Friday, December 31, 2010

Family Pick - Zonderkidz "Read with Me Bible" and "Read with Me Bible for toddlers"!

Since one of our goals for children's ministry should be to help our children develop a true love for God's Word, it is a great idea to expose our children to excellent Bibles - beginning when they are young children. I love the "Read with Me Bible" and "Read with Me Bible for toddlers" from Zonderkidz! The art work is from my favorite illustrator for children - Dennis Jones - and is certain to capture the attention and imagination of little ones! I particularly appreciate how Dennis illustrates angels as big, strong, non-scary men rather than "frilly" girls! 

The Bible lessons are written by Doris Wynbeek Rikkers for the "Read with Me Bible for toddlers" and are simple, short and cover the basic points of 10 Old Testament lessons and 14 New Testament lessons for children ages two to five. As your toddlers become familiar with these Bible lessons, they will be able to "read" them with you by telling what is happening in the pictures! I read this Bible to a young boy I know and as soon as he caught on that he knew these stories, he began to "read" them himself! He was so thrilled - he didn't want to stop and went on to "read" all 24 stories! We want our children to be "thrilled" to spend time in God's Word and this Bible is an excellent tool for use in our children's ministries and at home to see this happen!

The "Read with Me Bible" was edited by Doris Wynbeek Rikkers and Jean Syswerda and includes 58 Old Testament Bible Lessons and 47 New Testament Lessons and each one includes Scripture reference as to where you will find the lesson in a Bible. This Bible story book is for children ages four to seven and has longer stories once again with the enjoyable illustrations from Dennis Jones. The "Read with Me Bible" is based on the New International Readers Version (NIrV) which uses simpler words and shorter sentences making it easier for children to read and understand. This is the ideal Bible for young families to use for their family devotions. As you read the Bible lessons be sure to talk with your children about the important truths God wants them to know from each lesson!

I'm happy to say Zonderkidz sent me one "Read with Me Bible for toddlers" and one "Read with Me Bible" to give away in a drawing! If you have "liked" us on facebook using the button to the right, you are entered in our drawing. If you haven't "liked" us yet, please take a moment to do so and you will be entered in our drawing which will be on January 7th. Please tell parents and grandparents you know so they can be in the drawing, too! Both of these Bibles were sent to me for review purposes by Zonderkidz.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the products of services mentioned above for free in the hopes I would mention them on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 'Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.'"

Selecting the Best "Fit" For Vacation Bible School 2011!

We have been talking all week about the features to look for in a Vacation Bible School so now we are ready to look at specific VBS resources and evaluate each one. Next week begins my Top Ten VBS Countdown for 2011 complete with individual reviews and a side-by-side comparison chart. Consider the following steps for selecting your 2011 VBS -

  •  Sit down with your VBS leadership team and talk about your goals for 2011's VBS and get them on paper
  • Look over my reviews to find the resources that best match your goals and print out my side-by-side comparison chart
  • Find a local Christian Bookstore that is hosting a VBS event. Take the comparison chart with you and go look at the kits you are most interested in. 
  • While you may end up using a kit from the same publisher you used last year, don't automatically assume you will. You may find a kit  from a different publisher is a better "fit" for your goal and ministry this year, so be sure to spend some time evaluating kits before you make your final  selection.
  • Talk with the consultants from the publishers you are most interested in  at the bookstore VBS event and sign out a few kits to take and fully evaluate with your VBS leadership team.
January 3rd through 18th you'll be able to find my 2011 VBS reviews and then I'll give some additional ideas for ways to utilize VBS in your ministry, so as you read the reviews and consider which kit's you want to use, keep in mind you may be able to utilize more than one VBS kit!

Please "like" my facebook button to the right and tell people you know that this year my VBS reviews can be found at For the past four years I've written the VBS reviews for Christianity Today's Your Church Magazine, but since they have ended publication, my reviews are now at "About the Children's Department".

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Family Pick - one more day for "Kickin' It Old School"!

Our "Family Pick" for the past two weeks has been Go Fish Guy's "Kickin' It Old School" and I'd like to take this moment to encourage you to check this cd out if you haven't already done so! It is filled with excellent songs for use in Children's Ministry and for families to enjoy at home as well! This is a cd parents will enjoy listening to right along with their kids and since it is filled with songs with solid messages it gives families some important things to talk about as well! For example with the song, "This Is My Father's World" you can talk with children about how the world around us was made by God and exists to give Him praise and then take time to do exactly that! My favorite song on the CD is "Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation/I Love to Tell the Story" - fun song sung with enthusiasm and spunk! More importantly it has a solid message about telling others of the Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation and the Story of Jesus!

Tomorrow I will announce our next "Family Pick" and our new give-away! If you haven't already "liked" us on facebook using the button to the right - in the upper box - please take a moment to do so and you will be entered in our drawing!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the products of services mentioned above for free in the hopes I would mention them on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 'Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.'"

Music, Crafts and an Opportunity to See, Touch and Experience 2011 Vacation Bible School Before You Buy It!

After you've narrowed down your Vacation Bible School options to just two or three kits by determining your goal, finding materials that intentionally engage the children in the teaching of the Bible lesson and provides opportunities to live what they learn, considered the scope and sequence, theme and setting it is time to look at two components that have the potential to last beyond the five days of VBS . . . the music and crafts! 

