Sunday, January 31, 2016

Some Questions to Consider

Image result for question markYesterday I asked if your ministry is, "in the box", or "out of the box" in your ministry in regards to if you have a "compartmentalized" ministry, or not. Today I want to consider a few questions to help you see if you are in or out of the box.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Are you In or Out of the Box?

Image result for clipart for boxIs your Children's Ministry, "in the box", or are you, "out of the box"? I know in the past few years one of the "catch phrases" in ministry has been to, "think out of the box", and many Children's Ministries have reevaluated what they do and how they do it with a goal of being more effective. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

From One Generation to the Next

Many of us were involved in Children's Ministry when it began to become something more than just Sunday school and mid week, typically overseen by a CE director or youth pastor. I remember when the attitude was; "give a volunteer a teachers book and we are good to go". But then, slowly it changed as people began to realize it really did matter what we did with children and it was important for churches to have people who focused on being intentional in their ministry to children.

Over the years, churches began to actually pay people to lead their Children's Ministry - part time at first and eventually full-time children's pastors/directors. I remember attending a Sunday school conference in Sacramento in the late 80's, and in one workshop the speaker asked us, in a packed class, to raise our hands if we were paid by our church to lead the Children's Ministry - even if it was only part-time. I was one of the only ones who raised my hand. Today there are conferences specifically for Children's Ministry leaders and many who attend are full-time staff at their churches. Times have changed!

In the recent past, people began to notice how while churches offered Children's Ministry and Youth ministry, there was not really a focus on Family Ministry. Over time, many churches now offer this to the families in their churches and more and more churches are hiring Family Pastors to oversee this important area of ministry.

As has happened in the past, there is a move which is starting to take hold in churches across the country . . . Intergenerational Ministry. This is a very important "step" for churches to take, because while Family Ministry can - and should - focus on the entire family, it tends to just focus on equipping, engaging and encouraging parents (not that this isn't an important thing for churches to do). But, families are made up of more than just parents and children. Families also tend to have grandparents and when the church brings all these generations together, and is serious about engaging, equipping and encouraging both parents and grandparents, the impact upon children is multiplied and is significantly more effective.

Why does this matter? Why isn't what we are already doing with compartmentalizing ministry - ministry to children, ministry to youth and ministry to families - enough? We can find the answer in the Old Testament. I have always found a reading of the Old Testament to be exciting . . . and heartbreaking. You find 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 real 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, you will see how some followed God, and then in a generation or two they turned their backs on God. If you read Psalm 78 you will see how over and over the people of Israel walked with God, and then forgot Him. Something bad happened, so they turned back to God, but 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.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Have Winners & Another Giveaway in Four Days!

I'm happy to announce Amber Imhoff, Kathy, Matthew Latham & Pam Ferrell are the winners of Cave Quest Music CDs from Group Publishing. (You'll find the review for Cave Quest VBS at this link.) Thank you Amber, Kathy, Matthew and Pam for reading About the Children's Department (please email me your address at by February 4, 2016, so I can have your CD sent to you), and thank you Group for sending Cave Quest for me to review and for making music CDs available for me to give away!

VBS 2016 - FREE VBS - Abundance Orchard

I was invited to share a free VBS resource with you a couple years ago, which equips your church to help children and families in your community who do not have enough to eat; so, of course, I was very happy to do so! This year I received an email letting me know the first year - which I reviewed at this link - is still available, and so is a second year - which I'm going to review today.

Abundance Orchard is focused on events about food and eating in the New Testament. Each day’s program is based on a different Scripture passage and includes a thematically-connected memory verse. This curriculum includes daily questions for preparation and reflection on the day’s Scripture passage which are designed for VBS teachers and leaders, as a means of deepening faith through interaction with the Scripture. You may also wish to use these questions as the basis for a daily VBS-connected Bible study for older youth and/or adults, lasting 60-90 minutes. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Be a Good Shepherd; Not the Wolf

Image result for images of sheep and wolvesThere is something God has been laying on my heart lately - other than Grandparenting Ministry :-) - which I want to share with you today. Some of you - happily - will not be able to relate to what I'm about to say. If this is you, please keep reading and take this opportunity to get a glimpse into what others experience and think about how you can be used of God to help and encourage those who do relate.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Christian Grandparenting Network - It Is For You, Too!

Standing In The Gap Masthead copy
In Children's Ministry we talk a lot about being, "intentional", and we tell the parents they need to be, "intentional" as well. But, what is "intentional" when it comes to passing on faith? Yes, I've been talking a lot lately about engaging grandparents to pass on their faith - and will be doing so again today, but being, "intentional" is not just limited to grandparents. Parents and Children's Ministry leaders also need to be intentional.

