A Peek Inside our Luau-Themed Volunteer Training

This past Sunday, we hosted our annual Children’s Ministry volunteer training.  It was the second year that we’ve themed this event.  Last year, our theme was a tailgate.  This year, we chose to do a Hawaiian Luau.  It was so much fun and very well-received by our volunteers.

CM_LUAU1

This year, we wanted to include not only new and returning volunteers but those considering serving in our ministry as well.  We had a packed room full of adults and students who responded to God’s call to join us in ministry this year.  This was also the first year that we held our training on a Sunday after our morning services rather than a weeknight.  We have found that having folks stay around when they’re already at church (and giving them lunch!) yields a much better turnout.

Guests arrived to a large room at our church that was decorated with Hawaiian flowers, leis, tiki bar backdrop and tropical colors (orange, yellow, lime green, hot pink and purple).  Once inside the room, guests were welcomed, encouraged to pick up necessary paperwork, given a ticket for the chance to win fun prizes and allowed to choose a lei to wear.

Luau - pic 2
Ministry area handbooks, adult applications (white) and student applications (purple)

Guests were then invited to help themselves to a delicious lunch buffet, which consisted of:

  • Footlong sub sandwiches (turkey, ham and veggie)
  • Potato chips
  • Edible beach balls (cheese balls)
  • Fresh fruit cups
  • Cookies
  • Hawaiian Punch and bottled water

Our tables were set with a simple centerpiece (a glass bowl filled with play sand, seashells and votive candles that we had on hand).  Under each bowl was a sheet of chalkboard paper and pieces of chalk.  At each set, we placed a “Say Yes to the Next Generation” notepad and a personalized pen.

After a little while of fellowship around the tables, we started with the business of the day.  You can download our event outline here.

Here are a few of Pinterest-inspired ideas we used:

For even more ideas, check out my KidMin – Luau Pinterest board.

I wonder what next year’s theme will be…

It’s your turn to share!  What fun volunteer training themes have you done?  I’d also love to see your pictures!  Upload them to our Facebook page.

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Freebie Friday Giveaway: “The Gospel Truth About Children’s Ministry”

Freebie Friday Giveaway

 

I’m feeling generous today and want to bless a fellow kidmin leader with a great resource for your library.  Here’s what we’re giving away today:

The Gospel Truth About Children's Ministry

 

From the publisher:

In this informative new book you can place yourself in a room surrounded by 1,000 decision makers in U.S. children’s ministry for an honest look at kidmin today.

You’ll hear different perspectives to spark new ideas, along with familiar stories that will have you nodding in agreement, happy that you’re not alone.  Learn what’s working, what needs to change and how to carry out Jesus’ mission of cherishing children and making disciples.

How to enter to win:

This is a resource that you’ll definitely want to grab and I want it to be yours – for free!  Enter to win an autographed copy by doing one – OR ALL – of the following:

  • Subscribing to this blog (go the right-hand column and scroll down)
  • Leaving a comment below about trends you’re seeing in kidmin today
  • Tweeting about this giveaway – Enter to win an autographed copy of “The Gospel Truth About Children’s Ministry” [Tweet this]
  • ‘Liking’ us on Facebook.

Giveaway entries accepted until 11:59 pm on August 31, 2015.  Open to those with a U.S. mailing address only.

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7 Things to Remember When a Parent Expresses a Concern

When a parent expresses a concern

Months ago, I drove my niece to school and was very alarmed about her safety (and those of her classmates) at drop-off time.  Because of my concerns, I emailed the principal and the PTA President and eagerly awaited a response.  Three weeks later (yes, three weeks later), this is the exact response I received from the PTA President:

“I am not sure if you have received a response from the administration. Please feel free to attend our meeting this Thursday at 6 p.m. to discuss your concerns with drop off.”
As a former PTA President, I found this email appalling for so many reasons but I won’t go into all of that here.  In a nutshell, I found this to be a missed opportunity for the PTA President to properly invite me into a dialogue about the issue, among other things.  As a ministry leader, I found it equally appalling.  I would have never addressed a parent’s (or aunt’s!) concerns this way.
Here are a few things I was reminded of as a leader who communicates with parents who have expressed a concern:
Don’t brush it off.  When a parent takes the time to express a heartfelt concern in a non-confrontational way, address it.  Don’t ignore it or discount it.  So maybe the parent expressing the concern isn’t volunteering in the ministry.  In my opinion, it really doesn’t matter.  Addressing it – or not – speaks volumes to those we serve.
Take a deep breath if the concern is expressed harshly.  When a parent feels their child’s safety is at risk, emotions tend to run high.  So take a deep breath and hold off on returning that phone call, pressing “send” on that email, or spewing off a defensive response (but don’t wait three weeks).  Pray and ask God to give you the right words to say and the right attitude to say them.  Remember the words of Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
Respond in a timely fashion.  Personally, I felt that the three weeks that passed between my original email and the response was too long.  Not hearing back sooner, even acknowledging that the email had been received, was disappointing.  As a leader, aim to respond within 24-48 hours.
Listen to them.  What is the heart of the matter?  What are they really communicating?  When listening to a parent, listen without trying to come back on the defense.  Sure, we think we’re taking all of the necessary steps to keep our ministry safe but maybe there is something that isn’t on our radar.
Address them by name.  If you know me well, you know that nothing gets under my skin more than an email that doesn’t address me by name.  I felt a bit disrespected being addressed that way.  When addressing a parent’s concern, address them by name and, if meeting in person, look them in the eye when talking to them.
Value their opinion and invite them to be part of the next steps.  Believe it or not, not all of the policies and procedures we’ve implemented in our ministry have been ideas that I’ve come up with.  It’s been a collaborative effort.  If their concern is valid, invite them to be part of the process and work together to come up with a solution.  A few questions to get you started would include:
  • Is there an existing policy or procedure in place that is not being enforced?
  • Is there no existing policy or procedure in place but needs to be?
  • Is an existing policy or procedure in place but outdated?
  • Is there an existing policy or procedure in place but the parent doesn’t know it exists?

