Three Things to do Five Minutes Before Every Event

It is five minutes before VBS/Sunday School/Children’s Church/Mid-week clubs and you are trying to finish setting up while two volunteers want to discuss their schedules and the kids are running around screaming. Does this scenario sound familiar?

I think it is all too familiar for most Children’s Ministry leaders. Rather than letting the chaos control you, take five minutes to reset. There are three things that all leaders should do 5 minutes before every program or event.

Three Things to do Five Minutes Before Every Event

First, check the schedule. Look over what is about to happen. As the leader, you need to know what is scheduled and who is responsible for what.

Second, pray. Ask God for wisdom, love, and creativity. Most importantly , ask God to give you clear focus during the event to see opportunities to share the gospel and to build relationships with kids and volunteers.

Third, remember that it is all about making disciples. No matter the purpose of the specific program you are leading, everything in Children’s Ministry is about making disciples. What is going to happen during this event that will help you do that?

This is a good habit to develop but it’s not going to work unless your volunteer team knows that this is important to you. Tell them what you are doing and how long you need to do it. Then suggest that they develop the same habit.

Duck out of the room and find a quiet place to go through these three steps.

If everyone on the team is doing these three things and understands the importance of them, prep work will get done sooner so that there is time for this reset.

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Bigger is Better, Right?

Are you a small children’s ministry? Do you sometimes look at larger children’s ministries and think, “If only we had their budget, their volunteers, their space?”

Bigger has become equated with better. Bigger children’s ministries have more money, more space, and more volunteers. That must mean that they offer more value to the kids who attend their programs. They must offer better children’s ministry.

We all have these thoughts. But is bigger automatically better?

Where does the true value come from in children’s ministry?

Making DisciplesRelationships

The true value in children’s ministry is not in the budget or the space, it starts with the relationships you and your team build with the kids in your care. Do you take the time to get to know the kids in your programs? Do you start outreach programs with the express purpose of getting to know the kids in your community? Building relationships is a key part of children’s ministry.

Gospel

Children’s ministry is important because it is an opportunity to share the gospel in an age-appropriate, targeted manner with kids that you have been building a relationship with. Budgets, space, and a huge volunteer base won’t mean anything if they are not being used to help you share the gospel with the kids who attend your programs. The gospel is key; it’s central to everything we do in children’s ministry. Are you regularly sharing the gospel with the kids in your ministry?

Are you making disciples?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

This is what it’s all about: Children’s Ministry is about making disciples. Jesus commands us to make disciples. The true value in children’s ministry is the opportunity it allows us to make disciples of kids. We build relationships, we share the gospel. Why? In order to make disciples. And when children do put their trust in Jesus, we build them up as disciples teaching them how to pray, how to study their Bibles, how to use the gifts God has given them to serve and build up the church.

Are you making disciples in your children’s ministry?

Budget

Whatever your budget is, use it to build relationships, share the gospel, and make disciples.

Volunteers

However many volunteers you have, make it your goal as a team to build relationships, share the gospel, and make disciples.

Space

Whether you have a huge amount of space or one small classroom, creatively use the space you have to help you build relationships, share the gospel, and make disciples.

So, is bigger always better? Not necessarily. The focus shouldn’t be on how big your children’s ministry is. The focus should be on making disciples. It doesn’t really matter what size your budget is, what size your space is, or what size your volunteer team is. What matters is whether you are using those things to help you make disciples.

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Teach Kids to be Bible Detectives!

I think one of the greatest skills you can teach your class is to study the Bible themselves.

One fun way to teach kids how to study their Bibles is to teach them how to be Bible detectives!

childrens-ministry-bible-detective

Great detectives ask lots of questions and observe carefully. Great Bible detectives ask lots of questions and observe the passage they are studying carefully for clues.

In order to know what types of questions to ask, Bible detectives have to first observe the passage being studied. Is it a narrative or story? Is it teaching like one of the epistles in the New Testament? Is it poetry or wisdom literature?

