Monday, July 27, 2009

Themed Parties For Your Children's Ministry Program

I love new recipes. New recipes promise adventure, change from the routine, and excited anticipation of pleasures to come.

Here’s a children’s ministry recipe for you. Prepare one large room with plenty of space and tables. Gather the following ingredients: one ten-pound bag of potatoes, the children in your children’s ministry program, leftover art supplies, and tasty snacks or main dishes that include – potatoes. Stir them together with several cups of creativity and what do you get? One active, low budget, resourceful children’s ministry event that will have your entire church talking. It’s a Potato Party!

Our congregation sponsored a potato party for our children’s group recently. The price of admission was one potato. Different church members donated food such as Potato Chip cookies and tater tot casserole. The kids used chenille wire and googly eyes to make their own personal Mr. Potato Head and played games such as Hide and Seek with a potato. The final event of the evening was to watch a Veggie Tales movie. We didn’t get to the movie because they were having so much fun hiding and locating their potatoes!

What? No Bible lesson or devotion? Well . . . no. But, while the children worked on the craft, volunteers casually reviewed memory verses learned in Children’s church. The kids got lots of praise and personal attention. They enjoyed strengthening their friendships with kids they don’t see otherwise. And they learned that church can be a fun, creative place where they are loved.

Parties can be an important part of your church curriculum. Parties are a safe place to bring friends. They give kids a chance to build friendships in the church, something that is very important to elementary age children. Events, like a potato party, are easier on the church budget than skating parties or laser tag outings

Now it’s your turn. Create your own party. Pick a topic such as bananas, the color green, a F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely On God) theme, or choose a country like Mexico. Select foods, games, and crafts that fit your theme. Check the Internet for ideas. My favorite site is Family Fun, a great family resource for food, games and crafts. Ask the children to bring something that will pique their curiosity. Viola! You have yourself an inexpensive, fun, easy-to-plan children’s event.

It’s as easy as pie.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Teaching Children Not To Steal

Recently, my husband and I noticed a nostalgic magnetic sign on our daughter’s car bumper was missing. When we asked where it was, she told us someone had stolen it from the college parking lot. A few days later, our younger daughter left her USB drive in the slot of a computer at her college library; when she returned just a few minutes later, it was already gone.

We acted shocked but the girls seemed nonplussed. “It happens all the time,” one girl told us. “Someone sees something left, they just take it.” While I call it stealing, I realized this taking of things is part of a mentality that permeates our society. It’s the idea that I ought to have whatever I see. Perhaps the takers don’t stop to think that the item they are taking belongs to someone else.

Our society is perpetuating this attitude. Recently the federal government has instigated a “cash for clunkers” program. If you trade in a car for one that gets better gas mileage, the federal government will reimburse you up to $4500. What a deal! How ‘bout that? I could get money for my car! Yet do we stop to ask where that $4500 per vehicle is coming from? I asked that question on Facebook and one answer sent shivers down my spine. “From the two percent of the rich in America to whom the former President gave tax cuts.” Does that insinuate that it is my right to have what someone else has, especially if they are rich, that I ought to have the money they have worked for without working for it myself?

The Internet has made the possession of what I want easy as well. Downloads are as quick as a click of my mouse. Which of us even stop to think of the work that article or that song entailed, that any worker is due a fair wage? It’s not free. It may be free to us but it cost someone something and they deserve to reap the harvest of their labor.

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to taking advantage of the free stuff. I’m the queen of restaurant coupons and fuel perks. Prices are too high anyway and God wants me to be a good manager of my money, right? But my enjoyment of a half priced lunch is still costing someone something. Restaurant owners need to earn enough to live on, too.

We start teaching this attitude to children at an early age. One afternoon, I stopped to allow two children to pet my dog. One boy was hogging the dog and I said, “Let’s take turns.” He replied. “It’s my turn right now.” I’ve seen tired mothers at Walmart checkout lines placate the tantrums of their children, buying the candy or toy the child demands. Standing their ground and saying ‘no” would teach a life long valuable lessonyou don’t get everything you want.

Where do we start in teaching children they don’t have to have everything they see? Teaching children, “Thou shalt not steal” is a good starting point. Next, we need to teach the definition of stealing, taking what doesn’t belong to me. But we also need to teach children the why behind the command. We need to teach them God’s view of possessions:

1. Possessions are merely a tool, not an end to themselves. Relationships are far more important than what we own.

2. Even if it’s my right, I don’t have to have it. “Finders, keepers; losers, weepers” does not match the mercy of God. If I find an abandoned USB drive, it still belongs to someone. Have a heart. Try to return it. On another front, just because someone provides something free does not mean I have to have it. I don’t have to clog my own computer with Internet downloads. I don’t have to spend other taxpayers’ dollars just because it’s a free government program. “Just Say No” works for ownership of possessions as well as for drugs.

