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?

Inside Dispatch: Volume 2

Every time my Dispatch box arrives at my front door, I get so excited to dig in and discover all of the goodies inside!  If you’ve never heard of Dispatch, allow me to fill you in.

Dispatch - Volume 2 -pic2

Launched in Spring 2015 by my friend Matt Guevara, Dispatch is a box of hand-picked resources for busy kidmin leaders.  Its contents puts the latest and greatest resources into the hands of kidmin leaders without the painstaking task of searching online.  Dispatch is a subscription service that ships out a new box quarterly for only $39/quarter.

One of the best aspects of Dispatch is that many of the resources are currently being used by fellow kidmin leaders who give insight into the products they love.  I have had the privilege of contributing to both volumes of Dispatch and have shared why I love one of the products in the box.

Here’s what you’ll find in Volume 2 (shipped July 15, 2015):

Dispatch - Volume 2 - pic1

 

HomeFront Magazine

HomeFront Magazine’s tagline is “a spiritual parenting resource”.  Each issue is loaded with practical ways parents can provide spiritual leadership for their children.  The magazine is now offered in print and digital formats for individual subscriptions as well as bulk orders.

Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony

Michelle Anthony calls parents to depend upon God for their child’s spiritual and moral development, urging parents toward a heart posture of surrender and faithfulness.  The end goal is a vibrant faith that is passed on from generation to generation.  I haven’t read this book, but I’m definitely looking forward to it!

Move: Nine Conversations to Build Your Kids Ministry by Brannon Marshall

This book will help you take steps toward that potential by focusing on three key areas of children’s and youth ministry foundational principles, essential relationships, and transformational skills.  It includes discussion guides and helpful next steps as you have conversations that will move your ministry forward. I haven’t read this book either, but I will soon!

I Can Learn the Bible by Holly Hawkins Shivers

This resource adapts O.S. Hawkins’ The Joshua Code for kids, guiding parents in helping their children understand and memorize fifty-two Bible verses.  Each engaging weekly devotion prompts discussion and explains the accompanying verse in a way that kids can understand.

I love that the book is designed for parents and children to read together.  It also has a suggested weekly schedule for families to work through.  It looks like a great resource for preschoolers and younger elementary-aged children.

Worship Resources

The box includes three worship resources that will enhance your kids’ worship time.  A promo video from Crosskid Nation shows just how fun kids’ worship can be!  If your kids love The Lads, they’ll enjoy Cool Worship for Kids DVD, which has on-screen lyrics and video movements.  Looking for music to play as kids arrive, leave or move about during your programming?  Then you’ll enjoy “Undefeated”, the new kids’ worship CD from Elevation Church.  (Side note: I received an advance copy of the entire album before it was released and LOVED it – I play it regularly in our ministry).  Dispatch includes a sampler with 2 songs that are fantastic.  I even wrote up a little devotional to accompany the sampler. 🙂

Dispatch - Volume 2 - pic3

Just for Fun!

Two fun kidmin favorites were included in the box.  A beach ball (which I used last week for a game) and a package of water balloons (which I’ll use as a giveaway item next month).

If you like being on the cutting edge of new (and timeless) kidmin resources, Dispatch is for you!  Check it out!

Keep the conversation going!  Have you read or used any of these resources?  I’d love to hear what you think about them – share your thoughts below!

Ministry Basics: Creating Irresistible Environments Kids Will Love!

Today, I’m excited to share excerpts from a conversation I had recently with Ken Neff, Children’s Pastor at Christ Central in Lake City, Florida.  I ‘met’ Ken through a Facebook group for kidmin leaders.  He posted this picture of a set he designed for his kidmin and I wanted to talk to him and see why and how he does this.

Photo Credit: Ken Neff
Photo Credit: Ken Neff

 

Ken has been featured on churchstagedesignideas.com and is highly sought-after to help design sets for kidmin environments. What I found fascinating is that Ken has NO construction background.  Prior to becoming a Children’s Pastor, he was in retail for 12 1/2 years – where he picked up marketing and art skills – and was a deputy sheriff for 10 years.