If the passage is a story, Bible detectives will ask questions like:

  • Who are the characters?
  • What is the conflict? What are they doing?
  • When does this story take place?
  • Where does this story take place?
  • Why did they character do what they did? React the way they did?
  • How does the conflict resolve?

If the passage is teaching, Bible detectives will ask questions like:

  • Who wrote this passage? Who did they write it to?
  • What is the topic of the passage? What is the argument?
  • When did the author write this?
  • Where was it written?
  • Why did the author write it?
  • How does this passage apply to my life?

If the passage is poetry or wisdom literature, Bible detectives will ask questions like:

  • Who wrote this passage? Who did they write it for?
  • What genre is this passage?
  • When and where is the context for this passage? (ex. Psalm 51 was written after King David sinned )
  • Why did the author write it?
  • How does the style (or genre) inform our understanding? How does this passage apply to my life?

Who

This category of questions is all about people. Who are the people in the story? Some good follow-up questions would be, “What is said about the person or people in this passage?” and “What does the person say?”

  • Who is speaking?
  • Who was there?
  • Who is it about?
  • Who are the main characters?
  • Who wrote this passage?
  • Who is this passage written for?

 What

This category of questions is all about action. What are the main events taking place?

  • What is happening in the passage?
  • What happens to the characters?
  • What does this passage say about God?
  • What caused the trouble or conflict?
  • What is the subject covered in the passage?
  • What do you learn about the people in this passage?
  • What do you learn about the events taking place in this passage?
  • What do you learn from the teaching in this passage?
  • What instructions are given in this passage?
  • What is the argument?
  • What is the writer trying to communicate?
  • What is wrong with this picture?

 When

This category of questions is all about time. Questions are related to when things happen. What year; what time of day, etc? These are key questions in figuring out the order of events.

  • When did it happen?
  • When did it take place?
  • When do or will the events occur?
  • When did or will something happen to a particular person, people, or nation?
  • When did the events occur in relation to other events in Scripture?
  • When was the writer writing?

Where

 This category of questions is about location. Did the story take place in the wilderness; on the sea; in a boat; on a mountain; in Egypt; in Jerusalem?

  • Where did it happen?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Where will this happen?
  • Where was it said?
  • Where was it written?
  • Where are the people in the story?
  • Where are they coming from? Where are they going?
  • Where is the writer?
  • Where were the original readers of this text?

Why

 This category of questions is all about motivation.

  • Why did it happen?
  • Why is something being said?
  • Why would or will this happen?
  • Why at this time?
  • Why this person?
  • Why does this passage follow that passage? Why does this passage precede that passage?
  • Why does this person say that?
  • Why does someone say nothing?

How

 This category of questions is all about the mechanics of a situation and/or the application of a passage.

  • How did it happen?
  • How did lives change?
  • How did the story end?
  • How does this apply to my life?
  • How will it happen?
  • How is it to be done?
  • How is it illustrated?

Here’s an Example

Mark 4:35-41

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Who

Who is in this story?

  • Jesus and His disciples (v. 35). We know it’s Jesus by looking a couple of verses earlier in verse 33 (context is really important).

What

 What happens in this story?

  • A storm hits (v. 37) and the disciples in the boat are terrified. Jesus stops the storm (v. 39).

When

 When does this story take place?

  • Evening (v.35)
  • After a day of teaching by the lake (vs. 1-34).

 Where

 Where does this story take place?

  • On the sea (this is inferred since the disciples get into a boat in order to get to the other side).
  • Bible detectives have to go all the way back to the beginning of chapter 4 to discover where this story happens. In verse one we find out that Jesus is teaching by the lake, probably the Sea of Galilee.

 Why

 Why was Jesus able to calm the storm?

  • Because He is the Son of God and has power over nature.

How

 How does this story end?

  • The disciples ask who Jesus is (v.41). The identity of Jesus is key.

Good observation skills and the ability to ask good questions are just the start of becoming Bible detectives. Teach your kids these skills and then give them lots of practice!