So, today I'm very happy to share with you an article on the Christian Grandparenting Network which explains what, "intentional" is and looks like when it comes to passing on a heritage of faith. You will find this article at the following link, but before you check it out - and I most sincerely hope you will take a minute or two to read it - I want to introduce you to the Christian Grandparenting Network.

You may think, and rightly so, the Christian Grandparenting Network is a resource for grandparents . . . after all, it is called the Christian Grandparenting Network! However; it is not just for grandparents. Parents and those who serve in Children's Ministry would also benefit from the posts and resources you'll find on this site. How, you ask? Well, consider the following . . . 

I Have a Winner & Another Giveaway in Two Days!

I'm happy to announce Kathy Dorton is the winner of the Submerged Jump Start Kit. (You'll find the review for LifeWay's Submerged VBS at this link.) Thank you Kathy for reading About the Children's Department (please email me your address at by February 2, 2016, so I can have it sent to you), and thank you Lifeway for sending Submerged for me to review and for making one Jump Start kit available for me to give away!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Praying Every Day & Million Praying Grandparents

MPG Logo
Yesterday I invited you to become part of the Million Praying Grandparents, and to invite, encourage and challenge the grandparents in your ministry to do the same. If you did not take time to do this yesterday, I want to invite, encourage and challenge you to do so right now . . . you can return and finish reading this post after you follow this link and sign up - don't worry, it will only take a moment to sign up!

VBS 2016 - Side-by-Side Comparison Chart

The past two weeks I've been sharing my 2016 VBS reviews with you, so today I'm happy to post my 2016 VBS Side-by-Side comparison chart. Please note, each and every VBS I review is one which has solid Bible teaching, solid Bible lessons; a focus on helping children understand and live God's Word. Each and every one. There is not one which, "puts the Bible back into VBS", because they all have the Bible solidly woven into each and every part of their VBS. This means you can choose any of these resources - or better yet, several of these resources, and know when you do, the children in your ministry will be engaged and learning about what God's Word has to say to them. 

My chart has value in the following ways . . . 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Million Praying Grandparents - Sign Up & Spread the News!

One of the blessings I'm experiencing as part of the Legacy Coalition is the opportunity to get to know the other staff; such as Cavin Harper. Today I want to encourage you to get involved in a special opportunity to call grandparents to prayer which Cavin is focusing on through his ministry, the Christian Grandparenting Network.

Cavin is calling grandparents to be prayer warriors for their grandchildren and has a prayer campaign which I want to ask you to join . . . and encourage the grandparents in your church to do the same. Cavin describes, "Million Praying Grandparents" in the following way - 

VBS 2016 - A Few Thoughts . . .

I have shared with you my Top Ten VBS resources for 2016 . . . I still have a couple more reviews which I'll share with you - one on Tuesday and the other as soon as it arrives in February. And, tomorrow I'll post my side-by-side comparison chart for 2016 - feel free to print it out for use as you attend VBS workshops and meet with your volunteers to select the VBS resources you will use in 2016.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

VBS 2016 - Week Two Dollars & Cents of VBS

Today I'm sharing the Dollars & Cents of VBS Part Two  for 2016 by breaking down the cost of the VBS resources I reviewed this past week. Obviously a starter kit is the first place to begin when purchasing VBS materials, but from there you'll need to determine what - if any - student materials you will utilize. 

As far as student materials, I like the idea of being able to give children something each day which will remind them of the Bible lesson they learned. I especially like the objects/cards which can be clipped or pinned to a backpack as these things make great reminders! I also like the idea of being able to give children their own copy of the music - of course these things take money and your budget just might not have room for them. So, what will it cost and how can you move ahead with VBS on a budget?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ten Ways Grandparenting Ministry Helps Your Children's Ministry

I have been writing all week about the Legacy Coalition and starting a Grandparenting Ministry in your church. Today I want to look at some ways a Grandparenting Ministry benefits the Children's Ministry in your church.

VBS 2016 . . . Top Pick - Deep Sea Discovery from Christian Standard Media - formerly Standard Publishing!

I'm very happy to announce Christian Standard Media's Deep Sea Discovery is my Top Pick VBS for 2016! This year they invite you to take children on an adventure diving to the bottom of the sea where they will discover the truth in God's Word which will help them know, God is with them wherever they go! 