When you consider the music look for songs that reinforce the theme and scope and sequence. When children sing those songs they can be reminded of the Bible lessons and how they apply to their everyday lives. I'm very happy to see most publishers provide music CD's for children at about $2 per child. This makes it very affordable for you to give each child their own copy of the songs they learned in VBS! This year my Top Pick of VBS music is hands down Go Fish Guy's "Kickin' It Old School"! Their songs have enthusiasm, spunk and do an excellent job of reinforcing the Bible lessons in their VBS! Even the parents will enjoy listening to Go Fish Guy's music! I'm not a big fan of one trend I'm seeing on the music dvds for VBS . . . that of utilizing teens. I'd much prefer seeing VBS age children on the dvd. I'd also like to encourage publishers to utilize more boys on their dvds and a wider ethnic representation among the children. It can be a challenge to interest older elementary boys in VBS - we need to show more boys on the dvds - not just girls.

Crafts give children the opportunity to make something they can make each day and take home with them to remind them of the Bible lesson and theme. As always, Gospel Light did an excellent job with their craft book once again this year and I'm happy to say many other publishers provided excellent ideas for crafts, too! When considering crafts look for projects that can be completed in one setting and cost less than $1 per child. Crafts that have a practical component are best as they are more likely to be kept and are then able to provide that reminder of the Bible lessons the children learned in VBS. Most paper crafts, while inexpensive, will in short order end up in the trash - look for crafts that children can use . . . such as zipper pulls they can put on their backpacks. Oriental Trading usually has excellent and affordable ideas for crafts - take some time to see what they have before you purchase crafts for your VBS.

On-line reviews and publisher web sites are helpful tools to enable you to learn about the VBS choices for 2011, but one of the best ways to make your choice is to attend a Book Store VBS Open House or Workshop. Check with your local Christian book store and see if/when they have their VBS events scheduled and then plan to attend. You will have the opportunity to talk with consultants from the publishers, and actually see, touch and experience the VBS materials as well as hear the music at these events. Most stores will even allow you to take several kits on consignment so you can sit down with your VBS leaders and then decide which kit is your best "fit". My 2011 Top Ten VBS review and Comparison Charts will be out the first two weeks of January, print them out and take them with you to your local VBS event and then evaluate the kits before you make your selection for Summer 2011!

January 3rd marks the beginning of my Top Ten VBS Countdown for 2011! Please plan to join me for these reviews and pass the word so people you know can join in the VBS conversation!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Put Feet to Their Faith" With a Service Project through causelife!

Our "Put Feet to Their Faith" ministry focus this month is World Help's causelife. Take a moment to check their website and think about how you could involve the children - and families - in your church and help them "Put Feet to Their Faith" by raising money so others can have clean, safe drinking water. I love the commitment World Help causelife has to not only provide the clean, safe water, but to also introduce people to Jesus and the Living Water He offers us all!

Check out causelife at and let me know what you do to help your children "Put Feet to Their Faith"!

Jungles, Cafes', Cities, Concerts, Races, the Old West, a Bamboo Forest and Bible times, Oh My!

After you have determined your goal for your Vacation Bible School and have considered if the lessons intentionally engage your children in the teaching of the lesson and give them opportunities to live what they've learned, it is time to consider the Scope and Sequence, Theme and Setting. First of all, consider the scope and sequence. What are the Bible lessons? Keep in mind which Bible lessons you taught last year and find out what the current scope and sequence is for your Sunday school. If possible, try to find a scope that does not cover lessons taught in last year's VBS or in recent history during Sunday School. Consider your goals for VBS and think about how the scope and sequence supports that goal.

Once you've considered the scope and sequence, look at the theme - what is the main focus of the VBS? In my Top Ten VBS Countdown for 2011 you will find a breakdown of Scope and Sequence, Theme and Setting for each of the VBS resources I reviewed this year. Each VBS has a theme; this year the publishers have done an excellent job of focusing their VBS to teach a main theme- everything from helping children learn the attributes of God and Who He Is to how to discern lies from the truth that Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life so Salvation is found in Him alone to the truth that Jesus makes a difference in our everyday lives! This is where having a goal for your VBS comes in - compare the VBS themes with your goals . . . it should help you narrow down your choices!

Finally, after you've considered scope and sequence and theme, look at the settings. Too often when it comes to selecting a VBS we look at the setting, think one looks "fun" and make our selection. Certainly the setting is important, but it absolutely should not be the first thing you think about when it comes to selecting the VBS resource you will use. Think about the settings you've used in the past couple years and if possible look for something new and different, but do not determine your VBS choice based on setting alone. Once you've looked at how the lessons are taught - if they intentionally engage your children and give them opportunities to live what they've learned, considered scope  and sequence and theme, the setting can then be the component that helps you narrow your selection to the final choice or two.

Tomorrow we will think about format, crafts, music and games and how they can influence your VBS choice! We are only five days away from my Top Ten VBS Countdown for 2011! Please help spread the news and tell people you know so they can join in the conversations about 2011 VBS!

I'd sincerely appreciate it if you'd take a moment to "like" the facebook button to the right and please feel free to join in the conversations and comment about your ministry . . . I'd love to hear your thoughts about 2011 VBS!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Do You Know?

You probably know people who serve in children's ministry - both as full or part-time paid staff and those who volunteer their time and their selves to serve. You certainly know parents and grandparents! These are all people who I write About the Children's Department for. In the coming year I will have articles on the 2011 VBS, how to find your best curriculum "fit" with reviews of curriculum for Sunday's and mid-week children's ministries. I'll have information on recruiting, supporting and encouraging volunteers and so much more that those serving in children's ministry will find useful and helpful. Each month I'll highlight a ministry with ideas for "Putting Feet to Their Faith" so the children in your ministry will be able to live what they are learning from God's Word! Parents and grandparents will find much of this information interesting as well, as these issues directly impact their children and grandchildren.

