Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas and Kidmin Safety

Today Jason and I got to do a recorded podcast with KidCheck, too much fun. It's always a good time talking to our KidCheck friends, and hopefully you will check out that upcoming podcast.

This conversation got me thinking about the holiday season and kids ministry. At our church we see a lot of distant relatives, grandparents, and even close family friends who are in town to visit.

I love the reality of knowing that many of these people are hearing the gospel, especially knowing that maybe they don't have a regular church home. Ministry opportunities are so abundant this time of year, and people are more receptive.

With all of this in mind, I think it's important to remember that the sea of new faces can also create a bit of camouflage for those with less than pure intentions. Making sure that we are maintaining a safe atmosphere for our ministry families is a very important thing during this time of year.

Here are a few reminders as we enter into this season, they are beneficial as we have special events and nights where we see an influx of visitors. These tips will help to create an atmosphere both of safety and hospitality as we minister to new families.

1. Stand firm on Check-in / Check-out procedures.

  • Visitors will notice if you are asking only them for parents tags or verification during pickup. This can feel like a singled out situation, for reasons of safety and hospitality, make sure everyone has the same process. 
2.  Know your custody situations. 
  • A few years back during the holiday season, I had an estranged parent pick up a child he was not allowed to be in custody of. As a leader, my heart sank as I stood with the mother and police trying to find this child (she was located the next day, and was safely returned). This instance could have been prevented had I known the situation. Encourage parents to communicate this information, and make sure your teachers know who these children are. 
3. Parents in the room. 
  • In this season, aunt so and so may come with her two small children and be there for one Sunday. We often see parents want to let their child attend with a cousin, but want to stay. If this is something you allow, and we do, we ask parents to wear a green lanyard. To them it simply says "visitor", to us it says "I have not been background checked and can not be left without supervision". This creates a situation for kids to have parents alongside them when they are learning to attend on their own without compromising the safety of the classroom. 
4. Have an extra person for visitors
  • During this time of year, having a person dedicated to greeting your visitors will provide a great setting for a welcoming environment, as well as create a little bit of a "gatekeeper" mentality. I once visited a church where I wanted to see the kids rooms. I walked up and down the halls, looking in, and at one point even walked into the infant nursery and nosed around. I noticed people watching me, but nobody every said a word. Personally, I felt it was both unsafe and inhospitable. I would not have left my baby knowing anyone could enter the room. Make sure your staff addresses volunteers, if an adult comes to the room and isn't there to drop off or pick up, openly asking "can I help you?" is how we train our leaders to handle the situation. Unless you are a cleared teacher, or identified parent, you may not wander through our children area without a chaperone. 
The goal is to provide an atmosphere of such hospitality that it is impossible to be a stranger. You have been welcomed, greeted, checked in, and encouraged to attend worship. This friendly atmosphere provides safety in disguise, all the while ministering to families. Hopefully you find some great reminders, and I hope you have a very merry Christmas!

Friday, November 7, 2014

CPC East and West Giveaway!

This year INCM is giving away a free registration for each venue. This is a value of almost $500! All you have to do is nominate a Kids ministry leader of your choice. Below is the video from INCM with all the details as well as my video nomination!

Post it to social media, tag me! I want to see your uploads!! See you at CPC15!

My nominee

Instructions video

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cold and Flu and Kidmin

Oh happy day off! Today is Monday, and as I sit here enjoying a cup of hot tea, by a pumpkin spice candle, I am reminded that it's fall! Which means I get to bake, and everything tastes better! Sweaters and boots, and kids coming to church in puffy coats, looking like the stars of A Christmas Story! They're like little ministry marshmallows, so cute. I love this time of year!!

And then the harsh reminder that this also means cold and flu season, which seems to be just a bit scarier each year with whatever special illness decides to wreak havoc on our country and sense of safety as parents. Wouldn't it be awesome if those puffy coats gave off a mist of lysol whenever they were squished? I may be on to something here!

As a kids ministry leader, I realize just how many kids we come in contact with and just how often. Pair this with the understanding that the average child has between 6-8 colds a year, and you realize your immune system is probably working overtime. 

As I started to update some documents, I was working on our illness policy, and couldn't help but start to research ebola and other various illnesses. As I did, I learned that we were a bit outdated in our policy and have updated it, so I thought I might share. 

Why does any of this matter? It's just a runny nose, right? I believe this subject is important, it all comes back to how we minister to families. As parents come to church, especially those who visit, they want to know their children are safe and in great care. Most parents may not love the idea of being called back if Jr. is running a fever, but at the same time, most appreciate the effort to keep everyone healthy, especially with the best interest of kids at heart. 