Thank them for coming to you.  Yes, it’s true that some parents nit-pick about every little detail and are quick to point out every single flaw in your ministry.  But for the most part, a parent that comes to me with a valid, heartfelt concern, speaks volumes to me.  I want to help them.  Why?  Because I value them and want their support.  Remember: a healthy ministry is a partnership between church and parents.

By keeping these things in mind, you will create a culture where parents are able to express their concerns, be heard and valued, and be a true partner in the ministry.

Keep the conversation going!  What tips do you have in handling parental concerns?  Share your ideas below!

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Get Creative with 8 KidMin Learning/Activity Stations

Learning & Activity Stations

A few months ago, I wanted to create a different kind of Sunday morning learning experience for our elementary students. This was because our weekly curriculum’s lesson for a that particular week missed the mark in several areas, prompting this change:

1. All of the activities relied primarily on question and answer-style responses.

2. The curriculum assumed that all of the children who attended were familiar with navigating the Bible (which, on that particular Sunday, just wasn’t the case).  In my opinion, this would make our non-churched or less Bible-literate children feel very uncomfortable (or gasp – even bored).

So…I brainstormed how to solve this issue and landed on having the children rotate through activity stations after our large group worship and Bible story time.  We offered 3 stations for our Sunday morning experience:

Arrival Time

  • Coloring & Activity Pages (I printed off coloring and activity pages from our curriculum as well as word searches that I found online)
  • Active Games

Post-Large Group Time

  • Active Games
  • Snack (we don’t usually serve snacks in our elementary area, so this was a special treat)
  • Object Lesson & Worship Response

Every time we’ve changed up the format in this way, it’s been a big hit.  Sometimes, we have our leaders stationed at one area for the entire morning (so they only have to really focus on preparing for one thing).  Other times, we have them rotate through with their group.  Either way, it works and the kids love it.

If you’re looking for ways to get the kids learning in a different way, don’t be afraid to give learning/activity stations a try.  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Games

I suggest doing a mix of high-energy and low-energy options that correspond to the day’s lesson.  Use a high-energy option if your other stations are more reflective or slower paced; use a low-energy option if your morning will include a lot of stimulating elements.  Check out my favorite Pinterest-inspired games here.

Arts and Crafts

Kids love being creative!  Set out a variety of art supplies and let the children express their individuality.  Items such as paints, modeling clay, construction paper, beads, pipe cleaners, craft sticks and markers are things you should keep on hand for this.  Check out my favorite Pinterest-inspired crafts here.

Worship Response/Quiet Reflection

Sometimes kids just need a place to sit and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to them.  Create this atmosphere by having soft lighting, gentle music and flameless candles.  Provide journals or index cards for the kids to jot down prayer requests or provide another prayer station option.  Check out my favorite Pinterest-inspired prayer ideas here.

Snacks

What child doesn’t love a snack?  What child wouldn’t love a snack that went along with a Bible story?  Check out my favorite Pinterest-inspired snack ideas here.

Missions/Service

How can you offer kids a chance to think outside of the church walls?  Can you invite a missionary in to share?  Is there a local mission you can partner with?  Check out my favorite Pinterest-inspired outreach ideas here.

Coloring/Activity Pages

Our younger children (2nd grade and younger) love to color, while our older children (3rd-5th grade) enjoy crossword puzzles, word searches, word scrambles and brain teasers.  When we use these, they always correspond to the day’s lesson.  What I love about this station is that it provides a quieter spot for children who need that.

Drama (Skits, Puppets, Pantomime)

I love the chance for children to express themselves in a creative way!  Provide puppets, props and skits and let children act out the bible story or a real-life situation.  Or – provide supplies for the children to create their own puppets, props and skits.  You’ll not only see their creative side but you’ll also see their personalities shine!

Object Lessons

Sometimes, there is no better way to bring home a point than doing an object lesson.  On the Sunday referenced above, we used one of my favorite object lessons.  The children were mesmerized.  There are great options available that would complement many Bible stories.  Check out my favorite Pinterest-inspired object lessons here.

Keep the conversation going!  What learning/activity stations would you add to the list?

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