I will also be reviewing items not only useful in children's ministry, but things parents and grandparents could use in their homes with the children in their lives. I'll have a new "Family Pick" every two weeks and the items I review I'll also be giving away in drawings!

Children's ministry matters . . . yes, it matters to those serving in children's ministry, but it matters to parents, grandparents and everyone in the church as we all need to know about and be praying for this important part of our churches! Please take a moment and think about the people you know and then invite them to check out this blog and join in the conversation . . . we all have so much we can learn from one another!

So . . . Now You Have a Goal for Your Vacation Bible School; What is the Next Essential Ingredient?

Yesterday we looked at why we need a goal for our Vacation Bible School and how to determine that goal. Today we will begin considering the essential ingredients we should look for in a VBS resource. What are the most important things? Well, first of all the curriculum must be Biblically sound. If it isn't, do not waste your time looking at it. There are many well written Biblically sound VBS curricula available; choose from them.

So . . . now you have a goal and are looking at Biblically sound resources, what is the next essential ingredient? Since we want children to remember, understand and live God's Word for genuinely changed lives, it is essential that the Bible lessons are intentionally written to engage them. When you look at curriculum check to see if the Bible lessons involve the children in the teaching of each lesson. Are children playing the part of the people in the Bible lesson? Do they get to touch, taste, smell and fully experience the Bible lesson or are they sitting and listening to the teacher? It is so easy for children's minds to wander when they just sit, but when they are engaged by helping to teach the lesson, they are much more likely to remember, understand and live God's Word. Keep in mind, not all children are able to read so when a curriculum involves children by having them read the Bible, while it is important for children to connect the Bible lesson they are hearing with God's Word, just reading the Bible won't engage them all. Present the lesson as a drama, have the children "make" the storm by providing sound effects for the lesson. I am so delighted to see some very creative lessons in this year's VBS resources; lessons that do a terrific job of intentionally engaging children in the teaching of the Bible lessons! If the curriculum you select has everything else you want, but doesn't engage the children actively, then make a point to re-work the lessons - turn them into dramas, add sound effects, motions and more to help them engage your children.

Along with lessons that engage children, we want them to be able to go live the truths they learn so look for daily "live-it" activities built into the curriculum. Nearly all curriculum will have a section of the lesson devoted  to "application", but look to see if it takes that application one step further by providing some specific ideas children can go "do" to live what they learned. Maybe they will be challenged to be helpful by doing their sibling's chores or stepping up to do the dishes without being asked. Maybe they will go home from VBS and help an elderly neighbor with their yard work or send a card to encourage someone they know. When children are able to learn a Bible lesson and then go home and "do" something to live that lesson, they are much more likely to understand God's Word and what it looks like for them to live what they learn. Provide opportunities for children to share how they lived what they learned and affirm them for doing so. "Live-it" activities are a truly essential ingredient for any VBS curriculum - if the one you select doesn't have them, add them to your program.

Tomorrow we will consider how Scope, Setting and Theme can help you determine your VBS for 2011. If you haven't taken a moment to "like" the facebook button to the right, please take a moment to do so!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why Complete Director's Materials Matter When It Comes to Vacation Bible School!

When it comes down to making your final choice of Vacation Bible School for your 2011 children's ministry, while I wouldn't recommend choosing based on the director's materials, they do matter. If your church has a new VBS director, complete information in the director's handbook is essential so they are able to  be sure they have all the bases covered. If your church has an experienced director, complete information helps assure nothing is overlooked or missed as the plans are made for your VBS.

So what information should be included in a complete director's manual? Well, as I talked about earlier this morning, goal information is essential. If you do not know what it is you want to accomplish with your VBS then that VBS may end up just being an "activity" for children rather than a "ministry" where they walk away remembering, understanding and living God's Word for changed lives.

Certainly information designed to help you determine your format and schedule are helpful as are timelines to help you have things accomplished as you near your VBS dates. Information on recruiting and training your volunteers is sure to be used as are ideas for promoting, registering children and following up. I especially like to see ideas on how to involve your entire church by praying for your VBS, volunteers and the children and families who will be impacted by the VBS.

Sadly, we can not overlook information on screening volunteers and we absolutely need to take a second and even a third look at our facilities to ensure we have done all we can to make our church safe. Not very many director's materials included information on being sure you have a severe weather policy in place and your volunteers know what to do in such an instance, but since summer can bring severe weather it is certainly something to think about. 

I am happy to see more and more director's manuals include information on how to involve children with special needs and would like to see this become part of all VBS materials.

These are just some of the things I look for when I evaluate VBS materials. If the VBS you select is missing any of these components in it's director's manual, be sure to add them so you have all the bases covered as you plan your VBS for 2011! 

Tell Me . . .Why Are We Having Vacation Bible School?

Next week marks the beginning of my Top Ten Vacation Bible School Countdown for 2011, so this week we will focus on how to find the best VBS "fit" for your unique ministry and will look at the essential "ingredients" VBS should include. Vacation Bible School is a tried and true part of the ministry year for most churches, so as you prepare for this year’s VBS stop and ask a very important question. Why are we planning VBS for Summer 2011? If your answer is, “Because we always have VBS”, then you should seriously consider breaking the mold and not invest dollars, time and energy in VBS11. Not the question/answer you anticipated? Well, if this was your answer, instead of canceling VBS you could also consider giving prayerful thought and consideration to the “Why” of VBS. What is your reason, purpose and goal for having VBS? When you identify a specific purpose for VBS, then you’re ready to determine the best design and curriculum “fit”, but your first question must be, “Why are we planning a VBS?” Typically your answer will involve one of two goals/purposes or a combination of both.