Kathie Phillips (KP):  Why do you do what you do [take time to design and build sets]?

Ken Neff: (KN):  “To me, it’s more than stage design.  It’s the whole atmosphere.  Not only are kids visually stimulated, but there is usually something else going on.”  For example, Ken’s church ties music into the monthly theme.  When they did a baseball theme, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was played.  Costumes are also integrated along with the set design.  For the baseball theme, volunteers wore baseball uniforms and hats.  Ken also mentioned that prayer and God-given ideas inspire his creativity.

KP:  What set design ideas do you have for churches on a budget?

KN:  “I often hear, ‘I want to do something but I don’t have a budget for it.’  However, if you plan ahead, you can do something.  Planning ahead makes preparing a lot easier.  An added benefit of that is you can purchase items for a good price or get them donated for free.  You can’t do that if you wait until the last-minute.”  Ken’s ministry has a different teaching series each month but he plans out the year in advance.  In fact, he’s already working on ideas for 2016!

KP:  I’m curious about what curriculum you use that inspires these great sets.  Do you write your own curriculum?

KN:  “Yes.  We write it all.  It’s God-inspired but even if you use published curriculum, there’s no reason you can’t still build a stage and have props that engage the kids.”

KP:  Are you the only one constructing these fabulous sets?  Do you have any help?

KN:  “I am the primarily one responsible, but there’s a lady in our church who comes in about a week before I change the set to help paint things.  She’s an artist, so that’s helped a great deal.”  Ken mentioned that he has picked up artistic skills from this sweet lady.

KP:  Changing out your set every month must mean that you need a great deal of storage space.  What kind of storage do you have?

KN:  “We have a 30 x 50 ft storage space at our church.”  Ken also recycles and repurposes quite a bit, so this helps to keep clutter to a minimum.

KP:  What storage options would you suggest for those in portable churches?

KN:  “You have to get creative if you’re in a portable church, but it can be done.”  Some suggestions might include renting a storage space, storing items in someone’s garage, or asking your portable church location if you could store things there.

KP:  What advice would you give to churches who share space with another group or ministry?

KN:  “If you can make just three (3) props that go along with your theme, I would make them out of something like styrofoam.  That would help it to be lightweight and make transporting to a storage area manageable.  You could also get with other ministry leaders who share your space to see if they could incorporate the same theme so that props could be left up during the week.”  It should be noted that Ken’s ministry shares space with their church’s weekday preschool, run by his wife, Andrea.  That makes leaving his set in place a lot easier!

Quotables from our conversation:

“It’s a good feeling that we, the church, can have a huge impact on kids like Disney does and not have to spend millions of dollars to do it.”

“We need to make Jesus exciting!”

Here are a few other tips Ken suggested:

  • Build/group things in odd numbers.  It’s easier on the eyes.
  • Look for resources all around you.  Things like paint, wood pieces, and empty carpet tubes can be donated by people in your church.  You can also find inexpensive pieces from flea markets or second-hand stores.

Check out more of Ken’s work here.  If you’d like to contact Ken, you can email him at ken@christcentral.org.

Ken Neff headshotKen & Andrea Neff are the Families & Children’s Pastors at Christ Central located in Lake City,Florida. They minister on a weekly bases to 300 children. Through the creative anointing that God has placed on Ken’s life, he brings the Bible stories alive for the children by creating a monthly stage design that goes with the curriculum that he and Andrea and write. They believe in equipping other leaders and pastors to advance the Kingdom of God.

What About the Tweens?

I am so excited to have my friend, Andrea Hopgood, share about her recent experience at the Children’s Pastors’ Conference.  Andrea and I connected through another national conference a few years ago and I count her as one of my trusted kidmin sisters.  Thank you for sharing your story with us, Andrea!

