This month I had the privilege of attending a kickoff web cast for two new ministry tools from Lifeway. First, let me say that as an individual, the event itself was top notch. I was beyond blessed by the level of hospitality and care I received from the leaders at Lifeway. I have gained some fabulous new friends in ministry, who are doing some amazing things.
As a ministry leader, I am thrilled to share a little about these two new tools. I hesitate to call them products as I think it devalues their relational capabilities. We have all seen the items at conferences that we have purchased and have let seen sit on our shelf when the excitement dies down. These do not fall in that category. As a leader I am always looking for tools that make my tasks...well, easier! We have tedious tasks, and if I can streamline them effectively so that my time can be used more efficiently, then sign me up!
First I want to mention Ministry Grid! (the other tool will be mentioned in a later post) We all have amazing teams of willing volunteers, but at the end of the day, we need to train them and keep them current on the ever changing standards of what we do. I know personally with the amount of volunteers I currently have, it is pretty much impossible to get them all in one room for a day of training. Training days provide two things for me: 1. a relational piece, a time to simply ask how people are and stay current in their lives as well as offer them a responsibility free time of fellowship. 2. Training! Educating them on the changes and expectations for our ministry.
When we have training days, we usually have a wide range of topics and do our best to cover them all. But what about those intensive topics that only apply to two or three attendees? Or the bathroom policy that changes for every age group?
Ministry Grid fixes a multitude of my training issues. It allows me to design a track of training sessions that my teams can complete online, at their own convenience. I can upload my own training videos like "Using our check-in system" or "Visitor care" or simply choose from a very large data base of training videos. The best part of this for me is the ability to tailor the tracks since we have seasonal program volunteers, as well as regular format volunteers. When workers log in they can see how far they are in their track as well as earn badges for completed studies (for those ever competitive kidmin peeps) The other feature I love is the personal devotions or personal spiritual care. Often times workers get caught up on a Sunday morning, maybe they never made it to worship, here they can also be spiritually fed as a team. I can set up a training or link Sunday's sermon right to our training page.
I know what you are thinking, how impersonal! Right? But imagine this, your people have finished a track on... policy. (oh fun!) Your entire team did it! woohoo! So you call them together (rewarding them with warm Krispy Kremes for their efforts in "continued kidmin education") and instead of a broad vague training you have a room full of people with the same knowledge ready to ask questions! Instead of the lost puzzled faces, you have a room of fellowship and discussion. This is how I personally intend on using this tool! Our training sessions will become a debrief of training that has occurred and an opportunity to clarify and of course build strong team relationships.
The best part is the fact that Lifeway has made this available for whatever lay position or ministry position you can think of. Janitors, parking lot attendants, ushers and so on. Whether you are a church of 35 or 35,000 there is a structure that works for you. Pricing is built on your church size, which means quality training is available for every budget, and might I mention, very reasonable.
Below is the link to watch a free video. Hopefully you find it useful! I would love to hear from those who try Ministry Grid.
As I sat down, tea in hand, I was prepared to read and absorb, or so I thought. I will honestly say after reading, once isn't enough. I plan to do it again! The amount of information in this book is amazing. In review, the design of this book is well done. It puts a significant amount of thought provoking information in a bite sized section, and then pauses for reflective questions. I appreciate this, so many times an author will twist and turn through a verbal journey and when you arrive, there is no sense of how you got there. The book flows nicely and builds on itself from one section to the next, while constantly referring to scripture.
Content! Rienow begins with what most would consider to be obvious information, the Bible is sufficient. Then moves to challenge with the reflective question "To what degree does your church use the Bible as a sufficient guide for making ministry and programming decisions? How often is the Bible referred to when making ministry strategy decisions?" Not only does the beginning of the book speak to general ministry, I personally believe every young adults pastor needs a copy on hand.
