Make copies of the bookmarks below on cardstock. Use the bookmarks to help you memorize these Scriptures and hold your place in your favorite book or Bible.
By Ravin McKelvy
For many of us, we have found ourselves having to get creative with our Christmas traditions. With COVID numbers rising and the weather getting cooler, it can be difficult to find new ways to connect with our kids. While there are many things that may not happen, we can still make this a special time filled with good memories. One way your ministry can do this is by having a front porch Secret Santa.
You may not be able to do an in-person Secret Santa, so this is the perfect way to let your kids know you’re thinking of them. Here’s how you do it:
Pull together some fun, small gifts. These can be stuffed animals, fidget spinners, etc. You could also include a pocket Bible or meaningful book.
Wrap your gifts and include a note that says something like, “Merry Christmas from your Secret Santa at [insert church/ministry name].” It may be fun to also add a memory verse or the verse from that week’s sunday school lesson.
Drop the gifts on the front porch of the kids in your class. Be sure not to be seen when you’re dropping them off. You can ring the doorbell or simply leave the gift on the porch to be found.
Although this season may not look like what we’re used to, we can still create special memories for our kids ministries. Have fun with this front porch Secret Santa and reminding kids about the true gift of this season.
by Alyssa Jones
As I worked from the table in the formal-dining-room-turned-pandemic-home-office, I spied my daughter tiptoe into the kitchen. She had paper, glue sticks, and safety scissors we picked up from her preschool teacher in a drive-through procession, and the 2020 Walmart toy catalog. Nearly an hour later, she came to me.
“Mommy, I want these. All of them,” she said, presenting three pages of pictures she cut out from products related to animals, the color pink, and/or baby dolls.
As the weather cools and leaves change, my 4- and 6-year-olds have both had Christmas on their minds. They frequently tell me what they want on their wish lists.
“Hey, you guys,” I stopped them one day. “Christmas isn’t all about presents. Do you remember why we celebrate Christmas?”
My first-grade son stared at me blankly. My daughter shouted, “No! It is about PRESENTS!”
OK, this is not looking good for someone who has spent the last decade writing resources for teaching children about Jesus. In my defense, they are not ignorant to the story of the nativity. Every year since they were born, we’ve talked about the true meaning of Christmas. But this important message is easily lost in a materialistic world. Here’s how I’m planning to help reorient my own kids this year. Maybe these ideas will help you too.
- Use repetition.
Kids learn best from repetition. If my kids see a commercial for a toy, they decide they want it—even more so if they see it multiple times. The world is sending them messages about what is most important, so I want to guide and point them to the most important message of all: Jesus saves sinners. God came into the world as a baby. He is the reason we celebrate. We will talk about this as we make dinner, as we pick up toys, as we get ready for bed. I want them to know that Jesus is my greatest treasure, and I hope they will come to know Him as theirs as well.
- Observe Advent.
Waiting is hard for kids, but we use Lifeway Kids’ Advent Guide leading up to Christmas as a daily reminder of why we celebrate. We prepare our home and our hearts to remember Jesus’ birth and its glorious implications for our lives. We have a small paper Advent tree for hanging ornaments and set aside a special time after dinner for reading the Bible, answering our kids’ questions, and anticipating Christmas.
When my daughter finished her three-page wish list, my husband gently suggested, “Wow, those are some neat toys. Do you see any on there we could buy to give to someone else? What gifts do you think your cousins would like?” We talk a lot in our house about thinking of others. “Why are you fighting with your sister? Are you thinking of her or yourself right now?” Every person’s natural bent as a sinner is an inward one, and selflessness must be practiced and learned. We readily see it in our children, but it’s a struggle for us as adults too. Make generosity a family priority and remind kids of our generous God who sent His Son for us.
We give good gifts to our children, remembering that God has given us the greatest gift in Jesus. We will intentionally talk with our kids about the meaning of Christmas in a materialistic world that tells them Christmas is all about family, presents, food, or decorations. At just the right time, God sent His Son into the world. (See Galatians 4:4.) This is good news of peace and joy for a world that so desperately needs it. I’m praying for your kids—and my own—to hear about, remember, and treasure Jesus above all else. He is God with us.
Alyssa Jones worships and serves with her husband at Refuge Franklin, a church plant outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They have three children.
Looking for downloads from the Fall 2020 issues of Kids Ministry 101. You’re in the right place. Click on an image below to download the file.
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