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Christine has over 20 years of children's ministry experience. She's the author of 10 books and hundreds of articles related to children's ministry. It's no wonder she enjoys an almost-daily latte to keep her going! She is also the executive editor of Children's Ministry Magazine and serves as Group's children's ministry champion, responsible for research, development, and innovation in children's ministry resources. 

Choosing a Curriculum

I had a question from a pastor this week about the process I would take a team through in choosing a curriculum. Specifically, he wanted questions to ask. Thought I'd share with everyone what I told him. What would you add or change?

 

1.  Why does this ministry exist? What’s our goal or mission? (Are there Scriptures that specifically speak to that goal that inspire us?) 

2.  The second thing I would dig into is what do we value? A great way to do this is to give everyone a chance to brainstorm all the values they have for the ministry: kids loving Jesus, faith transformation, teaching the Word of God accurately, fun, community, creativity, relevance, parents taking the lead….etc! (Let them come up with these and write them on the board or on a big sheet of paper.) The next part of this is to force people to narrow the values so your ministry knows what the top-3 or top-5 are. (Give them stickers or markers for each person to mark their top-3 or top-5.) Then step back and discuss whether they all agree that these are the things they value most. Write these down as your ministry’s core values.

 

3.   Here’s a biggie. What’s your ministry’s philosophy of learning? Of course, for us we’re proponents of REAL Learning (relational, experiential, applicable, learner-based). And every publisher has an underlying learning philosophy that will be present in every lesson. How do your leaders believe that kids learn best? Do they think it’s appropriate to have a video-based curriculum or is that too passive? Are they strong proponents of multiple intelligences—teaching to how every child is smart? Is a lot of teacher talk (lecture) okay or do they want kids doing things that are much more hands-on and discovery oriented? (This doesn’t have to be academic; just have a discussion about what they believe. And if they don’t know, agree to learn more about this. It’s critical!)

 

4.   For the curriculum you’re considering, take a look at the Scope and Sequence (every website should provide this and you can download these ahead of time). Some resources have a chronological walk through the Bible, some are focused on the point (or the topic). What does your team want to focus on? (We’re finding that a lot of people are tired of the same-old stories alone and are looking for more Bible that’s rarely taught—that’s how we’ve created the Buzz Scope and Sequence.) You have to determine what kind of Scope and Sequence your team resonates with.

 

5.   From there, choosing a curriculum/resource becomes much clearer. Yet, there’s one more area you need to hone in on. What’s the ministry model that you’re trying to resource? I’m attaching a link here so you can see the variables, but basically determine if you’re resourcing a classroom setting, children’s church, large group/small group format, or activity center rotation. (Resources work better in certain settings depending on if they’re designed for those settings.) http://www.groupvbs.com/istore/curriculum/curriculum_chart.html

 

6.   I love your question about guideposts/measurements. How will your team know that they’ve been successful? Some ministries measure by verses memorized. But is that enough? Go back to your mission—if it’s kids walking with Jesus for a lifetime, how will you measure that? I’m giving you some links to articles in our back-issue archive for Children’s Ministry Magazine that’ll get you guys thinking.

 

Game Plan for Growth http://www.childrensministry.com/backissues/detail.asp?ID=5992

Faith That Figures http://www.childrensministry.com/backissues/detail.asp?ID=4400(I love 2 Peter 1:3-8 as a measurement of spiritual maturity.)

 

7.  In all honesty, after this, it really does come down to aesthetics. What does your team like? What looks like they’d enjoy teaching? What would kids want to come back for week after week? There’s no right/wrong answer here. You want your team to love what they’ve chosen.

 

Posted at 16:43

Fact or Fiction?

One of my biggest pet peeves about Christian education today is that we're fictionalizing the Word of God. And then we wonder why people who've grown up in our ministries aren't sure if the Bible is completely true or not. (Barna cites study after study where even churched Christians don't accept that all of the Bible is true.) I think it's time we step back to see if perhaps we're reaping things we've sown into kids' worldviews.

