What To Do When You Fail to Accomplish Your Children’s Ministry Goals

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As a Children’s Ministry leader you are constantly setting goals for your programs. Your goals will help inspire you, grow your programs, and meet the needs of the kids in your church. I like using SMART goals because they force you to create well-thought-out goals.

SMART Goals

Goals are the short-term steps that will help you reach your vision, achieve your mission, and fulfill your purpose. SMART is a mnemonic – a memory device to help you remember the five components that make up a good goal.

SPECIFIC

  • They are simply written. They give the what, why, and how of the goal. They are clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of the program. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general one.

MEASURABLE

  • There is tangible evidence you have accomplished the goal. You want to put concrete numbers in your goal to know if you are falling behind or are on track.

ACTIONABLE

  • Action steps are built right into the goal – it’s going to tell you what to do. That means that a SMART goal needs verbs.

REALISTIC

  • This type of goal motivates you. Rather than dragging you down because you just can’t see how you will accomplish it, a realistic goal challenges you while motivating you because it can be met.

TIMELY

  • Putting a date in your goal creates a practical sense of urgency. You will know by a specific date whether you have accomplished your goal or not. You will also be able to see if you are on track to finish it or if you are lagging behind. Including a date for completion creates internal pressure to accomplish the goal.
  • Don’t give yourself too much time, though, because this can affect your performance. It almost encourages procrastination.

What to do When You Fail

It happens! We don’t always accomplish our goals. So, what do you do when you fail?

1. Take a Close Look at the Goal

Read it over carefully. Was it specific? Was it measurable? Was it actionable? Was it realistic? Was is timely? If the answer to just one of these questions is no, that could be the reason the goal was not met. Try re-writing the goal (with a new timeline of course!) making sure that you include each of these components.

2. Consider Why You Didn’t Reach Your Goal

You may have written a really solid SMART goal and still not reached it.

  • Did you forget about it? Consider using a reminder to track and measure your progress – keep a journal, write the goal on a whiteboard that you see everyday, use a tracking app on your phone or computer.
  • Did you procrastinate? If you are a procrastinator, consider breaking down the goal into smaller steps giving yourself some small task to accomplish on a regular basis that will help you meet your goal. What can you do today, this week, or this month that will take you a step closer to accomplishing your goal.

3. Consider an Accountability Partner

It’s much harder to forget about a goal or procrastinate working on your goal when someone else knows about it and is keeping you accountable.

 

Sometimes you can re-write the goal and try to reach it again. Sometimes a goal cannot be tried for again. In this case, don’t beat yourself up too hard about it. Give yourself a break. But, also, don’t let yourself completely off the hook. Look at why you didn’t reach the goal and make it a priority to not make those mistakes next time.

Learn more about SMART goals and lots of other Children’s Ministry strategies in The Well Equipped Volunteer Children’s Ministry Handbook.

 

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Does Curriculum Lose its Value When It Becomes Dated?

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I have found a curriculum book among my resources from 1993. It has 52 lessons for kids ages 6-9 on the life of Jesus but it’s 22 years old!

Finding this curriculum book got me thinking. Does curriculum lose its value when it becomes dated?

As I previewed this particular curriculum I found a well-thought out year of lessons focused on the life of Jesus. The curriculum was designed with three aims for each unit (knowledge, attitude, and action) and goals for each lesson that helps the kids reach the unit aims. The lessons build on the previous ones guiding children toward the unit aims. The lessons were Bible-focused and all about Jesus. The lessons get kids into their Bibles and the development of Bible skills is built right into the lessons. There was also a great focus on group application.

This curriculum also suggested cassette tapes for music!

In the end, if the curriculum is Bible-based, Jesus-focused, and educationally sound, the rest can be updated or customized.

In the curriculum example that I used, the music was very dated, but the core of the material was solid. Had it lost its value because it was dated? No! I would teach this curriculum. I would add some updated resources (especially music!) but the most important part was exactly what I would want the kids in my Sunday School class to be learning.