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Teaching Bible Skills – The Old & New Testaments

biblical literacy

I believe that Bible skills are important. I believe that it is part of our job as children’s ministry volunteers and leaders, as Sunday School teachers to teach our kids Bible skills.

There are 2 major goals when teaching Bible skills.

#1 – That kids will become comfortable and familiar with their Bibles.

#2 – That kids will be able to navigate their Bibles.

We want kids to be comfortable and familiar with their Bibles and to be able to navigate their Bibles so that they will read their Bibles.

The purpose of teaching Bible skills is not simply knowledge or a means of keeping kids occupied. We teach Bible skills so that kids will read their Bibles!

But more than just reading their Bibles, we want kids to love the God of the Bible and choose to follow Him.

So far in this series, we have covered finding books in the Bible and understanding the reference. Now I want to talk about the Old and New Testaments.

 What is a Testament?

The word testament means covenant. A covenant is a promise. So we have the old promise and the new promise.

In 1 Corinthians 11:25, Paul writes regarding the Lord’s Supper,

“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it in remembrance of me.”

Jesus talks about a new covenant. If there is a new covenant, there must be an old covenant. In the Old Testament, we read of Moses going up to meet with God on Mount Sinai. There a covenant was agreed between God and the people Israel. They would follow Him and He would make them His treasured possession.

God always keeps His promises. In the Bible, we read about what God has done and the promises He has made.

 The Old Testament

The Old Testament is the first part of the Bible. It has 39 books. The Old Testament tells what happened from the time God created the world until the time of the prophet Malachi (about 400 years before Jesus was born.

 The New Testament

The New Testament is the second part of the Bible. It has 27 books. The New Testament tells about the life of Jesus, the early church, and the Christian faith.

Here are some game ideas to get you started teaching kids about the Old and New Testaments.

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Robert Munch 17:17 – Teaching Bible Skills – The Reference

“At bedtime I was sharing with Nicholas about what true friendship is. I ended by saying: “The bible says that a friend loves at all times!” Nicholas exclaimed “I know, Robert Munch 17:17!” “What?” I asked for clarification. He explained “Robert Munch 17:17! That’s the bible verse that says that a friend loves at all times.” Later I checked. Sure enough, the verse is found in Proverbs 17:17. Or as the cool kids call it Robert Munch 17:17.”

To a 5 year old, Robert Munch 17:17 makes just about as much sense as Proverbs 17:17. The books of the Bible are for the most part unfamiliar words for kids – Leviticus, Obadiah, Ecclesiastes, Thessalonians, and Philemon are just a few examples. The books of the Bible are just one part of the reference though.

Bible SkillsThe reference itself is an unfamiliar concept for kids. The Bible is the only book that is set up with books, chapters, and verses and the Bible is the only book that uses references as a means of locating information within a book.

When teaching Bible skills, one of your biggest jobs is to take what is unfamiliar and make it familiar.

Start With What Kids are Familiar With

Start with what kids are familiar with – chapter books. Kids understand that a book has a name and chapters. Show kids a chapter book and ask them to show you the title of the book and a chapter in the book. During this activity, ask the children to tell you what a book is and what a chapter is.

Once it is clear that all of the students understand what a book and a chapter is, show them a Bible. Ask them how the Bible is different from the chapter book you showed them (it is a library of books).

A Library of Books!

The first step to understanding a reference is to understand that the Bible is one book and a library of books! The Bible is one book that holds 66 different books. That is a lot! With so many books in one place, there needs to be a way to organize everything so that information can be found.

Each of the books in the Bible has its own name. Ask your students to show you a book in the Bible. Most Bibles have an introductory page for each book (this may be the page a student shows you). This introductory page is one of the ways the Bible is organized. Each book also has the name at the top of the page for each page in the book (some students may show you a page within the book with the title at the top).

Give kids lots of opportunities to practice finding books in the Bible. Remind them often that if they are lost, they can check the top of the page to find what book they are currently in.

