This Lent Family Devotion is a big one for our girls. A few weeks ago when we talked about Jesus being the light and turned off the lights in our house, the girls freaked out in fear. They are scared to go back to the laundry room and get their shoes because it is dark back there. We are continually reinforcing the idea that when we are scared we need to pray to God for strength. Read the rest of this entry
The apostle John writes of Jesus, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14). Tonight our First Kids ministry is trying an experiment in following the missional example of Jesus and moving our Vacation Bible School program into the neighborhoods.
Historically First Presbyterian Church has done VBS like any other church and hosted VBS at the church. There are benefits to doing VBS at the church but increasingly it is harder and harder to invite neighbors to a church building. Culture is changing and the church needs to change its strategy in response. We have “franchised” our VBS program into four homes in our city in hopes of bringing in more children from the neighborhood. For years we have been encouraging families to see their neighborhood as a mission field and this is the next step in that strategy.
We are already seeing more children sign up for VBS this year, especially neighborhood children. I am excited to see what kind of impact this has on the neighborhoods and families represented. I am also thankful that I am at a church that is willing to try something new!
Instead of using canned VBS curriculum we decided to develop our own curriculum around two monkeys that we use for our Children’s Message each Sunday. We weaved the story of the Prodigal Son into a story about Spunky and Dunky and their lives in the jungle. We had some fun with using a green screen to shoot three videos that tell the story. This way the story can be the same at all four homes this week. Below is a trailer for the series. Pray that the love of God will be felt by all the children and families that take part this week. We are excited to see what God will do in and through us!
Our educational system is broken. Culture has changed and yet our educational methods have stayed the same. We invent new disorders to explain why our children can’t sit still in our outdated classrooms. Something needs to change. The same goes for our educational methods in the church. Moving toward the entertainment model with cool videos and a kid-centered worship band isn’t it either. Just because kids are happy and entertained doesn’t mean they are learning.
So what does a new educational environment look like? I don’t know yet but I am driven to find out. I would love for the church to step out and innovate.
Here is a great video that spurred my imagination this morning:
What do you think? What will the new learning environments look like?
This past Sunday we started our focus on Christmas and tried to stress the importance of giving instead of getting to our Sunday School class children. I told the students how we would be focusing on different characters in the Christmas story over the next few weeks. All I got back were blank stares that I read as, “I’m bored with the Christmas story and baby Jesus. I’ve heard it all before.” I wonder how one of the most transformational and earth shattering story of God incarnating himself became boring.
I was a pastor’s kid growing up so I was the worst at being bored with the Christmas story. I hated that my dad would read the Christmas story on Christmas morning before we could open the presents. All I could think about was what was under the tree. Tomorrow I am meeting with our Children’s Ministry staff and my big question is, “How do we regain the excitement and wonder that the shepherds, wise men and Mary had that first Christmas?”
What do you all think? How have we become bored with Christmas and lost the wonder and excitement that was present at the birth of Christ? How has this story lost the original earth shattering message of hope, joy and salvation? How do we help our children experience what it was like when Jesus was born?
One of my ministry convictions is that curriculum is best when it is written for a specific ministry context. Too often ministry leaders spent quite a bit of money on curriculum written by someone who doesn’t understand their context. When I started at First Presbyterian here in Champaign, I really hoped that I could write curriculum specifically for our context. Our Family Ministry team agreed with me and I set out to write the curriculum for our Sunday morning children’s ministry. Here is what simple excellence looks like in regards to writing curriculum:
Our children sit with their families during the worship part of the service. Then they come up front for our children’s sermon. Our children’s sermon is a story of Buddy Bear and his adopted sons Spunky and Dunky (two monkeys). The story relates directly to the Big Idea that they will learn about in Sunday School. Next, they are dismissed to First Kids, our Sunday School program. We spend the first fifteen minutes in Big Group where the students worship together and then listen to the story for the week. They then spend fifteen minutes in small groups based on their grade. Children do the Application Activity and do Highs and Lows in their small groups. After small groups, the sermon is over so parents come to pick up their children.
Quarterly Curriculum Outlines
Each quarter we cover a different section of the Bible or topical subject. Each fall is focused on Old Testament stories and then the winter is focused on Jesus’ life or the early church. Spring is a time for topical subjects like following Christ or relationships. During the summer we focus on missions and spiritual disciplines. We have developed a two year cycle so we can focus on what is most important.
Big Idea and Big Word
For each lesson we have a Big Idea that runs through the story and the application activity. We communicate this Big Idea in a number of different ways during a lesson. Then for the preschool children we have a Big Word which they pick up at the beginning of the lesson out of a mailbox we have set up in the classroom. The Big Word comes directly from the Big Idea.
Application Activity and Take Home
One of my pet peeves in children’s ministry is busy work to keep kids entertained. Having children do a crossword puzzle or coloring page can keep them busy but does it internalize the Big Idea? Our Application Activity is a hands on activity that challenges students to think through how to apply the Big Idea to their daily lives. The end of the Application Activity focuses students on thinking through one specific Take Home behavior or thought that they can incorporate in their daily lives.
Communication with Parents
It is always interesting to ask our daughters what they learned in Sunday School. They usually say “Jesus” even if they didn’t talk about Jesus. Each week we communicate in our Family Newsletter what the upcoming Big Idea, story and Take Home are for the upcoming First Kids lesson. This way parents know what their children are learning in First Kids and can ask them specific questions about the lesson.
I have loved writing our curriculum. It builds ownership with our teachers because they have an input in what works and what doesn’t. We listen to their experiences and then continue to customize the curriculum to the needs of the children. It also saves us quite a bit of money that would have been spent on buying curriculum.