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.

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!

My Book Recommendations for Your Classroom

There are certain books that I recommend all classroom have to enhance the learning experience for kids.Girl reading books.

1. Bibles

It’s important to have extra copies of kid-friendly Bibles in our classrooms. Have enough so that you can have Bibles available for kids who forgot to bring their and also so that you can give a Bible to a child who does not have one.

2. Bible Dictionaries

One reason why I love Bible dictionaries in the classroom so much is that they can be used by teachers to encourage students to discover the answers to their questions themselves.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary For KidsHolman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids is hardcover, beautifully illustrated, and indexed for easy use. It includes reconstructions that show how building and cities may have actually looked in Bible times; illustrated charts such as foods in Bible times or tools of the Bible; Charts such as the names of God, musical instruments of the Bible; pronunciation guides; photographs; and definitions. This great resource is available for about $13 from amazon.ca

The Action Bible Handbook – A dictionary of people, places, and things. Vivid illustrations and kid-friendly explanations. A complete index is included so you can find just the topic you’re looking for.

3. Reference Books

These are any books that help the children understand that the people and events in the Bible are real. They are real people who lived in a real place. Look for books with maps, atlases, descriptions of life in Bible times.

The Amazing Expedition Bible by Mary Hollingsworth– contains 60 Bible stories told chronologically. Some features include an historical timeline showing the dates of Bible & non-Bible events, illustrations, history mystery and Bible mystery sections, special sections for Science, Technology & Growth, Daily Life, History & Politics, etc.

The New Kids Book of Bible Facts by Anne Adams – This book is full of facts, lists, details and trivia about life in Bible times. Sections on customs, daily living, education, government, occupations, travel, and warfare.

Thomas Nelson Publishers put out a series called Bible World. One book in the series is called Everyday Life in Bible Times: Work, Worship, and War. Another is called The Bible Story Begins: From Creation to Covenant.

Atlas of Bible Lands by Broadman Press is an illustrated atlas of the Bible including  terrain maps, photographs, city plans, diagrams, and a time chart of Bible history.

4. Storybook Bibles

Be selective of the storybook Bibles you have in your classrooms. Make sure students understand that they are not Bibles, they simply tell some of the stories of the Bible.

For preschool classrooms I recommend:

My Great Big God – 20 Bible Stories to Build a Great Big Faith by Andy Holmes. This board book contains delightful illustrations with one story per page. The reference for the story is included under the title. I love this storybook because it focuses on our great big God! Each story has a key theme: My great big God made everything! My great big God hears me when I pray! My great big God saves His people! My great big God gave us Jesus!

The Beginner’s Bible – contains more than 90 Bible stories with wonderful illustrations. The large font makes for easy reading.

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm – This storybook is designed to help kids see the big picture of the Bible. The back says, “The Bible is a big book, about a big God, who keeps a big promise!” Includes an audio recording on 2 cd’s.

For elementary classrooms I recommend:

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – this storybook Bible was written to highlight how everything in the Bible points to Jesus.

The Action Bible – God’s Redemptive Story – includes over 200 fast-paced narratives in chronological order. This comic book style storybook Bible will appeal especially to boys.

5. Missions Books

Include books in your classroom about missionaries and other parts of the world. I recommend:

Operation World by YWAM Publishing- the definitive prayer guide to every nation. This book includes information about every nation – population, languages, politics, missions activity. Highly recommended!

From Akebu to Zapotec – A Book of Bibleless Peoples by June Hathersmith – this book is available through Wycliffe Bible Translators. 26 people groups are highlighted in this book. Descriptions of where they live and what life is like for them are included. Great illustrations!

There are a series of books called Hero Tales by Dave & Neta Jackson that tell the story of Christians throughout history and around the world. These books don’t contain a lot of illustrations, but each story is short and kids can read them on their own or enjoy hearing the story read outloud.

There is a lot of great material out there, but you don’t need all of it in your classroom! Do your research and be selective. Carefully choose a few really good books for your classroom that will add fun and learning to your students Sunday School experience.

(The links above are affiliate links.)

 

Why Do You Need a Job Description?