Purpose/Goal #1 – Evangelism

VBS is the year’s primary evangelism outreach for many churches. There’s good reason for this as VBS provides the opportunity, environment and resources to reach children in your church and community with the message of Jesus’ love, grace and forgiveness! Many adults say VBS is when they responded to Jesus’ message! This is one reason adults will volunteer for VBS when they may hesitate to do so at other times throughout the year.

Purpose/Goal #2 – Equipping children to understand and live God’s Word

If children in your VBS have already made the decision to accept Jesus’ message, you may want to focus on equipping them to understand and live God’s Word. Yes, we want VBS to be fun and want children to enjoy the songs, games and crafts, but there’s a purpose to this fun – children need to understand, remember and live God’s Word so they’ll take it outside the doors of the church to really live it in their everyday lives!

Purpose/Goal #3 – Evangelism and Equipping children to live God’s Word

If you have a mix of children in your VBS – children who don’t know Jesus and children who do; you may want a combined goal/purpose. Or, if you primarily have children who know Jesus, but are also planning to re-use the VBS on a youth mission project or other service opportunity, you may want to focus on both goals/purposes.

Once you determine your primary purpose/goal for VBS 2011 then consider the following steps to help you do all you can to accomplish your goal.
1.    Put your goal in words and get it out before the eyes and heart of your congregation in advance of VBS.
a.    Make posters for your walls
b.    Make bookmarks and put them in bulletins, at your visitor/information booth and provide for all CE classes.
c.    Ask everyone to pray for VBS with this primary purpose/goal in mind.
2.    Evaluate and select your VBS curriculum based on if it provides the tools to accomplish your goal/purpose.
a.    Evangelism focus - are there opportunities each day for children to understand what it means to accept Jesus’ love, grace and forgiveness and does it provide opportunity to do so?
b.    Living God’s Word focus - does your curriculum provide opportunity each day for children to understand God’s Word? Are there specific daily activities so children experience living what they learn? Is time provided daily for small groups to talk about what they did to live the previous day’s lesson?
c.    Both goals focus - does your curriculum provide opportunity each day for you to share Jesus with children as well as strong features to equip children to understand and live God’s Word?
3.    Along with training your volunteers on safety and schedule, focus your training so volunteers are on-board with your goal/purpose and are ready to assist children accordingly –
a.    Evangelism goal - focus on training your volunteers so they know how to simply and effectively share the message of Jesus with children. Caution against pressuring a child to make a decision they do not understand, but encourage volunteers the salvation decision is one a child can respond to!
b.    Living God’s Word – focus training on providing opportunity for volunteers to practice talking about how to live daily Bible points and encourage them to track what they do between training and the start of your VBS to live those points! If volunteers are able to share how they lived God’s Word, children will be able to better see God’s Word is something they can live in their real lives, too!
c.    Combined goal/purpose - include both focuses when training volunteers.
4.    Share VBS results with your church family and plan effective follow-up so you are able to build on the Biblical foundation laid during VBS. Keep in mind –
a.    Some decisions for Jesus may be made in the weeks and months following your VBS!
b.    We certainly want to be able to continue encouraging children all year long to take God’s Word out the doors of your church and live it in their everyday lives!

Tomorrow we will look at the most important features VBS resources should include and why those features matter!

If you haven't taken a moment to "like" this blog using the facebook button to the right, please take a moment to do so (please use the upper box as we will be removing the lower facebook "like" button).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

When and Where Did Vacation Bible School First Begin?

I've been working with Vacation Bible School for seventeen years - initially I was a consultant for Gospel Light and then Group and have been writing reviews for fourteen years, but I never actually heard the history of VBS. When and where did VBS first begin? I found an article by Steven Gertz in Christianity Today and learned a lot about the history of VBS. Apparently it all began in the 1870s when the Methodist Episcopal Church offered "summer Sunday school institutes that included educational and cultural components" to the people in it's community in New York. Apparently it isn't anything new for churches to notice what other churches are doing and then implement the same type of ministries in their own as it didn't take long for other "Christian groups across the country to begin planning their own summer retreats" - not just for children, but for everyone in the family.

Vacation Bible school began to look more like what we know it to be when "the Epiphany Baptist Church in New York City noticed large numbers of immigrant children in their neighborhood". In July 1898 a Mrs. Hawes "rented the only place she could find —a saloon—to run a Bible school for six weeks during the summer". Can you imagine any of us renting a saloon for our VBS? Well, Mrs. Hawes put together a program of "singing, Bible stories and Scripture memorization, games, crafts, drawing, cooking" . . . sound familiar??!!! . . . and it really caught on: in just three years she directed seven different VBS ministries! From there it grew and spread across the country.

In 1923 Standard Publishing was the first publisher to create a full-scale VBS program and by 1987 millions of children attended VBS programs every year. Standard was the first to develop a single-theme concept and divide the teaching by age levels. They are the ones who fully developed the model we now know as VBS. I still remember the Standard Publishing crafts from the VBS' I attended in the 1960's!

Today VBS is one of the, if not the, primary evangelistic outreach for most churches in this country and around the world! According to George Barna - in his book Transforming Children into Sprirtual Champions - he says most people make decisions for Jesus before they are 13 years old. This one fact is enough to highlight the importance and need for VBS! In the coming week we will look at how to find the best VBS "fit" for your ministry and will consider the most important features of any VBS and then next week we will begin my Top Ten VBS Countdown for 2011!

Please plan to join me for the focus on 2011 VBS over the coming month and tell people you know so they can join in the conversations!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jesus - the Best Gift ever . . . the Gift of Immanuel, God With Us!

