When One Teaches, Two Learn

Figuring out children's ministry one day at a time

A Creative Twist on the Tower of Babel

I just came back from the KidMin Conference in Columbus, Ohio last week – AMAZING experience, by the way! – where I went to a seminar on the 5 C’s of 21st century learning.  One of these C’s is “creativity.”  The speaker decided to stretch our creativity by having us create a tower using any item in the room.  Her word of exhortation to start us off was this: Don’t “think outside the box.” That inherently puts a box in the picture.   Be creative.

I thought we were being pretty creative till the guy on the left stood up on the table and lifted the ceiling tile so we could continue to build!

KidMin Tower of Babel

The speaker then explained that an activity like this could be used when teaching a lesson on the Tower of Babel, which just so happened to be our lesson at First Alliance Kids for the following Sunday!

I gave our kids a few more limitations than we were given in the seminar at KidMin, mostly because I was afraid that they would stack bookshelves on the table!  I gave them a box of random items from our supply room including popsicle sticks, rulers, pipe cleaners, tin foil, and a few other oddities, then charged them with the task of working as a team to create the tallest tower they possibly could.  It was such a fun learning experience!  Here is part of their tower in progress:

Tower of Babel

 

It was a great intro to our lesson on the Tower of Babel – and so simple to pull off!  What are some ways that you’ve encouraged creativity in your classroom?

 

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Investigation: Prayer – Who Should Pray?

This past week we continued in our “Investigation: Prayer” unit, answering the question, “Who should pray?”  This is the second question we’ll be answering about prayer, based off of a series of lessons published on the Assemblies of God Prayer and Spiritual Care page.   We had a blast with this lesson and I hope you do too!

Goal:  Today we will learn that God will speak and listen to children.

Key Scripture: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” – 1 John 5:14

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Shoes
  • Rice
  • Glass jar
  • Sandpaper
  • Poster with key Scripture printed on it
  • Balloons
  • Plastic cups
  • Styrofoam balls
  • Foil
  • Stickers
  • World Map
  • Picture of a missionary your church supports & a recent prayer letter
  • Pillows
  • Blankets

Introduction:  Gather the children around in a circle.  Have each of them close their eyes and listen while you make the following noises, trying to guess the source of each after each sound is made.

  • Shoes tapping on the table
  • Shaking rice in a glass jar
  • Rubbing sandpaper together

Ask: What sounds do you hear at night when you are in your bed? Today we’re going to hear about a boy who heard something very unusual when he was in his bed.

Lesson:  Present the following story:  Samuel was a young boy who lived in the temple, serving with the priest, named Eli.  One night, Samuel yawned a big yawn and stretched his arms. It was bedtime and Samuel felt very sleepy. After he got himself ready for bed, he lay down and closed his eyes. Then something strange happened! Just as Samuel was going to sleep, he heard someone call, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel sat straight up in his bed! ”Eli must be calling me,” he said. Samuel jumped out of his bed. He ran to where Eli slept. ”Here I am. You called me?” Samuel asked. Eli looked surprised. ”I did not call you,” Eli said. ”Go back to bed, Samuel.”

Samuel went to his bed and lay down. Everything was quiet again. ”Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel heard the voice again. Samuel ran to Eli. ”Here I am. You called me?” Samuel asked. ”No,” Eli said. ”I did not call you. Now go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to his bed and lay down.

A third time Samuel heard the voice. ”Samuel! Samuel!” And once again he ran to Eli. ”Here I am. You called me?” Samuel asked. Then Eli knew God was calling Samuel. ”When you hear the voice again,” Eli told Samuel, say, “‘Speak to me, God. I am listening.’ ” Samuel went back to his bed and lay down.

Soon Samuel heard the voice again, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel said, “Speak to me, God.  I am listening.” Then something wonderful happened. God spoke to Samuel. God told Samuel how to obey Him. And Samuel listened carefully to all God told him. Samuel was glad he obeyed Eli.

Explain that God will speak and listen to everyone, even children like Samuel.  This means that everyone should pray.

Game:  Play “Eli Says” (essentially “Simon Says”) with the kids.  Explain that Eli helped Samuel to understand that God was speaking to Him.  Tell the children that they will have to listen closely to your instructions, just as Samuel had to listen closely to Eli’s directions.

