My little Kaylie Bug has begun reading up a storm. I’m so very proud of her. She loves it. We read The Jesus Storybook Bible (my absolutely favorite children’s Bible storybook of all time… but that’s another post) to her and her sister every night. She has started wanting to read the first page of each story, which for a beginning reader takes a VERY LONG TIME! Little sister loses interest and Mama and Daddy are ready for everyone to sleep!
I came across the Day by Day Begin-to-Read Bible by Karyn Henley. I had used her Day-by-Day Bible in our elementary ministry and was intrigued because while I had seen lots of “beginner” Bibles, I had not seen one designed specifically for “Begin-to-Read”.
Here is what I love:
- The stories are short, and really designed for beginning readers. It is the meat of the story, but my little girl can read it! It is a great transition step from Mama and Daddy read everything to you to you start reading God’s Word independently.
- She feels like she is accomplishing something! Because each story is so short she can finish it easily and feel successful.
- While it is still essentially a Bible storybook, it is much broader in depth. There are lots more stories than would be included in your typical preschooler Bible, including lots of Psalms and other parts of the wisdom writings. Even Hezekiah gets a story!
This is an excellent resource to start helping young kiddos develop the habit of reading their Bible on their own! I can’t wait to recommend this to our parents!
This year I celebrated my 8th anniversary at Westwood. For some reason it really occurred to me how LONG 8 years can be.
Here are some things that I realized:
- The kids that are moving off to college right now were my fifth graders. That group was precious to me and many served in children’s ministry from 6th grade all the way til last Sunday. God has called several to ministry.
- At our “Welcome to First Grade Party” I realized that many of those were babies I visited in the hospital when they were born. Lots were kids of parents who were my friends.
- I’ve been blessed to live life with families through joys and great sorrows, sicknesses, and tragedies.
- I have volunteers I have served with for almost a decade. Those are valuable friendships. There are relationships here that could not have been built in shorter amounts of time. I (hopefully) have some trust that exists simply because I’ve been around awhile.
- This church is truly my family. This is not a job. This is home and this is life.
- I can tell you who can fix your car, who can fix your air, who is a Tennessee or Auburn or Alabama fan, who can grill really good hamburgers, who has battled cancer, who used to be in so-and-so’s small group, who can get us discounted _______________, etc… simply because I have lived life here for a really long time. In a large church, that is valuable info that might be tough to come by.
- I have been blessed by 100′s of kids. Much more blessed than anyone could imagine. It is a blessing to see them grow and mature and to see how God works in their lives.
Here are some challenges I’ve seen as well:
- You have to constantly battle being too comfortable or doing things like they’ve always been done. It’s much harder to see what needs to change or be improved when you’ve been living in it for a really long time. It’s a constant battle to have fresh eyes. It is easy to let your ministry become stale, usually because you have become stale.
- You have to be very intentional about continuing to stretch yourself and educate yourself. When you feel “at home”, it is easy to stay where you are and not force yourself to grow.
- Part of living life long-term with people is sometimes getting hurt. That’s just life. People mess up, people go to jail, people leave their spouses, people leave the church. This hurts no matter how long you have been somewhere, but when you’ve served with someone for years and something bad happens, it can rock you.
- It takes work to stay put. In the life of every church there are seasons when it would be easy to quit or when your frustration reaches an all time high. It is hard to choose to stick.
I haven’t read the latest statistics about the length of time ministers stay in one spot, but I know historically it hasn’t been very long. I know there are lots of reasons to leave a church, and none of this is written to make anyone defensive or feel bad. The length of your tenure at your church is God’s call, not yours. But as much as it is up to us, let us strive to change the status quo of children’ ministers not staying in one place for very long.
I’m so thankful that He’s allowed me to serve at Westwood for these years and pray that He lets me stay put for quite awhile longer. I’m thankful for a pastor and a staff that’s let me hang around and been patient as I’ve learned and grown.
This is the final post in a series about Kidmin recruitment. You can read the other posts here and here and here.
