Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ten Commandments of Children's Ministry

We’ve put together some fun “commandments” for your children’s ministry team. One of our favorites is VII. Feel free to pass these on to your coworkers and ministry helpers.
    I.  Thou shalt be born again.

   II.  Thou shalt have no final authority other than the Bible.

  III.  Thou shalt love children.

  IV.  Thou shalt pray regularly for the children, their parents and teachers (as well as for thine own family).

   V.  Thou shalt promote safety at all times.

  VI.  Thou shalt use age-appropriate materials.

 VII.  Thou shalt not bore children.

VIII.  Thou shalt not ignore the parents' needs.

  IX.  Thou shalt not be afraid to try new methods.

   X.  Thou shalt not ignore the impact of the Holy Spirit on daily life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Action Song: Jesus Is Alive

Print the following song lyrics on a large piece of poster board or project them from your computer. Teach the following song to your children as a review of the Easter lesson. Sing the words to the tune of B-I-N-G-O. Have the children clap a rhythm as they sing the letters A-L-I-V-E.

For older children, use these clapping motions: Pat knees on "A" and "L" (pat once as they sing each letter), snap fingers on "I," clap on "V," and cross arms to pat chest on "E." Have a couple of your preteens teach the pattern to the rest of the group. Start slowly. Your children will have fun trying to do the actions faster and faster as they sing the words. You may even catch them doing the chorus on the playground for their friends!

Jesus Is Alive!
God sent Jesus down to earth
To die for you and me,
A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E!
My Jesus is alive!

They tried to take my Lord away,
And nail Him on a cross,
A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E!
My Jesus is alive!

They put Him in a cold dark tomb,
And rolled the stone up tight.
A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E!
My Jesus is alive!

He lives inside my heart, and He
Forgives me of my sin.
A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E, A-L-I-V-E!
My Jesus is alive!

Have a child read Revelation 1:18 from a Bible. Say it together a few times. Then talk about how Jesus is alive and lives in heaven today.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Kind of Leader Are You? (Part 2)

As a Sunday school teacher or Bible Club leader,  it is important to nurture and develop in yourself the qualities and skills you need to relate to children in a helpful way. The first part of this article was posted on March 22. Here are six additional questions to ask yourself:

5. Am I innovative and creative?
Creative ideas are valuable only when they are actually implemented. A creative Bible Club leader must be able to dream up ideas as well as make those ideas happen. In addition, creative leaders must be able to take someone else’s idea and make it a reality in their own group.
There are many ways to get good ideas. Obviously the entire All-Stars for Jesus Bible Club program is designed to provide you with simple, easy-to-use ideas. Many Sunday school curricula contain helpful teaching suggestions. In addition, it is very important to listen. Listen to the students. Listen to the parents. Listen to other children’s ministry workers. And from what you hear, you should be able to adapt your teaching materials to work with your group.
Always be open to new ideas or new ways of doing things. Just because you haven’t seen something work, don’t assume it won’t work. Even if you tried something before and it didn’t work, be willing to give it a second chance.

6. Am I happy with myself?
Teachers and leaders who have committed their lives to Christ and are reasonably happy with themselves won’t be devastated when the first student acts up. And they won’t give up the first time something doesn’t go as planned. Furthermore, happy leaders and teachers won’t manipulate students to achieve “manufactured” results; they will minister to the students for Jesus’ sake.
Have fun with the students you’re trying to reach. Go to their homes. Go to their ball games and school plays. Play video and computer games with them. Be their friend.

7. Am I hungry for spiritual results?
The effective Bible Club leader or Sunday school teacher has a drive to accomplish and an urge to compete against the world for the attention of young students. You should have an insatiable hunger to see young people brought to a place of personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Develop a hunger for more spiritual growth in your own life as well as in the lives of those to whom you minister.

8. Do I use common sense?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.” Anyone who works with other people must realize that the key to success is not intelligence; the key to successful relationships is awareness of others, a willingness to learn, the ability to cope with the unexpected and genuine interest and caring for others.
These attributes are vital to successful leadership of students. Use common sense. Be flexible. Learn to respond to the needs and moods of your students, as well as to the situations they face and the environments in which they live. Help them cope with the situations in their homes and show them how to deal with the mistakes they make. One of your most important responsibilities as a teacher and leader is to minister to the everyday needs of your young students.

