We love to have a good time, and I love serving with the awesome team and kids at my church!
Check out our video and let us know what you think!
Last Wednesday night, during our Midweek children's ministry program, we made our own version of the popular "Harlem Shake." The kids did a great job, and it was a fun chance for them to just act crazy, let loose, and have a good time! We also had Pajama/Movie night, and the kids had a blast! I have already had one parent tell me that it was their kids' favorite night at church!
We love to have a good time, and I love serving with the awesome team and kids at my church!
Check out our video and let us know what you think!
About 5 years ago, our church staff was talking and praying about how we can serve our community, and a God-given vision was born. In one staff meeting, the Lord led us to create an event that would fill a void in our community-- a community with no city-wide Easter event. This was one huge way that we could impact our community and show them that we love them, and more importantly, that God loves them. God gave us a vision, and EasterFest was born.
This is our 5th year to do EasterFest, and it is one my favorite things that we do! It is the one thing that we ALL do together as a church, with one common goal: to give the people in our community a fun and free day together, and to let them know who we are and how much we love them.
We have EasterFest at a big park right off of our main road in the city. We give away a free lunch to everyone, we have a live band, carnival games and prizes, a petting zoo, face painting, pictures with the Easter bunny, a GIANT egg hunt with 20,000 eggs, a ton of awesome inflateable slides and obstacle courses, a rock climbing wall, and a special toddler area just for babies. And it's all free for people in our community! We have tweaked it over the years, and each year it has gotten bigger and better (except it rained one year, and we were there anyway!).
We have an amazing team of volunteers who work so hard to put this event together. It is a great way for us to serve the families in our city, and for us to connect with them and engage in relationships with them. Our people are rock stars at initiating conversations and loving people.
Promo: before the event
Our media guy does a great job of putting our event out in our community through a variety of venues (throughout the years, we have done posters, radio ads, newspaper ads, Facebook ads, TV, and more!). We give all our people EasterFest T-shirts to wear around town before the event, and it is so cool to hear stories of people wearing their shirts at the gym or the grocery store, or anywhere, and having people walk up to them and say they have been to or heard of EasterFest, and they can't wait to come this year! In addition to shirts this year, we are giving away bracelets.
Out of all the ways to promote this event, we have found that by far the #1 way people hear about EasterFest is by word of mouth. We equip all of our people to invite their friends through social networking and through invite cards. We have done door hangers in the past, and have canvased neighborhoods, which was awesome. When all of our people take ownership of the event, their passion and excitement bubbles over and they eagerly invite people.
Followup: after the event
Two of the most important parts of a great event take place after the event is over. Follow up and evaluation. Since we have done this 4 times, we have tweaked these two things and come up with a great way to do them.
We bring a bunch of "Connection Cards" to the event and get as many people as possible to fill them out and turn them in, to be entered into a prize drawing to win one of 4 Family Night Out cards ($50 Visa Gift cards). Once we get their information, we send everyone a letter thanking them for coming, and letting them know we would LOVE to have them at our church. We make sure to include information about our children's ministry.
One of the reasons we intentionally have the event the day before Easter is to give people an opportunity to attend our Easter Sunday service. Easter Sunday is a common day for people to visit a church. We give them invite cards at EasterFest, letting them know what our Sunday service will be about the next day, and our greeters and hosts are intentionally looking for people to personally invite and make one-on-one connections with, so they know we have a spot for them, and will be looking for them the next day.
A key to a great event is to continually evaluate and look for ways to improve. We also look for things that were a huge hit, so we can keep doing them and keep getting better! We have a staff debriefing session, and we get great input from our volunteers and leaders. We are always looking for ways to make the event better. Our egg hunt has changed and improved a little every year, and the current egg hunt looks nothing like the egg hunt our first year! Something we ask ourselves every year is "What is the goal of this event?" and "Did we accomplish it?" If we ever answer "no" to that question, then we will know that it's time to make changes, or it that it may be time to stop doing the event. But until then, as long as the Lord is leading, we will continue to prayerfully step out in faith and work together to put on an awesome Easter outreach event for our community.
We have a fantastic kids' service on Easter Sunday, and make sure to have plenty of hosts and greeters to welcome any new guests who visit that day.
What does your church do for Easter? What great outreach ideas can you share?
Kids are always saying funny things, and this is a great way to share the awesome things they say.
This morning, I asked some young kids, "How can we help our friends get to heaven?"
One little boy raised his hand and said, "You can help make them die."
NOT the answer I was expecting, ha!
My husband was talking to some kids, and said, "I had heart shaped pancakes made for me for Valentine's Day!" and one little boy said, "Was it from Miss Lynne, or another girl?!"
Have you heard any funny kid quotes recently?
I love listening to kids' prayers. It is a window into their heart, and a chance to see what is important to them and how they relate to God. Kids really do have a childlike, sincere and expectant faith. We encourage kids to pray as a way to connect with God, not just rattle off a list of things we want Him to do for us.
One day in our preschool room, I observes a little girl who was terribly upset. She was crying and telling her teacher what a bad morning she was having. The teacher stopped and immediately took the girl's hand and asked if she could pray with her. They bowed their heads and prayed together. I came back a few minutes later to see the little girl happily engaging in the lesson, and having a great time.
We want to teach kids that prayer is not just something we do before a meal or before bed, but it is just us talking with God, and listening to God. We want to teach kids that it is something we can do any time in the day. Next time you are around kids, and one of them shares a problem or a worry, ask the child if you can stop right then and pray together. The more kids pray with faith, the more they will see God at work in their lives and answering their prayers.
We teach kids that when they pray, it is a time to talk and listen to their closest friend, our Lord. Let's model this kind of prayer relationship, and encourage kids to have a close relationship with God.
These days, kids are on social media all the time, even as young as preschool aged kids! We have kids in our children's ministry with their own iPads, laptops, and cell phones. And we have a responsibility to help kids learn to use media safely, and help them know proper boundaries about using social media.
Here are a few things we do to help kids and parents:
What are some other issues about social media and children's ministry that you are thinking about?
There is a little girl in our church who sits off to herself every week after the service has ended (as she is waiting for her parents to come) and just opens her Bible and reads it. No, she devours it! She loves the Word, and on more than one occasion, this has inspired several other volunteers and kids. It's cool to see kids who really love the Word, and that is our goal for every child! The more they get into the Word of God, the more the Word gets into them, and that is God's life-transforming power.
If the only time kids EVER get fed the Word is at church, then they are missing so much! We want kids to be able to experience God's word in their everyday lives, in their homes, and to know it in their hearts! Here are a few things we do to help kids learn to love the Bible...
1) Teach them how to "use" their Bible
We encourage kids to bring their own Bible from home (and if someone does not have one, we have some that they can borrow, and we even have Bibles we can give kids, if they don't have one), and then we let them OPEN it and use it. We don't just do it for them; every week, kids are learning to dig into their Bibles. They learn how to look up verses. They learn how to use their concordance. They learn the books of the Bible, and about the different versions of the Bible. Yes, we know that many people today have an electronic version of the Bible....but we really want kids to know how to study the Bible the old-fashioned way. The more they can learn how to use their Bible, the more they will feel comfortable with it and want to read it.
We have a weekly "Bible Challenge" time in our midweek ministry, that teaches and encourages kids to use their Bibles and look up Bible facts. We also teach them in Sunday School and Kids Church to look up verses, to read Scripture passages, and to use their Bibles to learn God's truths.
2) Help Bible Stories Come Alive
We want to show kids that Bible stories are 1) True, 2) Exciting and Interesting and 3) Relevant. We want to teach them that God can speak to us and teach us through Bible stories. It's not about kids learning just facts; it's about kids learning to let God speak to them through His word. That is why we do so many things to help the Word come alive to kids and help them learn to apply it to their lives. When they can do that, then they can love the Word.
3) Encourage Bible Memory
Every month, kids get two memory verses, and we encourage them to go over them every day and really memorize them. We give kids a memory verse magnet to put on their fridge at home and work on their memory verses with their parents. We go over the memory verses every week and do different games and activities to help kids memorize them. If kids memorize just two verses a month for 1 year, they will know 24 verses (which is more than probably a lot of adults!)! We look for ways to make Bible memory fun and challenging, and we also help the kids apply the memory verses to their lives and put them into their own words.
4) Encourage them to read the Bible at home
It is important for kids to have their own Bible that is age-appropriate and relevant for them. We also share with parents what kids are learning at church, and give parents easy talking points to start conversations at home.