Children's Ministry Job DescriptionDon’t get scared when you read the words “job description!” I know it sounds very formal and intimidating. It’s really just the writing down of what a specific volunteer position looks like. If you prefer, you can call it a Volunteer Position Description.

Why should you have a job description for each volunteer role in your children’s ministry?

The short answer is so that potential volunteers can easily see what is expected of them.

A good job description will tell them exactly what their responsibilities would be, how much time is required for the volunteer position, who they can talk to if they have questions or concerns, what training will be provided for them, and the length of time they are agreeing to volunteer for.

A good job description is a wonderful tool in the hands of a recruiter.

It’s something tangible to give to a potential volunteer. The recruiter can suggest they take it, read it over, and pray about the volunteer role before they give an answer.

How do you write a good job description?

Here’s a template you can work from. It includes all the important pieces of a good job description. You just fill it in, customizing it to your specific role. You can also use this template as a jumping off point to create your own.

Here is a guide for using the template. This guide describes how to fill in the job description template along with some hints and tips.

 

Let me encourage you to create job descriptions for children’s ministry positions in your church! They are very helpful when you are recruiting. They are also great to have when a current volunteer has a question about their volunteer position.

 

Fire Safety in Children’s Ministry

Fire Safety in Children's MinistryI visited a fire station this morning with a group of kids from a local nursery school. They had a great time climbing over the fire truck and learning fire safety.

Spending time at a fire station got me thinking about fire safety and children’s ministry. Do we talk with our kids about fire safety at church? Do they know what to do in the event of an emergency during Sunday School? It is really important that they know the answers to these questions. So, let’s talk fire safety in children’s ministry!

1. Plot emergency exit routes for every room in your church building.

Figure out the quickest way out of the building from every room in your church. Create a poster that highlights that route and put it on the wall close to the door of every room.

2. Create and communicate an emergency exit plan.

Once you know the quickest ways out of the church building, create an emergency exit plan. This should be a simple step by step plan for getting everyone out of the building quickly and safely. It should include who is responsible for who, who should be the last out of the building, what teachers should bring with them, etc. Make this emergency exit plan into a poster and post in every room beside the emergency exit route poster.

For example,

“In the event of a fire or other emergency, please exit the building quickly and safely. Follow the exit route posted by the door. Teachers, bring your attendance records to the meeting place. Once gathered, call attendance and make sure all of your students are safely out of the building. Once outside, do not re-enter the building. Our meeting place is…”

Next, communicate the emergency exit plan. There are 4 important groups of people you need to communicate the emergency exit plan to:

Your kids: It is really important to talk with your kids about what to do in the event of an emergency. Gather them as a whole group and talk about your emergency exit plan. Show them the posters on the wall. Talk about exiting quickly and safely; where the meeting place is; when they can see their parents; when they are allowed to go back inside the church.

The parents: If you can gather the parents for a meeting, that would be great. If you can’t, send home a letter outlining the important information. Let them know what you have told the children about fire safety. Also, make sure they understand that in the event of a fire they are not to collect their children from their classrooms, rather they are to meet their children at the meeting place. It is really important that parents understand the teachers will get the children out safely. This is especially important to communicate to those parents who have babies in the nursery. The instinct will be to find their child, but for everyone’s safety, they need to exit the building and collect their children at the meeting place.

Your volunteers: Have a meeting with your volunteers at the church building. Show them the fire safety posters in the classrooms. Make sure they understand their responsibilities in the event of a fire. Also, make sure your volunteers are aware of all exits from the building in case their quickest route is unusable.

The congregation: Everyone needs to know what to do in the event of a fire or emergency, so inform the congregation of the emergency exit plan, the location of the meeting place, and the make sure they know where the emergency exit posters are located.

3. Practice

Plan and implement 2 fire drills every year with the entire congregation. It may not be necessary to have everyone actually exit the building, but it’s a good idea. On fire drill days, let everyone know that you are having a practice.

For those in children’s ministry, practice a full drill. Have all classes meet at the meeting place; have all teachers bring their attendance records. If you can use the alarm, do it. Warn the kids ahead of time as some children may be frightened by the loud noise.

Take some time this week to work on your emergency exit plan and talk with your pastor about organizing a fire drill and/or fire safety day one Sunday soon!

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