9. Am I tactful?
Effective Christian leadership calls for tact, persuasiveness and humor. You’ll need these attributes to overcome resistance to change and because you’ll work with many different people. Some teachers and leaders become so wrapped up in their “mission” that they become tactless, abrasive and disruptive, to the point they simply run over people in a rough-shod, uncaring manner. Your true goal and mission must be to respond to the needs of each individual student in kind, loving, tactful ways.
When you take the time to tactfully sell your ideas, to laugh a little (even at yourself, when necessary) and show you care, you will be more fun to be around, your students will notice and you will be able to accomplish a great deal for the kingdom of God.

10. Do I have courage?
Any role of leadership demands courage. To succeed as a leader or teacher, you have to take risks. Probably some of your meetings and lessons won’t be great successes. Some of your parties might flop. You might face some touchy situations you’ll wish you hadn’t gotten into.
It will take courage to go to a parent regarding his or her child. It will take courage to help your students deal with issues they might face: bullies, parent divorces, depression, cliques, broken relationships and more.

 Molding a child’s life is truly an awesome responsibility, but Jesus provided powerful encouragement when He said, “It is not the will of your Father…that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:14) Although some of your students may not be so little anymore, this promise proves that the person who is committed to nurturing the spiritual life of a child or teenager is working in cooperation with the will of God! You can be assured then, that the Lord will direct you and guide you as you seek to guide children to love and serve Him.  

Monday, March 22, 2010

What Kind of Leader Are You? (Part 1)

Most teachers agree that some students can be a real challenge to work with. Yet they also agree the middle school and junior high years are a critical time when it is important to help students get established in their faith, their church and their lifestyle.

Some of your Sunday school and Bible club students probably grew up in your church and are from Christian families. If they ever decide to leave the church or their Christian beliefs, many children’s workers feel the seeds of departure and of rebellion will be sown during the junior high and middle school years. One Christian educator said, “Kids walk in the front door of the church when they are four, and out the back door when they are 14!”

How can you, their Bible Club leader or Sunday school teacher, catch those students before they get out the back door, or, better yet, how can you make the Christian life and fellowship in the church so meaningful and attractive to every student that they won’t even head for the exits?

To some extent, you have already answered that by your willingness to serve as a teacher, volunteer or leader. Yet it is important to nurture and develop in yourself the qualities and skills you need to relate in a helpful way to children. Here are ten questions to ask yourself. We'll look at the first four this week:

1. Do I love students?
People who minister successfully—to people of any age level—appear to have few behavioral, physical, educational or other kinds of characteristics in common. They are from many backgrounds and come in all shapes and sizes.
In fact, you don’t have to look young, own a sports car or be the best at video games to communicate with young students. It’s not necessary for you to like their music, their food or to keep up with them physically. People who minister effectively to students are of every age and every personality and the methods they use to achieve results are wide-ranging.
Yet they all have one thing in common: they love students. So ask yourself, Do I love young students? If you’re going to reach a young person for Christ, that’s a necessity!

2. Do I like students?
To some extent we can love someone and yet not like him. The Christian leader and teacher, however, must not only love the students he is trying to reach for Christ, but he needs to work hard at liking them too.
There might be students in your group who don’t smell very good, don’t talk very well, have bad habits and do things you don’t approve of—but you’re going to have to like them if you’re going to reach them—and keep them—for Jesus Christ.
In fact, friendship is one of the most important things you can offer. Your young students will respond to your friendship long before they will respond to what you try to teach them.

3. Do I expect something good to happen?
Are you excited and optimistic about your work with children? Do you have vision? Are you determined to accomplish something for Christ with your students? Do you realize your results may take a long time to happen?
If you’re after instant results, you’d better microwave some brownies or order a pizza; working with students requires a vision for the future and the willingness to trust God to bring about results in His timing.

4. Am I eager to take responsibility?
Being a Sunday school teacher or Bible club leader requires a willingness to take responsibility and get involved. Although they may never admit it, young students are looking to adults for leadership, guidance and caring; they will respond when adults show they care and want to be involved in the lives of the children.
Even when the going is rough, a Christian leader needs the ability to persevere and keep going. You can’t fall apart when no one shows up for a party—or when twice as many come as were expected! Make the best of the situation. When you do, the Lord will use your willingness and service to make something good out of the circumstances.

As a Bible Club leader or Sunday school teacher, you are influencing the students in many important ways—some of which you will never know. Don’t count on everything happening immediately; realize that some of the seeds you are sowing in the lives of your students may not bring about visible results for years!  