Once again this year, I LOVE how they have devoted one station to service projects, and the focus on evangelism is solidly woven into each and every Bible event; showing VBS can be both evangelistic and an opportunity for children who are already Christians, to grow in their understanding of God's Word and how to live it in their day-in-day-out lives. Christian Standard Media not only "hits the nail squarely on the head" again this year with Deep Sea Discovery, but they have shown they are able to write and design resources year after year which continue to reach and engage children! 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What is a Grandparenting Ministry?

I've been writing all week about teaming up with the Legacy Coalition and
starting a Grandparenting Ministry in your church, but you may be wondering how might this look in my church and how would it help the Children's Ministry? Well, today I'm going to talk about what a Grandparenting Ministry might look like in your church and then tomorrow I'll write about why the Children's Ministry benefits from being strong supporters of a Grandparenting Ministry.

First of all, let me clarify. A Grandparenting Ministry, while it will encourage grandparents, is not a Grandparent's Ministry. A Grandparent's Ministry is a ministry for grandparents. This would include things like Bible studies, get-togethers, and small groups. A Grandparent's Ministry focuses on and is about Grandparents.

While there may be Bible studies and get-togethers as part of a Grandparenting Ministry, a Grandparenting Ministry is different as they will focus on engaging, equipping and encouraging grandparents to pass on a heritage of faith to their grandchildren. 

So, what might a Grandparenting Ministry look like? Consider the following -

VBS 2016 Top Three - Ocean Commotion by Answers in Genesis & Kit Give-Away!

Ocean Commotion LogoToday we are looking at Ocean Commotion from Answers in Genesis - it is a resource well worth taking a close look at to see if it is a good "fit" for your ministry!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Gap - the Need for Grandparenting Ministry

For the past couple days I've been writing about the Legacy Coalition and about mobilizing grandparents to pass on their faith to their grandchildren. Today I want to look at the need for Grandparenting Ministry.

As I've said, most churches serve parents of children, teens and maybe even parents who have children in college, but then until these parents retire and become "senior saints", there really is not much in the church which is focused on helping them understand, prepare for and intentionally engage in passing their faith on to their grandchildren. The unspoken "message" is, once your children are grown, there is nothing for you until you are a senior saint, and then we will fellowship and study God's Word together.

Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with fellowshipping and studying God's Word with other believers, but grandparents have something which is far, far more important for them to do. They are not only ideal people to pass their faith on to their grandchildren, but they are people who God has ordained and designated in His Word to do so.

VBS 2016 - Barnyard Roundup from Concordia Publishing & Give-Away!

Today we're looking at Barnyard Roundup from Concordia Publishing House which came in third place in this year's review! Concordia calls on children to discover how, "Jesus is at work through us!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let's Mobilize Grandparents to Influence the Next Generation for Jesus!

Yesterday I asked if your church has a, "Senior Saints" ministry or a true Grandparenting Ministry. If you thought about it and realized your church does not actually serve the group of grandparents who are between the ages of 47 and 67 and does not actually help focus older grandparents on passing on their faith as well, then your church is actually quite typical. Most churches do not actually have ministry which engages, equips and encourages grandparents to pass on a heritage of faith to their grandchildren.

But, just because it is rather, "typical" for churches to overlook this, it does not mean you have to continue to do so. Your church can step up and make a real difference for grandparents of all ages; and in so doing, make a huge difference in the lives of children and families as well!

How you ask? By getting involved with the Legacy Coalition - Grandparenting that Matters! I have been talking about the Legacy Coalition a little for the past several months, but today I want to introduce you to the people who are part of this new movement and then share how your church can be a church which engages, equips and encourages grandparents.

VBS 2016 - Joy in Jesus by Abingdon Press - Top Pick in Music 2016

Today I'm happy to share with you Joy in Jesus from Abingdon Press. This is a VBS curriculum with a very specific vision - it was designed to engage the church, parents, children, families in black and/or brown communities and equip them to do several things - pass on a heritage of faith, build families, build communities, educate children about their heritage, help them understand how valuable they are, and build bridges between this community and authority figures. A big vision. One which I believe they have done extremely well!                                                                                                                                                              But, while the primary audience for this resource may seem obvious, I want to challenge and encourage you to take a serious look at Joy in Jesus whether your church is made up primarily of one race or a mix of different races. I personally believe this would be an excellent resource for any church, as we all need to honestly face prejudices and mis-information in ourselves and deal with them as God wants us to, so we are able to help the children in our ministries grow up to truly believe with all their hearts the song they learned as little ones - "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."

In this day and age where racism, anger, mistrust and misinformation divide us - in our communities and sadly, in our churches, Joy in Jesus is a resource which can help bridge the gaps which divide, by helping us understand others and believe the truth - God loves and values us all. Absolutely take a serious look at Joy in Jesus, and whether you use it for VBS or not, find a place in your ministry where you will use it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Does Your Church Focus on Fellowship or Engaging, Equipping & Encouraging?