Bible Verse Memory:  Ahead of time, write out the words/phrases of the memory verse on balloons (Divide the verse into chunks and have each chunk written on a specific color of balloon to help the non-readers to participate as well).

Scatter these balloons across the room and, after reading the verse aloud from the poster, have the children group the balloons according to color.  Next, put the words in the correct order.  Practice saying the verse aloud once the children have completed this task.   Then, have the children stand in a circle and try to bat the balloons in the air and keep them in the air as they recite the verse together.  If the children have trouble with this, work with one colored section at a time and build up to the entire verse.  This was BY FAR one of the kids’ favorite activities!

Balloon Memory

Story Reenactment:  Arrange two “beds” on the floor with a pillow and blanket for each.  Select one child to play Samuel, another to play Eli, and a third to be the voice of God.  Retell the story while the children act out their individual parts and fill in their lines as appropriate.  We videoed our reenactment and it was absolutely hysterical!  You won’t regret taking the time to film it!

Prayer Microphones:  Give each child a plastic cup, a Styrofoam ball, and a piece of foil.  Cover the Styrofoam ball with foil.  Then, make a hole in the base of the cup and push a pipe cleaner through it and secure.  This makes the microphone ‘lead’.  Push the foil covered ball into the top of the cup, where is should become lodged. Decorate the cup with stickers. (Source)

Prayer Microphone

Once the children are finished, encourage each of them to offer a sentence or two in prayer, while talking into their “microphone.”  Remind the children that God listens and speaks to everyone, even children.

Missionary Prayer:  During the Investigation: Prayer unit, we will be introducing one of the missionaries we support each week.  I have a world map hanging up in the room and posted a picture of our second missionary couple.  Then we were able to read a letter from the couple as well.   

If time remains, you can prompt the children with prayers they can offer into their prayer microphones (i.e. What is something you are thankful for? Do you know someone who is sick who we can ask God to heal?)

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Worship Bags

About a year ago, I started to brainstorm ideas for busy bags for little ones to use during the service until they are dismissed for children’s church.  I never ended up making them because the kids that I was working with at the time seem to do alright without them; however, now I am at a different church and it’s a much different story.  the children’s ministry lacked structure because it had so few children.  Older kids sometimes stayed in the nursery with the infants because they did not want to sit in the service, then would wander over to children’s church partway through the service if they felt like doing so.  I’m not one to try to fit kids into a box, but it was clear that we needed a structure in place to best serve the kids currently in our ministry as well as visiting families who had never been part of our ministry before.

Part of our solution was to create a preschool room for children ages 3-5, which has been an absolute lifesaver for our nursery.  The other part was to create worship bags as an option for children ages 6-11 who would stay with their parents in the service until they were dismissed for children’s church.  I decided that I wanted the worship bags to be more than just a collection of toys; I wanted them to be full of activities that would fall along the lines of what they would be learning in children’s church.

Here’s a picture of our first try at worship bags…

Creation Worship Bag

I bought some cheap canvas tote bags at a craft store, along with some iron-on transfers so we could make them look more colorful than just boring old black.  I found the “Finish the Picture” activity on Pinterest and absolutely loved it!  Just glue a few “googly” eyes on some construction paper and instruct the kids to finish the picture however they’d like!  I also included a paper bag puppet kit and a box of Lego-type blocks.

Can you guess what the theme was?🙂

We just started our Gospel Project curriculum and, of course, the first lesson was creation.  Every activity required the kids to use their creative juices to make something unique!

Have you ever made worship bags for the kids in your ministry?  What have you used in them?

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Creating a Comfortable Environment

I was an Inclusive Childhood Education major in college, which basically means that I am certified both as a general elementary teacher and a special education teacher.  Throughout my college courses, we would constantly talk about approaches that would support students with disabilities to succeed in the general classroom.  Most of the time when our professors would explain these techniques to us, we would look at each other and say, “But that’s good for all students, not just those with disabilities!”

Today I wanted to show you something that I’m trying out that is helpful for children with disabilities, but really just a good idea for all of the kids in your ministry.