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bible Lesson: Wise & Foolish Builders

Here’s a fun lesson you can use to teach your students about the wise and foolish builders from Matthew 7:24-27. Say the following words as you have the children do the motions in parentheses. Hold your Bible open as you tell the story. Explain that this is a true story from God’s Word, the Bible.

Jesus told first about a wise man. This man built his house on solid rock. Then one night, a storm came up. The rain poured down. (Lead the children in rain motions. Have them rub their legs, snap their fingers, and then pat their knees faster and faster to imitate the sound of rain and a growing storm. Finally, have them stomp their feet while patting their legs.) The wind howled. (Have the children say, “oooo.”) The water outside began to rise. (Have the children slowly raise their hands.) But the man’s house was safe from the storm, because it was built on a rock.

Another man foolishly built his house on the sand. Then the storm came up. The rain poured down. (Lead the children in rain motions. Have them rub their legs, snap their fingers, and then pat their knees faster and faster to imitate the sound of rain and a growing storm. Finally, have them stomp their feet while patting their legs.) The wind howled. (Have the children say, “oooo.”) The water outside began to rise. (Have the children slowly raise their hands.) The flood washed away the sand under the house. The house groaned and creaked and then fell apart. Down it came with a great CRASH!

Jesus said, “People who hear what I say and obey Me are like the wise builder. When problems come, they will be safe. But people who hear Me without obeying what I say will be like the foolish man. When problems come, they will be like the man whose house fell down with a CRASH.”

(Sing the following words to the tune of THIS OLD MAN.)
This wise man, he built well
      (pretend to hammer);
He built well up on a rock;
      When the rains came down
And the floods came up
      (lower and raise hands),
This man’s house stood firm and strong
      (raise fists & make muscles with arms).

Foolish man, he built wrong
      (pretend to hammer);
He built wrong up on the sand;
      When the rains came down
And the floods came up
      (lower and raise hands),
This man’s house came tumbling down
      (fall down).
The Bible says that Jesus is like a solid Rock. (Read I Corinthians 10:4.) When we obey Jesus, we will be safe even when troubles come.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tossing Ideas Your Way

Think of your words as tennis balls. Every idea or point you throw out during your Sunday school lesson or Bible club class is one ball. When you teach using the lecture method, you are tossing several balls to the children and expecting them to catch and hold onto all of them. How many balls do you think the children can handle before they start dropping some of them?

When you teach using a question/answer method, you toss out a ball (your question) and ask a child to hold it and then toss back a ball of his own (a stab at an answer). Is your teaching a singles match between you and one other child or do you see that everyone gets a chance to handle the ball?

When you use group discussion, you toss out a ball and ask a child to toss it to another child, then to another and to another. How many balls can each of your students juggle at one time? Is everyone getting a chance to toss the ball back or are some children monopolizing the game? By thinking of your words as tennis balls, you can visualize what you are expecting the children to do with the concepts you toss their way.

As you toss out a question, wait several seconds. Ask children to raise their hands before responding. Repeat the question before choosing a child to answer. Some children need longer to process the question and formulate an answer. Even those children who raise their hands quickly may need time to really think through their answer.

Make sure you’re being a good referee and including everyone in the question/answer time or the discussion. Call on children who may want to participate but don’t raise their hands. If the child you call on doesn’t have an answer (or only has a small part of answer) ask another child to jump in and help out the first child. Create a sense of teamwork within your classroom by treating each child as important and loved by God.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Leading a Child to Christ

When presenting the salvation message to kids in any setting—Sunday school, Bible club, kids camp, or children's church—be prepared for questions. Have an adult Christian talk individually with each child who responds to your invitation. Ask the child, “What decision do you want to make?” or ask, “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” Let the child say in his own words what decision he wants to make. Don’t put words in the child’s mouth.

Depend on the Holy Spirit to work within His own timetable to make the plan of salvation clear to the child. After ascertaining that the child does want to accept Jesus as his Savior, and answering any questions he has, share what the Bible teaches about salvation:
1. God loves you — John 3:16
2. You have done wrong things (sinned) — Romans 3:23
3. God says that those wrong things must be punished — Romans 6:23
4. God sent Jesus to take the punishment for us — Isaiah 53:5
5. Tell God you are sorry for the wrong things you have done — I John 1:9
6. Ask Jesus to be in charge of your life and be your Savior — John 3:16-17

Talk and pray individually with each child. Let the child pray his own prayer asking Jesus to be his Savior. Explain that the student is now God's child. Let him know that God promises to never leave him. Explain that God will help him do what's right, and God wants the child to get to know Him better. Clarify any questions the child may have. Help the child say a prayer of thanks for what Jesus has done for him. Then pray aloud, thanking God for the child.