So you’ve prayed, you’ve stalked, and now it is time for your peeps to sign on the dotted line.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a final answer. People are busy and tend to wait til the last minute for signing up for anything. (So do I!) They truly don’t have the same sense of urgency that you do. Nicely (you don’t want to seem pushy) remind them that you need to finalize your team and you do need a commitment.
- Follow up. Assuming is dangerous in recruitment. You want to be 100% sure before Sunday morning that your volunteers are truly committed and coming. I’ve heard people say too many times how frustrated they were that new volunteers just didn’t show up. On the flip side I’ve heard too many times potential volunteers say how frustrated they were because someone called to recruit them but never called back to let them know when they were supposed to serve. Usually mistakes like this are on us. Follow up and make sure your recruits are truly good to go.
- Make sure you are all on the same page. Be sure your volunteer understands what you want them to do, when you want them to do it, and what the level of commitment is.
- Give them a next step. Whatever your process is: background checks, orientation, training… make sure you are very clear with your volunteers what they need to do next.
- Take the answer “no” graciously. Sometimes people have a change of heart. Sometimes you are sure they are going to serve where you want them and God instead leads them to student ministry or guest services ministry. Sometimes people just are nervous to tell us no. How you respond to someone’s “no” will greatly determine if they ever serve for you in the future. Don’t respond with frustration or annoyance. Show grace. God has the right people for your team, this person just isn’t one of them yet.
What do you do to finalize volunteers’ commitments?
Oh, not the scary kind. Please don’t go to jail. That would be bad for your kidmin career, and well, it would make you pretty creepy. This is part of a a blog series about kidmin recruitment. You can read the other posts here and here.
So how do we stalk (in a non-frightening way) in children’s ministry?
1. Identify the very best people who need to be serving. We are a little snobby. We love our kids and think they deserve the very best volunteers. Pray for God to show you your future team members. He may show you before He shows them! So throughout the year we identify those people, warn them we’re coming, and then invite.
2. Take advantage of the opportunities God puts in front of you. It is funny how when God brings someone to my mind I run into them 20 times more than I ever have. Make conversation. Make connections. I usually say, “I’ve been thinking about you… does that make you nervous?” And usually they will say “Yes”.
3. Find the balance between being persistent and being annoying. Sleeping on their front porch might be a little much. Chasing them down the church hallway might send them in the other direction. But sometimes because our minds are constantly thinking about placing people we assume that the person we’re asking is thinking about it as much as we are. They have whole other lives and are likely not as consumed by the idea. So reminders are good. Short texts or facebook messages spread out over a week or two are good. Annoying is bad.
4. Give them permission to say no. Just because you really want them doesn’t mean it is the right time or the right thing for them. It takes pressure off of people if they know they can say no without you giving them a guilt-trip or breaking down into sobs. Tell them that it is fine for them to say no and mean it! People are more important than filled spots.
5. Be clear in what you’re asking them to do. Be straightforward. Don’t sugarcoat. Be honest. Treat them like you would want them to treat you.
6. Invite them to come peek at the ministry. I will often say, “No commitment, just come see what we do.” It is amazing how many people really don’t have a clue what you’re really doing. I’ll never forget a friend of mine who came to observe children’s worship and said, “I had no idea that this is what you did – kids really worshiping. I didn’t really know what you did, but I had no idea this was it.”
How do you “stalk” potential volunteers without being creepy?
This is part of a series about KidMin Recruitment. To see the first blog in this series click here.
To recruit well, you are going to have to do a few things that children’s ministers sometimes aren’t good at doing:
1. Go where the grown ups are. If people don’t know you or only see you inside of kidmin world, they can’t relate to you. If they can’t relate to you, they likely won’t want to serve with you. But more than that, if you don’t know people you don’t know who to ask. People don’t respond well to cold calls. They want a face and a relationship. So, go to big church, hang out in the foyer, welcome all the parents as they walk in… do something to get to know people.
2. Build intentional relationships. You can’t wait until recruiting season to become people’s best friends. Pray and have your eyes open all year long. This is another reason you have to get out of your children’s ministry room. Our natural bent is to talk to the kids. Make it your goal to get to know some grown ups.