This Sunday, one of the 2-year-olds in my class brought me a book to read. He had several to choose from: Disney books, Sesame Street books, etc. The one he brought me was on Jonah. The only thing was that it was the "Alice in Bibleland storybooks series." No kidding! It exists! Alice (a fictional character) learns about real-life people that God interacted with. How is this 2-year-old supposed to know that Alice is fictional and Jonah isn't?

Add to that the lingo we use related to the Bible. We tell kids Bible "stories." We ask them which "character" in the Bible they most relate to. People, these aren't characters...they are real people who lived in history and had real things happen to them! We would never say "I'm going to tell you the story of Winston Churchill. He's an important character in the story of World War II." No! We'd say "Winston Churchill was an important man who lived during World War II." What happened to him was real--not a story like Big Bird going to a farm and learning about manners.

What's to be done? I can tell you that from a publishing perspective, we're trying to clean up the way we refer to these real people and real historical accounts. But what else can be done? I remember long ago that a children's minister told me she wouldn't allow all the cartoon characters in her facility because it blurred the lines between fact and fiction. In my class, I've stopped calling it "storytime" and the "story rug," and instead call it "Bible time" and the "Bible time rug." Little things, but I think they may add up to cementing truth for our little ones.

What do you think? What can we do to help our children see that the Word of God is not a bunch of characters in stories...but it's the amazing retelling of God's movement with real people in real time--just like with us?

Posted at 20:28

What's Up for Halloween?

We asked our CMMag Insiders on our facebook fan page this question: What are you planning for Halloween? Are you avoiding it on philosophical or no-time factors? Are you doing a fall festival or similar event? Hitting the neighborhoods to collect candy for your ministry? (just kidding) Share what you're doing and why!

Here's what we learned...

Jeannete and her church in Castroville, CA are having their 6th annual fall festival. TrentnCheryl and Betsy are having Operation Christmas Child Shoebox wrapping parties. Henry and his church had a pumpkin-carving party and then encourage families to be the best neighbors with the best candy on Halloween night. Brenna's family is going for "great neighbor" awards too! Tiffany's church is partnering with all the other churches in their community to "Light the Night." Joni and her church will enjoy a concert with Jana Alayra. Heather's church is serving hot chocolate and coffee to trick or treaters. Gary--10th year for a fall festival! Lisa (yeehaw) and her church are having a Hootenanny. Belinda is treating her community with a Treatsville trunk-or-treat and carnival. Susan's church is doing a trunk-or-treat also. Ellen, Brenna, Lymandia, Cassie, and Krishna are all throwing fall festivals. Lindsey's church had a Royal Princess and Mighty Warrior party. And Shannon is taking in all the candy that kids get trick-or-treating and their parents have them donate!

What are you doing?

Posted at 20:45

H1N1...How Is Your Church Responding?

When Debbie Thomas sent an email asking if churches are doing anything specific in regard to H1N1, here's how children's ministers responded.

Danise McMillen: We have a health policy that has been sent home, is online and is in the weekly program. We also have placed hand sanitizer around the building along with tissues. It is here and happening, so we are following local community and state Health Department guidelines.

Larry Shallenberger: We took the above precautions and now wipe door knobs and tables with Lysol wipes between services. Children's Pastor to children's pastor: I think the best cure for swine flu hysteria would be to turn off CNN.

Karen Stefacek: We put a Plan A, B and C in place this fall.

Plan A – done in September -- was to review all of our health and safety policies with our leaders and volunteers so we knew we were actually doing what we say we do. The primary help for avoiding H1N1 is not accepting children who exhibit any of our posted symptoms.

Plan B – started in October -- was to place hand sanitizer in all welcome stations in obviously places, and re-design the posted health policies so they would capture attention again. For childcare settings, we have the children wash their hands as they get checked in, because there’s plenty of time. We don’t do this for church, because of large attendance and little time. We agreed as a staff to stay home when we are sick. We had been bad about that.