Ministry Schedule

 

I bought one of those pocket charts that you can find in almost any elementary school classroom along with some sentence strips.  Then, I went through my lesson for Sunday and wrote out titles for each section of the lesson – a schedule of what to expect.  For many children with disabilities, they take comfort in routine and knowing what to expect.  Something as simple as a visual schedule can help to calm their anxiety about being part of your children’s program!  And, because this is a pocket chart, I can move things around or add new sections or activities each week.  It’s another one of those things that is good for children with disabilities, but also good for everyone else!

What are some ways that you work to make children with disabilities comfortable in your ministry?

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Investigation: Prayer – What Is Prayer?

Our church has been going through a season of renewal and growth after a very difficult season.  They used to have a Wednesday evening AWANA program that fizzled out a few years ago.  They refocused their Wednesday evening priorities onto prayer meeting and now actually have about 70 people coming out to prayer meeting each week!  It really is amazing to see. 

My personal philosophy is that whenever there is something planned for adults at the church, there should also be something for the kids – and preferably something meaningful rather than just babysitting.  So, rather than occupy another evening each week for our families, I developed a “Power Up Prayer for Kids” program to run concurrently with our prayer service.  The idea is to take the time to teach kids creative ways to pray, learn more about prayer, and also take time to pray for the missionaries that our church supports.  

We’re starting off with a unit on the basics of prayer, entitled “Investigation: Prayer.”  We’ll be answering key questions about prayer, based off of a series of lessons published by the Assemblies of God Prayer and Spiritual Care page.  

Goal:  Today we will learn that prayer is our way of communicating with God.

Key Scripture:  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” – 1 John 5:14

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Phone (or a picture of one)
  • Pen & Paper (or a picture of one)
  • Computer (or a picture of one)
  • Bible
  • Digital camera
  • Poster with key Scripture printed on it
  • Legos with one word of the key Scripture printed on each
  • World Map
  • Picture of a missionary your church supports & a recent prayer letter
  • String
  • Plastic cups

Introduction:  Place the following items in front of you: a phone, a pen and paper, and a computer (or pictures of these items).  Ask the children what these things have in common.  Guide the conversation to the understanding that all items can be used to communicate with someone.  Allow the children the opportunity to share other ways to communicate.

Ask: How we can communicate with God?  Guide the conversation to the topic of prayer.

Ask: Can we see God?  If we cannot see God, how do we know He is listening to us when we pray? 

Use the following illustration to generate discussion:  Have a child briefly tell you about something they did yesterday.  Listen actively, nodding, smiling, or commenting as appropriate.

After this brief conversation, ask: How did you know I was listening to [insert student’s name]’s story?  (nodding, smiling, commenting, looking at the person, etc.)  Explain that your actions demonstrate that you were listening.     

Lesson:  Explain that when God created humans He made us different from animals in two special ways.  Have a volunteer read Genesis 1:26-27 aloud.   Ask: After hearing these two verses, what is one thing that God did to make us different from animals?  Guide the discussion to the topic of being made in God’s image.

Ask: What is an “image”?  To illustrate, take a picture of one of the children with a digital camera.  Show the picture to the group.  Explain that the image is not actually the person, but it is a representation of who the person is and what they are like.  Tell the children that this is what these verses mean when they say we are made in the image of God.  We are not God, but we have been created to be like Him.  (Source).        

Have a volunteer read Genesis 2:7 aloud.  Ask: After hearing this verse, what is another way that God made us different from animals?  Guide the discussion to the idea that God breathed the breath of life into us.  Ask: What do you think it means to have God “breathe the breath of life” into us?  Explain that this is another way that God made us like him.  When He breathed the breath of life into us, He gave us a spirit that connects us in a special way to God.  Our spirit senses His presence and “hears” His voice, even though we don’t always hear a sound (Here would be an appropriate time to give an example of a time where we might sense God’s presence – i.e. feeling better after praying with Mom or Dad after having a scary dream).

Explain that not only can God hear our voice, but we can hear His too.  It just takes practice and staying close to God.  To illustrate, pull the cell phone out again.  Ask: What happens if you are talking on a cell phone and you move too far from the place that sends out the signals?

Explain that just as it gets more difficult to hear on a cell phone, the further from the signal you travel, so it also gets more difficult to hear God’s voice when we are far away from Him.  Ask:  What are some things that we do that move us further away from God?  What are some things that we can do to move closer to God?  After giving one or two examples, play the following game.

