Monday, March 31, 2014

Please Take This Short Parenting Survey

When my husband and I raised our children in the 1980's and 1990's, life was very different
than it is today. The world was different. Then, computers were just starting to show up in homes; today nearly everyone has at least one computer. Then, cell phones were new and only the wealthy had them; today even children often have their own phones.

I Have a Winner!

I'm happy to announce Merry Sunshine is the winner in my Zonderkidz Book Pack give-away (you'll find the review at this link)! Thank you Merry for reading About the Children's Department (please message me your address by April 7,2014 so I can have it sent to you) and thank you Zonderkidz for sending the books for me to review and for making an additional set available for me to give away!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Take a Moment to Give Thanks . . .

I've been talking for the past few days about pausing, reflecting and evaluating in our children's ministries; yesterday I wrote, "Evaluating is all about measuring, judging the worth of something, and like I said yesterday, 'if we do not evaluate the things we do, how will we know if we are 'on target' or just throwing everything at the wall hoping something 'sticks'?' Ministry to children and families matters too much to not take the time to regularly evaluate; to regularly measure what we are doing and if it is 'hitting the mark', or not." 

Take time this week to reflect,  pause and "evaluate", but while you are doing these things, don't forget to take time to give thanks! I looked on-line and found the following definition for giving thanks . . . "Express gratitude or show appreciation to." So, with this in mind, let's think about taking a moment to "give thanks" . . . 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Take a Moment to Evaluate . . .

Yesterday I wrote, "Reflecting is all about evaluating and if we do not evaluate the things we do, how will we know if we are 'on target' or just throwing everything at the wall hoping something 'sticks'? Take time this week to 'reflect, chew over, think over, ponder and contemplate' . . . and be sure to take notes!" and Monday I said, "The school year is almost over and Summer ministries are about to begin, so now is the perfect time to take a moment to pause, reflect, evaluate and give thanks!" and then took time to consider pausing. 

Today I want to take a moment to consider what it means to "evaluate" and why we should do so, but first, let's think about what "evaluate" means. I looked on-line and found the following definition . . . "Place a value on; judge the worth of something". So, with this in mind, let's think about taking a moment to "evaluate" . . . 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Take a Moment to Reflect . . .

Blue Stick Man Reflect Clip ArtYesterday I wrote, "In children's ministry we often tend to be moving from one program, ministry or activity to the next - often at "break-neck" speed - and we may not take the time to pause and refresh; so today, stop what you are doing and take time to Pause!" and then took time to consider pausing

Today I want to take a moment to consider what it means to "reflect" and why we should do so, but first, let's think about what "reflect" means. I looked on-line and found the following synonyms for "reflect" . . . "chew overthink over; meditate; mull; mull over; muse; ponder; ruminate; reflect; speculatecontemplate". So, with these in mind, let's think about taking a moment to "reflect" . . . 

I Have a Winner!

I'm happy to say Mary Beth Dawson is the winner in my AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything book 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 address by April 4, 2014 so I can have it sent to you) and thank you Cook for sending one book for me to review and for making another available for me to give away!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Take a Moment to Pause, Reflect, Evaluate and Give Thanks!

Well . . . March is almost over, there are just two more months until school is out and Summer Ministry is just around the corner, so now is the perfect time to take a moment to pause, reflect, evaluate and give thanks! First, today, lets consider taking a moment to pause . . . 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Can We Be More Effective Today?

I like video clips with George Barna . . . they give me definite things to think about. Please take a moment to listen to this clip with George Barna as he talks about how the church can minister more effectively today . . . 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why Should We Continue With VBS?

This time of year, it isn't uncommon to find at least one person questioning whether we
should invest time, people and resources in VBS; I would like to add my, "two cents" to this question by saying, it depends.

What does it depend on? Consider the following . . .

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review & Give-Away - Must-Have Marvin

In this world we live in it is all too easy for children to develop a mind-set where they think they just, "must have" a lot of things; the newest video games, toys, electronics, clothes and the list goes on and on. Even parents can find themselves "sucked in" to this mind-set where they think they have to have the newest cars, electronics, clothes, etc. So, when I was invited to participate in a book review and give-away for the book, Must-Have Marvin!, I was delighted to do so!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What Curriculum Do You Use and Why?

