8 Free Ways to Get a Children’s Ministry Education

Back to school

Many volunteers participate in Children’s Ministry because they have a passion for raising up godly children. But what happens when they want to enhance their skills and Bible knowledge? It’s not as if they can drop everything and get a Bible College degree.All Children’s Ministry leaders deserve training.

Here are 8 free ways to get a Children’s Ministry education.

1. Watch for free ebooks.

A number of websites will periodically offer ebooks for free. Keep an eye on these sites – many of them include Children’s Ministry, theological, or Bible study books. Also watch for child development, discipline, and classroom management. My friends over at Kidology will highlight ebooks by Karl Bastian and others. Amazon and Christian Book are also two sources to look at.

And, sign up for emails from David C. Cook, they’ve curated a list of free ebooks from all over the web.

2. Set up a free library with other Children’s Ministry leaders in your area.

Contact other Children’s Ministry leaders in your area and arrange to share books with each other. Everyone involved can create a list of books that they are willing to include in the library. Once you have received these lists, combine them into a single book list that includes the name of the book, the author, who owns it, and contact information from that person. Then, borrowing books is easy!

3. Make Use of Children’s Ministry Websites.

There are hundreds of Children’s Ministry websites. Some are subscriptions sites, but many are free. Find one or two solid ones that offer articles and training in Children’s Ministry. Then make it a part of your weekly schedule to visit these sites for study purposes.

4. Design a Curriculum.

Most Bible Colleges post their course catalogs on their websites. Look at one or two that offer a degree that allows you to major in Children’s Ministry (or Christian Education). Look at the courses that are offered and then make a list of the topics that are covered. Once you have a list of topics you can look for books on those topics in the church or public library, look for articles on those topics on Children’s Ministry websites, and create a list of questions to ask Children’s Ministry leaders (see point 5).

5. Meet with the top Children’s Ministry leaders in your area.

Make a list of the top Children’s Ministry leaders in your area and invite them over for coffee. Ask each one specific Children’s Ministry question (see point 4). Also ask for book and website recommendations.

6. Audit a class

If there is a Bible college in your area, look into auditing a class. Some colleges charge a fee for auditing a class, while others offer it for free. Take courses on topics like Children’s Ministry, Leadership, Theology, Bible, or Child Development.

7. Visit other Children’s Ministries in your area.

Plan a few Sundays throughout the year to visit other Children’s Ministries. Call ahead and let them know that you are planning to visit and would like to observe their Children’s Ministry programs. Note check-in procedures, volunteer teams, curriculum, schedules, routines, discipline, relationships, and leadership.

8. Youtube and Vimeo.

There are many Children’s Ministry training videos available for free on youtube and vimeo. For example, Discipleland offers over 50 leadership training videos including “Ten Traits of Children’s Ministers Who Run a Good Race for God,” Learning Styles for Children,” “Helping Children Develop a Biblical Worldview,” and “Classroom Management.”

Is It Worth It?

childrens ministry don't be anxiousLast week I was the speaker at a Bible camp for kids ages 9-11. Next week I am speaking at the VBS at our church (where I am also the director). It’s been a pretty busy summer getting ready!! It can be all too easy to get caught up in the details when involved in events like this…I found it happening to me.

Tuesday at camp I shared the gospel with the kids and I shared my testimony. I gave the cabin leaders some material to share with their cabins (the Romans road and some questions to ask the kids about what they understand and believe about Jesus). Wednesday morning a cabin leader told me that a girl in her cabin gave her life to Jesus after chapel!

That moment I knew that all of it is worth it. One child saved makes all of it worth it.

I came home from camp and immediately jumped into all the last-minute details of VBS for our church. When I feel like it’s getting too much, I remember that girl and pray that God would continue His work in the lives of the children who come to our VBS.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:1-7

What To Do When You Fail to Accomplish Your Children’s Ministry Goals

childrens-ministry-failing-to-reach-a-goal

As a Children’s Ministry leader you are constantly setting goals for your programs. Your goals will help inspire you, grow your programs, and meet the needs of the kids in your church. I like using SMART goals because they force you to create well-thought-out goals.

SMART Goals

Goals are the short-term steps that will help you reach your vision, achieve your mission, and fulfill your purpose. SMART is a mnemonic – a memory device to help you remember the five components that make up a good goal.

SPECIFIC

  • They are simply written. They give the what, why, and how of the goal. They are clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of the program. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general one.

MEASURABLE

  • There is tangible evidence you have accomplished the goal. You want to put concrete numbers in your goal to know if you are falling behind or are on track.

ACTIONABLE

  • Action steps are built right into the goal – it’s going to tell you what to do. That means that a SMART goal needs verbs.

REALISTIC

  • This type of goal motivates you. Rather than dragging you down because you just can’t see how you will accomplish it, a realistic goal challenges you while motivating you because it can be met.

TIMELY

  • Putting a date in your goal creates a practical sense of urgency. You will know by a specific date whether you have accomplished your goal or not. You will also be able to see if you are on track to finish it or if you are lagging behind. Including a date for completion creates internal pressure to accomplish the goal.
  • Don’t give yourself too much time, though, because this can affect your performance. It almost encourages procrastination.

What to do When You Fail

It happens! We don’t always accomplish our goals. So, what do you do when you fail?

1. Take a Close Look at the Goal

Read it over carefully. Was it specific? Was it measurable? Was it actionable? Was it realistic? Was is timely? If the answer to just one of these questions is no, that could be the reason the goal was not met. Try re-writing the goal (with a new timeline of course!) making sure that you include each of these components.

2. Consider Why You Didn’t Reach Your Goal

You may have written a really solid SMART goal and still not reached it.

