Children’s Ministry and Race

Here's Why We Must Start Talking About Race in Children's Ministry

Recent events have precipitated the many conversations happening around the issue of race in America right now.  I’m glad that these conversations are also happening in the area of Children’s Ministry.  As uncomfortable and sometimes difficult it is for these conversations to occur, these conversations are so important to have.

A few months ago, I wrote about this very thing (you can find that post here).  Shortly after that post, I came across a post in a Facebook group that caught my eye. A kidmin leader mentioned that she had transformed a puppet that she found from being a ‘thug’ to being more appropriate for church.  To say that I was mortified would be a huge understatement, primarily because I didn’t know that a gold chain could classify a puppet a ‘thug’.  When I responded (after praying about how to use the right words to respond appropriately), some said that I was over-reacting.  Some said that the leader was not being racist and didn’t mean anything by it.  I was even told to ‘lighten up’.

While I don’t know the woman’s intention, the point I wanted to make to the group was that we have to be careful in the language we use and how we view people (even puppets) who look different from us.  My heart was grieved. What we say – and don’t say – says a lot.

My friend, Henry Zonio, reached out to me after my original posts to continue the conversation regarding race and Children’s Ministry.  I wanted to share his article here with you so that you, too, can be part of the conversation.

You can access Henry’s article here:

Special thanks to my friend Christine Yount Jones and the team at Children’s Ministry Magazine for running this article.

Keep the conversation going! What are your thoughts around this topic?  

21 Questions to Ask Those You Lead

21 Questions to Ask Those You Lead

I have had the privilege of being a wife and mom for over 2o years now. One of the (many) things I’ve learned during that time is how important it is for me to ask great questions when I communicate with my family. Stress and strain can result in my relationships if I don’t communicate well. Can you relate?

Healthy relationships thrive on being able to reciprocate good, healthy communication strategies. My mom refers to this as ‘tossing the ball back’ when having a conversation. I speak, you listen.  You speak, I listen.

Sure, there are lots of ingredients that go into having a conversation with someone (talking, listening, eye contact, body language, tone, etc.) but I think some of it boils down to asking great questions. Great questions can often determine the course of the conversation. Some conversations can come to a screeching halt before they even start if we’re not careful!  I certainly haven’t mastered this but I have made significant strides in this department. For example, I now ask open ended questions that don’t garner a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.  Sometimes I push the “How did you feel about that?” question and sometimes I don’t.  More often than not, I find that pausing to pray before speaking and asking God for wisdom has saved me quite a few times!  I’ve learned, too, that it’s not always what I’m saying but how I’m saying it.

This same principle applies to ministry relationships.  Effective communication is vital in leading others and to the health, growth and success of our ministry.  In addition, good communication develops trust between a leader and those they care for.

If you want to engage someone in conversation, you have to be intentional about setting both of parties up for success.  Here are just a few questions to help get those important conversation started:

Questions for Your Staff

  1. What do we do well?
  2. What can be improved?
  3. Who can we invite to be part of our ministry team?
  4. How does this program or event fit into our ministry vision and goals?
  5. Who should we invite to be part of this discussion?  Who needs to be around the table?
  6. How can I pray for you?
  7. How can we grow together as a team?

Questions for Your Volunteers

  1. What worked well?
  2. What can be improved?
  3. How can we better equip you to lead well?
  4. Is there anyone you know who would be a great addition to our team?
  5. We are thinking of [insert idea].  What are your initial thoughts about that?
  6. Do you feel challenged in your role right now?
  7. How can I pray for you?

Questions for Parents/Families

  1. How would you describe our ministry?
  2. How can our ministry better serve our church’s families?
  3. What can we do to better equip you to disciple your family?
  4. What conversations are your family having?  Where are these conversations taking place?
  5. How can we pray for you?
  6. What is your child struggling with?
  7. How can we better strengthen the relationship between your home and the church?

Of course, there are risks involved when questions are asked.  We see vulnerabilites in people and become vulnerable ourselves.  We also have to be open to receive feedback (both positive and negative) that might trigger a certain response.  But think about this…how much are you and I missing out on because important, strategic questions aren’t being asked?

Keep the conversation going! What questions do you find effective to leading well?  Share them below or join the discussion on our Facebook page!

Night Night Farm {Book Review & Giveaway}

Recently, I was asked to review a bedtime book for preschool-aged children and it brought back many precious memories. When my children were younger, either my husband or I read to them…every night.  It was woven into our nightly bedtime ritual and it was one of my favorite times of the day to snuggle with my little ones (who are not so little anymore!).

Night Night Farm

About the Book:
Moo moo, cows! Baa baa, sheep! When the sun sinks low down on the farm, the animals are all tuckered out from the day’s adventures. Join these adorable farm animals in pajamas as they say night night to the farm, to their mommies and daddies, and to God. Your little ones will sleep until the rooster crows knowing that the God who made them loves them too.

Night night, farm!

