Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Begin 2014 with a Few Questions and a Prayer!

Today is the last day of 2013 and of course, this means 2014 begins  tomorrow. As you think about the end of 2013 ask yourself the following questions . . . 
  • What did I try in 2013 which engaged children and families?
  • What did I try in 2013 which did not work as I hoped?
  • What might I do in 2014 to engage children and families?
  • What did I do in 2013 to reach unreached children and families in my community?
  • What might I do in 2014 to reach unreached children and families in my community?
  • How did I encourage and support my volunteers in 2013?
  • What can I do in 2014 to encourage and support my volunteers?  
  • How did I train my volunteers in 2013?
  • What can I do to train my volunteers in 2014?
  • How did I grow closer in my walk with Jesus in 2013?
  • What can I do to grow closer in my walk with Jesus in 2014?
These are just a few questions to get you thinking, but today is an excellent time to stop and evaluate what you have been doing, what you could do in 2014 and to get on paper some specific steps you will take to accomplish the things you'd like to do in 2014. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Look Back at VBS 2013 . . .

Next week my 2014 VBS reviews begin, but before you start evaluating the 2014 resources, take a moment to stop and think about your 2013 VBS. Ask yourself the following questions . . . 

Top Posts for 2013 - The Dr. Seuss Quote for Today - Be Who You Are and Say What You Mean . . .

I am surprised the following post which is one of my most read post of the last year, but it is, so, I'm happy to re-post it again for you today!

"The Dr. Seuss Quote for today is"Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind!" There are things which are true about this saying, but there are also things which are not true. First the things which are true . . . if someone really loves you, they will love you no matter what you say because of who you are . . . a person who they love! Now for the things which are not true . . . you might, on occasion, say things which people who matter to you get upset about. This can be a painful thing to have happen, but it can, and does happen from time to time.

Now for a few things to keep in mind. First, you should say what you mean. Being honest is something which has to be a high priority for each of us. However; this does not mean you can't be thoughtful and considerate about what you say and how you say it. Colossians 4:6 says, "Your speech should always be gracious and sprinkled with insight so that you may know how to respond to every person." We do need to always use gracious and insightful words. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Top Posts for 2013 - Special Short Story by Steve Estes: Coleen's Story

Today I'm sharing another of my Top Posts for 2013 with this special post which included a short story from Steve Estes which you will only find here on About the Children's Department . . . Enjoy!

Earlier this week I posted my review of A Better December, and announced a give-away of
this book (see it at this link). I also shared a special short story written by the author, Steve Estes, which you will only find on About the Children's Department. Unfortunately, my link wasn't working - my husband who works in IT fixed it for me, but I decided to go ahead and also post the story here . . . enjoy!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top Posts for 2013 . . . Do You Know the Pilot is NECESSARY?

As we near the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, I want to take a moment to look at my Top Posts for 2013. The third most read post for 2013 was one where I shared something cute my grandson Josiah had to say about pilots! I'm re-posting it here for you to see today . . . just in case you didn't happen to see it!

While many of you may know me as a person who cares very much about children's ministry, I am also a grandma . . . and I absolutely LOVE being a grandma! (Check my other blog, grandma's cookie jar for ideas, resources and give-aways to help grandma - and grandpa, mom and dad - pass on a heritage of faith) I was thinking about something my grandson Josiah said last year when he was almost four and decided to re-share it with you today . . . it will give you something to think about and brighten your day as well!

Friday, December 27, 2013

VBS - Recruiting Joy!

I've been writing about recruiting for VBS with a focus on "view-finder", "perspective" and "creativity"; today I want to talk about recruiting with a focus on joy! This is the one essential thing to keep in mind whenever you think about recruiting for anything as joy is the most important thing! Consider the following . . . 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

VBS - Recruiting "Creativity"

If you have looked at VBS recruiting through a "view-finder" and with a "perspective" which sees possibilities instead of obstacles, then it is time to look at VBS recruiting with "creativity"! By this I mean, do the unexpected when you recruit as this will get the attention of the people in your church!

When you think about recruiting, you can certainly go about it in a lot of ways, but if those ways do not get the attention of the people in your church, you are not likely to end up with a very big response. The reason for this is as follows . . . 

Happy Day After Christmas!

I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating Christmas with your families. As you go through today remember; "Even when Christmas is over the Light of the World is still here!"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's Christmas!