We also are scheduling extra volunteers because of the frequency of people calling off at the last minute because they are sick.

Plan C is what we will implement if pandemic conditions impact our attendance significantly. We will monitor check-in for symptoms with a written record (or maybe a sticker for the kids) and will ask parents to wash their children’s hands with soap before checking them in to church. We may experiment with asking them use hand sanitizer as well.

And we pray.

Mike Bulkley: We contacted two pediatricians in our church and they helped us craft this letter which we have sent to all our parents and made available at out check-in stations:

Dear parent,

 

I wanted to inform you of our church’s response to the current swine flu alert you are hearing much about in the media. First off I want to remind us the words of the apostle Paul who said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7. It is very easy to get caught up in the spirit of fear being fed by our mainstream media. Just the same we are called to use wisdom in all our ways. Thus I wanted to let you know our current approach. So far this virus, while having the potential for rapid spread, does not seem to be any more dangerous than the typical strong flu. For this reason, so far we are taking basically the same approach as we would to any other strong flu season. I have attached our infection control policy for your information. Further I wanted to make you aware of a few extra details not listed in the policy.

 

1.    We have alcohol gel dispensers in every classroom. Children are encouraged to use these and we will be encouraging our volunteers to help remind the children on a regular basis to clean their hands.

2.    We have disinfectant wipes in every classroom and will encourage our volunteers to be liberal and regular in their usage.

3.    We will have our volunteers be more proactive in the check-in process to ask parents screening questions regarding basic health of their child (i.e. any fever, persistent coughing, diarrhea, etc.) and we will ask parents to please keep their children with them if they have any of these symptoms.

 

As a parent you can help us in a few ways,

1.    If your child exhibits any symptoms of flu (symptom of  influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and, in some cases diarrhea), please take the precaution of keeping them home until at least 4 days after the symptoms completely pass.

2.    If your child comes down with any of the symptoms within 2-4 days of their attendance in church please notify us immediately. You may call the church office or e-mail us at kingdom.kids@kingdomlifecc.org.

3.    Be patient with our volunteers as they take a little extra time checking children into the classrooms. Remember, we desire to set a safe environment for our children.

 

Finally I want to remind you of God’s promises found in Psalm 91:1-7 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Then you will say to the LORD, "You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you." The Lord will keep you safe from secret traps and deadly diseases. He will spread his wings over you and keep you secure. His faithfulness is like a shield or a city wall. You won't need to worry about dangers at night or arrows during the day. And you won't fear diseases that strike in the dark or sudden disaster at noon. You will not be harmed, though thousands fall all around you.” Let’s be vigilant and wise but ruled by the peace and joy that comes from knowing we are in the hand of the Master.

 

 SO...how are you responding? Also, take our poll on the H1N1 scare here on the childrensministry.com homepage.

Posted at 17:04

Shift: For Every Church--or Not?

I love Henry Zonio's description of his blog: "Long gone are the days of cookie cutter children's ministry!" Henry challenges us to adapt, change, and grow! Amen to that!

And as always, I hang on every word that Henry writes because I think he's one of the sharpest children's ministers around! Yet, I was disappointed by Henry's one comment about Shift: "Brian readily admits that what works in his church probably won’t work in other churches."

Henry, he does? I've read the book several times and haven't ever seen that to be true. I think what Brian says is that the strategy won't work exactly the same in every church, yet the principles are transferable to any and every church. In fact, Brian has told me that he's acted as a consultant in churches of all sizes and denominations to enculturate this strategy into each church's culture. And it works!

Other than that one comment, I enjoyed your review (and that you set up this entire blog tour!). I've learned a lot as I've journeyed through such smart children's ministers' reviews. Thanks for making this happen!

To read Henry's entire review, go to http://www.elementalcm.com

To check out Shift, go to http://shift.group.com/

Posted at 15:53

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