ministry on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, and any time you meet the kids that attend your church?
On Sundays, my wife and I serve in our church’s kids ministry. Every month, all large group hosts from every service at my church gather together with our kids pastor, and we plan the next month of kids ministry large group. While we do spend time reading through scripts and brainstorming fun activities, we always cast a vision that communicating the gospel is our ultimate goal every single Sunday. While it might be easy to teach a moral or a behavior modification, we need to always be pointing these kids to the source of life-transformation, Jesus Christ.
Here are three tips to help always use the gospel in every area of your kids ministry:
If you are lucky, you have the kids in your ministry maybe an hour or two each week. If that’s the case, at most, you will have only 52 hours (or less!) of their attention for an entire year. How much of that time will you spend sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ this year?