Christmas is all about God’s plan to be with us! He loves us so much He made a way for us to be forgiven so we can know, talk and walk with Him! The more we choose to follow Him and the more we choose to talk with God, the more we will know and walk with Him! It is absolutely an amazing gift from God that we can really be with God! As you celebrate Christmas this year, be sure to remember to thank God for His amazing Gift and how His Gift made it possible for you to be with God!

God sent Jesus, Immanuel, so we can be with God! Because of God’s amazing plan to send Jesus, now we can talk with God! We can walk with God! We can follow and know God! This is definitely something worth celebrating! In the Old Testament Bible Book of Micah, God promised to send Someone Who would bring us peace! Of course in the New Testament Bible Book of Luke we see when this Someone, Jesus is born! The angels told the shepherds about Jesus’ birth and praised God for the peace Jesus would bring. This “peace” with God is now available to us because of Jesus!

It can be easy at this time of year to start thinking about “things” we want as gifts, but we need to remember the most amazing gift we could ever receive has been given to us by God! God gave us the gift of Jesus, Immanuel, so we could be with God!

After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took Him to the temple. Two people had been waiting all their lives to see the Special Someone God promised to send Who would make a way for them to be with Him like never before. When these two people, Anna and Simon, saw Jesus, they praised God for His amazing love and His plan to be with us! Take time today to praise God like Anna and Simon did - praise God, because He is the King over all and glorify Him for sending Jesus to be our promised Immanuel! Thank God for making it possible for us to be with Him!

What difference does it make for you to know Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s plan for us to be with Him? How does it affect your everyday life if you know God loves you so much, He made a plan for you to be able to be with Him? Jesus, Immanuel, is the Promised Someone Who made it possible for us to know and be with God like never before! There is no better gift than Jesus! As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s be sure to praise God for giving us the gift of Immanuel, God with us!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's Almost Time For My Yearly VBS Reviews! Let's Take a Quick Peek at What January Holds in Store For US!!!

Okay! I happily admit as a dear lady I know used to say, "There are two seasons in the year . . . Christmas and VBS! Once Christmas is over it is time to think about VBS and once VBS is over it is time to think about Christmas!" She is soooo right! Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely love Christmas and VBS, so if there are two seasons to the year then they are two wonderful seasons!:^)

The entire month of January I will be focusing on VBS for 2011. I've been reviewing VBS kits and working on my side-by-side comparison charts for the last month . . . my house practically looks like a book store with VBS nearly everywhere! I am happy about the way 2011 VBS is shaping up - strong, solid Bible teaching and new and unique settings add to the fun - Race Cars, Concerts, Pandas and Cooking in a Cafe' are just a few! January will be lots of fun!

In addition to reviewing the 2011 VBS resources I will also be talking about additional ways to use your VBS kits all year long and how to plan a follow-up for your VBS that truly follows up! Please plan to join in the VBS conversation all month long . . . I look forward to hearing what you think about the 2011 VBS options!

Please take a moment to "follow" or "Like" my blog using the buttons to the right and tell people you know so they can join in the conversations!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Only Two Weeks Until My VBS 2011 Top Ten Countdown!

I've been reviewing VBS all month and am almost ready to release my 2011 reviews! Keep watching because beginning January 3rd I'll begin my 2011 VBS Top Ten Countdown complete with in-depth reviews and a side-by-side comparison chart!

Some Thoughts About Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78 . . .

Children's ministry matters because children matter. God gave very specific directions to parents and to His people in general about how important it was for them to love Him and then pass that love for Him to their children. I'm a grandma. There is nothing more important to me than to know my dear grandson - and grandchild on the way:^) - will grow to know and love God with their whole selves. When I look at the world around me it can be frightening as there are so many messages woven into nearly every aspect of life telling children they can believe in God or not and they can believe in anything they want because all religions are the same. Among my siblings I see the results of choosing to do whatever you want and accepting eastern religions over the truth of God's Word. It is heartbreaking. If I forget to look to God's Word I can feel anxious about the world my grandchildren will grow up in.

However; thank God His Word gives us the blue-print to follow so we can raise our children to know and love Him! We need to know the Lord is our God and He is the One and Only God. As parents, grandparents and believers we need to teach our children, grandchildren and the children in our ministries despite what they hear from the world around them they do need to know the Lord is our God and He is the One and Only God. God goes on to tell us to be sure we love Him with our whole selves. If our children see we aren't serious about loving God with our whole selves, then why should they? We need to model what it looks like to live a life where God really does have first place in our life. Intentionally plan to model this in the coming year by involving your children in at least one service project - consider my "Put Feet to Their Faith" project with World Help's causelife - see Monday's post.

God said to be sure His commands were in our hearts. We need to live God's Word, not just know about His Word. If we live God's Word our children will learn it as they watch how we live. As parents and grandparents we need to talk about God's Words at home, as we live our everyday lives from the time we wake up in the morning, throughout the day and when we go to bed at night. We need to watch for opportunities to connect our day-in-day-out lives with God's Word so our children see what it means to know the Lord is our God! 

These are very specific instructions for parents and grandparents - the church needs to be prepared to support and encourage as well as equip parents and grandparents as they intentionally love God and live His Word in their everyday lives before the eyes of their children. We can do this by providing opportunities for parents and grandparents to participate in classes and discipleship groups so they can grow in their walk with God and by utilizing unified curriculum with the children in our ministries. A curriculum with a unified scope and sequence means all ages of children learn the same Bible lesson the same week - parents can then continue the learning at home by building on those lessons all week long!

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 - Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is the one and only God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength.The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up. Write them down and tie them on your hands as a reminder. Also tie them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses. Also write them on your gates.

