4 Ways to Get Your Kids Thinking About Outreach

Outreach is important! It’s the first step to evangelism. Kids can be involved in outreach. Kids should be involved in outreach.

Children's Ministry Outreach

Tell your kids that they can reach out to the people in their spheres of influence and share the love of Jesus with them! Get them thinking about their spheres of influence. Where do they spend their time?

There are 3 big areas for kids – home, school, and community. Get your kids thinking about how they can reach out to people in their families, to friends at school, and to people in the community, and then give them a tangible reminder that they can reach out to people and share the love of Jesus with them.

 Home

Outreach happens in your home with your family. Be on the lookout for ways to share the love of Jesus with your immediate family and your extended family. Start with people you know. Maybe your Grandma needs some help with yard work or your aunt needs your help with babysitting.

 School

Outreach happens at school with your friends and even with kids at school who are not your friends but could use your support and encouragement. Look for ways to share the love of Jesus with kids at school. This may mean sitting with the kid at lunch who is all alone or telling your best friend about Jesus and how a relationship with Him could change their life.

 Community

Outreach happens in your community with your neighbors. Take some time to check out your neighborhood. Look for ways to share the love of Jesus in your community. Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who could use help shoveling snow from their driveway or raking the leaves on the lawn.

 

Spend some time brainstorming with your kids about ways they can reach out at home, school, and in their community. Encourage them to be specific.

 Tangible Reminder

After you have gotten your kids thinking about outreach, give them something tangible to help them remember that they can reach out with the love of Jesus. Some ideas could be a Wordless bracelet. Make the bracelets together. Use beads that are the color of the wordless book – gold/yellow, black, red, white, green. Teach the kids what each color means and encourage them to wear the bracelet as a reminder to share the good news of the gospel in their spheres of influence. Another idea for a tangible reminder would be a zipper pull with John 3:16 written on it. Again, this is a tangible reminder for kids that they can be involved in reaching out to those who need to hear about the love of Jesus!

 

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My Week at Bible Camp

childrens-ministry-bible-camp
I recently returned from a week at Bible camp. I was the speaker for a group of 80 9-11 year olds. I haven’t been to camp in over 20 years, but my church is a huge supporter of this camp and they needed a speaker, so I agreed to help. I had never been to this camp before but I have spent lots of time at camp as a camper and as a cabin leader. I think Bible camp is a hugely important ministry.

I arrived on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. The camp is situated deep in the heart of a provincial park. There are lots of trees, huge rocks, and a gorgeous lake.
First up was staff meeting. I met those I would be serving with and we were given instructions and a job for while parents and kids were arriving. I was sent to the main gate to direct traffic (interesting job considering I had never been to this camp before!! But no one got lost!)

The kids started to arrive and the week kicked off.

I spoke every morning in chapel and three times in the evening at campfire. During my free time I read, napped, and wandered around the camp and hung out with the kids.

One afternoon I discovered the path to the archery range. The path wove through the woods and it was lined with lampposts. For a minute, I imagined I was in Narnia!

Chapels and campfires were my favorite times at camp. The kids were attentive, engaged, interested, and curious. I loved the questions they were asking!

One day at lunch a girl came to me and said, “You answered all of my questions and I hadn’t even asked them yet!”

After chapel the kids sat on the grass in cabin groups and talked about chapel and what they learned. They were able to ask questions; the leaders were given a chance to see what the kids heard and understood. It was a great opportunity for small group interaction.

One thing that amazed me as the week progressed was the things that hadn’t changed since I was a camper. The prayers prayed before meals; the early morning staff meetings; the skills offered like archery and canoeing; the songs sung in chapel and at campfire; the fact that God uses camp as a significant growing experience in the lives of the kids who attend.

One cabin leader reported at staff meeting that a boy in his cabin admitted that this was the first time he had ever heard that God loved him. Other cabin leaders reported kids choosing to give their lives to Jesus.

I love camp! I believe that it is a valuable ministry that should be supported and encouraged.

Here are 5 reasons why camp is a valuable ministry:

1. It is an amazing opportunity to get to know kids and build a relationship with them.

24 hours a day for a week – that’s a long time!

At camp you have time to talk. There is no rush. There are moments throughout the day to really talk with kids – in the cabin during quiet time or bedtime; at meals in the dining hall; walking to and from activities; during free time in the afternoons.

At camp you have time to pay attention to kids – to give them your full attention. There are some kids who are just waiting for someone to pay attention to them; someone who is interested in the stories they have to tell; the fears they experience; the bulls eye they got in archery.

At camp you have fun together. This is so important when building a relationship with kids. There are many opportunities to have fun. As a leader, you have to choose to get in there and participate. Don’t be afraid to let the kids see you enjoying yourself or even be a little silly!

2. At camp you have lots of opportunities to talk about God.

Chapels and campfires are great opportunities to talk about God, but they aren’t the only ones. Devotionals in the cabins; meals in the dining hall; walks to and from activities; hanging out on a flotation device. This is a chance to show that talking about God can be natural. You don’t need to wait until chapel or devotionals. Make “God talk” a normal part of camp life – a natural event. God is real and involved in every part of our lives. So, talk about Him in chapel, at campfire, during devotionals, walking to archery, while you are canoeing, while you are eating, anytime!

It’s also a great opportunity to share the gospel with kids and to take your time doing it. Kids have time to think through each part of the gospel message and to realize that it is personal.