As we come into the cold season, make sure your parents know that you have an illness policy (if you don't, well you should), the next step is to tell them why you have it, because you love their children and want to see them happy and healthy at church...and your workers too! And lastly, enforce it! Steps 1 and 2 make this possible. Yesterday I was working checkin when a child told me they had been throwing up at bed time, but felt better now. As I reminded mom of our policy, she understood and we didn't send her child to class. I got to call today and she is doing much better, and we will see her Sunday! This is a hands on example of being prepared makes for a good outcome, mom appreciated our concern and happily followed the procedure. 

Here are 10 ways to make sure you are ready for the coming months:
1. Have a policy in place
2. Make sure your rooms are being sanitized regularly
3. Learn to love Lysol. It kills everything! We spray in between sanitizing days
4. Tell parents when it's ok to return or stay home (green runny nose, fever or vomiting within 24 hours, and cover lice in this as well)
5. Post it! Policies are pointless if nobody knows them. 
6. Train it, make sure your staff knows and enforces the policy. It's for their health too!
7. Equip them! Make sure you have gloves, hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap in your rooms. We realize kids get sick when away from home too. If a child is looking a little feverish, we have forehead thermometers on hand to check. In most instances they want mom or dad at this point anyway. If a fever is present, we page parents. 
8. Encourage health, remind your staff that drinking water and a good diet strengthens their system
9. Provide options, while we do not allow children to come sick, we realize some parents are going to come anyway, they can sit in the televised areas with their child, but we do not allow sick kids in the classrooms. 
10. Have backup plans. I would love to say our teachers never get sick, but they do. And this policy counts for them as well, we love them and hope they are there, but if ill we want them to stay home and rest. This time of year, making sure we beef up the on call list helps teachers know they can be absent without leaving anyone in a bind if they are sick. 

I hope you find this useful! Have a happy healthy fall, and enjoy something pumpkin flavored!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Consisent and Balanced Parenting with Sissy Goff and David Thomas



"too much talk, too much emotion" 

Two consistent mistakes parents make in consistency and balance.

Being a Consistent Parent

Start with a yellow light

Give them a choice....and then accelerate the consequences
  • a signal that tells them you better get it under control.
Follow through

Let the consequences (and one liners) do the teaching

Move on and help them to, as well.

Being a Balanced Parent

Balancing support
  • Too much support limits growth
  • Support through questions
Balancing emotions
  • Emotionally charged moments = mistakes 
  •  Time outs aren't just for toddlers

Being a Patient Parent

Be aware of time (start 15 minutes earlier)

Be aware of your expectations of your child
  • Emotional expectations
  • Social expectations
Be aware of your expectations of yourself

Remember that we serve a God who redeems.  All things.  And all mistakes. Even yours. 
Thursday, September 25, 2014

What's your special need?

It's the end of September! THE END!! How did this happen? Every once and a while I stop by Starbucks, soak up their wifi and do a little writing. The crazy morning traffic around me is music to my ears, and quite frankly, it's people watching heaven.

This morning, I am sitting in said place, tucked into a corner with my "oh, so boring" black coffee. It is the first rain, and people here are fascinating. Where I live, central California, we are in a drought. Yesterday I was in a sundress and sandals and it was a sunny, almost 90 degree day. Today, pouring! Dark, gloomy and cold. I love it! We Californian's don't quite get it quickly, I have seen everything from wool trench coats to shorts and sandals. While it's funny, I am one of them with my open toe shoes. Ha!! In denial, I suppose.

So why am I sitting here writing? And why am I sharing all this (other than the obvious fascination)? This last week I taught a class on special needs at my annual training conference, and I loved it. I am in no way an expert, just a kids ministry leader who believes it's my job to create a successful environment for kids to learn about Jesus, every kid. And with that calling, comes research, work, and lessons learned.

At the beginning of my session I had someone tell me "I am seeing what this is all about, I think people need to go where they can be served with severe needs, otherwise the majority of kids just have discipline issues". Pardon? Let me say, I asked this individual if it was okay to use this very teachable moment...and don't judge to quickly, there's still a session in there ;)

This leader resembled some of the very old school teachers and volunteers I have worked with in the past. They aren't mean or uncompassionate, they simply don't understand, and as we have educated them, they wholeheartedly jump on board.  So this leader, while I will never be an expert in this ever changing area, is going to attempt to share her heart with you, and hopefully you find it useful in kids ministry.

First, did you know...
1 in every 68 kids in the US are on the autistic spectrum
1 in ever 691 babies born has down syndrome
1 in every 10 US kids have ADHD
1 in every 13 kids has a life threatening food allergy

I don't know about you, but those stats catch my eye! I remember when you MIGHT meet someone with down syndrome, or what is now identified as autism, but it was rare (not to give my age away) but we are watching these numbers climb on a regular basis now, and the church better keep up.  Why? Because we are missing these families! Parents who have kids with special needs will either stay home or alternate Sundays at best while keeping kids home. These kids never get to church....did you hear that? It should make your heart sink! For the church, it's not about the why, or the how. Let's leave that to the specialists! The scriptures tell us that we were handcrafted by our creator, all different, all unique, and with very different needs. I have a hard time believing that any of this was in error.