Christmas star decoration with blue background and Jesus is the reason for the season lettering clip art of manger pictureIt is Christmas - while we did our main "celebrating" with family last night, today I'm fixing a ham in the slow-cooker and all the fixings to go with it. All the celebrating is fun; something I look forward to each year, but the most important thing is taking time to thank God for the reason we are able to celebrate . . . the birth of Jesus!

If you know Jesus, then I'm sure you'll be celebrating one of the most important happenings in all of history, too! If you do not yet know Him, I pray this year you will come to know Him Who loves you so much, He was willing to leave Heaven, be born as a tiny baby in a stable and ultimately grow up and give His life on a cross so we can be forgiven! Talk about the best Gift ever!!!

Merry Christmas everyone, and thank you for reading my blog!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

VBS - Recruiting "Perspective"

Stop and think for a minute. If someone asks you to do something, but says they know you probably do not want to do it or nobody else wants to do it or you are their last "hope", are you very likely to want to be the one who says, "yes" when it sounds like everyone else has said, "no"? If the person asking you to help looks desperate, are you likely to wonder what is so horrible about this thing they are asking you to do?

So often when we approach recruiting for VBS - or any area of children's ministry - we do so with an "air" of desperation. We almost expect people to say, "no" and may even think there are "good reasons" for them to say, "no". If we approach recruiting with a negatitive "perspective", people are likely to notice and say, "no".

If, however; we approach recruiting with a positive "perspective", we are likely to experience a very different response! So, what is a "positive perspective", you ask? Consider the following . . . 

Monday, December 23, 2013

VBS - Recruiting "View-Finder"!

Okay, at the start of this post I need to let you know two things . . . 
  • I LOVE recruiting!
While it may be easy for you to believe I love VBS, you may be shaking your head and thinking it just is not possible for me to "love" recruiting; but it is! You see, I look at recruiting through the following "view-finder" . . . 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Means . . .

Christmas is just three days away; while we are likely busy finishing up with Christmas activities; children's programs, Christmas parties, special lessons, family activities and even last-minute shopping, don't forget in all your busyness to stop and remember what Christmas actually means!

To me, Christmas means . . . 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

This Christmas be the Gift God Wants You to Be!

Christmas is the time of the year when we tend to be more joyful, more merry . . . at least, many of us are. But it can also be a very difficult time of year for many of the children and families in our ministries if they are experiencing difficult times in their families. Along with leading children in worshipping and celebrating the birth of Jesus, we need to also be on the watch for those children and families who many need our help. Watch for . . . 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Simple Craft Children Can Make!

If you are looking for a simple, fun and beautiful craft you could make with the children in your ministry for Christmas, consider the Book-page Star Ornaments I saw on Pinterest! You'll find complete directions for making these little stars and putting them into a glass ornament, so have fun! Make several . . . they would make beautiful gifts for parents, teachers, pastors, neighbors . . . . and certainly fun to have on your own tree, too! 

Use metallic paper for shiny stars or paper the children in your class color with chalk, crayons, paint . . . use your imagination and just think of the fun and beautiful ornaments you all can make!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus from the Skit Guys - Amazing!

I'm very happy to share a link with you today for a "speed-painting" from the Skit Guys which takes you from Creation to the Birth of Jesus - it is nothing short of amazing and reminds us of how God had a plan from the creation of the world to send Jesus so we all can be forgiven and one day live with Him in Heaven forever! 

This is what Christmas is all about; how, as the Skit Guys say, "All of creation, all of God’s story, all of us, long for Christ’s coming. Watch this moving piece which illustrates how all of history culminates in the birth of Jesus."

Consider how you might share this in your ministry - it is only $15.99!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Simple and Fun Christmas Craft Idea!

I was browsing through Pinterest and happened to find a great, simple craft idea which would be perfect for Christmas Sunday! All you need are a few simple - and tasty - supplies!  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Music, Crafts and an Opportunity to See, Touch and Experience 2014 VBS 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 which intentionally engage children in the teaching of the Bible lesson and provide opportunities for them to live what they learn, considered the scope and sequence, theme and setting it is time to look at two components which have the potential to last beyond the five days of VBS . . . the music and crafts!

When you consider the music, look for songs which reinforce the theme, 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 CDs 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! Stay tuned; I'll be announcing my Top Pick for VBS Music 2014 in a couple weeks!

Monday, December 16, 2013

FREE Song Downloads from Kidz Blitz!

