SojournKids

Children's Ministry

Why Serve Every Week? (Part 1, Relationships)

Ashley StevensonComment

We recently celebrated five years at our Sojourn J-Town Campus in September. As we’ve reflected on and celebrated God’s work in and through his church over the last five years, we’ve also been dreaming for the next five. At Sojourn, we believe that our greatest program is our people. When I look ahead in SojournKids, I can’t help but grow more excited to continue to see vision become reality as I think about our children, families, and those that serve children and families.

As we look at meaningful service in SojournKids over the coming weeks, I want to help answer a key question that we are keeping in front of our teams in this season.

Why serve every week?

1. Reason 1: Build Relationships

At SojournKids we want to show Jesus to kids and families. One of the ways we show Jesus to children is by welcoming them in and loving on them week after week.

“… the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

We are a lot like the disciples. We can far too easily embrace the thinking that serving in children's ministry is an insignificant task. 

  • It’s just 70 minutes of childcare.
  • I’m not able to relate to kids.
  • Caring for, and teaching children is less significant than serving elsewhere in the church.
  • The kids didn’t listen to me last week.
  • Serving in kid’s ministry is only for single people or those without kids.
  • Serving in kid’s ministry is only for the “professionals” (parents and teachers).

Despite the disciples’ actions in hindering the children, Jesus dismisses their rebuke and welcomes the children to come to him. Jesus loved and cared for the next generation, and even pointed to children as our example of how to receive the kingdom of God humbly. By welcoming children and ministering the gospel to them every week, we are showing them Jesus.

SojournKids is packed with relational opportunities even in our youngest classrooms.  While it is widely understood that children need consistency, I think we can easily miss what this really means in the context of children's ministry. Consistency isn't achieved just through bullet-proof lesson plans and policies. Consistency comes through relationship. However, relationships demand trust, and trust takes time. On average, a regularly attending, well-connected family attends church two to three times per month. If you serve every other week, you likely will only see their child around 12 times per year. If you serve once per month, you will see that child even less often. This number decreases significantly with families who don’t attend regularly, or who are new attenders. These numbers simply point that to the fact that our time with children is limited more than we realize.

It is also more valuable than we know. One of my favorite spoken testimonies I received from a volunteer who recently increased her commitment to serve weekly is this,

“These kids know me, and I know them.”

We want our children to be known by our volunteers, and we want our volunteers to be known by our children. Relationships form and meaningful,  joyful service becomes reality when we move from merely functioning as temporary crowd controllers, and move toward knowing the children in our care and assuming an active, partnering role in their spiritual formation and belonging in our church community.    

Will you join us by making a 6-month commitment to attend one-serve one weekly in SojournKids? Sign up here!  

FAQs: How Do You Plan a Child Dedication Service?

UncategorizedJared Kennedy2 Comments
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First Steps
First Steps

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is, "How do you plan a child dedication?"  The most recent to ask it was Pastor Daniel Davis at Covenant Community Church in Pearland, TX.  Well, our plans aren't perfect, but we're happy to share the strategy and documents that have been helpful to us. Here is our planning checklist with some helpful items for those planning a dedication service for the first time--or just revamping your planning.

12 weeks prior:

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  • Design web banners and posters.  Here are some of the designs that we've used in the past:   
  • Secure event organizer/service coordinators
  • Secure pastor for the services—(typically the campus pastor)
  • Secure teachers for the dedicationclass. At Sojourn, we make this a pre-requisite for baby dedication
  • Reserve classroom/time and do event setup request for the First Steps class

8 weeks prior:

  • Create an online registration form and begin requesting necessary information from parents.  At Sojourn, we have an account with http://wufoo.com.  Wufoo allows for file uploads (necessary for baby dedication pictures), and it allows forms to be embedded in blog posts and on web pages.  Here is the information we collect on the form:

The service time and campus which the parents plan to attend with their children on dedication day.

The dedicationclass time which parents plan to attend.

A 100-word paragraph about the child written as if it were to be read.  It includes the following information: baby’s name, why the name was chosen, birth date, parents’ and siblings’ names, lessons learned since having this child, and a Bible verse with significance for the family.

A digital picture of the child.

Full baby name and gender in the following format: Jared and Megan Kennedy present their daughter Elisabeth Mercy Kennedy

  • Contact parents who missed last baby dedication deadline to encourage them to participate.
  • Begin communication through posters, flyers, blog posts, campus e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook announcements.
  • Order gifts for the First Steps class / dedication service.  At the First Steps class, we give away parenting books, diaper bag tags, and invitations to parents so that they can invite friends and family.  At the dedication, we give away gift bibles.  For more info and a pic, click here.