If you knew there may be a group of people in your church who were not truly being engaged; what would you do? If you knew it was possible these people were not really being equipped and encouraged to disciple children, who in many cases were part of your Children's Ministry; what would you do? Would this matter?

Who is this group of people, you ask? The answer is, grandparents. Now before you tell me your church has a ministry to and for grandparents, let me ask you if this, "ministry" is more than Bible study classes, get-togethers, luncheons and hymn sings, because there is a significant difference between a, "Senior Saints" ministry and a Grandparenting Ministry. A Senior Saints ministry primarily functions for those who are retired (over the age of 65) and is mostly focused on fellowship. A Grandparenting Ministry focuses on those who are grandparents (the average age for a person becoming a grandparent for the first time is 47) and strives to engage them, equip them and encourage them to pass on a heritage of faith to their grandchildren. Do you see the difference? Does your church truly have a Grandparenting Ministry?

Most churches have ministry to young parents, parents of elementary age children, parents of teens and even possibly parents of college-age children, but once they become grandparents, there tends to be nothing for them until they are old enough to retire; and then it is often focused on fellowship, not passing on a heritage of faith to their grandchildren.

However; this is all about to change!

VBS 2016 - Cow-a-bunga Farm from Regular Baptist Press - I'm Giving a Starter Kit Away!

 Today, as we begin the second week of my 2016 VBS reviews, we are looking at the first of my Top Five VBS resources - Cow-a-bunga Farm from Regular Baptist Press which came in at #5! 

RBP did a great job with the content and substance of this VBS resource - if  you are not familiar with their materials and have never taken a close look at them in the past, this year is a great year to make a change and consider if Cow-a-bunga Farm is a good "fit" for your Children's Ministry!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

VBS 2016 - The Dollars & Cents of VBS

Each year as part of my VBS reviews, I provide a break down of what you can expect to spend if you buy a particular VBS; based on the number of children in your VBS. So, today I'm sharing with you my, "Dollars & Cents of VBS" for the VBS resources reviewed in the previous week.

While there certainly are excellent and compelling reasons for churches to plan and present a Vacation Bible School to the children in their churches and communities, the realities of the Dollars & Cents can impact whether or not a church is able to do so. If your church chooses to go ahead with VBS for Summer 2016, the Dollar & Cents of it all can again come into play as you determine which resources you will use. 

I once had someone from a publisher tell me if a church really cared about the 
children in their ministry, they would spend whatever they had to, to have the best curriculum possible. I disagree. While I absolutely believe churches care about the children in their ministries, budgets are a very real and difficult reality, as so many churches struggle to meet their budgets. VBS can be expensive and yet, it is a very important - and in many cases the only - outreach of the year for many churches.

Obviously a starter kit is the first place to begin when purchasing VBS materials, and from there you'll need to determine what - if any - student materials you will utilize. I do have to say, while I absolutely understand the need for publishers to make a profit, so they can stay in business, I am concerned when I see kits increase in price - some of them are extremely expensive. And, if a kit is digital, I absolutely do not understand pricing it so high. Yes, the student materials will not be something a publisher of a digital curriculum will make money on, but many churches do not buy student materials. If a kit is priced so high as a digital kit, there will be many churches which just can not even consider it as an option.

As far as student materials, I like the idea of being able to give children something each day which will remind them of the Bible lesson. I especially like the objects/cards which can be clipped or pinned to a backpack as these things make great reminders! I also like the idea of being able to give children their own copy of the music - of course these things take money and your budget just might not have room for them. 

So, what will it cost and how can you move ahead with VBS on a budget?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

VBS 2016 - One Week Down

The first week of my 2016 VBS reviews is complete - tomorrow I'll post my, "Dollars & Cents of VBS" with a break down of the costs for using any of these VBS resources.

Next week I begin with my Top Five VBS for 2016 reviews . . . starting with the VBS which is #5 in my review.

I have to say I'm very happy with the resources I've reviewed - they are well written and any of them would provide you with the tools to reach and engage the children in your church and community.

Which of the VBS resources I reviewed last week are you thinking about using in 2016?

Friday, January 15, 2016

VBS 2016 - Expedition Norway from Group Publishing

Norway Vbs Ultimate Starter KitToday is the fifth day of my 2016 VBS reviews and I'm happy to share a VBS I really enjoyed reviewing. Last year was the first year Group Publishing gave churches yet another option when it came to VBS . . . a Cross Culture VBS . . . and they are doing so again this year with Expedition Norway! With this resource you get to take children and families from your church to another culture in a different location somewhere in our world - in this case, Norway - so they may "experience" life in this place and see God in the faces of Christian children from Norway!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

VBS 2016 - Cave Quest from Group Publishing & Music CD Give-Away!