What about the tweens

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Children’s Pastors’ Conference (CPC15).  The four days of sitting and learning from experts in their field started with a long, daily look into, “What Matters Most in Ministry to Tweens”. Kids are considered a “tween” when they are between 9-12 years old. I will share with you highlights and AHA moments that were both confirming and convicting to me.

According to Daniel Nott with Tween Gospel Alliance, the average:

  • family time is 36 minutes per day
  • church time is 3 hours per week
  • media/digital time is 8-10 hours per day

These statistics show that media is forming and shaping the minds of our tweens. Our teens are buying into these thoughts:

There isn’t any absolute truth. They believe it’s ok to believe what you want.

They’re asking the question, “Is church relevant for me?”

Partying is good and being skinny is the key to happiness.  Anorexia is starting between ages 9-11.

Divorce and living together is okay.

They are being mentored by media.

Having sex is normal because it’s on TV regularly. According to Dannah Gresch, founder of Secret Keeper Girl, kids as young as 11 have been exposed to pornography.

 As parents and Christian leaders, it is our responsibility to nurture the tweens in our lives so they will not build their moral compass on a shaky (worldly) foundation. Instead, we need to guide them in creating a Biblical perspective that will be a firm foundation for their lives.

Moral Development Phases

3 to 6 year olds – This is the “copycat” phase. They want to be like mom or dad. At this age, they have the play kitchen sets and pretend tool boxes and they mimic what they see mom and dad do.

 7 to 12 year olds – This is referred to as the “counseling” phase because they are forming their spiritual beliefs. No longer can we say “Because I said so”, they want to know “why”. This is always a spiritual question. This gives us the opportunity to give an answer from a Biblical perspective. If we aren’t ready to answer their questions, the world is definitely ready.

Spirit

The battle for the mind and hearts of people are largely won or lost by age 13. According to studies conducted by Barna, 80% of tweens say the Bible, Qur’an and Book of Mormon teach the same truth.

1% of tweens have a Biblical world view.

Social Peers

Tweens tend to detach from face to face communication and prefer to engage in social media. This detachment causes a decrease in empathy. To grab their attention in the church setting, we must provide experiences that will grasp their attention and apply the lesson directly to their lives, followed by time for them to verbally process how the lesson (for example) applies to their life. Many tweens are the 4th-5th graders in our ministries. They are bored being with the 1st-3rd graders, but they aren’t ready to be with the older kids. This is a golden opportunity for us to create a transitional ministry.

When they were asked, “Who is the biggest influencer in your life?”, the #1 answer was their parents. This is confirmation that we must provide opportunities for parents to be in the driver’s seat for spiritual encounters and spiritual formation.  How can we do that?

  • Provide a parent/child baptism and/or communion class. This class will allow families to attend together as a ministry leader facilitates conversation. Parents will have an opportunity to share their faith story with their child or begin a conversation letting the child know that they are beginning this journey together.  This will start heart conversations that can continue even after the class is complete.
  • Host date nights for fathers and daughters or mothers and sons.
  • Organize a parent/child purity retreat to guide conversations so parents are teaching their kids the Biblical perspective of modesty and truth about sexuality.

As you ponder what God would like your next steps to be, I pray that you receive the clarity and courage you need in order to walk out the next steps He has for you.

Resources

tweengospelalliance.org

secretkeepergirl.com

Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl by Dannah Gresch

Six Ways to Keep the “Good” in Your Boy by Dannah Gresch

Keep the conversation going!  Are you the parent or leader of a tween?  Do you feel equipped to navigate these years?  What resources have you found helpful?  Share a comment here or on our Facebook page!

Andrea has a passion for equipping ministry leaders with tools needed to lead children and families to have a relationship with our Savior.  During her 17 year career, she has served as a Children’s Pastor, a consultant, and a Presenter at various conferences.  Currently, she is the Director of Elementary Ministry at Elmbrook Church.