3. Talk positively about children’s ministry. People should not be surprised that you think your world is the very most fun place to be. You need to be your ministry’s biggest fan. Don’t be obnoxious (most of the time), but speak highly in the presence of others of what God is doing. DON’T complain or have volunteers who complain. Don’t beg. Don’t appear pitiful. You don’t want people signing up because they feel sorry for you.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask. You are asking people to enter into one of the greatest blessings – working with kids. You live and breathe it for a reason. Why are we afraid to ask others to get involved. Potential volunteers can smell fear. Ask with boldness. Ask with expectation that they will say yes and not expectation that they will say no.
Let me start by saying that my goal is not to get a raise. In fact, my pastor is out of the country and will probably be too exhausted to ever see this. This is the picture that made me happy today:
This is Dr. Les Hughes sharing the gospel with a little guy in Brazil. I have a pastor who loves kids and loves children’s ministry. Here are a few reasons that you should wish he was your pastor (but you can’t have him):
- He understands the value of children’s ministry not just to get parents in the door, but to reach the hearts of kids.
- He has allowed us to do what God has led us to do in the children’s ministry, even when that means altering programming, painting the walls, or him preaching from a giant “ship” the Sunday before VBS.
- When making a list of core values of our church, he listed family first.
- This year when we had 2 VBS’s he came to the beginning of every single session – both day and night. He counseled kids on “Decision Day” at both the morning and night sessions. He is a busy man. This was quite a commitment. He also dressed as a pirate one night but I don’t think I’m supposed to talk about that.
- He supported my participation in infuse with Jim Wideman and asked questions about it.
- He loves my girls and let’s them give him big hugs. At Christmas he carried my 2 year old down the street while the kids were caroling. She’s a little bit heavy by the way.
- He is married to Page who I want to be like when I grow up.
It has been a privilege to serve with Les and Page for almost 10 years. I’ve watched their kids grow up and they’ve watched my family begin and grow. I love living life with them and am so thankful to serve in a place where the pastor supports children’s ministry wholeheartedly!
This is the first in a blog series about kidmin recruiting.
When we typically think about recruiting volunteers we tend to first think of “getting people in”. But, I think a real key is to also focus a whole lot of energy on creating a volunteer culture where:
a) people enjoy what they are doing
b) people want to come back (more who come back, the more consistent your team, the fewer you have to recruit)
c) the people you are recruiting hear about and see a culture that they would enjoy serving in.
What does a place where volunteers want to be look like? The list could be exhaustive, but here are a few:
- Their basic needs are met: Basic needs could include safety (are you putting them alone in a room with 30 three year olds or with wobbly furniture or with no sick policy to keep the swine flu out?), comfort (are rooms too hot/cold, do they have to stand the whole time or do something else that wears them out unnecessarily?), still able to be a normal church person (do they get relieved in a timely manner so they can go to worship or home?) Volunteers might tolerate some of these things for a short amount of time, but not forever.
- They can see the bigger picture: When volunteers understand how what they are doing impacts the kingdom of God. If their perception of their role is to just survive through the hour and keep everyone alive with maybe a clean diaper, they probably won’t last long. Share with your peeps the value of sharing God’s love with even the smallest kiddos. I love how ReThink phrases that their First Look curriculum is the first chance to make a lasting impression on preschooler’s hearts. THAT is a vision volunteers can connect with.
- They are appreciated: Appreciation goes far beyond saying thank you or giving appreciation trinkets, though those things are great. Volunteers know they are truly appreciated when you make their job as easy as possible, you make sure they have what they need, you have open lines of communication, and you solve problems for them quickly.
- They know they are needed: No one wants to waste their time. Clearly define jobs and clarify why their role is essential. Communicate how much you value them and their contribution to the team. If you treat someone like a name that fills a blank, that is all they will be.
- BE FUN – Grown up world has enough boring in it. Make your environments, your meetings, your experiences fun for grown ups and for kids.
What do you do to create a volunteer-friendly culture?
So here we are, wrapping up our 2010 recruiting season. We just have a few more Sunday am spots to complete and we can call it done. Everyone in KidMin has different feelings about the word “recruitment”. It is can be an exhausting effort. I’m probably strange because to me it is like a scavenger hunt. It is so neat to me to watch God put a team together. It’s like a puzzle and He puts every piece in just right and at just the right time. But it also requires an awful lot of work on our part.