Game:  Have the children stand in the middle of the room.  Explain that you will call off examples of things we might do that could move us closer to God or further away from Him.  If they think the listed example would move us closer to God, they should move one side of the room to the other (i.e. If you say, “Read my Bible,” the children should move to the side of the room designated as “Draw closer to God” rather than the “Move away from God” side).

Use the following examples

  • Giving a friend a hug when he or she is crying
  • Disobeying my parents
  • Coming to church
  • Stealing
  • Telling a lie
  • Reading my Bible
  • Yelling at my brother or sister
  • Bringing a meal to someone who doesn’t have enough food
  • Shoving someone I don’t like
  • Sharing with my friends

Bible Verse Memory:  Gather the children back together.  Point to the poster with the key Scripture printed on it.  Read the verse aloud, first yourself, then with everyone reading together.  Reiterate the point that when we pray God hears us!

Show the children the Legos with words from the key Scripture printed on them.  Work together to “build” the verse.

Lego Verse Building

Game:  Gather the children in a circle on the floor.  Explain that each of them will have a chance to record a message using an audio app, then we will replay the recordings to see if we can guess whose voice we had just heard.  The message we’ll all say is, “God knows my voice when I talk to Him.”

Record each child’s voice.  Ask the children to find a new place in the circle, then replay the recordings and have the children try to guess who’s talking.  Explain that even if it can be difficult for us to know whose voice is whose, God always hears and knows our voice. (Source)

Play-Doh Prayers:  Give each child some Play-Doh.  Have each child mold the Play-Doh into something they are thankful God has given to them.  As the children work, talk about how just as we are carefully creating, so God has carefully created us in His image.  After the children have finished their mini sculptures, have each child say aloud, “Thank you, God, for _____________.”

Missionary Prayer:  During the Investigation: Prayer unit, we will be introducing one of the missionaries we support each week.  I have a world map hanging up in the room and posted a picture of this first missionary couple.  We were fortunate that we were able to get in touch with the couple ahead of time and they actually wrote a letter to our kids to introduce themselves!  It never hurts to ask!

Craft:  Give each child a length of string (approx. two feet long) and two plastic cups.  Using a thumbtack, help each child to punch a hole in the bottom of each cup. Pass the string through the hole in the bottom of one of the cups and tie a knot.  The knot should rest inside the cup.  Repeat with the other cup. In pairs, have the children practice talking through their “telephones.”  Use this time to review the two reasons we know that God hears us when we pray (1. We are made in His image. 2. He gave us a spirit when He breathed the breath of life into us.).  Listen to the children as they reiterate these reasons to ensure that they’ve caught the key point. (This works best when the string is tight, but caution children not to pull too hard on their string.)

Conclusion:  Gather the children back together from their telephone activity.  Review again the two reasons we know that God hears us when we pray (1. We are made in His image. 2. He gave us a spirit when He breathed the breath of life into us.).  Encourage the children to try praying out loud to God during the week, even if it’s just a sentence or two, and thank Him that He hears us.  Close the time in prayer.

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We’ve Missed You!

Summertime can be rough in ministry.  As the routines of the school year fade away, so too can the routine of coming to church.  Don’t let your kids just fade away into “vacation mode” without letting them know that they are cared about and missed at church!

I made six of these “We’ve Missed You!” buckets to take to families that we haven’t seen at church in at least three weeks.  I’m also new to the church, so this is a great opportunity to get to meet the kids and their families🙂  All of the items in the bucket came from the dollar store, so this is a very affordable option for even those with itty-bitty budgets!  We’re talking just over $20 for all six buckets!  Take a look…

We Have Missed You

 

Basically, I took a sand pail and lined it with colorful tissue paper.  Then I filled the bucket with sidewalk chalk, a Christian card game, bubbles, freeze-pops, and a few crazy straws.  Simple, but full of things that kids love!  Each bucket had a tag attached to the front and a little note inside.  You can create a note to suit your needs, but this is what I wrote:

We have missed you!