  • Did you forget about it? Consider using a reminder to track and measure your progress – keep a journal, write the goal on a whiteboard that you see everyday, use a tracking app on your phone or computer.
  • Did you procrastinate? If you are a procrastinator, consider breaking down the goal into smaller steps giving yourself some small task to accomplish on a regular basis that will help you meet your goal. What can you do today, this week, or this month that will take you a step closer to accomplishing your goal.

3. Consider an Accountability Partner

It’s much harder to forget about a goal or procrastinate working on your goal when someone else knows about it and is keeping you accountable.

 

Sometimes you can re-write the goal and try to reach it again. Sometimes a goal cannot be tried for again. In this case, don’t beat yourself up too hard about it. Give yourself a break. But, also, don’t let yourself completely off the hook. Look at why you didn’t reach the goal and make it a priority to not make those mistakes next time.

Learn more about SMART goals and lots of other Children’s Ministry strategies in The Well Equipped Volunteer Children’s Ministry Handbook.

 

Does Curriculum Lose its Value When It Becomes Dated?

childrens-ministry-dated-curriculum

I have found a curriculum book among my resources from 1993. It has 52 lessons for kids ages 6-9 on the life of Jesus but it’s 22 years old!

Finding this curriculum book got me thinking. Does curriculum lose its value when it becomes dated?

As I previewed this particular curriculum I found a well-thought out year of lessons focused on the life of Jesus. The curriculum was designed with three aims for each unit (knowledge, attitude, and action) and goals for each lesson that helps the kids reach the unit aims. The lessons build on the previous ones guiding children toward the unit aims. The lessons were Bible-focused and all about Jesus. The lessons get kids into their Bibles and the development of Bible skills is built right into the lessons. There was also a great focus on group application.

This curriculum also suggested cassette tapes for music!

In the end, if the curriculum is Bible-based, Jesus-focused, and educationally sound, the rest can be updated or customized.

In the curriculum example that I used, the music was very dated, but the core of the material was solid. Had it lost its value because it was dated? No! I would teach this curriculum. I would add some updated resources (especially music!) but the most important part was exactly what I would want the kids in my Sunday School class to be learning.

So, before you throw out that material because it is a few years old, take a good look at it. Does it focus on Jesus? Does it encourage kids to get into their Bibles every lesson? Is it educationally sound? Does it teach Bible skills? Does it teach theology and Bible study skills? If so, it has not lost its value. The rest can be updated.

 

One Way Sunday School Teachers Can Encourage Active Participation in Class

Kindergarten teacher and children with hands raised in libraryIt is well known that kids learn best when they are actively participating in class. One way teachers can encourage active participation is by asking good questions. Good questions give kids the opportunity to think and respond and discuss.

Teachers should respond to the answers students give in a way that will encourage active participation.

What are the most common types of answers kids give and how should teachers respond to them?

Silly Answers

Expect silly answers to questions and plan ahead of time how you will respond in a way that encourages further answers and discussion.

It is best to simply ignore silly answers. Say thank you and then turn to a student and rephrase the question you just asked.

Incorrect Answers

We learn from our mistakes, from being wrong. So, if a student gives an incorrect answer it is a great opportunity for learning for the whole group. You will want to do two things – tactfully correct the wrong answer and come up with an encouragement for the student to correct wrong thinking.

Don’t put-down or embarrass the student. This only makes students less likely to speak up and participate. Instead, point out where they went wrong in their answer and then provide hints, suggestions, or follow-up questions that will help your students understand and correct their answers. “Not quite, but what if…” “Let’s all look at verse 11 again.”

Correct Answers

When students give correct answers, you want to reinforce the answer and encourage the discussion to continue. Students need to learn how to have a discussion in class. One thing that can easily happen is for students to stop participating because a question was answered correctly. As the teacher you need to encourage your class to keep the discussion going even after a correct answer.

So, reinforce the correct answer by paraphrasing it or summarizing it and then ask the kids to provide another example to support or contradict the point just given. This encourages discussion to continue. Direct your students to respond to one another. “What do you think about the idea Emma just gave.” “Can you think of another way to solve that problem?” “Can you think of a Bible verse that talks about that?”

On-the-Right Track Answers

Sometimes, kids will give answers that are on-the-right track, but not quite there yet. They are specific but are just missing a piece. When this happens ask the responder to refine a statement or idea. “Is that response to the situation always the right one?” “Can you think of a Bible story or verse that talks about this situation?”

You want to respond in such a way that encourages students to keep thinking. Ask the rest of the class to respond to the idea that one kid just presented or ask the student who answered to explain the thinking that led to her answer.

Vague Answers

When students give vague answers they may be parroting back something they have heard or giving generalizations of what they have heard in class. Vague answers demonstrate a lack of understanding.

When students give vague answers you want to respond with clear instruction and questions that will help them clarify their thinking.

If an answer is too general, try to draw out specifics. “That’s a good observation, Leona. Can you give me another example of mercy?

Ask the student to clarify a vague comment. “Can you explain what you mean?”

If the kids are parroting answers encourage them to explain or define in their own words. Then you can get a better understanding of what they know and what you need to teach.

No Answers

Sometimes you will get no answers when you ask a question. First, allow for silence. A lot of teachers are afraid of silence, but silence is a good thing. Silence allows students to think before they answer and to put their thoughts together so that what they say makes sense when they do answer. After a minute or so, ask the question again. If there are still no answers you may need to rephrase the question. Maybe the kids didn’t understand it. If there are still no answers, you can answer the question yourself or choose to come back to the question later.

Another idea is to have kids write their answers on an index card. This allows them some time to think and encourages everyone to respond. You can choose to have the kids give their index cards to the person next to them, read them out loud themselves, or hand them in to you.

 

Encourage active participation in your Sunday School class! Ask good questions and respond to the answers students give in such a way as to encourage thinking, learning, and participation.

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