The Chapter

Each book is divided into chapters. Show your students the chapter book again. In chapter books, the chapter is given a title and/or a number. Tell them that the way the Bible is organized; chapters are given numbers, starting with one. Ask your students to turn to a book in the Bible (different books are encouraged for this activity). Ask them to flip through the book to find out how many chapters are in that book. Some books of the Bible are short with only one chapter; others are very long with over 100 chapters (like the book of Psalms). Ask them to tell how to tell a chapter in the book (each chapter is given a big number).

The Verse

The Bible is a library of books that are divided into chapters. Those chapters are further divided into verses. A verse is designated by a small number at the beginning of the verse. Ask your students to find the book of Genesis chapter one. Once all of your students have found Genesis chapter one, ask them to show you verse 1. This is trickier than it sounds because not all Bibles show the number 1 for the first verse in a chapter (this could be because the chapter number is there also). Once your class has identified the first verse in chapter one, ask them to find verses 2-10. Ask, “Are the verse numbers always at the outer edge of the page/column?” (no, they are scattered throughout the text).

Ask the students to find a specific verse and read it. Then, ask the students to find a group of verses (ex. Verses 3-5) and read them out loud. I remember one student in grade four who was asked to read a short passage of Scripture. She read the verse number along with the text. Don’t forget that it’s our job to teach our students what a verse is, what its purpose is, and whether or not the verse number is read along with the text.

The Reference

Now students are ready to put it all together and learn what a reference is. One good way to explain a reference is to call it an address. The address tells us where a specific piece of information lives in the Bible. The address will tell us what book the information is in; what chapter the information is in once we have reached the book; and what verse the information is in once we have found the chapter within the book.

Write out a reference for your students:

John 1:1

When explaining the reference (book, chapter, verse), don’t forget to tell your students what the colon is for. The colon separates the chapter from the verse.

When students are familiar with a reference and comfortable using and writing them, it’s time to move on to more complex references.

1 John 1:1

In this reference there is an additional number at the beginning of the reference. Teach your students that certain books of the Bible have these numbers in them. When they see a book like that (1 Kings, 2 Timothy, etc) it is read “first” rather than “one” or “second” rather than “two” or “third” rather than “three”

John 1:1a

In this reference there is a letter at the end of the reference. Tell your students that because it comes after the colon it is related to the verse. Verses can be divided up into the first part of the verse and the last part of the verse. When they are just supposed to read the first part of the verse, an “a” will be added to the verse in a reference. When they are supposed to read only the last part of a verse, a “b” will be added to the verse in the reference.

Give your students lots of opportunity to practice this. The use of letters in a reference is not a clear cut skill. Verses are never divided exactly into half. Students need practice to see how a verse could be divided and what the person who wrote the reference what asking them to focus on.

John 1:1a could be “In the beginning was the Word.”

John 1:1b could be “and the Word was God,” or “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1, 14

This reference contains two verses. It could also be written like this – John 1:1&14. The “and” and the comma perform the same function. They show the reader that only verse one and verse fourteen are to be read. Tell your students that when they see a comma they should think ‘and.’ In this case, verses one and fourteen. Let your students practice this new skill as well. Give them a variety of references with commas to look up.

John 1:1-14

This reference contains a dash. Tell your students that when they see a dash that means to read all the verses between the verses shown (make sure you let them know that it includes the verses shown as well!) So, in our example, students would read verses 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13, and 14.

John 1:1-14, 17

This reference contains a combination of the comma and the dash. Ask your students if they can tell you what it means. They would read verses one though fourteen and then verse seventeen.

Practice until Familiarity is Developed

I would not recommend doing all these activities in the same sitting. There are a lot of skills being taught here. Rather, let the students practice one skill at a time. When they are comfortable and familiar with that aspect of the reference, then it’s time to move on to the next activity.

Even when your students are ready to move on to a more complex reference, they still can benefit from practicing the skills they are learnt already.

Teach your students what a reference is and how it can be used to find specific information in the Bible. Never assume your class knows what a reference is not matter how old they are. Children in grade 5 may not understand correctly how a reference is designed or used if they have never been taught.

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