KBL logo pngRoger Fields is the president of Kidz Blitz Ministries . . . what is Kidz Blitz Ministries, you ask? "Kidz Blitz Ministries is a non-profit organization which conducts high-energy christian events for family ministry and children’s ministry for churches in over 40 denominations across America. We also produce non-traditional children’s/family resources for churches. Check out our online store.
INVOLVEMENT. We think being a participant is better than being a spectator. We produce stuff which helps people get involved.
A LITTLE DEEPER. To us, ministry should go beyond the safety of teaching virtues and values. It is more than behavioral modification. It is about leading people into a life of faith and relationship with Jesus which empowers them to live extraordinary lives."
Kidz Blits is a ministry which provides a wealth of resources for churches to use with their children and family ministries . . . and they are giving two of their music downloads away for FREE! Just follow this link and you'll find  . . . 

What Would Your "Ideal" VBS Look Like?

My 2014 VBS reviews begin in three weeks. I'm very happy to say the resources I'm reviewing this year so far are showing themselves to be very well written with solid Bible lessons which will engage children so they understand their need for Jesus and how to grow in their walk with Him! These resources will be able to be used in your church in a variety of settings all year long!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I Have a Winner!

God's Heart (Volume 3) Home Edition - DVDI'm happy to say Pam Ferrell is the winner in my Theo Presents: God's Heart give-away (you'll find the review at this link).  Thank you Pam for reading grandma's cookie jar (please message me your address by December 22, 2013 so I can have it sent to you) and thank you Whitestone Media for sending one for me to review and for making another available for me to give away!

Christmas Countdown - Joy to the World!

My Christmas Carol for today is Joy to the World! This song is certainly one of the most well known Christmas songs, so I wanted to include it in my Christmas carol songs, but I also wanted to share a fun and new "take" on this song from Go Fish Guys! Look at the lyrics -

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Few Words About My 2014 VBS Reviews

I've received about half the VBS resources I will be reviewing this year and so far I'm really happy with what I see! As you read my VBS reviews for 2014, please keep the following in mind . . . 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Story of the Holy Land: A Visual History - I'm Giving One Away!

"The history of the Holy Land stretches back to the dawn of time and encompasses a dramatic mix of events - from border skirmishes to full scale invasions, from the wanderings of Abraham and the patriarchs to the powerful teaching of numerous prophets. From earliest days to 1948, it has passed from one ruler to another, one empire to the next and has been a melting-pot for a wide range of cultures and beliefs. With sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Holy Land and its people have had an impact on history out of all proportion to its size - and continue to do so today."

This is the introduction to a beautiful book I was invited to review - and given the opportunity to give one away as well - The Story of the Holy Land: A Visual History.

While some of you may have visited the Holy Land; or have it on your "to-do list", many of us will never make a trip to the Holy Land, so a book such as this provides us the opportunity to "see" what this place where Jesus lived and walked actually looks like!

How Do I Determine My Top Pick for VBS 2014?

My 2014 Top Ten VBS Countdown and reviews begin in three weeks from Monday; I will be reviewing at least 12 VBS kits this year and I'm sure all of them will be Biblically sound resources with well developed themes and engaging settings! Regardless of which kits you select to utilize in your ministry, you can be confident of finding quality resources.

I want to give you an idea of how I will make my selections for this year's Top Ten VBS resources. I'm not a VBS publisher and I'm not a bookstore; I'm a children's ministry person, so when I evaluate curriculum, I look for the "tools" a curriculum provides which will help equip volunteers so they will be able to most effectively communicate God's Word in a way children will remember and understand so they will be able to live it in their everyday lives, every day!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

FREE Christmas e-card & FREE Song Download for your Volunteers!

If you have not mailed your Christmas cards yet, or might like to send a simple, yet nice gift to your volunteers, check this free e-card from DaySpring which includes a FREE download of the song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel from FFH!

All you have to do is follow this link, enter your info to set up a FREE account then enter the emails of the people you want to send it to! It is this simple!

So, what is your favorite Christmas carol? Mine is What Child is This . . . I love the harmonies in this song and the message of how Jesus is Christ the King! Of course Silent Night is also a favorite . . . as is Joy to the World. I guess I have more than one favorite!

Who might you send this e-card to?

What IS "Fluff" in VBS . . . and What Is NOT!