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

As I spoke, I could see that leaders face change, we were called to spread the gospel and minister to kids. All of them. I like to remind people, we all have special needs. Yes you! Sitting here as I type, I don't have milk in my coffee because I am allergic to dairy, I am against a wall because people behind me causes anxiety (not kidding). I asked the people in my session to raise their hand for various needs and as they did, I reminded them we all have them. Don't get me wrong, we will never be equipped to do it all in one place, again why our differences are beautiful, but if we all do what we can, we can cover some serious ground. Here are 5 things we have tried to improve how we respond to the children and families in our church with special needs. 

1. Know your population - for us, we had to learn what needs we had. We have a strong population of kids with ADHD, Autism and food allergies. 

2. Train your workers - they don't need to have a degree, but the simple awareness that this is a growing population and a few triggers and response guidelines takes out the fear of the unknown. 

3. Asses your space, and decide your response - in our ministry, this looks like a buddy system. We have volunteers who buddy with kids and attend class with them. These volunteers are there to be a friend, to guide and help them be successful in the classroom with their peers while allowing the teacher to focus. This allows a relationship to happen with the parents, and as they bond, the buddy learns how to respond to the needs of the children in the most successful way. (every child with special needs is different!)

4. Share the vision - your congregation, all of them, need to know. Whether you decide on a classroom or a buddy system, there are always those that have a calling for this area that you know nothing about. Teaching or kids ministry in general might not be their thing, but they once had a relative that missed out because of needs like these. These people are woven into your congregation, and they are gems! Share that vision with all ages! Our buddies range from 16 years old to 60 years old and are the sweetest to watch!

5. Set your boundaries, and go! - While I would love to say "bring all kids of all needs" I have to remember that safety counts. We decided to start with kids 0-8 years old, and have since gone up as kids have gotten older. Set some parameters that you are equipped to handle, and get started. Just remember to be open to growth and development, because as these families are ministered to, more will come. Moms and dads getting to simply go to church becomes the sweetest Sunday sight. 

Lastly, diagnoses. This is the question I am most asked about, "how do you point them out"? Well, I don't. We simply invite, we invite parents to tell us if their child might need a buddy, and I personally try to ask every new parent, its a general question for us. Remember, we all have some level of special needs. On our registration cards we ask about food allergies and safety issues, and whether a child has special needs. When the fear of difference is turned into a realization that we all have special needs, it helps. Again, it's not about diagnosing a child, it's about creating a safe, fun, nurturing atmosphere that we can teach them about Jesus in. 

As I brought the session to a wrap, that leader simply walked up to me with the warmest smile and said "loud and clear....I have work to do"! I cannot wait to hear about how he is led to work with the kids in his church that are currently staying home. 

What do you do for your ministry in this area?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Treasury of the Bible: Book review

Children ages 4-8 will be delighted by these rhyming Bible stories pairing spiritual truths with playful illustrations. 

Featuring lyrical stories full of lighthearted moments, this colorful collection of Magnificent Tales is perfect for reading out loud. As families read these stories night after night, they will make memories together while learning about the Bible.

I took this great story book to the toughest critics, a group of our preschoolers! They absolutely loved it and wanted me to read more. For most kids, they love to be read to and  the illustrations are a major focus, this proved to be true in this experience. The kids actually wanted to re-tell the stores in their own words using the illustrations as guides. For any adult who teaches kids, this is an exciting response! It's clear that they heard you and understood it at their level. 

I was impressed that this treasury went a little more in depth than most. Sometimes the lack of content almost changes the story to something beyond recognition, Pulley did a great job keeping the basics of the story content in place without bringing in parts that they will need to grow into. Clearly, kids who hear these stories will be able to build on them as they grow and learn, rather than hear a new rendition or translation. 

I have happily given this book to our preschool department for use as a supplemental teaching tool, and have it on my list of recommended preschooler gifts! With Christmas just around the corner, this would make a great gift for any preschooler, or family with a preschooler you buy for and changes it up a bit from just another toy!

To read more or get your copy click here

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Conference Give Away

D6 Louisville is a full TWO DAY experience. Think of it as a Family Ministry Expo. It is an integrated model of main stage sessions and over 40 breakouts spread throughout the event with add-on options like Coaching Intensives to help attendees go deeper.
Whether you are a Children's Ministry leader or Senior Pastor, you will enjoy D6! This will be my third year attending as part of their social media team, and this year I also get to do some breakout teaching! I have been blessed by the diverse teaching that speaks to every area of the church and would love to share the opportunity with a fellow ministry leader to attend the Louisville venue! Would you like to go? For free? This year I get to give away some passes right here on the blog! This is for 2 free passes (valued at $329 each) for the full 2 day experience! All you need to do is handle your transportation and hotel!
Here is how to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway