Top Posts of 2016

Happy 2017, friends!

I hope your 2017 is off to a great start!  Before jumping too far into the new year, I wanted to reflect on the top posts shared here in 2016.  I tried to post from a variety of angles, from what God taught me personally to giving a glimpse into my ministry world.

Top 5 Posts of 2016 from KidMinspiration - A Children's Ministry Blog

Here’s a recap of the top kidmin posts of 2016.  Check out any that you may have missed (and please, share them if they spoke to you.)  I look forward to writing more here in 2017 and sharing (really soon!) about a new project I’ve been working on.  Stay tuned!

1. When Kidmin Breaks Your Heart

2. Preparing for Move Up Sunday

3. When There Are No Words

4. Preschool Curriculum: Why We Chose Orange’s First Look

5. A Conversation About Teaching Kids the Gospel

I appreciate you for reading and being part of this community!

As we look ahead to 2017, what topics would you like me to tackle here on the blog in 2017?  Leave your thoughts below or email me at  

Summer Lovin’: Switching Things Up

The following post is part of a series of summer-related posts.  

Today, we’ll look at changing up your programming during the summer months.

Our ministry’s ‘summer’ began on Father’s Day, so with God’s help we have successfully survived 3 summer Sundays without our school-year volunteers (who serve Sept – mid June and get the summer off). Because we invite parents, members of our congregation and students to serve during the summer months, we wanted to restructure our ministry to still provide quality programming with the fewest amount of volunteers.

Here’s what we did. and how it’s been working so far:


During the school year, we provide individual classes for 2-yr olds – Kindergartners at each of our two services (eight classrooms).  During the summer months, we decided to offer a class for 2-yr olds (using Group’s Hands-on-Bible curriculum) and a mixed-age group for 3-yr olds – Kindergartners (using Orange’s First Look curriculum).  This mixed-age room will be a large group/small group format that will include engaging arrival activities, large group time (live worship and Bible story, on DVD) and mixed-age small groups for application activities (crafts, games, etc.), playground time, snack and prayer.  The response has been so overwhelmingly positive from children, parents and volunteers that we are considering continuing this format this fall.


Since we bid our rising 6th graders a fond farewell a few weeks ago, we have again decided to combine our rising 2nd – rising 5th graders for the summer.  (We’ve done this for the past few years and it’s worked very well).  Our summer programming will be just seven weeks this year, as our elementary students worship with their families during the month of August.  (Take a look at how we introduced this last summer here).  Usually I order the summer XP materials from Orange but the materials they offered this year was a repeat of materials we used last summer so I began praying and asking God to direct me to what materials we should use for the seven weeks of our Sunday programming.  I landed on teaching the kids about Moses since our VBS will focus on Moses in the wilderness with the Israelites.

On Sunday mornings, we set up a few arrival activities and lead the children in a large group game to introduce the lesson for the day.  Then we move everyone to our large group space for a fun, interactive countdown, worship, prayer, and our Bible story (led by a main storyteller).  When our large group time concludes, we split the group into 3 groups and allow the groups to rotate through 3 activity stations, which has included object lessons, memory verse activities, crafts, games and snack.  The slightly different format has worked so well that I’ve signed up a few volunteers to serve with us this fall!

In our ministry, attendance fluctuates during the summer months, so we like to take risks and try some new things in the summer.  If something’s a hit, we include it in our programming for the new ministry year.

Related article:  Should Kids Ministry Take the Summer Off? by Brian Dollar

What does programming in your kidmin look like during the summer months?  What ‘risky’ things are you trying this summer?

Preschool Curriculum: Why We Chose Orange’s “First Look”

This post is Part 2 of Ministry Basics: Selecting Curriculum.  

You can read Part 1 here.

As our ministry fine-tuned our vision, mission and core values this past summer, it was necessary that our curriculum reflected what we believed and what we wanted children to walk away with.

When thinking about Sprouts (our Infant and Toddler area) and The Backyard (our Early Childhood area), we realized that this is where seeds of faith are planted and nurtured.  These environments are where many children will get their first impression of church and Jesus, so the foundation we lay here is crucial.

What we use

I have been a big fan of Orange’s First Look curriculum for quite some time now.  I think it is the most creative, outside-of-the-box material for preschoolers.  When it came down to evaluating our needs, I knew First Look was the way to go.

first look logo

The selection process & why this was our choice

For years, our Infant and Toddler area used one curriculum for both service hours and our Early Childhood area used 2 different curricula (one for each service hour).  I felt that two of the three curricula was outdated and needed to be replaced immediately.  The remaining one was one that I liked and have used before, but I felt that when we thought about what we wanted young children to know, it lacked a unified focus.  We wanted (and needed) a unified focus.

When children leave our Early Childhood ministry, I want them to walk away knowing certain basic truths that they could carry with them into the elementary years.  First Look’s curriculum is build around three basic truths:

  • God made me.
  • God loves me.
  • Jesus wants to be my friend forever.

There were a few other things that we knew we wanted:

  • We wanted the foundation to be easily understood and more intentional.
  • We also wanted a digital curriculum, as curriculum costs had been almost half of our annual budget.
  • We knew that we wanted to streamline our curriculum so that parents were more likely to reinforce what was taught in class if there were not as many responses to “What did you learn at church today?”

How First Look looks at our church

Switching over to a new curriculum, let alone a digital one, was not readily received by our veteran volunteers.  But I asked them to trust me to walk through it with them and give it time; they agreed.  Because of this, we wanted to make the transition from printed material to digital material as easy as possible.  This meant:

  • Showing our volunteers how to access the materials online through Orange’s website;
  • Providing paper copies, especially to our more “seasoned” volunteers;
  • Providing the paper copies a month in advance;
  • Photocopying the activity pages for our volunteers (they email our Administrative Coordinator by Thursday at noon with what they need copied and the quantities);
  • Emailing a digital copy – just in case.

In implementing First Look, we have opted to use the curriculum in a classroom format vs large group/small group as it’s written.  In short, what this means is that each classroom is responsible for its own music and Bible story time.  (We have occasionally brought our 4-and 5-year-olds together for the Bible story on video.)

What we like

As mentioned above, I like the simple nature of the three basic truths.  Each week’s lessons reinforces one of the basic truths.  We also like that each lesson includes different activities for different learning styles:  there’s music and movement (the songs and motions are lots of fun!), games, crafts, and repetition (the Bible verse and the song stay the same for the entire month).  (The games and crafts usually include items that we already have on hand).  Each lesson is very engaging and doesn’t look the same each week.

We also like that lessons are available well in advance on the website.  This is an added bonus for those who like to look ahead and see what’s coming up.  In addition, there is an option to purchase the Bible story videos.

What we don’t like

The biggest area of concern for us so far has been altering the material for our 2’s.  Some of our volunteers feel that the lessons are way over the heads of 2-yr olds.  I have personally contacted friends who use the curriculum, First Look’s Facebook page, and our Orange Consultant to get guidance into this issue.  I learned that we are not the only ones who’ve struggled with this age group.

We have tried to simply the lessons but I’m not sure that it’s enough.  We will re-evaluate after Christmas to see if we need to switch gears for our 2’s while keeping in line with our core components.

So, there you have it.  I’d be happy to talk with you if you’re interested in learning more or have any questions.  You can email me here.  You can also learn more by visiting First Look’s website (you can click the logo above).

Tomorrow, I’ll share what we selected for our Elementary Ministry and on Friday, I’ll share what we selected for our Preteen Ministry.  I hope you’ll come back and read all about that!

Do you use First Look for your preschool ministry? What has your experience been?

If you don’t use First Look, what do you use?  How’s it working for you?