So, before you throw out that material because it is a few years old, take a good look at it. Does it focus on Jesus? Does it encourage kids to get into their Bibles every lesson? Is it educationally sound? Does it teach Bible skills? Does it teach theology and Bible study skills? If so, it has not lost its value. The rest can be updated.

 

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One Way Sunday School Teachers Can Encourage Active Participation in Class

Kindergarten teacher and children with hands raised in libraryIt is well known that kids learn best when they are actively participating in class. One way teachers can encourage active participation is by asking good questions. Good questions give kids the opportunity to think and respond and discuss.

Teachers should respond to the answers students give in a way that will encourage active participation.

What are the most common types of answers kids give and how should teachers respond to them?

Silly Answers

Expect silly answers to questions and plan ahead of time how you will respond in a way that encourages further answers and discussion.

It is best to simply ignore silly answers. Say thank you and then turn to a student and rephrase the question you just asked.

Incorrect Answers

We learn from our mistakes, from being wrong. So, if a student gives an incorrect answer it is a great opportunity for learning for the whole group. You will want to do two things – tactfully correct the wrong answer and come up with an encouragement for the student to correct wrong thinking.

Don’t put-down or embarrass the student. This only makes students less likely to speak up and participate. Instead, point out where they went wrong in their answer and then provide hints, suggestions, or follow-up questions that will help your students understand and correct their answers. “Not quite, but what if…” “Let’s all look at verse 11 again.”

Correct Answers

When students give correct answers, you want to reinforce the answer and encourage the discussion to continue. Students need to learn how to have a discussion in class. One thing that can easily happen is for students to stop participating because a question was answered correctly. As the teacher you need to encourage your class to keep the discussion going even after a correct answer.

So, reinforce the correct answer by paraphrasing it or summarizing it and then ask the kids to provide another example to support or contradict the point just given. This encourages discussion to continue. Direct your students to respond to one another. “What do you think about the idea Emma just gave.” “Can you think of another way to solve that problem?” “Can you think of a Bible verse that talks about that?”

On-the-Right Track Answers

Sometimes, kids will give answers that are on-the-right track, but not quite there yet. They are specific but are just missing a piece. When this happens ask the responder to refine a statement or idea. “Is that response to the situation always the right one?” “Can you think of a Bible story or verse that talks about this situation?”

You want to respond in such a way that encourages students to keep thinking. Ask the rest of the class to respond to the idea that one kid just presented or ask the student who answered to explain the thinking that led to her answer.

Vague Answers

When students give vague answers they may be parroting back something they have heard or giving generalizations of what they have heard in class. Vague answers demonstrate a lack of understanding.

When students give vague answers you want to respond with clear instruction and questions that will help them clarify their thinking.

If an answer is too general, try to draw out specifics. “That’s a good observation, Leona. Can you give me another example of mercy?

Ask the student to clarify a vague comment. “Can you explain what you mean?”

If the kids are parroting answers encourage them to explain or define in their own words. Then you can get a better understanding of what they know and what you need to teach.

No Answers

Sometimes you will get no answers when you ask a question. First, allow for silence. A lot of teachers are afraid of silence, but silence is a good thing. Silence allows students to think before they answer and to put their thoughts together so that what they say makes sense when they do answer. After a minute or so, ask the question again. If there are still no answers you may need to rephrase the question. Maybe the kids didn’t understand it. If there are still no answers, you can answer the question yourself or choose to come back to the question later.

Another idea is to have kids write their answers on an index card. This allows them some time to think and encourages everyone to respond. You can choose to have the kids give their index cards to the person next to them, read them out loud themselves, or hand them in to you.

 

Encourage active participation in your Sunday School class! Ask good questions and respond to the answers students give in such a way as to encourage thinking, learning, and participation.

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Make Sure You Don’t Make This Mistake When Writing Volunteer Job Descriptions

childrens-ministry-mistake Writing volunteer responsibilities can be the hardest part about putting together a volunteer job description for Children’s Ministry. Just how much information is necessary? Should you err on the side of too much information or too little? How do you find the balance?

