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
Monday, August 11, 2014

5 ministry tools - From the Archive

Recently I had coffee with a children's leader who I have been mentoring. She is relatively new to children's ministry and asked "What makes your life easier?". Of course I started with the advice of being in the word, daily prayer, (like a good mentor should) and making sure you are being fed as a leader. While it doesn't necessarily make ministry "easy" it does however make it joyful! She grinned and agreed, then proceeded with the question "no, really! What products make your children's ministry world spin?" Ah. Better stated there!

As we all know, the Biblical foundation is the center of what we do. But for this woman, she had no idea where to start with basic tools. I am finding that the more I speak to fellow city ministry leaders that we are a huge source of product review! So much to the point that our next coffee session will be just that. Once a quarter I invite the leaders of everything kidmin in our county to coffee. We discuss special events; ministry development, and so much more. Let's face it, a group of children's ministry leaders in one place all hyped up on coffee can be quite the event! So this time I have asked them to bring 5 and 5. Five they loved; and 5 not so much and tell us why.

So for my online friends who I consistently am asked for recommendations from, here are my top five children's ministry products. I lean on them to assist with what I do, and have picked them from a stewardship standpoint. A product that conserves my ministry time and money is huge to me. Of course there are more than 5, but let's keep it simple.

1.  CPC - Children's Pastor's Conference and CMConnect
Yes, I am listing it as a product! As a leader I need to be refueled and so does my team. I have       learned over the years that ministry vision can become tunnel vision if allowed. For me this conference causes me to think a little different. Every year I go with a vague list of things I have been praying about. Last year, it was family ministry. This year it will be special needs. I will attempt to soak up everything I can on this topic as well as some personal care and leadership time. When I leave this session every year, I am energized and feel like another corner of my brain has just been opened. Bottom line, there is a price tag, but plan ahead and get the early bird rate because it's worth it.
As for CMConnect, it's a free online forum of constant children's ministry knowledge! Try it!

2. Kid Check
If you follow me on twitter, you know I love it! I have been in ministry for 17 years and this is the first record keeping/security software I have found that I can honestly say does everything I want it to. I have actually made up grand scheme ideas of things I think it should do....and later found out it does. This product is paired with an amazing customer service team. The help desk is available on Sundays should you need them, and there are packages to fit any congregation size. The best part is the fact that they are not stuck in a time zone, this company keeps up with technology and is consistently adding features to make it effective.

3. Parent Link Newsletter
Tools! I love them! I absolutely love giving my parents tools for at home use. I however do not like tools that are so formatted I have to make compromises by using them. This is a yearly subscription newsletter for parents. It's basic information, usually with a seasonal theme that can be fully personalized to your church. If you don't like a portion, delete it and fill with what you like. I make this available on our church site as well as have a few printed copies for parents. It comes in a download in word or publisher and it extremely user friendly.

4. Kidology
Tools, did I mention I love them? The last one was for parents, this one is for my leaders. In a ministry where we have over a hundred volunteers and several key staff, it's so important to make sure they have the tools that they need. Our teachers are provided with curriculum, crafts, copies and music, but what happens when they need that extra something? This is a simple subscription we carry and is a hub of tools for leaders. They can login and get anything from holiday ideas to object lessons and they love it.

5. Protect My Ministry
Background checks. If you aren't doing them, you are putting your ministry in harm's way. We used a service for years that was paper driven. As you know, entering backgrounds one by one is very time consuming and that information can't be given to just anyone to input. Making the change to protect my ministry financially is about the same for the cost of each check, but for a small yearly fee depending on what you select; volunteers can be sent a link to input their own information and you receive the results.  They have yearly reminders and keep up with today's technology. This is new for me; but has already saved me hours of time!

Like I said, these are five of my favorites. There are some great things out there that are created for children's ministry by people who have served and know the demands. Have a recommendation? Leave me a comment! I love hearing about new stuff!
Thursday, August 7, 2014

Beautiful Scars - Revisited

This week I have been preparing a training talk for a group of leaders.  I always begin speaking to adults with the same intro, "My name is Heidi Hensley and I am a children's ministry leader, there are three things you should know before we begin. 1. I will over explain words and details (kids love details) 2. I may ask you to race to our passages of scripture 3. If you participate well, I may throw candy." Of course this always is quite entertaining to say, but they roar in laughter when I actually do toss the first snickers bar. I love what I do, I (we) are called to shape and mold future generations, presidents, teachers, pastors and parents......spiritually. Our "job" in children's ministry is to bring Jesus into a child's world. I take what I do very seriously and am daily humbled that Jesus sees me as an individual capable of introducing children to Him.