The right Bible is important, as well. A child would have a hard time understanding an adult's Bible that is King James Version. But a kids' Bible with cool pictures, maps, questions, and wording JUST for them is great for kids, and helps keep their interest. We encourage kids to read their Bibles at home every day. If parents read the Bible with their kids, that's even better!
Here are some great Bibles for kids....
The Adventure Bible (for early readers - about Kindergarten - 3rd grade; NIrV)
The Adventure Bible (3rd-7th grade; NIV)
Kids' Quest Study Bible (NIrV, great for answering kids' questions; good for 1st - 5th grade)
The Action Bible (cool Bible that looks like a comic book, great for boys in 3rd grade and up)
*For preteens, I like this Bible for girls: Girls Life Application Study Bible (NLT)
and for preteen boys, I like this: Guys Life Application Study Bible (NLT)
Storybook Bibles - Great for younger kids who can't read; parents read with kids
The Jesus Storybook Bible (weaves the message of Jesus into every Bible story, to help kids understand the big picture)
The Beginner's Bible for Toddlers (great for really little ones)
Egermeier's Bible Storybook (makes Bible stories simple to understand; even good for adults wanting short refreshers on Bible stories)
Read and Share Bible: the Ultimate DVD
This is a great DVD for young kids (age 2-6); the clips are between 1-4 minutes and portray the Bible stories in easy-to-understand clips. We love theses DVDs and use them almost every week. There is also a Read and Share Bible that goes along with it, that kids would love too.
What Bible should you get?
For parents, it can be hard to know which Bible to get your kids. Especially, since there are so many options out there, and they are very specific and can be expensive! This is what I would recommend:
I would get a storybook Bible just for little ones (any of the ones I recommended above are great), starting at about age 2, you can read the stories to your kids, and even show them the DVDs for extra learning.
There are a lot of great family devotionals you can get to read together as a family, with kids of any age.
Once they can read themselves (between Kindergarten-1st grade), I would get one of the early reader Bibles (NIrV version), like the Adventure Bible or Kids Quest Study Bible. These are great because of their animation and easy wording.
When they get to 4th or 5th grade, you can get them a preteen (NIV or NLT) Bible. Preteen Bibles are made for kids in 5th-8th grade. A teen study Bible is an option once they get to 9th grade (NIV and NLT are great versions). These are just suggestions, but your kids may have different preferences. Share what you and your kids like!
What are some other ideas to help kids love the Word?!
The best way to protect kids is to be proactive about safety and security with plans, preparation, policies, and training.
We take kids' safety very seriously, and know that it always needs to be at the forefront of our minds.
Here are some of our safety policies and procedures. For more details, download our children's ministry handbook HERE.
One of the biggest threats to a church is child abuse. The best way to prevent child abuse is to be proactive in informing and training and screening our volunteers. We require all children's ministry volunteers to undergo a national criminal background check every two years, fill out a volunteer application.
Here are more of our protection policies, as described in our handbook.
Child Protection Policies
I. We take certain safety precautions to help protect our children, families, and our church and volunteers.
Screening: The volunteer screening process includes a volunteer application, an extensive criminal background check, a meeting with the children’s pastor, a 3 month required church attendance (6 months for supervisors), and required training sessions for all children’s ministry volunteers.
Background Checks – All volunteers will undergo a background check in order to serve in the children’s ministry; background checks are valid for 2 years. No one will be able to serve unless they pass the national criminal background check. No one can serve in any area of the children’s ministry if he/she has a record of sexual abuse of any kind, or any other violent crimes. If any red flags are apparent on a person’s background check, that person must pass the approval of 3 people: 1) Children’s Pastor, 2) The Local Board of Administration, 3) The Senior Pastor or Executive Pastor, in order to serve in any capacity of the children’s ministry.
II. Safe Environment
These policies make it more difficult for abuse to occur and make it easier to refute false accusations.
a. Two-Adult Rule – a minimum of two non-related adults must be in a room with children at all times.
b. Open Door Policy – a door must have a see-through window, or the door must remain open at all times.
c. Bathroom Policy – no adult is to be alone in a bathroom with a child at any time.
d. 6-Month Policy – all supervisors must have attended the church for at least 6 months.
e. Teacher/Child Ratios – nursery 1/5; preschool 1/9; elementary 1/16
f. Volunteer Identification – all children’s ministry volunteers must wear a lanyard, shirt, or name tag identifying themselves as volunteers.
g. Training in Appropriate Touch vs. Inappropriate Touch
h. Security Guard – a trained general security guard will be on duty to patrol the church grounds and especially the children’s ministry area during children’s services.