I mean, we hope you’re having a super awesome summer and everything, but you are missed at First Alliance Church!  We’d love to have you join us on Sunday morning. See you there, right?  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this bucket of summer fun. See you Sunday!

I’ll be delivering the buckets tomorrow, which should be fun!  What do you do to keep touch with families, especially over the summer?

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Book Review: Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions

Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase, “transforming children into spiritual champions,” I get rather excited!  I love working with kids and helping them to learn more about Jesus.  The idea of a “spiritual champion” is something I can really get behind.  That’s the goal; that’s what I’m shooting for.

One would think that the author of a book entitled Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions would be a die-hard, sold-out children’s ministry advocate.  I believe that George Barna is such a person, but he readily admits that children’s ministry was not always on the top of his list of priorities.  “Like most adults, I have been aware of children, fond of them and willing to invest some resources in them; but I have not really been fully devoted to their development.  In my mind, they were people en route to significance – i.e., adulthood – but were not yet deserving of the choice resources… From the moment I’d accepted Christ at age 25, I’d been seduced into believing the great myth of modern ministry: Adults are where the Kingdom action is.” (p. 11-12)

Barna’s goals for the book are simple: point out the importance of spiritual growth, as well as the many viable ways to utilize resources within the church body, and provide tangible examples of best-practices from the most effective children’s ministries in the country.  Further lending to his credibility, Barna’s claims are supported by data from two years’ worth of tested and refined nationwide surveys. If you’re ever looking for a solid, research-based argument in support of the value of children’s ministry, this is it.

Understand going in that portions of the book are heavily-laden with statistics, but don’t let that keep you away.  If you pay attention, the statistics are actually incredibly helpful in understanding children and families today.  Barna’s chapter on the importance of children from God’s perspective also serves as a refreshing reminder of why we do what we do in children’s ministry.  The highlight of the book for me, though, was Barna’s description of the methods and techniques that facilitate the greatest impact in the lives of children and their parents. Some of them seem obvious, while others may come as a surprise.

If you are heavily involved in your church’s children’s ministry, I would highly recommend Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions.  To volunteers, parents, and others, the book is certainly worth a read, but some sections will seem a little irrelevant (i.e. curriculum selection, large-scale ministry evaluation, etc.).  Overall, a great read, though.

Have you read Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions?  What do you think?

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No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth!

Hello, blog-following friends!  Even though my lack of posting may suggest otherwise, I really haven’t fallen off the face of the earth🙂  My lapse in regular posting is due to our recent move from western New York to Delaware!  Our journey here has been a long, but completely Spirit-filled process and, as hard as it was to leave our Fillmore family, our church here has embraced us and made us feel so welcomed.  I am moving into a new position as the Children’s Ministry Director at First Alliance Church (which, oddly enough, was my home church growing up!) and am so excited for what God has in store.  Below is a picture that was taken on the Sunday that my new position was announced.  What a blessing it was to have two dear friends (who have known me since birth)  and a new friend in our senior pastor pray over Andrew and I as we begin this new season of ministry!

Prayer

My time these past few weeks has been full of packing, goodbyes, unpacking, and organizing, but I will be getting back to regular posting soon.  In the meantime, I’ll be spending this week unpacking our new house and finishing reading a book entitled “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions” by George Barna.  Keep your eyes peeled for a book review sometime soon!

HomeP.S. Above is a picture of the new house.  Things are looking much greener now that spring is here, but still🙂

 

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A “Sweet” Baptism Day Card

One of our kids is being baptized tomorrow and, rather than giving him just a plain card, I decided to sweeten it up🙂 There are about a zillion different messages you could convey with candy bars, but this is the one I chose.

20130518-100734.jpg

What kinds of gifts do you give at a baptism?

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Thanks a Latte!

Hello, everyone! I’m going on a brief hiatus from blogging for a whirlwind vacation visiting family and my sister-in-law’s graduation. Woot!

In the meantime, take a look at this super cute volunteer gift that all our Sunday School teachers got this morning…

20130428-223612.jpg

Each included a note that said “Thanks a latte!” (You can find freebie labels with this saying, but the ones I found wouldn’t print. Grr!). Included in each mug is an instant latte mix, a biscotti cookie, and some fun flavored creamer. Quick, easy, inexpensive, and FUN!

Be back soon!

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