3. At camp kids have the chance to think about the things they are learning and ask questions.

Sometimes at Sunday School or children’s church, things are a little rushed and kids don’t get the chance to ask their question or even to think about what their question might be. There is so much time at camp. Kids have the chance to think about God and what a life with Him looks like. They have a chance to formulate and ask their questions. They have the chance to really hear the answers and to follow-up. I like the pace of camp and the opportunity it affords kids to think and to express their curiosity.

4. It’s an Amazing Opportunity to Provide Training for Volunteers.

Some camps use this opportunity and make every use of it and others don’t. I was a counselor at a camp that gave its leaders very little training. You applied, were accepted, showed up for your week or 2 of camp, had one short staff meeting before the campers arrived and that was it. The camp that I recently spoke at provides 5 weeks of training for its Cabin Leaders. Training includes leadership skills, first aid, certification in skills, and spiritual training.

I was really impressed with the training offered to staff at this camp. Cabin leaders are primarily teenagers and with the training provided they are given skills that they will use in church ministry and can put on their resume.

5. Time Away

I came back from camp exhausted! It was early mornings and late nights. And yet, I was refreshed. It was time away from my regular schedule. There was no wi-fi at this camp, so I was cut off. I couldn’t check facebook or twitter. It was, instead, an opportunity to rest; to enjoy God’s glorious creation; to re-charge.

Camp is time away whether you are a camper or a staff member. And it is valuable whether you are a camper or a staff member. Rest is underrated in our society, but I believe it is hugely important. I may not have gotten enough sleep while I was at camp, but I did get rest.

Why Do I Take Time to Go to Camp?

The last day at camp I was down at the lakeside watching the kids swim. A girl came running to me, gave me a huge hug, and said, “Thank you for telling us about Jesus!”

That’s why I go to camp!

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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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Book Review – Rock-Solid Kids by Larry Fowler

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24

What attracted me most to this book was the tag line on the front cover – “Giving Children a Biblical Foundation for Life.”childrens-ministry-rock-solid-kids

Biblical literacy is very important to me so I was interested to see what the book had to say about it.

In the introduction, Larry Fowler outlines the purpose and format of his 142 page book.  “Those involved in children’s ministry must also build on the right foundation—and that is the primary concern of this book…Each chapter of this book starts with a Scripture passage—a ‘rock’ for your foundation. The Scripture passage specifically refers to children or ministering to them. Each chapter contains a thorough discussion of implications and applications. Together, the eight core chapters will give you eight ‘foundational rocks’—fundamental principles from God’s Word upon which to build your ministry.”

Larry Fowler discusses the importance of children’s ministry, the responsibility for children’s ministry, the content of children’s ministry, and the pattern for children’s ministry. He highlights a warning about ministering to children, allowing children to serve, the message for children’s ministry, and the opportunity of children’s ministry.

I loved this book! I would highly recommend it.

In his chapter on the content of children’s ministry, Fowler discusses the battle for balance. He discusses Biblical truth and application. I agree that a balance between these is really important. Start with Scripture and follow with application. He talked about Biblical truth, application, and relevance. He defined relevance as being how closely the biblical truth applies to a person’s life.

Although I agree wholeheartedly with the need for balance in our teaching, I did not agree with what he said about relevance. I think we need to be very careful about how we discuss relevance in relation to the Word of God. The Word of God is always relevant; we just may not see it. “The teacher’s task in application is to recognize and communicate Scripture’s relevance, rather than to make it relevant.” (Walton, Bailey, and Williford; Teach the Text)

I wonder if I just misunderstood Fowler’s use of the term relevant in this situation. I do agree with his ‘foundation rock’ for this chapter: “Scripture is the foundation of our content; relevance follows.”

My favorite chapter was chapter 7—A Clear Focus: The Message for Children’s Ministry.

“From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15

Fowler clearly defines what the gospel is and how we should share it with children. I appreciated his discussion about how we call children to respond to the gospel. “If we understand what the Bible says, then we won’t need a formula. Children, and everyone else, are saved by God’s grace through faith.

He goes on to say, “As presenters of the gospel message, we must focus children’s faith on the person and the work of Christ on the cross. Faith must be in Jesus’ death and resurrection…as presenters we have a responsibility to be as clear and biblically accurate as possible…So what do we do? Repeat the gospel over and over again. Reinforce it regularly. Let your awe of it show through.”

Building a children’s ministry on the foundation of God’s Word is vital and it can be done, whether you are starting from scratch or have been involved in children’s ministry for years. I recommend this book for parents, children’s ministry leaders and volunteers. I was encouraged when I read it and I think you will be too!

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Why VBS Should be Evangelistic!

My dad’s a pastor. He’s been a pastor for more than 35 years. There are a number of things that characterize my Dad. If you ask people, the first thing they will probably mention is his laugh. My dad laughs a lot and it’s infectious!

My dad also shares the gospel every chance he gets. He shares the gospel at weddings and funerals. He shares the gospel in hospital rooms and coffee shops. He shared the gospel recently more than once at our 100th years in Canada family reunion. He was asked to put together a hymn book of our pioneering ancestor’s favorite hymns and in the introduction he shared the gospel.

If I have learned anything from my Dad it’s this: Share the gospel. Love people, listen to people, serve people, but don’t waste opportunities to share the gospel because they might not come around again.

There are many reasons to hold a VBS program at your church, but I believe that the first and foremost reason should be because it’s an opportunity to share the gospel with the kids in your community.

There are children that come to VBS that have never stepped into a church before. There are kids who have attended church their whole life. There are also kids who come from other churches!

All of these children need to hear about the God who created them and loves them; who sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross, taking the punishment for their sin so that they can be forgiven and become children of God.

VBS is an opportunity to share the wonderful gospel with the children in your community – a chance that you may not get again. Don’t waste it.

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