Love it or hate it – it is an essential part of children’s ministry (unless you are a one-person show, but that would have to be whole other blog series). We will spend the next several posts looking at what we do, what we don’t do, what works, and what we struggle with. Feel free to jump in and add your own comments about your experiences as well!
Last week our team took 32 3rd-5th graders to Centri-Kid Camp at Mississippi College in Clinton, MS. We had a super week that included a profession of faith by one of our guys. Here are my highlights and lessons learned:
- I had two firsts on the first full day of camp. I was in my room, helping one of our sweet girls get her bug spray to work when I saw a bug leg pop out of the sink. I took her bug spray and tried to drown it. FIVE HUGE roaches (seriously, like 2-3 inches) came scurrying out and everywhere. I screamed like a little girl and made all of the girls move my stuff to another room.
- Later that morning I was walking through the campus when a not-very-happy mockingbird flew after me and pecked my head and backside. That was a first for me. However it was quite entertaining to watch that same bird fly after people all week. If I had a video camera I could have made a million dollars.
- Our boys always get homesick faster than the girls.
- Tired kids + late night + cell phone call to mama = tears. Almost always.
- College dorms with bathrooms down the hall were not designed for 30-something mama’s who have had two kids. Just saying.
- We do Centri-Kid camp solely because of the incredible staff that they put together. I’m sure we could find cooler worship or more bling in the drama and production, but I don’t think anywhere can compete with the relationship element. These college and graduate school aged kids pour every bit of their life and energy into our nutty kids for a week. They lead them in Bible study, in track times, in worship. Our kids idolize these staffers and that allows them to be another voice – speaking into kids exactly what we are saying but they hear them.
- This was my 9th camp. Wow. You would think I would remember that you learn things about kids and see sides of them that you will never see on a Sunday morning. The staff this year said that 1 week of camp = four months of Sunday school. That makes sense.
- The chaperones I take make all of the difference in the world. This year I was blessed to take several of my very closest friends. Super fun to hang out with them, but more fun to watch them engage our kids and build relationships. Love them.
- The moment that hit me the hardest was watching our sweet kids in worship. Do you ever wonder if in all the craziness your kids are really catching the heart of what it means to worship? I wonder that all the time. God gave me just a small glimpse of our kids “getting it”. Praise Him and I pray that those little hearts hold onto a love for worship.
I love to read. Love it. I read lots of books, sometimes too fast to really let them sink in. Last week I picked up Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro. I had heard my pastor mention it, I tend to try to read what he is reading. I was quickly convinced that this was a book that anyone in ministry, especially those in children’s ministry, should read.
The book is basically Cordeiro’s story and lessons learned from experiencing severe burnout and near meltdown. The very sentences resonated with me immediately. “We don’t forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.” Wow.
Here were my main take-aways from the book:
1. Cordeiro mentions over and over that the spiritual disciplines he had practiced before trouble hit were what kept him grounded even during the most trying times of burnout. Those spiritual habits should be core.
2. The book reiterated what we focused on alot with Jim Wideman during my first year of Infuse. Bro. Jim taught us to determine our priorities and to live by them. Calendar and schedule by them. Cordeiro talks about setting a cadence to life that reflects those priorities.
3. The most eye-opening part for me was when he asks the reader to identify what things in life are draining and what things are filling. I’m usually bad about skipping over “fill-in-the-blank” or self-application questions in books, but I stopped and did this one. Answering what fills me was pretty easy, though I had to question myself on why I don’t spend more time doing some of those things.
God showed me that clutter and chaos really, really drain me. The funny thing is (especially to those reading this who know me) is I exist in clutter and chaos. My desk, my van, my whole word is in stacks. Though this is my nature, it is certainly not filling. Just being in it causes stress and drains me to think about what it should be like. Recognizing the amount of stress my personal disorganization was creating in my already full life was pretty eye-opening to me. My personal goal right now is to eliminate lots of that clutter and develop better habits.
If you are in ministry, go get the book! Until then, identify what fills you and what drains you. What can you eliminate and what can you do more of?