I had originally planned on talking about how we as leaders have these canvases to work with. Often children are hearing the gospel for the first time, and so many see kids as a blank canvas who just needs Jesus' colors. I once had a Sr. pastor friend tell me "you're job is easier, the world hasn't gotten them yet", which in some ways affirmed the fresh canvas theory. Don't you love those moments that you have an absolute outline in your head of what you will be saying, and it translates completely different?

As I started working, I picked up a file to put it back in my drawer, out of it slid a report that I had to make to child protective services. I put it away and slowly realized that while my heart was heavy for that child, it wasn't shocked. This is sadly, something that we see more and more. As I went back to work, I just couldn't describe kids as a pretty canvas the world hasn't "gotten to" yet.  The kids we work with, they have scars, and if I am classifying them as unhurt, how will they ever know what to do with those scars.

Did you know, child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education? About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse. The adults that my pastor friend was speaking of was missing one detail. The wounded adults that he was ministering too, well many of their wounds had happened as children.

Everything from divorce, molestation, lack of parent participation in life, physical abuse, bullying, learning disorders to speech impediments, they all leave marks on our canvas. Don't get me wrong, there are also beautiful marks of love on those canvases too! So what do we teach them? Typically we as Christians teach that Jesus paints that canvas white. He takes our sins and throws them as far as the east is from the west... I believe this, we are forgiven! So what about the remains of the sin, the scars? This is typically where the child begins to grow and gets frustrated as they approach adulthood that the residual effects or consequences of sin haven't just disappeared.

Jesus could have chosen to raise from the dead that third day and have returned un-scarred, but He didn't! His scars were visible, they were remains of hate and sin, and yet we see them as some of the most beautiful marks. Children need to know that their sins are forgiven, but they also need to be taught that the lasting effects on their life can be used to glorify God.

So with that idea, my canvas when I start my talk will be dirty and marked up with what the world has tossed at our kids instead of white. And I will hopefully be able to do a visual of Jesus letting those shine through to glorify Him as He forgives.

As a leader I challenge you to look away from those descriptions of the perfect child, from the perfect home, with the great grades, it's a different world. Take a look at your ministry kids this Sunday, maybe they need to hear that God is capable of using their scars for His purpose.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bible Memorization

As I prepare for D62014 and look back on the thoughts from years prior, I found this. I believe with all my heart that we cannot ever embed enough scripture into a child. Sadly, I have heard people say that it isn't as important as I feel it is. Some have the opinion that we should only introduce what they can fully process in scripture.  While the goal is to teach them the meaning, value, and understanding of all the passages they learn, I realize some kids will learn a verse for points or a candy (I know I learned stuff for candy, and probably still would). II personally believe that the verse is hidden in a child's heart and can be accessed and recalled by the holy spirit later in life or whenever needed.

What is your take on this subject, how do you implement memorization in your kids ministry? And what is the coolest method you have ever used?

Happy Monday All!!

Let's process this together!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Train up a parent?

Family Ministry

According to Nielsen Media Research's latest report, the average American household watches 8 hours and 15 minutes of television in a 24-hour period. The average amount of time per individual (over the age of 2) is about 4 and a half hours. Something tells me this isn't the bonding type of T.V., if there is a bonding type. As a mom of two, ages 10 and 16 I fully understand that our children are having life piped into them by various objects. Even as I sit here, I am on my laptop, husband next to me is on his phone, 16 year old on his phone and the Olympic games are on T.V.. Our youngest however is outside playing with friends, kudos Jonah! The three of us are in the same space, but there is no togetherness happening. While this is not always the norm for our house, it is for many. 

Let's face it, we live in a world of constant interaction via technology. For companies needing to market a product, this is a beautiful thing, for parents wanting to mold their children into pillars of faith, not so much. I can actually get a faster response for dinner requests via text than asking around! And with an iPhone I can do it in one message, and yes I have! While being a tech savvy family is ok, it must require balance. Even in church we are broken up, kids are dropped off and parents worship elsewhere. I agree that age appropriate worship is essential, but we have got to teach our families to do it together as well. 

So why did I just take you on that side road? Well, families! This year we added Family Ministry to our church. After our senior pastor approved this addition to my current position, I sat down last November and made a list of things I desire and then asked God to fix my list as He always does. My vision or list was as follows:

1. Cost effective activities for families of all ages 
2.Training for parents - parenting classes
3. One getaway for families - a weekend of family tech free interaction 
4. To see parents and kids praying together and for one another
5. Hands on local mission projects for families to do together
6. Tools for families via our website

I kept this list on the corner of my desk for a while and prayed about it, and am happy to say there wasn't much change. Once we had the first gathering, it was like wildfire! Families are craving something different, and many have no idea where to begin. I started by putting dinner time devotions on our website that were a simple three to five minutes over the dinner table. Which of course causes them to eat together! Pray together! And interact! Score! 

