Fun, New Method – Same Powerful Message

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

That is the glorious gospel! That is the message that we need to be sharing with children. The message never changes. The methods we use to tell that message are numerous. I think that it’s important to use a variety of tools as we share the gospel with children.

Halloween is a great opportunity for evangelism. It is one of the rare moments when neighborhood kids are coming to our door!

So I was excited when Steven Knight from KidminTools.com reached out with a new Halloween evangelistic tool and asked me to review it. He sent a package to me in the mail and what follows is my review of the “Is There Anything Better Than Candy?” box tract.

“Is There Anything Better Than Candy” is a 3D pumpkin that contains candy that you put together and give to kids on Halloween.

Here’s How to Put It Together

The box tract comes on a perforated sheet. of cardstock. Punch out the pumpkin. It will look like this:

Pull each pumpkin stem towards the center and hold together with your fingers. Grab one of the other “petals” and pull it to the center. “Petals” 2,3,5 & 6 have a small cut at the outer edge. Slide the two green stems through the slit. Then continue with the rest of the “petals”. (Don’t forget to put one or two Halloween candies in the center before you start assembling!)

Thoughts and Feedback

I thought this was a really fun way of sharing the gospel with children at Halloween. The box tract is colorful and unique. More importantly, the gospel message inside is written in child-friendly language without losing any of the truth of the gospel.

I like that this tract is different from booklet tracts. It’s 3D. It will grab kids attention. It’s a cool shape and very eye-catching. I also like that it contains candy. I think it’s important to include candy with evangelistic tools at Halloween and this is a really fun way to do it.

I am not a crafty person! This box tract proved easy to put together. (The fact that the numbers inside did not match the instructions for building the pumpkin threw me for a minute, but then I realized that the numbers inside were related only to the order to read the gospel message and that as long as you put together the pumpkin stems first, the rest of the “petals” could be done in any order.) This would be a fun activity to do with your children (or your Sunday School class or club kids, or whatever). The kids can be involved and have fun adding the candy and assembling the pumpkins. You can discuss what the message is and how you hope the children who receive them will respond. You can also pray together for each child who will receive this box tract.

Most tracts are designed for adults to read along with children. They can discuss what they are reading and make sure the child understands as they go along. This tract has been designed for kids to read themselves. I found a surprising amount of text on each “petal” Especially “petals” 3-6. The first “petal” has four lines of text and I think that is the limit that kids will realistically read. I think two lines of text with a cartoon would be a great solution.

This tract seems to be focused on getting the child to pray a prayer of commitment. However, it just ends there. While we want kids to come to faith, there needs to be a step beyond; some follow-up that gets a child involved in a church community. One idea, possibly, is to put a sticker in the center portion with the church website or address.

Summary

I love the creativity of this evangelistic tool. It’s a great opportunity for people to have an impact in their community for Christ.

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.

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!

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!

Recommended Resources for Helping Kids Understand the Gospel

1. Helping Children to Understand the Gospel – Children Desiring God

This resource is written in 3 parts. Parts 1 &2 are about preparing children for the gospel and presenting the gospel to children. Part 3 is 10 essential truths of the gospel. I like how part 3 is laid out. The key point is clearly stated, scripture is listed, a kid-friendly explanation is offered, and then various illustrations are provided.

“God made a way for sin to be punished and sinners to be saved.”

I love this statement and use it often when is share the gospel with kids. It is short and easy to remember and full of hope!

2. Big Truths for Young Hearts – Bruce A. Ware

Bruce Ware is a professor of theology. Big Truths for Young Hearts is his effort to explain big theological truths to children. This is a great resource!

This book is more than a resource for helping kids understand the gospel. But there is great stuff in it to help you share the gospel with kids. Ware has a great way of explain deep theological truths in ways that kids can understand.

“To believe in Christ (or trust in Christ or put faith in Christ) means to count or rely completely on what Christ has done in his death and resurrection for my sin, so that my hope of being right in God’s sight is all because of Christ and has nothing to do with any good thing that I might ever say or do.”

3. Leading Kids to Jesus – David Staal

This book is about having one-on-one conversations about faith. The author does a good job of helping the reader to understand the dynamics of communicating with kids. I also like the focus given on helping the reader figure out how to share their own testimony with kids.  Another very good section of this book deals with questions kids might ask and how to answer them.

“Even though we deliver the message, true comprehension and conviction comes solely as a result of the Holy Spirit. To that end, no matter how well we word the gospel, different kids will require different quantities of time to fully understand. Give them as much as they need.”

4. Gospel Flipper Flapper – Child Evangelism Fellowship

I love using this tool to share the gospel with kids! One year at VBS we passed them out to 130 kids and together we flipped and flapped and the kids were actively engaged as the gospel message was told.

This tool uses colors and symbols as a starting point for sharing the gospel. You flip the flaps to reveal a yellow circle (God who is holy), a black heart (all have sinned), a red cross (Jesus died for our sins); and a white heart (salvation is offered to those who repent and believe). The kids love figuring out how to flip the flaps! Have fun with this inexpensive yet effective tool for sharing the gospel with kids!

5. In Search of the Greatest Treasure Comic Booklet – Campus Crusade for Christ

I have used this comic booklet for a few years now. The illustrations are great and the gospel is clearly presented with a focus on Jesus. For VBS, our counselor s use this as they talk one-on-one with kids and we give them out to all who attend.

 

There are a lot of resources out there. These are just 5 that I have used extensively and would highly recommend.

Check out the other blogposts in this series!

1 2 3