Permission to End a Program

childrens-ministry-cancel a programI was involved once in a club program that was going really well. We had a club for kids in grades 1-3, for girls in grades 4-6, and for boys in grades 4-6.

The clubs were well planned and purposeful. Kids from the church came and they invited their friends. Kids from the community were coming too. We were building relationships with kids and introducing them to Jesus. It was great!

There was one major problem. As time went on we lost volunteers—lots of volunteers! There were plenty of reasons: job changes, school, other ministry responsibilities, etc, etc. We got to the point where we couldn’t safely or effectively run the program anymore.

So, what did we do? We started praying for wisdom and more volunteers. We also got the word out. We talked with parents and the congregation to let them know of the need for volunteers in our club ministry.

Parents were concerned…they loved the club program and wanted it to continue. However, we ended up losing a few more volunteers.

So, we choose to end the program. It was a hard decision, but it was the right one. We couldn’t effectively run the program with the volunteers we had, so we shut it down.

A year or so later, our church got involved with a breakfast club program at a local school. I was pretty excited. This was outreach! We may not be running an outreach club anymore at the church, but we were involved in outreach through the breakfast club program. We were meeting children in the community and building relationships.

Let me give you permission right now to end a program that is not working in your children’s ministry. It’s okay! It’s not a sign of failure and it’s not a sign that you don’t care about the children in your ministry. Sometimes, it’s a necessity. And sometimes, it’s the necessary start to something better.

1. Consider carefully why you are ending a program

There are many good reasons for ending a program. But keep in mind that sometimes we can be discouraged and begin to doubt the effectiveness of a program. Your discouragement is probably not a good reason to end a program. It is something that needs to be dealt with though.

Here are some reasons to end a program:

  • You already have programs that are fulfilling the same purpose.
  • You don’t have enough volunteers to effectively run the program.
  • You don’t have a leader to run the program.
  • The program is not effective.
  • There are not enough children attending.

This list is not exhaustive, it’s just a sampling of legitimate reasons to end a program.

Consider carefully why you are ending a program and be able to articulate the reason to those who ask.

2. How to defend your position

People will probably want to know why you are ending a program (especially if it seems to be going well.) It will be easier to defend your position if you have made communication a priority during this program.

Parents and the pastor or elders should already know what’s going on in the program. Why you run it, who’s attending, and its effectiveness.

How do you defend your position to parents? How do you defend your position to the pastor and elders?

Most importantly, people will want to know that you made a carefully considered, prayerful decision. Let them know about the process you used to get to your decision. And let them know what your plans are for the future.

3. Consider the future

Replacement of a program is not always necessary. If you have an effective program for outreach, then you probably don’t need a new one.

Sometimes an alternative is the answer. At the beginning of this article, I talked about a club program we had to shut down because we didn’t have enough volunteers. The idea was good, the purpose was outreach, the kids were having fun, but we didn’t have enough volunteers. One solution could be to shut down that particular club program and find an alternative idea that doesn’t require so many volunteers.

Maybe you are ending a program because you have an idea for something new. That’s okay. Communicate your vision to the pastor and parents. Make sure you have a solid purpose and plan for running the program.

Here’s a program evaluation tool that will be helpful in making the decision to end a program.

Here’s a blog post I wrote about using the program evaluation tool.

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9 Tips for Choosing a VBS Program

Choosing a VBSVBS is an important part of children’s ministry. VBS is an opportunity to reach out to the children in your community. It’s a chance to build relationships. Most importantly it’s an opportunity to share the gospel with children. How do you choose a VBS that will help you do that? There are so many options out there. There are options available from major publishing houses; there are new groups putting out VBS material; there are free VBS programs being written and made available.

How do you choose VBS material? How do you evaluate the material available and choose the right one for your kids?

Here are 9 tips:

1. One Stop for VBS Possibilities

In order to evaluate material you have to find the material. There are so many companies that put out VBS programs, it can be overwhelming. It is important to look at a bunch in order to find the right one. Tony Kumner at ministry-to-children.com has for the last few years put out a VBS page on his website where he outlines and sometimes reviews the VBS programs from the major publishing companies. It is super-convenient to have it all in one place.  He provides links to the specific VBS websites so you can check it out for yourself.

2. Always Look First At the Daily Themes and Bible Story

There is a huge temptation when looking for VBS material to get lost in the theme. The theme is important. It’s the hook that draws kids in. It provides the backdrop for decorations and games and crafts, but it’s not the most important part of VBS. The first thing to look at when choosing VBS material is always the daily themes and Bible story. Does this program teach Biblical truth? Does it teach the gospel? Is the gospel clearly, compellingly, accurately, and appropriately presented? Is the Bible significantly used?

3. Look for a Cohesive Program

As a package, how well does the rest of the program support the gospel message? Is the theme continued in the games, crafts, and snack times? Are the crafts made an opportunity for the kids to interact further with the Biblical theme? Will they be a reminder of what was taught? Are the games being played a chance for kids to have fun while interacting further with the Bible story or truth taught? Absolutely everything doesn’t have to be completely connected to the theme. Sometimes, the game is just for fun. But when you are evaluating VBS material, it’s important to look at how well the theme is used, highlighted, and developed in all the areas of the program.

4. Choose a VBS Theme that will Attract the Kids in your Community

A theme should attract the interest of the kids in your church & neighborhood and maintain that interest throughout the program. When looking at themes consider popular trends and fads; TV shows, movies, and video games that are currently capturing kids attention; and don’t neglect perennially popular themes. Look at what themes other churches in your area are using. Get inspiration from what is being offered. If there seems to be a theme that is being used by a number of churches consider doing something different. When looking at VBS programs ask, “Is the theme one that would attract the attention of kids and parents in my community?”