Once again this year, during the month of May, I will be focused on Sunday School curriculum reviews. This year I want to include information from people who are using each curriculum - why they chose what they chose, what they like about it, any feed-back they have from families and volunteers and how they might like to see it "tweaked". I will post my reviews and side-by-side comparison chart, but I think it will also be helpful for people who are evaluating curriculum to be able to read what people are saying who are actually using each curriculum.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Today is World Water Day, So Here are Some Interesting and Flat-out Amazing Water Facts . . .

As you go through this day, fix and eat your dinner and spend time with your family, consider the following information about water from . . . 

Are You Certain Your Children's Ministry Communicates the Message You Think It Does?

When you are a children's ministry director or pastor, you practically "live and breathe" children's ministry. It is your focus, your passion. It is what you think about. While you may have designed a children's ministry which is very effective, because you are so "close" to your ministry, there could be things you "miss", or just do not "see". Consider the following ideas for how you could be certain your children's ministry communicates the message you think it does -

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Support & Encourage Volunteers in Practical . . . and Needed Ways

As I've posted in the past, ""I do not believe burnout is really a problem in children’s ministry. Stay with me for a minute as I explain. When we, or a volunteer, are tired from serving, instead of identifying it as, 'we are tired', we call it burn-out. Or, when one of us experiences frustration because we are serving on our own or took too much on for us to be able to handle, instead identifying it as we are doing too much on our own, we call it burnout.

There are other examples, but the point is, burnout is not really the problem.
Misidentifying, or even not identifying, the problem is the problem. When we fail to correctly identify the problem, we can’t solve the problem and sadly, the end result is, people leave ministry and do not experience the joy God has for them when they serve. This is a true tragedy."

You will find the full post at this link, but today I want to focus on how important it is to correctly identify and take action when a volunteer experiences health issues and needs our support and encouragement . . . in practical and needed ways. When a volunteer experiences health issues, it can become all too easy to step out of children's ministry, and never return; especially if they are not supported and encouraged while they have stepped out.

I Have a Winner!

I'm happy to say Karen Watkins is the winner in my Simple Sign In three month subscription give-away! (You'll find the review at this link) Thank you Karen for reading About the Children's Department and thank you Simple Sign In for making this available for me to give away!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Safety Checks - The Random Kind!

When you think about safety in your children's ministries, you think about things such as;
  • Screening volunteers
  • Secure ways to sign in/pick up children
  • Training volunteers
  • Child to Adult staffing levels
  • Safe toys/equipment/supplies
And for good reason, as these are all things we need to think about when it comes to safety in our children's ministries. However, there is one more thing you can, and should do, on a regular basis to insure your children's ministry is safe! What is this additional thing, you ask? Random safety checks!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Young Women of Faith Bible - I'm Giving One Away!

There are several truly important things we want to see happen in our children's ministries; most important, of course, is to have children choose to put their trust in Jesus! We also want to see children develop a deep love for God's Word, so today I want to share with you a Bible for young women; girls eight and up, which will help them do exactly this!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Special Set of Books for an Easter Give-Away!

I was recently invited by Zonderkidz to review three books - and give away a prize package of these three books as well! So, today I'm happy to share these three books with you and let you know how you might win these same books!

I Have a Winner!

I'm happy to announce, Virginia (from MN) is the winner in my Let There Be Light book give-away! (You'll find the review at this link) Thank you Virginia for reading About the Children's Department (please message me your address by March 24, 2014 so I can have it sent to you) and thank you Zonderkidz for sending one book for me to review and for making another available for me to give away!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Best, Easiest and Most Fun Way to Recruit!!!!

I've been talking about recruiting volunteers and while I think everything about recruiting is fun, there is one way to recruit which is the best, the easiest and the most fun ever . . . and the most effective. What could this be, you ask? Retention. Keeping the volunteers you already have! If you are successful at keeping your volunteers then your recruiting demands will reduce significantly. 

When it comes to the "numbers", your church needs enough volunteers to keep your child:volunteer ratios at a safe and effective level. Basically, for nursery you should have one volunteer for every three babies, one for every four toddlers and then one for every age of children - for example for five year olds you should have one for every five children, one for every six, six year olds, etc. This level of staffing allows you to provide a safe and effective children's ministry, which means, you need to determine how many volunteers you need based on the number and ages of children in your ministry.

So, what are the benefits for keeping the volunteers you have? Consider the following -

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Keep the Volunteers You Have by Encouraging and Thanking them!

As I think about recruiting volunteers, the easiest - and best way to recruit is by keeping the volunteers you already have! So, today I want to talk a bit about encouraging your volunteers.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Science Project Object Lessons for John 3:16

Over the years I've found when I use a science project to make a point, I end up capturing and keeping the attention of the children; particularly older elementary age boys! So, whenever possible I tend to include science projects in any lesson I teach!

