New Year Resolutions

It’s a New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Children's Ministry Planning

People make personal resolutions at the beginning of a new year.

Children’s ministry leaders can take the opportunity to make ministry resolutions as well.

Do you have goals for the kids in your ministry? Now is the time to start planning. It is so important to take some time and plan out what you want kids to learn this year and in the years to come. Without a plan you end up with haphazard learning.

Take a few hours and look at the curriculum you are using for this year and the next few years. Does it have a clear scope and sequence?

Does it clearly show what is going to be taught and what order it’s going to be taught in?

Scope is the extent of content to be covered in a curriculum at any one time. That could mean one week, one year, or the whole of a child’s life. Sequence means the order in which this content will be presented over time.

How easy is it for you to see what the kids will be learning over the next months and years? Is there order and context?

Whatever format your curriculum takes, it’s important for you to have a plan for using it. Any good plan will include goals.

Goals are important because they give you something to work towards and a means of measuring success.

The ultimate goal in children’s ministry is to make disciples. In order to reach that goal, you need to take some time now to plan out the year and the next few years. What are the kids going to be taught and when are the kids going to be taught it?

Take some time at the beginning of the year to plan out your curriculum.

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.

Guard Your Heart!

Princess Diana famously said, “Only do what your heart tells you.”

Follow Your heart

This sentiment is found in a lot of Disney movies. It’s part of popular culture. But is it good advice for our kids to follow?childrens-ministry-guard-your-heart

In one episode of Lizzie McGuire, Lizzie writes this in response to a dear Lizzie letter, “Dear Confused- I wish I could tell you what to do, but, I can’t. All I can say is, follow your heart. It’ll tell you what’s right.”

Society says, “Follow your heart.” Can we trust our hearts to tell us what is best for us? If we follow our heart, where will it lead?

Guard Your Heart

The Bible says, “Guard your heart.”

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

Why do we need to guard our heart? The Bible gives us the answer:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

The heart lies. It is untrustworthy. We cannot trust our hearts. We are sinners.

So, who do we trust? We trust the One who is perfect and trustworthy.

As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:30

We need to be teaching our kids that our hearts will not always tell us what is right. Our hearts are deceitful. We should not depend on our own understanding of things; rather we need to trust God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Instead of “Only do what your heart tells you,” we should be encouraging our kids to “only do what God tells you.” He is loving and good and worthy of our trust. He will guide us.

A New Heart

We also need to be teaching our kids that there is hope. Our hearts are deceitful and untrustworthy, but we have hope because God can give us a new heart.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19

When we accept the gift of salvation, God makes us new! That means a new heart as well. This new heart is an undivided heart; a heart that loves God and desires to follow His ways.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11

We need to teach our kids to guard their hearts – why they should guard their hearts and how they can guard their hearts.

One way we can guard our heart is to hide God’s Word in it. We need to be reading the Bible regularly, memorizing it, and talking with God in prayer.
Let’s encourage our kids to be hiding God’s Word in their heart through reading, studying, memorizing, and prayer!

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

Customizing Curriculum

childrens ministry customize curriculumAll curriculum is customizable. Each lesson is waiting for you to bring your personality, teaching style, and knowledge of your students.

Maybe the hook idea is not relevant to your class of students. Change it so that your class gets it and is hooked onto the central theme of your lesson.

Maybe there is a lesson illustration that won’t work. Often I find there are illustrations specific to living in the States. As a Canadian, that illustration may not be the best to use. If possible, change it to a Canadian example or find an illustration that highlights the point being made that is better suited to your students.

Maybe during application the discussion questions listed in the lesson are taking a direction that won’t be the best personal response for your class. Write new questions that will help your students see how they should respond to the Biblical truth being taught.

As a teacher, you know your own personality and your students. So, customize your lessons so that your class focuses immediately on the central truth in the lesson and are encouraged to respond Biblically to the truth that was taught.

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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