5. Choose a VBS Program That Fits the Size of Your Volunteer Base and Resources

Some VBS programs will look really appealing and exciting, but it just might not be possible to pull it off. Do you have the volunteers necessary to do that particular VBS really well? Do you have access to the resources necessary for this VBS program (game equipment, craft supplies and materials, decorations, and physical space?)

6. Compare the Cost of the VBS Program to Your Budget

Can you afford to purchase the VBS material? Look at the basic material provided and look carefully at the extras. Do you need them? Will you need to come up with your own craft ideas if you choose not to purchase the materials provided. Also look carefully at the games, crafts, and snack suggestions. Even if you purchase materials yourself, will they be expensive? I previewed one VBS program once that was highlighting the fact that all the crafts were made from materials you can get a hold of yourself (you didn’t need to purchase anything from the company). The crafts were all connected to the theme and fun possibilities, but they were all going to be expensive! The materials needed were not cheap! Look carefully at the budget you have for VBS and the cost of the program you want to purchase. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of craft supplies, game equipment, snack supplies, and decorations that you will need to purchase on top of the VBS program material.

7. Music Is Important

If you are going to have music, make sure it’s good. Music can be a way to draw kids in and get them excited. Music is also a great way to develop the theme and teach Biblical truth. We remember what we sing. When VBS is done, it’s the songs that the kids will likely remember most. So make sure the songs sung are full of Biblical truth. Make sure they are fun, kid-friendly, and memorable. As the kids sing the music they learned at VBS, they should be singing Bible and gospel truths.

8. Make Sure there is Enough Material for a Considered Evaluation

There must be enough theme and bible content to evaluate. Are you able to see the Bible point, Bible verse, and Bible story for each day? Do they offer samples of the Bible story? Are you given enough material to make a considered evaluation? If it’s not there to preview, don’t choose that program.

9. Crafts/Games/Snack – Don’t Get Too Caught Up In This Section of the VBS Material

Games, crafts, and snack are an important part of VBS and if you are purchasing a program, then you want most of the work to be done for you already. Look at what is on offer for crafts, games, and snack. Make sure that you have the physical space and resources to use the ideas provided. But remember, it is easy to supplement crafts, games, and snack. Don’t let the fact that a VBS program doesn’t have games and snack provided to stop you from using it (especially if it has a particularly good Bible story section and gospel presentation.) Crafts, games, and snack shouldn’t be the deal breakers when choosing a VBS. However, you need to look at the program as a whole. If you will have to change or supplement too much (games, craft, snack, music, missions, story, gospel presentation)  then it is might not be worth purchasing the material, even if you love the theme.

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Is it time for a check-up? Here’s a Program Evaluation Tool

SurveyNo matter what ministry you are involved with, periodic evaluation is necessary. Programs in children’s ministry can run for years with parents and volunteers assuming that everything is fine. But it’s important to take a step back every once and a while and really consider how a specific program is doing. Is it fulfilling its purpose? Is it meeting a current need?

Evaluation is important for every program in children’s ministry. If the program is doing well, then be encouraged. If it isn’t, then let me encourage you to use this as an opportunity for positive change!

The prospect of conducting an evaluation on a current ministry program can be daunting. Here is a tool that you can use to make the process simple yet effective.
This program evaluation tool uses 5 steps to conduct an evaluation and develop an action plan.

Step 1—Pray

This is the first step in an evaluation process, but it should also be sprinkled throughout the process. When doing an honest evaluation we need the Holy Spirit to guide us and convict us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

In every situation, including embarking on an evaluation process, present your requests to God. And the promise is peace that will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.

So, pray before you begin and pray throughout the process.

Step 2—Define the Program

This particular evaluation tool was designed for one specific program at a time. During this step you will articulate the purpose, position on the children’s ministry spectrum, and vision of this particular program.

If you don’t have the answer to one or more of these questions, don’t worry. You can find the answer. It’s important to have these foundational things before you move on in the evaluation process.

Take the time you need to step out of the evaluation process and define the purpose of your program. Take a few minutes to plot where it is on the children’s ministry spectrum. Is it helping to fulfill the children’s ministry vision? If you need help with the children’s ministry spectrum or writing a vision statement, links are provided to articles that will help you.

Once you have defined the program, it’s time to move on to step 3.

Step3—Evaluate the Program

The program evaluation tool is divided into 4 categories: Purpose/Vision; Program/Curriculum; Volunteers; and Administration.  Within each category are a series of questions. To complete the evaluation, mark the column that best matches your answer to that question (“Absolutely”, “Somewhat”, “Not really”, or “Not at all”). Answer these questions as accurately as possible, taking into account the program’s current situation. Be careful not to answer based on what you want the answer to be but rather how it is right now. The more accurately you answer these questions now, the easier the next steps will become!

So be honest and take your time.

Step 4—Reflect on the Program

This section of the evaluation contains 3 questions for you to answer. These questions give you the opportunity to get down on paper your thoughts about this program. Use as much space and take as much time as you need. The answers you give here can help to reveal deeper thoughts and feelings about your program that you might not have answered in the evaluation chart in the previous step and these answers will help you as you go through the rest of this tool.

Step 5—Identify Next Steps

This sections contains a flowchart will help you identify potential next steps to take as a result of how you answered the evaluation questions. By the time you are finished you should have a list of things to do to improve your program.

Use the program evaluation tool to help you honestly evaluate your program and come up with a plan for what to do in the future.

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