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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Top 10 Go Fish Songs

childrens-ministry-musicIt can be hard to find good music for kids – especially when you are looking for music to use on Sunday morning. A lot of songs are just silly or are too vague and symbolic for kids.

But there is good music out there – songs that kids can understand; songs that teach kids something about God; songs that lead kids to worship.

One of the places to find great music for kids is www.gofishguys.com . As it says on their website, the Go Fish Guys offer “great music for kids that won’t drive parents bonkers.” The Go Fish Guys are a talented band that love kids and write solid, Biblical, fun songs. You can preview their songs by clicking on the music tab on their homepage.

I picked 10 songs that are great for Sunday morning. I will list the songs and why I picked them.

Here are my top 10 picks from Go Fish:

10. Lord, I Life Your Name on High
This is from the Superstar album. Go Fish did not write this song. (I remember singing this song when I was a teenager!) But they have updated it in a fresh, fun way. I like how they have incorporated “Praise Him, Praise Him” into the song. This is a great song to sing with kids! It is a song of worship for who Jesus is and what He has done. It includes the gospel and it is full of joy! This is a good bridge song for use between active songs and slower worship songs.

9. Jesus Loves Me
This is a classic Sunday School song – but the truth it proclaims is the same for each generation. The Go Fish Guys have taken this well-known song and made it new and fresh. This song is found on their Superstar album. Although Jesus Loves Me has classically been a preschool song, I wouldn’t hesitate to sing this with kids up to grade 6. They have added a bridge and some other fun elements. This is a good bridge song for use between active songs and slower worship songs.

8. I’ll Do My Best
This is a good commitment song. It is from their first album Splash. It speaks of giving our best to God. There are four verses: I will love, serve, and praise God. It is easy for kids to learn. There is a lot of repetition. It’s sung as a prayer.

7. Glory
This is an active song from the Kids Music album. It is a song about giving all the glory to God. This song reminds us of God’s love, grace, glory! Talk with your kids about what it means to give glory to God.

6. My God
This is an active song that kids will love! It’s an updated version of “My God is so Big.” Again, the Go Fish Guys have taken a classically preschool song and made it a song that all kids will love singing. The chorus is the words to the original song and the verses talk about the things that God has done. The second verse is a clear gospel focus. This is a fun song of praise highlighting our big God who can do anything!

5. Joy to the World
There are a couple Christmas songs on this list and this is the first. Joy to the World is a favorite Christmas carol and this version will quickly become a favorite with your kids! It is upbeat and full of joy! Because it is a hymn, some of the lyrics will require explanation. A new verse [or bridge] has been added.

4. It’s About the Cross
This is the second Christmas song on this list. I absolutely love this song! This song talks about all the things we love about Christmas, including celebrating the birth of Jesus. But it reminds us that it doesn’t end there. It’s about the cross. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)  This is a slower song that calls us to worship Jesus as our mighty Savior!

3. My Father’s World
This is an upbeat, active version of the hymn, “My Father’s World.” There is a definite rock and roll sound. It might not suit everyone. As a hymn it will have words and phrases that need explanation [ex. All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.] But don’t let that stop you from using this song with kids. The truth is important for kids to know – God made this world and it belongs to Him. “The Lord is King. Let the heavens ring. God reigns. Let the earth be glad!” There is a chorus added that highlights the fact that everything has been created by Him and for Him.

2. Sweet Song of Salvation/I Love to Tell the Story
This fun upbeat song is a combination of the hymn “I Love to Tell the Story,” and the song “Sweet Song of Salvation.” It is a definite favorite during kids’ worship at our church! There are words and phrases that will require explanation. This song is about telling others the story of Jesus and His death and resurrection. Everyone needs to hear about Jesus and the salvation He offers.

1. Praise Your Name
I think this is my new favorite Go Fish song. It is a bridge song to use between active songs and slower worship songs. It is sung directly to God. It is a clear, simple song of praise. The chorus says, “All I want to do is praise your name.” The verses talk about what God is like: You are holy, righteous, faithful, and sovereign. Every good thing comes from God. “No one can compare to You. You are my God. And I will ever praise You.”

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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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Highly Recommended Christmas Pageant

It’s that time of year to start planning for the annual Christmas pageant. If you are looking for something that is easy and doesn’t require a huge cast but is focused in the true meaning of Christmas, then I highly recommend “The Christmas County Spelling Bee.”

Here’s the description offered on the package:

Wonderful Counselor. Prince of Peace. Everlasting Father. Even a brief reflection on the names of Jesus brings power and strength to our faith. Dove award-winning writer Celeste Clydesdale has centered her newest Christmas musical, The Christmas County Spelling Bee, entirely around this theme. Set within the narrative of a lively spelling bee, this warm musical consists of nine delightful new songs, as well as the Michael W. Smith classic, “Emmanuel.” As the musical unfolds, the contestants learn more about the character and nature of our Savior.
Worshipful, bright and enjoyable, The Christmas County Spelling Bee will engage the hearts of your kids and congregation this Christmas as it reminds us that “Jesus is the only name that saves.”

Our church performed this musical last year and I was so impressed with the focus on Jesus given in all the songs and the spoken parts. This musical is set during a spelling bee and every word the children are asked to spell is one of the names of Jesus. The kids had a lot of fun performing this musical.

One gentleman approached me after the musical and told me that he had attended many Christmas pageants and musicals in his life and he has never seen a better one than this. It was gospel-focused and centered on Jesus and led those attending to worship.

Check out “The Christmas County Spelling Bee” and encourage your kids to find out more about Jesus – the only name that saves!

More information about this musical can be found at www.wordmusic.com
This musical can be purchased through your local Christian Bookstore or at amazon.ca

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Looking for Christmas Curriculum?

 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Christmas is about Jesus, the One sent by the Father to save us from our sins. It is critical that our children learn the truth about Christmas. Christmas is a time of joy, of celebration, of hope. Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with our kids.

If you are looking for fun, energetic, joyful Christmas curriculum that focuses on sharing the gospel with your kids, check out “The Gift of Advent” from the Go-Fish Guys.

The Go-Fish Guys have made a name for themselves in children’s ministry circles for producing high-quality, fun, exciting, gospel-focused children’s music and now curriculum.

This video is a brief description of their brand-new Christmas curriculum.

This video is one of the songs included in the curriculum which underscores the focus on gospel truth.

For more information check out go-fish resources.

Let’s celebrate with our kids this Christmas the awesome, joyful truth that Jesus came to rescue us!

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