Why do you need a vision for your children’s ministry?

Do you ever wonder if you are accomplishing anything more valuable than babysitting?

Do you ever feel discouraged by the lack of volunteers?

Do you ever get frustrated by the children’s behavior?

Do you ever feel like your children’s ministry isn’t “connected” to what your church is doing?

Do you ever end up wondering why you even serve at all in children’s ministry?

Children’s ministry is a lot of work. There are a lot of details and juggling. And it can be thankless work.

So in order to stay focused and motivated, you need to keep the bigger picture in mind: Children’s ministry is more than education or babysitting. It’s about preparing/discipling our kids to glorify God throughout their whole lives. You’re not just helping Jonny learn to share; you’re teaching him a truth about God that will be relevant for his whole life.

A vision statement can help.

A vision statement is a single sentence description of what you want your kids to be like when they leave your children’s ministry.

A vision is important because it gives all your children’s ministry volunteers something to work towards.

A vision statement…

Unifies volunteers from different programs

A children’s ministry vision statement can help volunteers from all the different programs see how the ministry they are involved in connects with and supports the ministry other volunteers are involved in. VBS volunteers will see how they are connected to Sunday School volunteers. Mid-week clubs will see how they are part of the children’s ministry team. Volunteers from all children’s ministry programs at your church will be unified; working towards the same goal.

Helps you decide what to do with current ministries and potential ministries

If you have a vision statement for your children’s ministry, you have a standard to evaluate all programs by. If any of your current programs don’t help fulfill your vision, then you need to consider letting them go. When considering a new program, evaluate it in light of your vision statement. If it will help you achieve your dream for your kids, then it is a program you should strongly consider. This is a very helpful tool. There are a lot of programs and possibilities out there and it is not possible to use all of them at your church. Having a vision statement will help you as you evaluate possible programs.

Helps you sell children’s ministry to the church leadership and the congregation

Sometimes the congregation will need help in seeing the true value of children’s ministry in your church. A vision statement helps them to see the bigger picture. It will help them to see opportunities to volunteer. It will also show them how to pray for your children and children’s ministry volunteers. It will help the church leadership as they are setting your budget. It will also help the church leadership see the connection between children’s ministry and all of the other ministries in the church.

Motivates volunteers and reminds them why they are serving

When a volunteer feels mired down in details and discipline problems, your vision statement will help them to see beyond the present frustrations. Knowing that there is a bigger picture will motivate your volunteers. A vision statement will remind your volunteers that the goal is discipleship – children who know, love, and serve Jesus.

Vision statement examples

Here’s the vision statement we created at one of the churches I served in, “Kids who passionately love God and live out their faith in words and actions.

Here are some other vision statements I’ve found from other churches that will you see what vision statements look like.

To equip children to be well-grounded in God’s Word, to build godly character, to instill the priority of the Great Commission, and to develop good spiritual disciplines, all for the Glory of God. (Evangel Bible Church of Berkley)

We want an ever-growing number of children to visit our church, finding a place where they feel loved, come to know Christ, and continue to grow through fun and life-changing experiences.

We want to see every child in our ministry discipled one-on-one by a parent or loving adult before they leave the children’s ministry so that they will know basic doctrine, be practicing the spiritual disciples and have acquired the biblical skills needed to survive the turbulent teenage years and prepare them for a life of loving, obeying and serving God.

With guidance from the Lord, children will be prepared to be strong believers, effective Christian youth, and future church leaders. (Fellowship Baptist Church)

Scripture Versus Vision

Some people may ask why we don’t use a Bible verse for a vision statement.

Children’s ministries should have a verse or passage that inspires them in their work as volunteers. A vision statement, however, is a dream of what you want in the future and it’s specific to your church and to your children. I believe that a vision statement must always be rooted in scripture because the Bible gives us everything we need for godly living. So use your Bible as a guide when creating your vision statement, but remember that a vision statement is very specific to how you want YOUR kids to leave YOUR children’s ministry.

For example, the vision I used for one of the churches I’ve served in was: “Kids who passionately love God and live out their faith in words and actions.

And, the verse we used to inspire our vision was: “We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord…So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering His glorious miracles and obeying his commands.”(Psalm 78:4&7)

 

Remember a vision statement is a single-sentence description of the dream you have for the children in your ministry. What will they look like once they leave children’s ministry?

Stay tuned. In the next few blog posts I will teach you how to create a vision for your children’s ministry.

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Application – Moving from Head Knowledge to Heart Transformation

The goal of our Sunday School programs should always be transformation.

Although Bible knowledge is important, we don’t want our kids to just learn Bible knowledge. We want our kids to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

Sunday School should be primarily about discipleship. Application time therefore is a very important part of Sunday School. If we just taught the Bible lesson, we would be growing kids with a lot of head knowledge and likely little heart transformation.

Application time is the part of Sunday School where the 1 thing you have focused on in the lesson is made personal for each child.

Here’s an example. You are teaching a class of kids in Grades 4-6. The lesson is on Jesus, the Son of Man. The theme you have chosen to focus on, the 1 thing, is “Jesus Became Fully Human.” You have completed the lesson – shown the kids from the Bible that Jesus was fully human – and now it is application time.

1st – Application time is the kids opportunity to talk.

Design this portion of the lesson in such a way that your students feel comfortable talking. This could mean changing places. If your lesson was at a table, you may want to move to chairs in a circle. Also you may want to split the kids into smaller groups (if you have enough adults). Once settled, remember to let the kids do most of the talking. Your responsibility is to guide the conversation and keep the kids on track. You can do this by learning to ask good questions.

2nd – Build a bridge for the kids between the Bible lesson and the personal connection to their lives.