Believe it or not, it is almost time to choose your VBS curriculum for Summer 2014! My house is beginning to fill with VBS resources for 2014 VBS; this morning I am surrounded with VBS - my living room almost looks like a book store!!! My 2014 VBS reviews begin to release on January 6th and this year, like last year, I'll provide reviews and side-by-side comparison charts. I'll also have posts covering all things VBS, from recruiting, training and promoting your VBS to additional ways to make use of these resources.

Before my reviews begin, I do want to talk once again this year about "fluff" in VBS. Each year there are a number of publishers who like to say their VBS resources bring the Bible back to VBS, but when I review the resources I find the Bible in all of them. So, today I thought I'd take a moment to consider what "fluff" is . . . and what it is not.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Does a Complete Director's Manual Matter for VBS?

When it comes down to making your final choice of Vacation Bible School for your 2014 children's ministry, there are many things to consider and 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 plans are made for your VBS.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Countdown-to-Christmas - Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring/Joy to the World

Last night when I watched the evening news, I saw a clip of a Christmas "Flash Mob" . . . this time it was the Air Force Band, starting with a single cellist (my personal favorite musical instrument) on the floor of the National Air and Space Museum's Milestones of Flight gallery. By the end of this four minute performance there were 120 musicians and vocalists playing and singing to the delight and surprise of those who visited the museum!  As I watched, I knew I wanted to share it with you today! 

While we are all likely able to sing from memory, Joy to the World, Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring (written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1716 and 1723) is one we may recognize, but not know, so I looked up the words to share with you, along with Joy to the World, which was written by Isaac Watts in 1719 and was based on Psalm 98. Enjoy!

"Sticky" VBS Bible Lessons . . . What Makes a Lesson "Stick"?

Vacation Bible School . . . churches which plan a VBS for their summer ministry - or other time of the year - know their kids will be engaged in activities, games, crafts, mission/service projects, music and snacks; but the most important part of VBS is the Bible teaching. So . . . what should we be looking for when we look at the Bible lessons in a VBS resource? Consider the following absolute essentials -

Monday, December 9, 2013

VBS . . . Or Not???

I have loved VBS for decades . . . it has been a wonderful, and effective tool for engaging volunteers, children in the church, children in the community and families in the churches where I've served! I have to say, though; the past few years I have been stunned by the number of people who posted on-line about the "death of VBS" and called for churches to stop having VBS. So, this year I want to share a couple thoughts . . . 

How do Theme & Setting Help You Choose Your VBS for 2014?

Cokesbury’s Workshop of WondersWhen it comes to selecting VBS you first of all have to determine your goal for your Vacation Bible School, considered if the lessons intentionally engage your children in the teaching of the lesson and give them opportunities to live what they've learned. Doing this should help you narrow down your choices; once you have, 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 which 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 your goal.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What are the Essential Ingredients in a VBS?

We looked at why we need a goal for our Vacation Bible School and how to determine a 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.

Countdown-to-Christmas - Born is the King!

Hello! Today my "Christmas Carol" for you is the song, "Born is the King" by Hillsong! I love the lyrics; "Born unto us this day a Savior, Gifted from Heaven to a manger. The Hope of the world, a Light for all mankind. All of the Earth rejoice, it's Christmas time! So lift up your voice and sing out His praise, it's Christmas! Born is the King, rejoice in the day, it's Christmas! Make a joyful sound, it's Christmas! Let His praise resound, it's Christmas!"

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I Have a Winner!

A Better December coverI recently reviewed the book, (you'll find the review at this link) and had a drawing to give one away as well. Since the winner did not get their address to me, I'm having a second-chance give-away today for this book and Judy Reed is the winner! Thank you Judy for reading About the Children's Department - please message me your address by December 9, 2013 so I can have it sent to you. Thank you New Groth Press for sending one for me to review and making another available for me to give away!

VBS 2013 - How to Find Your Best VBS "Fit"!

In the coming month I'll be sharing about the features to look for in a Vacation Bible School. You'll find my Top Ten VBS Countdown for 2014 complete with individual reviews and a side-by-side comparison chart beginning on January 5th. I realize you may automatically select your VBS based on the publisher you used the precious year, but I ask you to consider the following steps for selecting your 2014 VBS -

Top 5 Reasons for Focusing our Kids on Receiving at Christmas

A few days ago I posted my Top 5 Reasons for Focusing Kids on Giving at Christmas, but today I want to stop to think about the Top 5 reasons for Focusing our Kids on Receiving at Christmas . . . yes, I said “receiving“! At Christmas children – and adults, too – think quite a bit about the gifts they would like to receive, but in God’s Word we find some of the most incredible gifts anyone could ever receive . . . and we read they are gifts God wants us to receive! Consider the following .  .  .