3. My personhood is not defined by what I own. Of course not, you say. Yet every time we brag or “share” with others about a purchase or gift, isn’t that we are communicating?

4. I should work for what I get; and if I didn’t work for it, I need to value what it cost the giver. Everything we have cost someone something. Even our salvation was not free. It came at a high price, the price of a life, a very special life.

5. Everything belongs to God. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world and all who live in it.” None of it belongs to me in the first place, so it’s not mine to take.

How do I start to break the me mentality about possessions? How can I teach my children to be less self focused about ownership? It starts with an attitude of thanks. I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Teaching our children to be thankful for everything they receivewhether it’s a piece of candy from Walmart, or craft supplies during a Sunday School lesson will go a long way in shaping a more balanced attitude toward what they acquire.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Rick Chromey on Building a Positive and Powerful Children's Ministry

This week, I’m pleased to have Dr. Rick Chromey serve as a guest columnist for Inside The Classroom. Dr. Chromey is a leadership imagineer and cultural explorer. He’s also the preteen columnist for Children’s Ministry magazine and author of Energizing Children’s Ministry in the Smaller Church (Standard, 2008). Rick is available to speak for your conference, convention or leadership summit on emergent culture, smaller church, leadership, creative teaching, parenting, positive learning and motivation. Be sure to check out his website at

By Dr. Rick Chromey

Are you looking for the secret to unlock learning, positive behavior and motivation in kids? It’s easier than you think. The answer is always rooted in feeding the inner needs of children. When a child’s soul is hungry, their spirit GROWLS: “Feed Me!” How (and what) you feed will define the results!

Every child desires unconditional love and children’s ministries draw kids through a “conspiracy of grace” and pardon. Grace forgives, fortifies and foretells the future. Kids make mistakes and messes, so mop up and move on. Grace encourages and edifies children. Childhood is a minefield of bombs wired to dismember and disable body, soul and mind. Sometimes our words of affirmation are the only things that defuse potential destruction. Grace helps children look forward. Build dreams in their hearts. Carve visions for their souls. Hammer opportunities to discover gifts.

Everyone seeks to connect and commune. The key to relationships is personal attention and affection to promote acceptance and affirmation. Deep personal relationships draw children into a group and the inner conviction for friends to find faith motivates evangelism. As outsiders discover rich relationships, they also connect to a community.

Purpose is a primary need of children. Every child hungers for the power to change, control and contribute. A key? Avoid treating kids as second-class citizens. Give them opportunity to contribute or even change their circumstance. Ownership empowers children to lead and serve. Every child needs to find a place. I believe the reason teens quit coming to church is because, as children, they never sensed ownership. When was the last time a child helped plan? Or lead a service project? Or worship? The message: every child has a job. Turn them loose.

If power emerges in ownership, then purpose rises from a thirst for worthiness. Children desperately seek purpose. In a nutshell, children seek productive contribution. They need to feel good about doing something. Singing. Playing baseball. Math. Whatever. A children’s ministry must continually satisfy this craving. Most children act up and out for recognition. The gross jokes? Showing off? Seeking your attention and attendance? Disruptions? These are growls to be fed. Ignore them and they will worsen. Humiliate them and you’ll lose respect. Continually affirm your kids’ contributions. Eventually, these form purpose and identity.

It’s funny. Everybody wants to have fun and every soul struggles to smile. To laugh is to love. A child understands this need better than anyone. Show me a children’s ministry where the kids laugh and I’ll show you a bunch of kids geared to change the world. Ministry requires a smirk and smile. Most memories are marked by mirth. You’ll be the butt of some jokes. Enjoy it (and smile). Some children will spout funny stuff. Pause for the laughter. Occasionally a mistake will humor the kids. Chuckle and move on. If you’re going to do serious children’s ministry, start with a smile. Otherwise the joke’s on you.

The last need lays a foundation for the others. Below the surface, there’s a need for protection and provision. The children’s world is wrought with hazards of the heart. For many children, finding an emotionally safe harbor is a sinking feeling. Most kids are punctured by disillusionment, pricked by discouragement and popped by disappointment. Some are even physically beaten and emotionally abused, by bullies and by parents. Emotional protection is a priority. The church should be the last place to be persecuted. Unfortunately, for many kids, their congregation harbors more hurt than help. These misfit children learn to walk with emotional limps. “I’m no good.” “I’m ugly.” “No one likes me.” Safety issues also concern physical provisions. Heating or cooling. Lighting. Nutritious snacks. Are there places where children can be physically hurt?

Some will argue there’s a lot of work (and even expense) to this type of motivation. No doubt. But you get what you grow. If you really want children to grow into a faith that is committed to discipleship and dialogue, respect and revival, then nourish the need. Live grace. Foster relationships. Encourage ownership. Affirm worth. Celebrate laughter. And supply safety. What you win them with is what you’ll keep them with. Guaranteed.