This Sunday, at my church, we are teaching the children about when Jesus explained eternal life to Nicodemus and will be focusing on John 3:16. I emailed the teachers in my group two science projects they could involve the children with in their classes and I"m happy to share them with you today!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Prayer for Volunteers!

We have been talking about recruiting volunteers, so today I want to talk about asking God to send us the "laborers"/volunteers we need for our ministries!

I firmly believe no one cares more if we have the "laborers" we need in our ministries than God does. God went to great lengths and sent Jesus so we could be forgiven and learn to know and walk with Him, so clearly this is a message He wants others to hear. We need volunteers in our ministries so we are able to reach children and families. These are simple facts. So, we need to make praying and asking God to send us the laborers we need a regular part of our prayers! Consider the following . . . 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From One Generation to the Next

I have always found a reading of the Old Testament to be exciting . . . and heartbreaking. You have real people and how their real lives were impacted and changed when they came to know and walk with God; such as David. He went from being a lowly shepherd boy to being the King of Israel. Yes, there were a lot of years between the two, but he knew and walked with God; even as a young teen . . . so much so he was able to trust God to fight for him when facing a giant none of the older soldiers in the army were willing to fight . . . they just ran and hid! He knew, walked with and trusted God to keep him through the years when he was being chased by Saul. Yes, he made some really horrible choices over the years, but when faced with his sin he turned from it and asked God for forgiveness and grace. He wrote the Psalms and modeled for us, even today - how to talk with God as well as how to worship and praise Him!

Yet, in spite of the amazing way David knew and walked with God, his children did not follow and share in his love for God. This is the heartbreaking part. If you spend time looking at the kings of Israel and Judah, some followed God and then in a generation or two they turned their backs on God. If you read Psalm 78 you see how over and over the Israelites walked with God and then forgot Him. Something bad happened and they turned back to God and then in a generation or two they forgot Him again.

I find this frightening. I love God! I want to know and walk with Him  I want my children and grandchildren and future generations, should Jesus tarry, to continue to know, love and walk with God. I do not want them to forget Him. It only takes a casual glance at the evening news to know our world is broken because it has forgotten God. It is heartbreaking.

Elementary Children's Ministry Essentials . . . Furnishing and Supplies!

We've been talking about the essential elements for our elementary children's ministry classrooms which enable us to have safe ministry and how to create classroom environments on a shoestring; so today I'm going to touch on furnishings and supplies!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Let's Plan a Volunteer Recruiting Month! - "Finest Hour" Theme!

I'm a huge fan of planning a recruiting month with a theme built around the
lyrics of a song. One major benefit for doing this is it gives you a specific and focused theme which you can weave throughout your recruiting month; when people hear the song, they will be reminded of your message and it adds a touch of "fun" to recruiting! 

One feature of your recruiting month will be a music video of your ministry, so you will need video footage of your volunteers, classes and any events you hosted throughout the year. If you ask around, you are sure to find at least one or two people in your church who like to film with a video camera, take pictures and edit videos on their computers. Ask them to be your film crew and have them film from time to time throughout the year to get footage of the children, youth, adults in your ministry.  Use this footage to make your annual recruiting video.  You can also use digital camera shots of people and events to make your video even more interesting!  Find someone in your church to sing the song as the video plays and you will be able to communicate a strong message through the video and song.

Elementary Children's Ministry Essentials . . . Design Top-Notch Classrooms!

Have you ever have had an opportunity to see elementary children's ministry classes in a large church - one which is decorated to the nines? While you might want to have compelling and cool classrooms in your ministry, what do you do when it just isn't in your budget? Let me tell you - you can have a truly top-notch elementary children's ministry area . . . on a shoestring budget! Consider these ideas for developing the environment for the children in your church - 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Elementary Children's Ministry Essentials . . . Safety!

I have been talking about the components of a safe Nursery/Preschool and outlined essentials for these areas of your ministry. Today I'm going to focus on the essentials for Elementary children's ministry and give some ideas of how to utilize these items on a shoestring budget. 

What do you think of when you think of your elementary classrooms as well as the resources you'd like to have? If you had an unlimited budget and space for the "perfect classroom", there may be some awesome resources you'd love to offer children. However, your budget may not allow for those things; so which resources are essential elements for a truly effective ministry and yet are "do-able" on a shoestring budget?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fun Object Lesson for Jesus Feeding the 5,000!