III. Defining and Reporting Abuse – Church leaders are mandatory reporters, which means if you suspect child abuse, you must report it.
a. First Step – Report to the Children’s Pastor.
IV. Accidents, Emergencies, and Security
a. Medical Emergencies/First Aid – trained CPR and First Aid Certified leaders will be available during every service, and a First Aid Kit will be available in every area of children’s ministry. For instructions, see Emergency Action Plan.
b. Must Fill out an Incident Report for all accidents or incidents that occur.
c. For weather emergencies, intruder emergencies, and fire emergencies, see Emergency Action Plan.
d. Check-In System – Our Check-in system exists to ensure that children are picked up by the correct parents/guardians. All kids must be checked in and out following our procedures. Kids will not be released until the parent/guardian has turned in a claim card, matching the child's.
There is a walkie-talkie in every room, as well as with our security person, the Children's Pastor, and a representative from the main church sanctuary, and the walkie-talkies will be on during every service, so that our leadership team can clearly and quickly communicate in case of emergencies.
Social Networking and Media Policy
Sickness and Health Policy
Including Tornado, Fire, Bomb, Intruder, Medical, and Earthquake emergencies
On Site Medical Team - we have a team of nurses, as well as volunteers and staff who are CPR certified, First Aid certified, and trained on AED, who are available at every service.
I did an internet search on Memory Verses for kids, to see what resources are out there, and to be honest, I was not impressed with the results! One page had a list of 100 verses, all in King James Version. One page listed about 50 topical verses, that were one person's paraphrasing and half of them weren't even saying what the original verse said! One site listed about 20 verses that are not applicable at all to kids! The other few sites all had weird Bible translations and really long verses, or weird paraphrases of verses. So..... apparently there is not much out there as far as resources go, to help parents and kids and kids' ministries with memory verses!
This is what we do.
We stress memorizing Scripture, because 1) There is no better way to hear from God and know Him than to KNOW His word; and 2) Hiding God's Word in your heart means that it is always there to help you. The children's pastor cannot be with kids 24/7. Parents cannot be with their kids 24/7. But the Word of God can be with them all the time if it is in their heart, and God can speak to them through His word.
We encourage kids to memorize 2 verses a month. We do a 2 year rotation, so that by the end of one year, kids will know 24 verses. By the end of two years, kids will know 48 verses! That is more than a lot of adults! Then, we repeat them.
Here are some tips for helping kids hide God's Word in their heart.
1. Repetition is one of the key ingredients for helping kids memorize verses and REALLY remember them in their long-term memory, hiding them in their heart. That is why we repeat those 2 memory verses over and over. They hear them in their Sunday School classes. They hear them in kids' church. They sing them in songs. They hear them on Wednesday nights and in their small group time. Then we give them memory verse magnets to take home and hang on their fridge, so they can see them every day.
2. Short, simple and relevant
We use verses that are short (some of them are longer than others!) and easy for kids to understand. We use verses that mean something to them, and can help them in their daily lives (Such as: Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for God is with you."). We normally use the NIV and NLT versions, but sometimes we use another version if there is a more kid-friendly way of wording a certain verse. I do not believe there is anything more holy or special about the King James Version. Kids should learn the Word in a way that makes sense to them.
3. Make it applicable
We help kids understand not just what the verse SAYS, but what it MEANS and how God can use it to speak to them or help them, or teach them about Himself. We teach them to say the verse in their own words, and use the verse to help them throughout the week.
Here is a list of all of our memory verses for 2012 and the first half of 2013. To download this list, click here. We have songs that go with about half of these verses, and that is an excellent way to help kids memorize Scripture! They love singing the songs with the verses!
At the end of each month, we have a Scripture Memory Challenge, where we encourage the kids to say both verses in their entirety (without looking) to a leader, in order to get a prize! We have a lot of kids who do this, and it is awesome to see them loving the Word and getting excited about memorizing it!
Children are a Gift
Children's Pastor, wife, and servant of the Lord.
These are the views of Lynne Howard, and are not necessarily the views and opinions of 12Stone Church.