There are very specific instructions for parents and grandparents in God's Word when it comes to teaching our children, but there are also specific instructions for God's people as well.

Psalm 78:1-7 - My people, listen to my teaching. Pay attention to what I say. I will open my mouth and tell stories. I will speak about things that were hidden. They happened a long time ago. We have heard about them and we know them. Our people who lived before us have told us about them. We won't hide them from our children. We will tell them to those who live after us. We will tell them about what the Lord has done that is worthy of praise. We will talk about his power and the wonderful things he has done. He gave laws to the people of Jacob. He gave Israel their law. He commanded our people who lived before us to teach his laws to their children. Then those born later would know his laws. Even their children yet to come would know them. And they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God. They would not forget what he had done. They would obey his commands.

We need to listen to God's Word and then pass on the truth of His Word to the children so they will be able to do the same for "children yet to come". We have to be sure we don't "hide"  God's Word and the amazing things He has done from our children - we need to tell them "what the Lord has done that is worthy of praise" and "talk about His power and the wonderful things He has done" . . . and then most importantly, show by how we live that we truly love God and His Word! 

We need to be sure we are teaching God's Word and intentionally living His Word before the eyes of the children in our ministries. Children watch everything we do . . . they may not always listen, but they always watch what we do. We want our children, and the children yet to come to know God's Word and put their trust in Him. We want them to remember and choose to obey Him. They will be the ones who will one day be the parents, grandparents and leaders in the church who will tell future generations about God. Let's be sure we live God's Word and show His love in all we do. Let this be the motivation that guides all we do in children's ministry!

Remember - our drawing for the Go Fish Guy's "Kickin' It Old School" cd and dvd will be on Friday. If you haven't "Liked" us with the facebook button to your right, be sure to do so, so you will be entered in our drawing!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Put "Feet to Their Faith" With a Service Project through World Help causelife!

When it comes to goals for children's ministry they may vary somewhat from church to church, but we all can agree the primary goal is for children to learn of God's grace, love and forgiveness and choose to put their trust in Him. Once a child has made that decision, then our goals focus on helping them learn to know and walk with God. While all the facts in God's Word matter and we do want our children to know them, we do not want to just fill their heads with facts. We know our children need to remember, understand and live their faith. If we are serious about helping children learn how to live their faith, we need to intentionally provide opportunities for them to learn how to "Put Feet to Their Faith" by serving others and living what they believe. 

Aside from VBS curriculum, very few curriculum resources include specific opportunities for children to Put Feet to Their Faith by serving others. This doesn't mean we can't involve our children in service projects . . . it just means we need to search for and find these opportunities. Each month we will highlight one ministry and give ideas on how you could involve your children with that ministry to Put Feet to Their Faith!

Our first "Put Feet to Their Faith" ministry is World Help - . World Help was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian organization and has touched over 60 countries through their four pillars of ministry: Child Advocacy, Humanitarian Aid, Bible Distribution, and Church Planting. World Help is devoted to meeting the physical needs of those who are hurting in the farthest reaches of the globe and believes as they compassionately respond, they earn the right to be share the hope of Jesus Christ with the lost! 

World Help believes "water is essential to life, and the lack of clean water in developing countries is the starting place of a thousand miseries. Causelife is a movement of people dedicated to providing the most essential need to human life – water. By raising awareness and implementing solutions, causelife provides clean, safe water that changes lives and transforms communities. Water equals life . . . and water changes everything."  

Stop and think about it for just a moment. How far did you walk this morning to find the water you needed for brushing your teeth, showering and making coffee? A few steps? In many parts of the world people have to walk as many as 12 miles each way to fetch water for themselves and their families. We "use more water in a single toilet flush than the average person in Africa uses in an entire day."

Did your children/grandchildren go to school today? In many places around the world, "Children cannot go to school because their parents need them to fetch water. Walking for water is the most common chore that keeps children busy during the day, preventing them from attending school. Even if they have time, the high number of illnesses stops many from going to school." I did not realize these things. Yes, I knew finding and having access to clean, safe water was a huge problem around the world, but I had no idea the scope of the problem, so I spent some time researching about the water crisis and learned the following from causelife:
  • The root problem will always be dirty water. It causes a life characterized by sickness, poverty, illiteracy, and early death. 
  • When dirty water is replaced with clean water, everything changes. High mortality rates drop because babies no longer suffer from parasites and diarrhea. 
  • Children become healthy enough to attend school and they have the time to do so without long walks to a water source. Some may eventually attend a university where they will receive a higher education, bringing hope to their villages and communities. 
  • There is more food from gardens and irrigated land. Livestock is healthier and provides better meat. Families eat what they need and can sell what is left at the market.
  • Productivity increases, poverty decreases, and children’s lives are transformed.
  • A simple gift of $15 will be combined with gifts from others and can give one person water for twenty years!
  • A gift of $75 will be combined with gifts from others and can give one family water for twenty years!
  • A gift of $150 will be combined with gifts from others and can give ten people water for twenty years!
So, given these water facts, how can you involve your children and Put Feet to Their Faith with causelife? Check causelife's website - - to see how people from across the country have come up with creative and fun ways to raise money for clean water - everything from a 5K/10K Turkey Trot in CA to a summer lemonade stand and then get a group of people together and think about what you can do to help your children understand the need for water and how they can help. Consider these ideas as a place to begin . . . 
  • Ask families to purchase and donate bottles of water and then have a label design contest where each Sunday school class works together to design their own labels. Provide crayons, markers and name badge labels so children can decorate labels to put on each bottle of water. Sell the water bottles and send the money to causelife.
  • Make "drops of water" by filling blue balloons with rice or sand - use the top portion of a water bottle as a funnel. Sell your "water drops" and send the money to causelife.
  • Teach the Bible lesson of the Woman at the Well - John 4 - message me with your email and I'll send you a drama of this lesson the children in your church could prepare, and present to the people in your church. Sell tickets and even make a table where people could purchase your water bottles and water drops as well! Have someone share about the water project you are working on and spend time praying for the people who will receive clean, safe water through causelife and for the causelife people that they will be able to tell about Jesus and how they can have Living Water!
We can make a difference in this world by helping to meet the most basic and essential need we all have -access to clean, safe water. When we provide opportunities for our children to serve others they are "Putting Feet to Their Faith" - when they do this they move their faith from something they "know" to something they "live"!