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tell Me . . .Why Are We Having VBS?

In just 30 days my Top Ten Vacation Bible School Countdown for 2014 begins, so I thought I'd take a moment to focus on how to find the best VBS "fit" for your unique ministry and look at the essential "ingredients" VBS should include. 

Vacation BibleSchool 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 2014? 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 VBS. 

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.

VBS 2014 & My First Kit Arrived for Review!

A dear lady I know once told me in children's ministry there are two seasons in the year . . . Christmas and VBS, because when you finish one of them, you begin to plan and prepare for the other! Well, believe it or not, it is almost time for my annual January of VBS with my Top Ten VBS Countdown for 2014, VBS reviews, give-aways and side-by-side comparison chart!

Second-Chance Give-Away - A Better December

A Better December coverI recently reviewed the book, (you'll find the review at this link) and had a drawing to give one away as well. Since the winner did not get their address to me, I'm having a second-chance give-away tomorrow for this book. If you live in the USA, are over the age of 18 and would like to be in the drawing for this book, please comment below.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Free Resource for Families!

5 Tips for Getting Your Child to Say "Thank You"... and Mean It! - www.mannersmentor.comOne of the ways we can help support families is to pass resources to parents which they may find helpful as their raise their children. One excellent resource for every family is the Manners Mentor's website. Maralee McKee is the Manners Mentor and she has a wealth of information to help parents help their children learn how to be the best they can be in any situation!

One recent post from Maralee gave Five Tips for Getting Your Child to Say Thank You at Christmas . . . check the link for the full post, but here are a few of her tips . . . 

I Have a Winner!

I'm happy to say, Mary Beth Dawson is the winner in my It's Christmas; a Christmas Family Experience give-away (you'll find the review at this link). Thank you Mary Beth for reading About the Children's Department (please message me your email so I can have your book sent to you) and thank you NextGen4Christ for making this available for me to give away!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Free Advent Gift from KidzMatter!

I am thrilled for the opportunity to share with you a free resource you can give to the families in your church to help them focus on Jesus as they get ready for Christmas! Check this out . . .

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top 5 Reasons for Focusing Kids on Giving at Christmas!

“Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun for all that children call, Their favorite time of the year!”
Ah, yes . . . Christmas time is here and while children are likely to be focused on the gifts they hope to receive . . . as for many children it is their favorite time of year, I believe it is the ideal time to redirect their focus to giving to others! So . . .  here are my Top 5 Reasons for Focusing Kids on Giving at Christmas . . .

Countdown-to-Christmas - Casting Crowns - I Heard the Bells

I'm very happy to share this Christmas song with you today . . . I Heard the Bells is a beautiful song with a wonderful message! Feel free to "pass it on" and share it with the people you know, too . . . a type of "social-media-caroling"!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Have a Winner!

I'm happy to say, Merry Sunshine is the winner in my give-away of the book, The Gifts They Gave (you'll find the review at this link). Thank you Merry for reading About the Children's Department (please message me your address so I can have your book sent to you) and thank you Sterling Children's Books for sending one for me to review and for making another available for me to give away!

Countdown-to-Christmas - Silent Night by Casting Crowns

When you think about Christmas carols, you likely think about the classic, Silent NightAccording to Wiki, Silent Night was, "composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village on the Salzach river. The young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had already written the lyrics of the song 'Stille Nacht' in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as a coadjutor.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Countdown-to-Christmas - the Hallelujah Chorus - Like You've Never Seen It Before

When you think about songs which praise Jesus and which share the good news of why He came, you have to think of the Hallelujah Chorus! Written 250 years ago, according to Wiki, "Handel's Messiah has been described by the early-music scholar Richard Luckett as 'a commentary on [Jesus Christ's] Nativity, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension', beginning with God's promises as spoken by the prophets and ending with Christ's glorification in heaven. The music for Messiah was completed in 24 days and at the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters "SDG"—Soli Deo Gloria, 'To God alone the glory'. This inscription, taken with the speed of composition, has encouraged belief in the apocryphal story that Handel wrote the music in a fervour of divine inspiration in which, as he wrote the 'Hallelujah' chorus, 'he saw all heaven before him'."