4 weeks prior:

  • Review class notes with volunteer teachers and pastors.

3 weeks prior:

  • Send class notes for printing.

2 weeks prior:

  • This is the published deadline for parents to register for the dedication.
  • Submit liturgy / service outline to worship team for any last-minute for any updating.
  • Dedication class begins.  The notes are printed and the volunteer teachers (we call them Parenting Champions), door prizes, and refreshments are ready.We set up the Dedication party with a plastic tablecloth, a baby shower centerpiece, and some confetti that we can keep and use each time.   In summary, the food includes fruit, muffins, snack foods (nuts, crackers and cheese ball), cupcakes, and a fancy punch for the toast.  At the class, we take roll to ensure that everyone who is in attendance has registered.  During the class, we inform parents where to meet pastors and service coordinators prior to the service.

1-week prior

  • We submit the information for the gift booklet to graphic designers.
  • Send an e-mail reminder to parents to meet with service coordinators / pastors in the green room 45 minutes prior to the service.
  • Send presentation script to parents for their review to ensure names are spelled correctly and gender is correct.
  • Wrap gifts for Sunday service.
  • Print gift booklets for families.
  • Prepare power point presentation with baby names and pictures.
  • **Wednesday Dress Rehearsal with all Staff involved.

Dedication Sunday:

 

  • Service coordinators sit at the front to reserve rows and position families (centered so that grandparents can get great pictures) during the service.

Children's Ministry Environments: Children's Hospital, Kids Museum, or Disney?

UncategorizedJared Kennedy4 Comments

There is a lot of talk in the children's ministry world about creating attractional environments for kids. This is for good reason. At the very least, "Let the children come..." means removing every hindrance that stands in the way of connecting kids to Jesus. Attractional environments--fun and safe kids’ facilities, excellent hospitality, and exciting kids events--are children's ministry's front door. But attractional environments for kids come in all shapes and sizes. Which one is most like children's ministry? Here are three options:

1. The Children's Hospital. A few weeks back, I had to take Lucy to Kosair Hospital for some tests. I have a love/hate relationship with the place. I hate having to be there, because it means usually means that my child or someone else's is sick or hurt. On the other hand, I'm always intrigued by the children's hospital, because it is one of the most kid-friendly environments in our city. Waiting in the lobby for an hour before a test is more pleasant at the children's hospital, because there is an interactive video projection game in the lobby. Draining a staph infection goes more smoothly there, because you can play games on an iPad and Rapunzel is showing on the ER television. The entire place is designed to build a child's trust so that healers can provide care. Do you see the connection to kidmin? Our environments are like the children's hospital. Attractional environments build a relationship of trust so that kids can be led to the Healer.

2. The Kids Museum. I was talking about how to create attractional environments with a seminary class recently. One of the students objected, "That sounds like Nickelodeon." Without thinking, I answered, "No, it's more like PBS Kids." Sure. There is an entertainment factor, but there is an goal in mind that is larger than selling a product or a character. Like the interactive exhibits at the kids museum or the skits on Sesame Street, we have an educational goal in mind. My friend, Dave Ainsworth, put it this way: Attractional environments lead kids to hands-on, real-life, engaging discovery. Thinking through this has helped me to see why it's important to do more than theme your environments in a kid-friendly way. You must also use the kid-friendliness to teach. We need environments that lead kids to engage with the Truth of the Bible. I wrote a bit about how we do this at SojournKids in the December/January edition of K! Magazine in an article entitled, "God Has the Best Imagination" (pages 48-51).

3. Disney. We visited Disney World for the first time as a family this past year, and we loved it! There are so many things to love about Disney's attractions and amazing hospitality, but we fell in love with Disney for the way they took care of our Lucy. Lucy has special needs and a very unique diet. Disney asked about special needs before we arrived, and, when they discovered Lucy's diet, they took care of her.  Whenever we ate at a park restaurant, the chef met us at the front and showed us menu items that would work best. Their excellent hospitality allowed us rest and simply enjoy the Disney experience. After all, that's part of their mission, right? They want you to lay down your worries and get lost in the Disney story--where dreams always come true. Tim Keller has written about how excellence and higher quality production communicates something about God's transcendence. In other words, the excellence of an attractional environment can help lift eyes above temporary things to the bigger story God is telling. In another context, Paul Miller said it this way, "Disney is right. Because of the intrusion of a good God into an evil world, there are happy endings. Some of God's last words in the Bible are, "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5 KJV).