About Amy Parker:

Amy Parker’s children’s books have sold more than 800,000 copies including two Christian Retailing’s Best award-winning books and the bestselling A Night Night Prayer. She lives outside Nashville with her husband and two children.

My Thoughts:
The pictures are fabulous and the striking colors are captivating. Because it’s a board book, it’s sturdy and easy for little hands to hold. The animals and words are familiar and encourages interaction (with animal sounds). The rhymes are fun and simple for young children to understand.
Night Night Farm is a great read to end the day with your preschooler.  It’s sure to capture the attention of the preschooler in your life and become one of their favorites!
Official website to purchase:
Facebook: @AmyParkerAuthor

Facebook: @TommyNelsonBooks

Twitter: @AmyParker

Twitter: @TommyNelson

Instagram:  @TommyNelsonBooks

Pinterest: Tommy-Nelson-Books

Enter to win a copy of Night Night Farm!!
I am giving away one copy of Night Night Farm to one of my readers.
Here’s how you can enter (3 ways to win):
1. Email me and tell me your favorite children’s book to read at bedtime.
3. Leave a comment on our Facebook Page.
The deadline to enter is 11:59 pm on Thursday, September 8th.
The winner will be announced on our Facebook Page on Friday, September 9th.
**Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

10 Easy Ways to Partner with Families in Your Ministry

10 Easy Ways to Partner with Families in your Ministry

“Partner with parents” is a phrase used quite a bit in the kidmin, student ministry and family ministry world. There are different ways to define what ‘partnering’ with parents means, but I define it simply as being a parent’s biggest cheerleader. I want to cheer them on as they lead their families.  I want to cheer them on as they help their children know, love and follow Jesus.  I want to cheer them on as they help their family navigate the culture and world we live in.

While a daunting task and key responsibility for ministry leaders, cheerleading for families doesn’t always have to be over-thought. Yes, there should be strategies in place to help move families from here to there, but there are easy ways to make this happen. Here are 10 to help you get started:

  1. Ask their opinion. Looking for ideas that a certain age group of kids might like? Looking for the latest trends in games, apps, television shows, etc.? Want to make tweaks or changes in your ministry? Keep your finger on the pulse of what kids like and what kids are talking about by going to kid experts – their PARENTS! I occasionally email parents in my ministry to get feedback and ideas on a variety of things. Doing this shows (1) I don’t have all the answers (which I don’t) and (2) I value them and their opinion. I have found parents to be very receptive to this!
  2. Provide a playlist of songs being played in your ministry. Give parents a glimpse of good, quality music by sharing your ministry’s playlist. You can share this through music streaming services such as iTunes or Spotify. This allows children to hear the music you play in church at home and on the go!
  3. Keep your website updated. Our families are busy. They don’t want to search for information on what’s going on in your ministry and when. Do them a favor and help them out by keeping your website updated. Include dates, times, pricing, locations and contact information. They will thank you for this.
  4. Ask how you can pray for them. The families we serve are facing so many challenges today and could benefit from our prayer support. One of the greatest ways we can cheerlead for families is to go to God on their behalf.

     Not only that, but…

  5. Follow up about prayer requests shared. This shows that you care for the families and is a great way to build long-term relationships with them.
  6. Celebrate special milestones. Baby dedications, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, mission trips, etc. are just a few special moments in the spiritual lives of our kids.  Join families in celebrating these important milestones!
  7. Be visible. Take the time to greet families as they arrive, mingle in the hallways and see families off as they depart. Wave hello, give a high-five, and don’t forget to smile!
  8. Send a welcome note to guest families. This year, our guest family check-in team members began to write postcards to children visiting us for the first time. These cards are written on Sunday mornings after the family has been checked in and escorted to their classrooms. We also send an email to the parents the next day, welcoming them and inviting them to complete our brief guest family survey. [If you would like to see what’s included on our survey, you can email me.]
  9. Encourage them. Parenting is tough. Some of our families are really struggling and are just looking for a glimmer of hope. They’re looking for someone to give them a pat on the back and say, “I’m proud of you” or “I’m praying with you. Hang in there.” If you see them doing something right, let them know. If you see their child doing something right, let them know. If you have a resource that might be helpful to help, share it. Provide a gift card for coffee and a pastry.  Ease their burden after a hard day and have a pizza delivered to their house.  The small acts of love and kindness will deeply impact the very parents we’re trying to reach.
  10. Invite them to serve. I almost didn’t include this on the list, but many parents want to be involved in what concerns their children.  The key: invite them to serve in AND out of the classroom setting. Maybe parents or grandparents could:
    1. make costumes
    2. provide snacks for volunteers or classrooms
    3. greet families as they arrive
    4. cut out items at home
    5. gather supplies
    6. organize storage areas
    7. design media elements
    8. solicit businesses for donations

Parents today are looking for support but most of all deep, impactful relationships with others who care about their children.  

Look over this list and choose at least one way that you can strengthen your partnership with families you serve.

If you’re looking for more ways to partner with parents:

Check out my Family Ministry Pinterest Board.

Keep the conversation going! How are you cheerleading for families in your ministry?