Today I'm happy to share with you Group's 2016 VBS; Cave Quest! This cave setting is one I don't remember seeing before, so I'm happy for the opportunity to see something new; it looks like it is great fun, but most importantly, has solid Bible teaching and learning!

Cave Quest tied for 7th in my review this year with Egypt Joseph's Journey - also from Group.

VBS 2016 - Egypt, Joseph's Journey by Group Publishing!

Egypt Vbs Ultimate Starter Kit
For quite a few years now, Group Publishing has released four VBS resources; today we are going to take a look at the Bible-times resource for this year; Egypt - Joseph's Journey from Prison to Palace, which tied for seventh with Group's Cave Quest in this year's VBS review - I'm posting both of them for you to see today! 

With this resource you get to take children and families from your church and community back to Bible times where they may "experience" life in ancient Egypt, as they discover what happened with Joseph, and how he chose to trust God!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

VBS 2016 - Surf Shack from Cokesbury

Cokesbury’s Surf ShackToday I'm happy to share with you Surf Shack from Cokesbury. This is a VBS curriculum filled with resources which will help you engage the children in living what God's mission looks like in their lives. Surf Shack is well worth taking a thorough look at to see if it might be a good "fit" for your ministry -

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

VBS 2016 Review - Submerged - LifeWay - And Jump Start Kit Give-Away!

Today I'm happy to share another of my Top Ten VBS resources for 2016; this time it is, Submerged: Finding Truth Below the Surface from LifeWay! Take a look and consider if Submerged is a good "fit" for your Children's Ministry!

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 VBS Review - elements of Trust from the Science VBS

Elements of TrustToday as we begin the 2016 Vacation Bible School Top Ten Countdown (My Top VBS for 2016 will be reviewed on January 22, 2016), I'm very happy to share with the VBS in 10th place . . . elements of Trust. It does not just have a science station or a science activity, but the entire VBS connects science with God's Word. elements of Trust, from the Science VBS, engages children with lots of science projects, so you can know children are going to pay attention and learn from the things they participate in each morning. Take a look and consider if elements of Trust is a good "fit" for your Children's Ministry!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Take Time to Support, Encourage & Thank Your VBS Volunteers

There are so many things to think about and do when it comes to getting ready for your Vacation Bible School, but I want to add one more thing to your list. Don't worry . . . this thing is so much fun! Plan now to implement a complete volunteer support and appreciation ministry! 

In this day and age we are all so busy . . . and yet, in spite of being busy you have people who have volunteered to serve on your VBS team! We do not need any other reason to support and appreciate our volunteers!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Get More Out of VBS - Mid Week Ministry

When you evaluate Vacation Bible School curriculum, be sure to think about how VBS resources might give you the tools you need for your mid-week ministry to children! You won't necessarily need an entire kit, but if you have the Bible lesson, games and craft books, as well as the music, you'll be able to expand the lessons by using one lesson for two weeks and find you have enough resources for ten weeks! Run your mid-week ministry similar to your VBS and the enthusiasm you have with your VBS can transfer to your mid-week ministry!

Three resources will give you enough materials for one year of mid-week ministry, so think about the curriculum scope and your vision/goals for your mid-week ministry then see which VBS resources give you the tools you need.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Get More Out of VBS - Mission Trips & Backyard Bible Clubs

Today I'm going to share some ideas on how to re-use the VBS resources you select for your VBS . . . a great way to get more out of your CE dollars . . . and another way to expand your summer Children's Ministry by using an additional VBS resource!

Many, if not most, churches plan a mission trip for their teens during the summer. Some are quite the major undertaking - even on an international level - while others may be more locally based. My daughter and son went on mission trips each summer with their youth group - mostly to other areas of the country - but they also went on additional mission trips with groups like Reign Ministries (my son went to Nepal/Thailand, England, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the Island of Rhodes), Youth for Christ (my daughter went to Mexico) and ZJAM (my daughter went to Costa Rica). I strongly believe in the value of teens being involved in summer mission trips big and small. 

When youth groups plan a mission trip, typically there is a component of their trip where the teens work with children . . . this is the ideal opportunity to re-use your VBS resources! If your church's VBS is before the mission trip, the teens can help with your VBS - great opportunity for them to prepare for their mission trip and more importantly, helps communicate to the teens serving is not just something they do once a year on a mission trip, but is something they can do in their own church all year!