Also talk with the child’s parents, informing them of the student’s response and sharing your views of their child's spiritual development. Encourage the parents to help the child pray, read the Bible, obey God, attend church and Sunday school, and tell others about Jesus. (This may be a good opportunity to tell the parents about Jesus.)

When presenting the plan of salvation, group invitations should usually be avoided for preschoolers and elementary children due to the “herd” instinct of small children. Rather, talk with the children individually to determine which children are ready to receive Christ as Savior of their lives. Keep the children in prayer, and trust God to do His work in each child’s life.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's All in the Questions

As a teacher, leader, or helper who communicates God’s Word, you must rely heavily on questions to generate discussions. Your Sunday school or Bible club curriculum may provide some wonderful discussion starters and questions to get your group talking. You will need to do quite a bit of restating and condensing of your students’ comments and ideas given during discussions. You will also need to summarize and clarify what your students say so younger ones understand. Your use of questions will be a helpful guide in the progress of your discussion.

Six questions—what, why, when, how, where, and who—can form the basis for many different kinds of discussion questions. Here are some forms of questions you may want to try:
•  Fact-finding questions help children learn information and data.
•  Ambiguous questions have several meanings (or answers) to help keep the discussion moving.
•  Leading questions seek or suggest answers and can be used when no one knows what to say next.
•  Provocative questions are designed to incite an argument or debate and wake up your group.
•  Direct questions are aimed at a specific person.
•  Relayed questions are used when someone asks you a question and you refer it to the group  or to another student for response.
•  Reverse questions are used when someone asks you a question and you refer it back to the questioner.
•  Either/or questions force the group to make a choice.
•  Multiple-choice questions help to ascertain priorities.

To begin, ask simple questions—some with obvious answers. Try to use a variety of questions that do not have simple yes or no answers. Give the children time to think. It may help to ask the question two or three times. Respect each answer, even if it is not exactly the one you were seeking. (See the post from March 1, “Tips for Leading Discussions,” for more helpful info.) Soon your questions and answers will develop into real discussion, and you are on your way!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tips for Leading Discussions with Children

As an adult Sunday school teacher, Bible club leader, or helper, you have a very important role in making any discussion (and any lesson) a success. In any group discussion, you will have a variety of students. Some may be loud or talkative, others will be quiet; some children may be highly intelligent but wiggly and disruptive, others may have learning difficulties. Your job is to involve all of them in the discussion. Although some may be Christians and some may not be, everyone’s contribution must be acknowledged and appreciated.

One way to do this is to use the words “we” frequently in your discussion. After all, it is “we” who are talking in the discussion. Also, use the children’s names frequently; everybody likes to hear his or her name.

As the leader, keep your speeches short. Don’t make the mistake of launching into a sermon in the middle of a good discussion; there is no quicker way to kill group interaction.

Try to be impartial and listen to everyone’s point of view. That doesn’t mean you must condone or accept a position that goes against the Bible. After the speaker has finished, you could say, “Thank you, [Brad], for your thoughts, but that is not what God says in His Word. The Bible says…”
With little or no guidance or direction in a discussion, students will sometimes pool their ignorance. Don’t let that continue for long. Interject some relevant information that will help to focus the discussion. It is also important not to take sides until you sense that the group has reached the point where a conclusion needs to be drawn or an application made.

If difficult questions arise, don’t panic. Assure your group you will check and get the answer for them by your next meeting. Or, have a member do the research, either during the discussion (if research tools are available) or by the next meeting. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know an answer. Students will recognize a bluff or vague answer, but they will respect you more if you are honest in admitting you don’t know.

The same approach can be used if a question comes up that has no bearing on the discussion. Simply say, “That’s a good question, [Angela]. Let’s talk about it after the lesson. Right now, let’s continue talking about…” then get right back to the subject of your discussion.

If you are well prepared before your meeting begins, if you ask God for His guidance, if you are interested in the subject, and if you treat the students in the discussion with respect and consideration, you should be able to handle most any situation that might arise out of the discussion.