  • Do you think it is important to have an attractional environment for children's ministry?
  • Do you agree with these three analogies?
  • What other analogies would you suggest?

Photos courtesy Jared Kennedy (at Louisville's Kosair Children's Hospital), Art Sparks at Louisville's Speed Art Museum, and Amy Embry (at Walt Disney World)

Making God Famous for Kids! - Pt. 2

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

In my previous post, I wrote about the central role God’s fame must play in the formation of our children.  In this post I want to show you how we seek to apply this truth both in our children’s ministry and in our homes.

In our children’s ministry:

Lesson Summaries: We train our teachers to summarize each Bible lesson in three or four sentences. We keep God at the center of these lessons by making him the main character in these story summaries (e.g., Goliath hated God’s people.  God chose David to fight Goliath.  David trusted God.  God saved His people by killing Goliath.). Our preschool teachers are encouraged to review these sentences at every point in their class schedule—welcome, story, snack, craft, etc.

Singing to God: We sing to God every week, and we choose music that praises God for his attributes—his goodness and greatness. Kids need to praise the mighty Creator for all of His dazzling greatness!

Excellence in Everything: We strive for excellence in everything we do — to the glory of God.  We want our teaching, singing, and administration to be done with excellence because it is a reflection of God’s excellence.This means listening to one another and providing regular, godly critique. We communicate a lot not just in what we teach, but in how we teach, lead and organize.

In our homes:

God Moments: Teaching moments happen all the time. They can happen while driving down the road, walking through the zoo, or sitting around the kitchen table. As parents, it is a part of our nature to capitalize on opportunities to tell our children what they should do or how they should grow in character. But we often overlook opportunities to teach kids about God’s fame. “God Moments” are those opportunities in the course of everyday life that we can redeem by turning our kids’ attention toward the beauty of God and his work in our world and lives. These “God moments” aren’t something to be scheduled, but instead must be discovered while going through life with your children. Therefore, we must always be on the lookout for these moments and be willing to take time and redeem them when they arise.

Family Worship: Scripture is clear that parents should be their children’s primary source for biblical teaching (Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78). We encourage family worship (or family devotions) as a practical means for fulfilling this God-given role. By family worship, I don’t mean a rote one-hour worship service in your living room every night. I just mean setting designated weekly time for the family to gather to pray and study the Bible together. In our family, that means being intentional about having excellent children’s music in our minivan, reading a Bible story around the dinner table once each week, and praying blessings over our kids before they go to bed at night. I’m encouraging weekly family worship, because most families have a regular weekly routine based around their work and school schedules. So, designating a weekly time and putting it in your weekly calendar is the easiest way to make teaching your kids about God regular and consistent.

Making God Famous for Kids!

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

One of my responsibilities is to oversee our weekly children’s ministry volunteers as they serve during our Sunday classes. One week, I was observing a classroom that was learning about the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. After the lesson I sat down with the kids over a bag of goldfish and asked, “Who was your story about today?” One child answered immediately, “We learned about God!” I dismissed that as a ‘typical Sunday School answer,’ so I followed up, “Yes, but didn’t you also learn about Moses? What did Moses do?” The child answered back, “Moses didn’t do much. He just prayed and lifted up his stick! But God dried up the Sea so the people could cross. Then, he drowned all of the Egyptians! God was awesome!”

That kid got the point of that week’s lesson better than I did.

This forced me to ask myself a question: Where is God in the way that we typically teach our kids?

In children’s ministry, you’ll find that Bible lessons are typically designed to teach children what to do—“Be joyful!  Be courageous!”  But this is not the main point of the Bible story!  The Bible was written to show us God—both who He is and what He does.

Take, for example, the story of David and Goliath. The story is commonly taught in such a way that David’s courage and bravery stand as the center of our teaching. Children will remember all of the little details about David (he was too little for Saul’s armor, the five smooth stones and sling, David cutting off Goliath’s head, etc.), and they will remember to be brave!  But what will they remember about God?

We shouldn’t overlook or forget about David, but focusing on David shouldn’t keep us from spreading God’s fame to the next generation. Just listen to David:

The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine… David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty… This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head… and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give all of you into our hands.

1 Samuel 17:37, 45-47

What does David teach us?  God rescues his chosen servant from wild animals and enemies!  David’s weapons may be weak, but God is strong.  God saves.  The battle belongs to Him.  This story is not so much about David.  It is about God’s fame—who God is and what God has done!

Children weren’t created to know David (although I hope they do).  They were created to know God and love Him.  If we want to faithfully teach our children the Bible, we must begin with the main character—the God who made them, loves them, and rescues them.

HT: Sojourn Network