It is not unusual for curriculum lines to put the Bible adventure of when Jesus fed the 5,000
in the Spring Scope and Sequence; so if you are teaching this lesson any time soon and would like a simple object lesson with a big, "wow" factor, consider trying this one . . . 

Let's Plan a Volunteer Recruitment Month! - The Basics of What a Recruiting Month "Looks" Like!

For a number of years I served as the Children's Director at a church in
Northern California. We needed 120 volunteers for our Sunday morning Children's Ministry and we typically held our volunteer recruitment drive during the month of August - which meant I spent a lot of time on the phone making those calls! When the new ministry year began in September, inevitably I still needed volunteers; so one year I decided to make a change and held our volunteer recruitment drive during the month of May; this was one of the best decisions I ever made!

Essentials for Safe Nursery and Preschool Classrooms - Creativity on a Shoestring!

So . . . we've considered the essentials for a safe nursery and preschool ministry, looked at creating a top-notch environment as well as furnishings and equipment on a shoestring. let's pause a moment to consider supplies for our little ones which allow them to express themselves and what they are learning  . . . all on a shoestring as well - with an eye for safety!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Essentials for Safe Nursery & Preschool Classes - Classroom Environment; Decorating on a Shoestring!

I've been writing about a safe children's ministry all month, but today I want to talk about your classroom environment . . . and how to have an amazing one, even on a shoestring budget! You may have had an opportunity to see nursery or preschool classes in a large church - one which is decorated to the nines and while you might want to have a really attractive nursery, it just isn't in your budget. So, what do you do? Let me tell you - you can have a truly top-notch nursery and preschool area . . . on a shoestring budget! Consider these ideas for developing the environment for the youngest ones in your church - 
  • You may be tempted to paint your nursery and preschool rooms bright colors, but resist such a temptation . . . paint your walls a pale, pastel or neutral shade and then decorate according to the time of year and according to your Bible theme. 
  • Plan a paint-n-party day! Invite the people in your church to join you to paint your nursery and preschool classrooms. Provide sandwiches . . . or have a pot-faith picnic and ask families to bring sandwiches, chips, cookies and veggie sticks to share for one big picnic! Provide lemonade and you have all the makings for a fun and productive day!
In addition, consider the following ideas to make your nursery and preschool spaces unique and usable -

Let's Plan a Volunteer Recruiting Month! - Recruit With Enthusiasm!

As I said yesterday, I personally find recruiting volunteers fun and exciting and while I realize most people think I must be totally nuts to enjoy recruiting; I look at it as a treasure hunt rather than a chore to dread.  After all, treasure hunts are fun!  You see, I believe the church belongs to God and He places people in His church to do all the things which need to be done for genuinely effective ministry to take place.  Now, some people may not realize they are the ones God has placed to be involved in ministry, but I believe the people are there – we just have to find them! Recruiting allows you to look for and find the treasure/unknown volunteers God has given you; and volunteers truly are a treasure; a gift from God!

I Have a Winner!

I'm happy to say Tom Bump is the winner in my Go Fish Shine VBS Package give-away! (You'll find the post at this link) Thank you Tom for reading About the Children's Department (please get your shipping info to me by March 14, 2014 so I can have it sent to you) and thank you Go Fish for making this Prize Package available for me to give away!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Recruiting = Going on a Treasure Hunt!

Call me crazy, but I love recruiting volunteers for children’s ministry!  It’s exciting and so much fun . . . like being on a treasure hunt!  What’s not to love about being on a treasure hunt; particularly when you’re sure to find the treasure?!! 

I’m absolutely convinced God cares more than anyone if we have the volunteers we need for the most effective ministry possible.  This is why I believe He has placed in every church the people who are needed for each ministry to be truly effective.  Some of these people have volunteered so we know who they are! That’s enough to put a smile on any recruiters face! Others just do not know yet they are people God has placed in their church to serve in the children’s ministry. Recruiting allows you to look for and find the treasure/unknown volunteers God has given you; and volunteers truly are a treasure, a gift from the hand of God! 

Essentials for Safe Nursery and Preschool Classrooms - Germ Warfare and Washing Toys!