Too Much Detail

Here’s an example of a preschool Sunday School teacher job description that is way too detailed:

Specific Responsibilities:

During the week

  • Make a list of the children in your class and pray specifically by name for each child. Also, pray specifically for the Sunday School ministry.
  • Prepare for the lesson you will be teaching on Sunday by following these steps:
    • Find the correct date on the schedule you will be given and the matching lesson number from the curriculum you will be given.
    • Once you have found the lesson you will be teaching, read over the Bible story it is based in your Bible early in the week and make sure you understand it yourself.
    • Look at the Bible point early in the week.
    • Read through the whole lesson.
    • Choose the activities you will use during the lesson (hook, games, crafts, etc)
    • Make sure you have everything you need. If there are supplies needed that weren’t supplied with your curriculum, they may be in the supply cupboards. Check the inventory list.
  • Be in contact with your team to make sure everyone knows what their responsibilities are on Sunday morning.
  • You are responsible for finding a replacement for any weeks you will be absent. Contact the ministry leader at least one week in advance if you are unable to find a replacement for your absence (or as early as possible in the case of illness).

Sunday Morning

  • Arrive at the church at least 15 minutes before the class starts in order to give yourself time to prepare your room and meet with your team.
  • Pray with your team, including your class’s prayer partner, before the children arrive.
  • Note the attendance of each child as they arrive by putting a sticker by their name under the correct date on the attendance chart. Make sure the child have the appropriate identification for pick-up after the service.
  • Teach the Bible lesson in a creative way so that children will learn and grow in their faith.
  • Prepare and serve the snack that will be provided.
  • Stay in the classroom at all times when children are under your supervision. Never leave children unattended in the classroom.
  • Take children to the bathroom according to the Children’s Ministry policies and procedures.
  • Have a fantastic time getting to know the kids in your class, and teaching them about loving God and loving people. Sunday School is a fun ministry. Smile and don’t be afraid to laugh!
  • Report damaged toys/equipment to the Ministry Leader.
  • Report any classroom supplies that are needed to the Ministry Leader (pencils, markers, glue, etc.).
  • Wear your identification name tag whenever you teach Sunday School.
  • Leave room clean, neat, and in good condition after teaching.

Too Little Detail

Here is an example of a job description for a preschool Sunday School teacher that is way to general:

Specific Responsibilities:

  • Prepare and teach Bible lessons for the preschool class.

Find the Balance

The first example had far too much detail for a job description. The second example had hardly any detail at all. When writing responsibilities for a job description, include enough detail so that the potential volunteer has as accurate understanding of the responsibilities of a specific role. It is not necessary to include every single detail of the responsibilities, nor is it necessary to include personal preferences for accomplishing those responsibilities.

Here are some tips for writing responsibilities for Children’s Ministry Volunteer Job Descriptions:

  • If it’s expected, include it – If something is expected of a volunteer for a specific role, include it in the job description. For example,
    • If a volunteer is expected to arrive at a specific time, include it in the job description.
    • If a volunteer is expected to take attendance on a regular basis, include that responsibility in the job description.
  • Include enough information to be clear about responsibilities without going into unnecessary detail.
    • If a volunteer is responsible for teaching the lesson each week, say so without going into detail about how they are to prepare and teach the lesson (save that for training sessions).
  • Differentiate between the responsibilities of volunteers and good ideas for volunteers.
    • In the above example, one of the responsibilities of the preschool teacher is to prepare for the lesson during the week. A good idea for teachers is to prepare early in the week. So, the job description only needs to state that the volunteer is expected to spend some time preparing for the lesson they will teach.
  • Leave space for individual personalities.
    • Responsibilities for volunteers are constant; how each individual volunteer handles those responsibilities is a matter of personality. Don’t make the responsibilities in a job description so specific that individual personalities and creativity is stifled.

Job descriptions are such an important tool for Children’s Ministry leaders and helpful resource for volunteers. When writing job description responsibilities, be specific, clear, and brief.

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