Please take a moment to "like" us on facebook using the button on my blog and tell others so they can join in the conversation!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some Interesting and Flat-out Amazing Water Facts . . .

As you get ready for church, go to church, fix and eat your dinner and spend this day with your family, consider the following information about water from . . . 
  • Do you have a cell phone? More people in the world own cell phones than have access to a toilet.
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • A bathtub holds 151L of water - someone living in a slum may have 30L of water to use for their needs all day long.
  • Diarrhea remains the second leading cause of death among children under five globally. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – is due to diarrhea. It kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined. 
  • Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.
  • In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs — collecting water for domestic use. This lost productivity is greater than the combined number of hours worked in a week by employees at Wal*Mart, United Parcel Service, McDonald’s, IBM, Target, and Kroger.
  • At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. 
  • As of December 5th more than 2000 people have died in Hatti due to cholera.
Today’s water crisis is not an issue of scarcity, but of access. Join me tomorrow as we learn about CauseLife and what they are doing to help provide clean, safe water for people around the world and how your kids can help and "Put Feet to Their Faith"!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Water . . .

This morning when I woke up I brushed my teeth, showered, made coffee, washed dishes . . . in all honesty, without much thought about where my water came from, if it was clean and what I had to do to get that water. Around the world things are significantly different when it comes to water as one billion people do not have access to clean, safe water. Monday we will learn about a ministry through WorldHelp that is actively involved in helping to provide clean, safe water for people around the world and how you can "Put Feet to Your Children's Faith" and involve them in service projects with this ministry!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Family Pick - Go Fish Guys - "Kickin' It Old School"!

Kickin' It Old SchoolThey're "Kickin' It Old School" with their new CD and DVD! This new release from the Go Fish Guys does exactly what they set out to do - "prove the songs grandparents listened to are cooler than you might think"! "Kickin' It Old School" helps a whole new generation of kids learn classic songs, but with a generous serving of "spunk", enthusiasm and excellence the Go Fish Guys are known for. The song list includes -

  1. Kickin' It Old School
  2. Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation/I Love to Tell the Story (My personal favorite!)
  3. I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord
  4. This is My Father's World
  5. Blessed Assurance
  6. Before the Throne of God Above
  7. I'll Fly Away
  8. Shelter in A Time of Storm
  9. Solid Rock
  10. Old Rugged Cross
The DVD includes karaoke videos, performance videos and material from their new VBS - "Kickin' It Old School". The song list includes -
  1. This is My Father's World
  2. Before the Throne of God Above
  3. I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord
  4. The Solid Rock (with Denver and the Mile High Orchestra)
  5. Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation/I Love to Tell the Story
  6. Kickin' It Old School
  7. Stories
  8. The Bible Book Bop
  9. The Ten Commandment Boogie!
I can not say enough good things about "Kickin' It Old Style"! I love the harmonies, the "spunk" and enthusiasm that permeates each and every song . . . they are certain to get your kids - and even yourself! - up and moving and while the music is sure to be enjoyed the most important reason to use it with your kids is the message. As they say, "New ideas aren't always the best ones. God, His Promises, His Word and the Gospel are unchangeable which is why the Go Fish Guys are Kickin' It Old School"! I couldn't agree more! You may initially find yourself listening to these songs for the kids, but it won't take long for you to listen to them because you find them completely enjoyable as well . . . especially if you are like my son - he doesn't find children's music enjoyable to listen to . . . with the exception of Go Fish Guys! He and my grandson listen to this CD together!

"Kickin' It Old School" songs are perfect for use in all your children's ministries and should be a part of parent's and grandparent's home music libraries! Get them to listen to, but more importantly, use them to launch important questions about Who God Is, why we can absolutely trust Him and why His Word is The standard for our lives! Tremendously well done, Go Fish Guys! I look forward to your next release!:^) Thank you for sending your CD/DVD for my review.

I'm delighted to say Go Fish Guys sent me a CD and a DVD for our first drawing! If you have "liked" us using the facebook button on our blog you are entered in our drawing! Tell the people you know to check us out and "like" us - for each person you recommend who "likes" us, you will receive an additional entry in our drawing - just message me with your and their names. Our drawing will be on December 24th.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the products of services mentioned above for free in the hopes I would mention them on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: 'Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.'"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rotation Curriculum and a Look Ahead!

Hello! Today we will look at the final type of curriculum and then tie it all together before we take a look at what we will be talking about next week.