Kids don’t automatically see the connections. Your job as a teacher is to help them see it. There isn’t one response to one theme. There are infinite directions application time could be taken in. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, trust your knowledge of your kids, and then choose a direction to head. It may change during the discussion, so be open to that.

Once you have chosen a direction, plan some questions to ask that will help the kids see a connection between your 1 thing and their own lives. Continuing our example, the direction you choose to take with your theme of Jesus being fully human is that because Jesus is fully human He understands and can sympathize with us – when we struggle to resist temptation and when we feel confused and scared.

3rd – Ask questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no.

Ask questions that will force your students to think. “Tell me about a time when you were really scared/troubled/sad. Can you think of a story from the Bible that shows Jesus feeling the same way? How does it help you to know that Jesus understands?”

4th – Finish application time with an opportunity for the kids to apply this truth to their lives this week.

Make it personal and immediate. Always take time to pray. Give the kids the opportunity to talk to God privately and as a group. Encourage them to ask God to give them chances to practice what they have learned this week.

Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. So, pray. Pray while you are preparing your lesson, pray during your lesson, and pray throughout the week that the Holy Spirit would be at work in the lives of your students – softening their hearts, helping to apply truth to their lives, transforming them into the image of Jesus.

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VBS Programs – What Should You Really Be Looking For?

I love VBS! I love the creativity that oozes out of totally committed volunteers. I love the anticipation and excitement surrounding VBS. I love the chatter of kid’s voices and the laughter. I love the games and the crafts and the snacks and the spontaneous activity.

But the thing I love most about VBS is sharing the gospel. I love telling kids who have never heard before that our God is holy and awesome and loves them so much that He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sin. I love telling them that forgiveness of sin and a relationship with God is possible because of Jesus, our great Savior!

It can be very tempting to get caught up in the décor and the theme and the games and the crafts and miss out on the most important part of VBS – the gospel.

When choosing your VBS program this year, look past the glitzy décor and crazy games to the heart of the program. Does it offer a clear, compelling, age-appropriate gospel message? Do the other activities serve to support the gospel message?

The most important thing to look at when choosing a VBS program is the daily themes and Bible lessons. Don’t settle for a program that has everything you could possible need in one box, but a weak gospel presentation.

In an upcoming blog post I will talk more about sharing the gospel with kids.

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Classroom Discipline – Sometimes the Right Thing is the Opposite

behavior managementIt is very important to have established rules and expectations of behavior in Sunday School. But sometimes the right way to respond to inappropriate behavior is to do the opposite of what is expected.

In one preschool class I taught there was a 5 year old boy. He came from a single parent home. His mother had no interest in church at all. His grandparents brought him and his brother whenever they could. This boy was the epitome of getting attention with bad behavior. He broke all the rules and delighted in making his teachers angry.

I am a firm believer in awarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior (especially as regards acting out to get attention.) One Sunday morning, this boy was acting out and it had been going on for a while. My initial reaction was to ignore the behavior. I didn’t want to reward him with attention for that kind of behavior.

But, then God gave me a better idea. Instead of ignoring him, I caught him and held on. I sat with him and talked to him. Initially he didn’t want me to talk to him or to touch him. But I spoke gently telling him that I was really glad he was in my class and that Jesus loved him. And I kept my hand on his shoulder. I wanted him to know that he had my attention – I liked him, I liked talking to him and more importantly Jesus loved him.

Eventually I could sense an ease in the tension and he began to open up a little about his home life. I spent about 10 minutes one-on-one with him that morning. His behavior is still not perfect and he still acts out sometimes, but I believe that he now understands that I’m on his side and he doesn’t need to misbehave to get my attention. It was a wonderful opportunity to let that little one know that Jesus loves Him and that Sunday School is a safe place where children are accepted and loved.

Sometimes the right thing to do is the opposite of what you were taught or expected to do in behavioral situations. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

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Teach 1 Thing

Teach 1 ThingWhen preparing your Sunday School lesson, it can be very tempting to cram as much as possible into the time you have. After all, you want the kids to learn everything!

The problem is that the kids will end up leaving your class discouraged and overwhelmed. When asked, “What did you learn in Sunday School today?” they will not be able to give a good answer.

One of the most important truths a Sunday School teacher can master is to teach 1 thing.

Here’s how to decide what 1 thing to focus on:

Pray

Ask God to show you the 1 truth He wants you to focus on.

Read through the lesson

Read everything: all the suggested scripture, the entire lesson, the application, any additional material.

Look at the themes

Most curriculums will list one or more key themes at the beginning of the lesson. These may be called key themes, themes, aims, objectives, goals, truths, etc. You may be able to take your “1 thing” directly from here or use one listed as a base to build on.

Decide on 1 central theme

Once you have prayed and read through everything, you now have to decide what the 1 thing is you want to teach in this lesson. Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Different teachers will choose different themes and you may even choose something different the next time you teach this lesson. The Bible has so much to teach us – so choose 1 thing. Once you have decided, write it out in a single sentence.

Go back through the lesson

This is the time to be ruthless. Get rid of everything that isn’t about your 1 thing. It may be the truth, it may be Biblical and God-centered, it may be something you want the children to learn, but if it isn’t about the 1 central theme then it shouldn’t be in this lesson.

Insert your 1 thing throughout the lesson

Your 1 thing should be repeated often throughout the lesson, but that won’t happen unless you put it in.

Focus the application

You may need to change the application a lot depending on what you have chosen for your 1 thing. The 1 thing as stated will be a truth – about God, us, the Bible. During application, your job is to take that 1 truth and move it from head knowledge to heart transformation. There is a lot to say about this, so watch for it in an upcoming post.

When you focus your lesson on 1 central theme, your kids will be able to follow you, remain focused, and walk away having learned that 1 thing really well.

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