When it comes to safety in the church nursery/preschool area, we tend to think about things like child check in/pick up, screening volunteers and the toys/equipment in the nursery; which are all valid things to think about, but today let's think about another area which you may not initially consider when it comes to safe nursery and preschool classes . . . germ warfare and cleaning toys. We want our classroom environment to be an amazing environment - even on a shoestring! Our nurseries are spaces for little ones to be cared for, play in and for us to begin to introduce them to Jesus! Preschool classrooms are spaces for children to learn about Jesus and a place to play. Let's create environments your children - and their parents - will love!

Obviously one big area for us to focus on when it comes to the environment of the rooms our littlest ones are in begins with cleanliness. Our nurseries and preschool classrooms absolutely must be clean. We can have the most attractively decorated spaces, but if they are not clean, parents will not rightfully not want their child in our ministry. Consider the following cleaning tips - 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thank Your Volunteers!

Volunteers are the heartbeat of our children’s ministries.  If we are going to be truly effective
in our ministry to children we have to have a team of volunteers who are committed to and passionate about their ministry to and with the children.  Nearly every children’s ministry has volunteers who go above and beyond their calling by faithfully serving - often without anyone even taking notice.  While the praise of men is certainly not the reason our volunteers serve, it is appropriate for us to take the time to notice and thank those who so faithfully give of themselves to invest in the lives of the children in their class. 

A few years ago I thought it would be interesting to talk with churches across the country to see what they do to tangibly thank their volunteers and have to say I was completely delighted by the creativity and love which is put into expressing appreciation to those who volunteer their time and their selves to serve God as well as the children and families of their church and community! While I originally wrote this article for Your Church Magazine from Christianity Today, I thought it would be a good article to share with you today as the content is still applicable!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Second Chance Give-Away - Shine VBS from Go Fish!

I recently held a give-away for a Shine VBS package from Go Fish, but the winner did not get their information to me so it could be sent to them. So, I'm having a second-chance give-away for this great VBS! Go Fish has made available a prize package which includes . . . 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Simple Sign In - Review and Give-Away!

Last week I posted about how important it is to have a sign in/pick up policy for the
children in your ministry. (You'll find the post at this link) I said, "It is essential for every church to develop a security sign in/pick up system for their children’s ministry.Today I am very happy for the opportunity to let you know about a resource which is affordable, easy to use and provides an excellent layer of security for the children in your ministry . . . and announce a special give-away as well!

Simple Sign In was developed by a church for use in their own ministry when they were unable to find a system which "fit" their ministry. They wanted to keep Simple Sign In affordable; which they have done, and they wanted to make it user friendly, while also providing a wealth of information for their church - which they also did.

I could write more about the system, but I think instead I'll share some of the information from their site as they really do a good job of explaining what Simple Sign In is and how it works . . . 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Safe Nurseries + Safe Equipment = Welcoming & Effective Ministry - Check Those Toys!

I've talked about both taking a good look at the room you use for your nursery and safety policies. So, now your room and policies are in order, it’s time to look at the toys, furniture and equipment in your nursery!

The Consumer Product Safety Commission - - and Consumer Reports - - are two main web sites every nursery director needs to know to ascertain nursery safety. Follow the links on these sites to learn specific safety standards and find recalls. For example, do you know full-size cribs must have slats, spindles, corner posts and rods not more than 2 ½” apart? Have you measured your cribs to be sure they meet this standard? Check all your cribs and throw away any which don’t. Are you aware of the danger of drop-side cribs? If you have any in your nursery, throw them away. If you have an infant swing with a wind-up feature, throw it away. Be sure all infant swings have at least a three-point safety harness and always use them. Check these sites to find safety standards for all items in your nursery. Make it part of your monthly nursery check to go on-line and see if anything in your nursery is on the monthly recall/alert list at  Throw away any of your things you find on this list . . . do not give them away, throw them away!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Safe Nurseries + Safe Equipment = Welcoming & Effective Ministry - Nursery Safety Policies!

As we focus on safe nurseries and talk about the basic steps any church could take to be sure their nursery is clean, safe and inviting, we need to take a closer look at our safety policies. Do you have written child safety and sick child policies? Some basics would include the following -
  1. All nursery volunteers will be at least 16 years old and will be screened, interviewed and trained before they are able to serve with the children.
  2. There will always be at least two unrelated, screened and trained adults in the nursery whenever it is available for use.
  3. All nursery furnishings and toys will be cleaned/replaced between services and during the week.
  4. Any child who has had a fever, colored discharge from their nose and who has had diarrhea or vomited 24 hours before an opportunity to be at church should be kept home.
  5. Should a child become ill while in the nursery, they will be separated from the other children and their parents will be sent for.