  • Rotation Sunday School – this type of curriculum is relatively new to the curriculum “market”.  In this teaching style, you select a lesson and then cover it for one month – four weeks.  Four teachers each take a part of the lesson – story, games, craft and one other station that varies per topic – they will then learn and teach for four weeks in a row.  You divide your children into four groups and they rotate to a different station each week until they rotate through each station over the four week session.
    • Strengths of Rotation Sunday School –
      • Utilizes lots of activity
      • Allows kids to learn according to the different learning styles – intelligences
      • Allows volunteers to learn one lesson and repeat it for four weeks rather than learn a new lesson each week
    • Challenges of Rotation Sunday School –
      • Possibly could put too much activity in the “mix” – kids will have fun, but will they really learn how the activity connects with the Bible point?
      • Relies on Volunteers who are willing to teach in non-traditional methods and who are able to help kids make the connections
      • Children who are with a different parent every other weekend will miss half of each session
    • Examples of Rotation Sunday School –
    • Top Pick of Rotation Sunday School –
      • I really am not “sold” on this model for use on a Sunday morning.  However, I do believe you could take any of these resources and use them for a family event, or divide each lesson in two and use them for two weeks in your mid-week ministry to children – just have the children rotate through two stations each week.
When you understand your church's unique history, community and culture and have a written vision/purpose then you are able to evaluate curriculum types to find the one that will be the best "fit" for your ministry. For example, if your church has a more conservative history and community you may run into opposition if you try to utilize a non-traditional or large group/small group curriculum. This doesn't mean you couldn't make the move to one of those type of curriculum, but if you do you need to prepare your volunteers and help them understand your reasoning for making the change. I once taught a training for a church that made a switch from a traditional curriculum to a non-traditional one. The volunteers at this church were so unhappy with their new curriculum that they literally yelled at me for ten minutes complaining about the things they didn't like with their new materials. Then they apologized for yelling and we were able to talk about their church history, community, culture and vision/purpose - none of these things had been considered when making the curriculum change. Eventually they were able to develop a vision/purpose and found a different curriculum that was a better "fit" for their ministry.

Keep in mind; if you are thinking about trying a new curriculum in your children’s ministry, the best time of year to make a change is with the start of your new “school” year in the Fall. This makes Spring the best time to evaluate and select your curriculum as it allows you time in the summer to provide opportunities for training to introduce your volunteers to the new curriculum and help them understand the most effective ways to use their new curriculum. The month of April we will spend time looking at my Top Ten Curriculum Picks with a side-by-side comparison chart to help you in your curriculum evaluation. There are specific features/tools I look for in curriculum and these are the items I compare each curriculum with in the chart. Along with the comparison chart, I'll provide a key to the comparison chart where I explain each of the features/tools I looked for and why. I hope you'll find the key and the chart helpful as you evaluate which curriculum will best enable you to equip the children in your church in ministry so they are able to remember, understand, and live God’s Word for truly changed lives!

Next week we will talk about planning a ministry of volunteer support and encouragement! This is the perfect time to take a look forward into 2011 and think about what you can do to help your volunteers feel supported and appreciated so we will look at developing a prayer support ministry, planning special events and more! Please plan to join us and tell your friends and family so they can join in the conversation with us!

Remember - January will be devoted to 2011 VBS with my Top Ten countdown and side-by-side comparison charts! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bridge and Large Group/Small Group Curriculum

If you want to select the most effective curriculum for your ministry, you need to understand the different types of curriculum along with their strengths and challenges. Yesterday we looked at Traditional and Non-Traditional curriculum - today we will look at Bridge and Large Group/Small Group curriculum.

  • Bridge curriculum.  This curriculum “blends” features of both traditional and non-traditional curriculum and makes an excellent curriculum for churches that have utilized traditional curriculum in the past and want to move to a more effective tool, but think the “jump” to non-traditional curriculum is too difficult for their church to make. 
    • Strength of Bridge Curriculum –
      • Allows volunteers to begin to use more active teaching with their kids to involve them in the lesson.
    • Biggest Challenge of Bridge Curriculum –
      • Some volunteers will stick to the traditional teaching model they know with the teaching time and student books rather than try the learning centers.
    • Example of Bridge Curriculum –
      • GodPrints by NeXgen/Cook Communications
      • Gospel Light  by Gospel Light Publishing
    • Top Pick of Bridge Curriculum –
      • GodPrints is a topical curriculum and emphasizes when kids live God’s Word, then others will see “God’s Print” in their lives and focuses on experiencing, remembering, understanding and living God’s Word.  I really like the weekly food crafts in the preschool curriculum!
      • Gospel Light is a quality curriculum with a wealth of learning center options in each lesson.  Gospel Light updates their curriculum regularly to keep it as effective as possible.  Gospel Light uses a set, through the Bible scope and sequence.
  • Large Group/Small Group Curriculum Resources.  Large Group/Small Group curriculum provides the option of combining ages or keeping them separate – depending on the needs of your church.  Children come together for a large group time of singing and having the Bible lesson presented in an engaging manner – maybe a skit, maybe a DVD presentation or maybe another type of creative presentation.  After the large group time, children break into small groups with an adult – their shepherd – where they talk through the point of the Bible lesson, how they can live it in their everyday lives, pray for each other and develop relationships with the others in their small group. 
    • Strengths of Large Group/Small Group Curriculum –
      • Allows you to utilize your volunteers according to their gifting – those who are teachers/drama-type people in large group time and those who like to get to know kids/help kids get to know each other and God as shepherds.
      • Allows you to help kids develop sound relationships in a small group setting.
    • Biggest Challenge of Large Group/Small Group Curriculum –
      • Convincing your church to give it a try!
    • Examples of Large Group/Small Group Curriculum –
    • Top Pick of Large Group/Small Group Curriculum –
      • I honestly think you can’t go wrong with any of these curriculum resources, but my favorites are kidz Connection and Promiseland
Tomorrow we will look at the final type of curriculum - the Rotation model and some questions to ask when evaluating the curriculum you currently are utilizing and how to know if it is time to make a change.

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