I have come to the conclusion that family ministry is a must, not a program, not a curriculum, and not a token annual date. The current generation of up and coming parents have one of the largest percentages to have never been to church. They need answers, tools, direction, and the Biblical principals to do this. More importantly they are seeking all these things, and are willing to listen. 

So as you plan, plan for families. If you're having a church picnic, find an activity for parents to do with their children. Find ways to have parents and kids serve in ministry together, in the end you will really have trained up two generations at once. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

Salvation: leading kids to Christ

Salvation: Leading kids to Christ

Teaching kids about Jesus is something that I love, getting to introduce Him to their world and see them form their thoughts about God, church and faith is one of the things I love most about what I do. But as a Children's ministry leader, I also recognize that this is in fact what I do. Our team is comfortable having conversations about salvation and baptism on a kid level and answering all their questions. But what about the parent or grandparent who fully understands salvation and baptism for themselves, but has a hard time getting it to the level of a kindergartner? Or what about the parents who might still be learning this information for themselves? 

This month we will look at salvation discussions that can happen in the home. While we know they hear it at church, we want to know our families are also prepared to talk to and even pray with their kids.  Praying a prayer of salvation with our ministry kids is amazing, but the ability to share that moment as a parent is a memory that is a treasure. 

Most kids with a church background know that:
1. God created everything
2. Jesus is God's son
3. Jesus died on the cross for our sins
4. That we cannot experience heaven or grace without Jesus

It is in the next area that kids have the basic understanding, but need to know that we must ask to be forgiven, and make a decision to commit our lives to following God. The place I often see a lack of understanding of kids, is the knowledge that there must be a time they have decided to follow Jesus. Many kids think that they were born this way, since they have Christian parents and are growing up in the church. I love to ask kids when they were saved, and hear about that experience. When they start with "I have always been a Christian" I know we need to talk. One of the key moments of salvation is repentance, we must acknowledge that we are sinners, and no matter how many times we go to church our how great our behavior, we must admit this before God and ask for salvation. I love to teach this with a gift, I have a kid hold it out to give it to me. And I tell them that it's mine (while refusing to take it) but insisting it belongs to me. This helps them see that salvation is freely given to those who believe, but we must choose to accept it. The beauty in this is the ability to teach that there will be times we mess up and need to ask forgiveness, for a child who didn't do that in the first place, this doesn't make sense. 

Another area of confusion for kids is when they are simply given a prayer to repeat and then left to go about their life, it communicates that this was an action, not a lifelong commitment. So how do we teach kids that salvation is more than a repeated prayer? They need to hear it, and see it.  Below I have included some ways to get the conversations going in your home. Maybe you will find that your kids are more spiritually mature and understood than even you know! Maybe you will find there are some things they need more help understanding. And maybe you might be able to pray with your child as they come to a full understanding of God's grace through a discussion with you. (how exciting!)

Testimony Time: Your kids may know you to be a Christian, but have they heard your testimony? Spend a week sharing these! Maybe around a dinner table, allow one person a night to tell their story. How they came to know Jesus, where were you when you prayed? Who was with you? What God has done for you since that time? And don't forget to share the relationship you have with Him now. Kids love to know these things about their parents!

Verses to know: As we know, salvation doesn't stop. Once we have given our life to Jesus, we are to share that with others. It's important that kids know that too. One way to help kids (and adults) prepare to share their faith is to equip them with the too
ls to do so. Here are some very important verses that you can learn as a family this month to strengthen those sharing muscles. (Matthew 8:8-12; Matthew 19:25-26;  Romans 3:8; and Romans 10:9-10)

If you find your self in a position to lead a child to Christ, don't over complicate it. Salvation is intended to be simple, as simple as A,B,C's. A brief discussion of making sure they understand that they Admit that they are a sinner, and this separates them from God. Believe that Jesus paid God's price for their sin by dying on the cross. Confess and repent of their sin and come to Jesus by faith. And Decide to live for Him. Some kids just don't know how to start, when you bow to pray, ask them if they want your help with the words or if they are ok praying on their own. Most kids will formulate the sweetest prayers on their own once they have a full understanding of what they need to do. And if they need help, that is ok too. 

I would love to hear of some great family discussions this month!