Rienow suggests that the biblical doctrine of jurisdiction has been largely lost in today's church. Dr. Rienow consistently reminds us that God has given us the information in the Bible to carry out His mission, everything from what He wants done, how He wants it done, and who He wants to do it. Reinow does well to lay out the four foundational realms of authority, areas of jurisdiction in society. They are; the individual, the family, the local church, and the government. He focuses on the local church and the family while covering each area based upon the sufficiency of Scripture and repeating the framework God has given each one according to His Word. Those committed to loving God and others advances God’s mission through a godly marriage, godly children, a godly local church.
Limited Church: Unlimited Kingdom is definitely a tool to be used by family ministry leaders, children's ministry leaders, and young adult leaders as well. The first read through is great, but I plan on digesting it with my team in a section by section format.
I once had someone tell me that "kids need to have Jesus in their atmosphere so that when they grow up they can choose to follow Him, but they weren't really capable of relationship or serving at a young age". My heart sank when I heard this, and quite honestly, if you have ever served in your church's nursery you know that statement is incorrect.
I have watched for years as children not only absorb information, they display solid faith and exude pure worship. It's no coincidence that Jesus tells us that we need that "child-like faith" to receive Him. (Matthew 18:2-4)
I have also for years watched children display their spiritual gifts. Look closely this Sunday, children as young as two years old will show compassion, leadership, and mercy. As parents we can easily identify them in our children, and often times as ministry leaders we can see them as well.
So what are we doing with this vital information? Do you ever dream and wonder, what are my kids capable of? Am I challenging them spiritually? We as leaders offer up "challenges" of memory verses and other information, but do we really challenge them in their spiritual capability? Are we sharpening their "spiritual gift sword" for use in the kingdom?
As I have been personally reflecting on this question I realized in 2 Chronicles 24:1it is mentioned that Joash was SEVEN YEARS OLD when he became king! Seven! Second Grade! I think you get it, he continued his reign for 40 years. What this exactly looked like, well I can't even begin to fathom, but I can tell you that he was a leader. He had older generations around him not only training him up, but entrusting him to lead on his own. This is where I stopped, while we are embracing family ministry as a culture and investing in our younger generations, I had to ask "are we entrusting them?"
As I sat there looking at the take home pages of family devotions, the memory verse cards, and the curriculum, I came to the realization that we are pouring in (and rightfully so) but are we teaching them what to do with that? Are we teaching them that the holy spirit will guide, and stepping back and letting that happen?
So with that in mind, we decided to start with spiritual gifts! In kids church we are doing a three week series on identifying, using, and sharing spiritual gifts. But it won't just be a lesson! Kids will be given the option to assume ministry tasks based on their spiritual gifts. The desire is to show them hands on that they can have a relationship with Jesus that is full (like adults). To show them that they have something to give, and God has designed them with a purpose. Giving and serving is a huge part of our spiritual life, and we would be off balance without those elements.
I am an advocate of good material, and quite honestly I found a free online printable curriculum for this series. I landed on the page with a search and while the page isn't all bright and hi-tech, the content is wonderful! The best part is the fact that all the supplies called for, you probably already have. There were a few changes like milk cartons used for a game, I used cups and cotton balls.
While we may not have a seven year old leading our nation any time soon, (well that's another blog post in itself) we can let them lead in places that will equip them to carry the gospel to future generations we will never see.
Here is a guest post by my friends at Kid Check. From training your workers to having technology that works, all the pieces combined can enhance your Children's Ministry experience. Enjoy these great tips from the pros as you plan for a very busy Easter weekend in your ministry! (and give them a call too!)
Why Your Church Needs a Children’s Check-In Solution
As child security professionals here at KidCheck, we are often asked how implementing a children’s check-in solution can benefit churches and childcare organizations. A check-in system provides enhanced security and is vital to child safety, yet the benefits and success truly come from a combination of the check-in system itself and how well the staff in the organization uses it.
Regardless of whether you are using an electronic solution, or other method, certain tracking and safety measures are still a necessity. You must have accurate records of children checking in and out, know who is picking up the children in your care, be aware of any allergy or medical concerns and have a process to verify people are who they say they are.
The Stark Reality
What are some of the real threats? Every year between 1.3 and 1.8 million children are reported missing in the United States alone, and the FBI records an average of 2100 new missing children cases per day. Most abductions are carried out by people who know the family and children - babysitters, boyfriends/ex-boyfriends (teen’s or, parent’s), classmates, and neighbors. While the murder of abducted children is rare, research shows, the first three hours are the most critical when trying to locate a missing child. Per a 2006 study, 76.2% of abducted children who were killed were so within three hours of abduction.
Those are some alarming facts. Making it even more complex are today’s dynamic and blended family situations. An estimated one-third of children will live in a stepparent home before the age of 18 and 50% will have a stepparent at some point in their lifetime. An estimated 200,000 kids are abducted by a family member, and 58,000 by nonfamily members; the primary motive being sexual exploitation of some type.
These statistics underscore the importance of well understood and documented child safety processes and procedures. Implementing a children’s check-in solution is just one way to improve security and combat these threats. Per the K!Report, only 37% of churches currently use an electronic children’s check-in system. Electronic check-in/out systems increase the level of security over a manual process with additional built in security measures such as name badges, random security codes to be matched between children and guardians, immediate access to child and guardian locations, and detailed records on both children and guardians.
The Solution is Only as Good as the People Using It
Keep in mind, no check in system will keep the kids in your care safe without the proper implementation, staff training, and design around the systems you use. You must know and have vetted your volunteers, parents, employees; understand who the authorized andunauthorized guardians are; and know where and with whom the kids are at all times. The system and procedures you implement must be ones your personnel and volunteers can quickly understand, consistently use, and easily follow.
Every day at KidCheck we are honored to have the opportunity to train, work with, and implement a secure children’s check-in system to help assist churches and childcare professionals with their child safety.
Heidi Hensley of Quail Lakes Baptist Church in California had a situation arise that put her check-in system, procedures, and team to the test; and the church came through with flying colors. “We had a situation where two women tried to pick up a random child. Thankfully trained staff and the security tags with KidCheck worked - making lockdown and identification a cinch. We added KidCheck to our ministry almost a year ago and it has both complimented our existing safety practices and provided additional security features. Implementing KidCheck was almost effortless for our team as it is easy-to-use and was quickly understood by our leaders, volunteers and parents.”
The Importance of Accurate Guardian and Child Information
Having up-to-date and proper information on all aspects associated with the children in your care is key to improving security. One unique feature of KidCheck is parent maintained accounts. Parents can easily provide the necessary family information, as well as keep it up-to-date, without you needing to do the input or maintenance work. Stacey French at Living Word Christian Church in New York recognizes those benefits, “We used to use a sign-in book but updating and maintaining it was extremely time consuming - KidCheck solved that problem.”
The parents create a free KidCheck account, from the comfort of their own home. They provide all pertinent contact information for themselves and the children (including photos), specifically list authorized and unauthorized guardians, and note any medical or allergy alerts. Parents also maintain these personal accounts so you know the information is current and you don’t have to try to remember to make updates or track family dynamic changes.
Additionally, documents such as restraining orders, court orders or medical information associated with a child can be kept and tracked right in that KidCheck account for easy access. All this information is made available to an organization as soon as the child checks into that facility. Administrators for the organization then have access to all the information. That information and the check-in system itself, in conjunction with using the proper check-in and check-out procedures, increase child safety.
Dave Vainio in Montana has first-hand experience with how a check-in solution with up-to-date, pertinent information improved safety at Helena First Assembly of God. “We had a situation where a dad, who had a restraining order against him, tried to pick up his daughter during one of our services. Had we not had KidCheck in place, there would have been nothing stopping him from getting his child and we would have had a major problem on our hands. The mom (who was a first time visitor) was so grateful to us for not releasing the child.”
Perception is Reality
In addition to tangible improvements in child security, the perception of child safety you provide for your visitors, parents and staff is extremely important. Parents and visitors are leaving what is most precious to them in your care and expect a safe and loving environment. They won’t feel comfortable attending and entrusting their children to your staff if they don’t feel it’s safe. Additionally, no employee or volunteer wants to be put in a position where the organization, or they themselves, may possibly be held liable for a child leaving with the wrong person. Not to mention the huge financial and legal liability if a child is harmed or abducted while in your care.
A check-in system like KidCheck helps instill confidence, implements a culture and environment of safety, and makes a loud and clear statement that your facility is safe, secure and takes the security of children very seriously. Per Freida Cole at Overbrook Baptist Church in South Carolina, “Implementing KidCheck immediately increased the security consciousness of parents and volunteers.” As for the parent experience, Briana from the Oregon area notes, “The church I attend just implemented KidCheck. I appreciate the ability to post pictures to ensure they know who my son is, as well as who my husband and I are.”
Emergencies and Peace-of-Mind
At a touch of a button, electronic check-in systems also provide the ability to know which children are in your facility and exactly where those kids are. In case of an emergency, you need to know where each and every child is, and ideally their parent’s location as well. That knowledge allows you to more quickly and effectively enact emergency plans and contingencies.
Whether for an emergency situation, or for more basic updates, parent communication is simple as well. The text messaging feature within KidCheck allows you to quickly, and privately, notify a parent if their child needs something or an emergency arises. Alternately it can also provide peace-of-mind that all is well, allowing them to relax and enjoy their time. Imagine the anxiety for a parent leaving their child in your care when the child is crying and very upset about the transition. Now imagine the relief and ability to refocus when they receive a text from you assuring them their child is now giggling happily or sleeping peacefully.
Guardians can also receive a text message to let them know each time their child is checked-in or out. This is especially helpful for youth check-in/out as noted by Lindsey Eklund at Woodinville Community United Methodist Church in Washington, “Parents especially like the text messaging capability for students who are in our after-school program. They receive a message their child has arrived at our facility and it gives them additional peace-of-mind.”
Check-In System + You = Winning Combination
Implementing a secure children’s check-in solution is an important step to improve security; however it is truly the people behind the system that determine the ultimate security and success of that system. It’s folks like you – the children’s pastors, volunteers, childcare professionals, nursery workers, etc – who are truly the gate keepers for the safety of the children while they are in your care. Utilizing key tools, such as an electronic check-in solution, coupled with the proper execution, training and expectation for your staff is a winning combination. At KidCheck we are honored to be part of that process, those policies and the resulting benefits for all involved.
Alex Smith is CEO of KidCheck, secure children’s check-in solutions. He is a data security and child safety expert, church safety team leader, former police officer, and consultant to the Air Force and FBI on data security and cyber terrorism. For more information go to www.kidcheck.com.
6.The K! Report. Annual survey dedicated to providing the children's and family ministry community with current trends and insights. It is developed through a partnership with KidzMatter and Indiana Wesleyan University. kidzmatter.com/kreport.
I recently received my copies of the Action Bible; the Action Bible New Testament; and the Action Bible Handbook. While the Action Bible itself is not a new product to me (my son has one), I had not had a chance to look at the other two.
If you are entirely unfamiliar with the Action Bible series, some basics on it are: It is an illustrated novel form of some of the major stories of the Bible. The books are illustrated by christian artist Sergio Cariello, who started as a very young artist and eventually worked for Marvel and DC Comics. As I sit here and flip through the book and sip coffee from my wonder woman mug, that's quite exciting for me!
While some kids bring this to church with them, parents need to recognize they won't be able to follow along. The Action Bible is in chronological order and is outlined in story title format. There are no books, chapters and verses. With that said, I see it as a supplemental reading. A child who has read or heard most of these stories in the Bible would truly appreciate the kid friendly chronological layout. Often a concept they find hard to learn. The art and visuals are well done, I appreciate the fact that it is age appropriate yet not so softened it loses the message. For example, we all know Jesus suffered an was in physical pain during the crucifixion. While the illustrations are not gory, there is blood shown when the crucifixion is illustrated. This is almost always edited out for sensitivity, but the fact that the kids get a visual that this was not a "pretty" or "pleasant" experience is so important. The Action Bible itself covers over 200 stories from Genesis to Revelation.
There is also a New Testament only version. This is basically the same content, just in new testament range.
The last piece here is the Action Bible Handbook. While I love supplemental reading for kids that supports Biblical learning, it saddens me when it just ends there. However, this one doesn't. The handbook (at least for me) pushed this series into another level. Supplemental learning is great; but kids need to know how it relates to God's word and that the Bible itself is the truth that we refer back to. The handbook does just that! Kids can look up names, places and things they see in either the Action Bible or their Bible and it gives a brief description as well as the page numbers in the Action Bible AND book chapter and verse to refer to God's word! As a kid's ministry leader, this book is my favorite part of this series.
How often do you train your volunteers? This has become quite the buzz question for children's ministry. As we know, basic laws and guidelines are always changing, but so are the kids we are ministering to. So with all this in mind, do we truly equip our leaders to be effective in what they do?
I have heard of online trainings, paper handouts, and actual meeting formats. The question I am most often asked is "how often?". As with any program or ministry, I think it depends on your format. For example, we operate in seasons; our children's ministry runs traditional Sunday school and kids church from September to June. We then switch gears to summer Sunday blast for the summer, which makes up a separate team of volunteers. So our trainings are geared for the season that they will serve in.
While I appreciate this model, and love the fact that my team does effective training for what is to come, the danger here is losing the basics. We have discovered that as the seasons change, we update the ever changing elements but have at times failed to bring the basic elements along for the ride. This is an easy mistake to make, especially if you have returning volunteers that you feel know this information already. Repetition is your friend in this case. You may be wondering, what are the basic elements?
Basic elements: (elements that need to be known regardless of when they serve)
discipline in the classroom
pick up / drop off policies
special needs training
Seasonal elements: (elements that can vary depending on when they serve)
curriculum shift / how to prepare etc.
sets / skits / music
While we have teachers that have been in our children's ministry for 30 years, we also have those who are just starting. It is no surprise that they are equally curious about changes, if you poll your faithful volunteers who have been there for several years you will most likely find that they enjoy the training and the updates. Teams like to know what they are expected of, and when you as a leader put forth effort to train them and keep them current they feel invested in.
So with that in mind, how does someone with a ministry model like mine do that with having weekly meetings? We have decided to go with a combination. As with many employers, there are monthly safety meetings. Our seasonal items will continue in a rally/meeting training atmosphere where we will cover the basics as well. And to keep those basic elements up to speed and at the surface, there is a monthly handout that accompanies a "thank you" for serving.
And don't forget background checks! Not mentioned above as that is before any other training.
Kids do not need rockstars; they need people who are passionate about worship.
We need to teach children what worship is!
- it's more than just singing
- you can worship God by praying, reading scripture, etc
Prepare for worship
-engage kids immediately as they enter
-have music in when kids come in
-make sure the leaders are high energy
-brightly lit environment
A good start
-energetic welcome - expect a response
-give clear directions
-get kids involved
-don't have dead air
-make expectations clear (especially at for slower songs)
A good set
-start your set with a lot of energy / begin with high energy songs
-have your set planned out. How songs lead into each other
-ask questions and encourage responses
-as you move from fun to serious, let them know.
-plan your set with scripture, announcements and prayer in mind
Keep it simple
-more is not always better
-think quality not quantity
Use the right songs
-don't dumb down your music
-pick songs that are theologically sound
-actions are great - use when appropriate
-actions aren't always great! Use your judgement
-kids don't care if its live or not
-video is a great resource
-is take no instruments over bad instruments
-ask musicians from "big church" to serve where they're needed more.
What about the 5th grade boys?
-be their friends
-mix them up with younger kids
-don't give them too much grief. Involve them in other ways.
-focus on the kids who are into it and eventually they'll come around
-if they don't like to sing that's ok. Just make sure they hear the gospel over and over and over.