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mjohnson

Current Affairs Parenting

The Star – A Holiday Movie Review

Looking for a fun movie to take your kids to this Holiday Season? One that promotes loyalty to friends, forgiveness, courage and being open to the dreams God has for your life. Then this movie is for you.

In “Sony Pictures Animation’s The Star, a small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.” http://www.thestarmovie.com/site

While the animation is not quite up to Pixar standards, it is still well done and compliments the voices and action quite nicely. The story is above average, however it takes some liberties in the actual Biblical story in order to convey the narrative from an animal’s perspective. I don’t worry too much about this because as your kids grow, under your influence, they will become aware of the accurate Biblical details, (remember, contrary to most contemporary versions, even those acted out in children’s plays at church, the wise men did not actually appear on the night of Jesus birth, etc.).

If you take advantage of it, this movie will give you the chance to talk to your child about several important topics:

  • Loyalty between friends, as Bo and his sidekick Dave come to a point where their loyalty to each other is tested.
  • Forgiveness, as seen in the closing moments with Thaddeus and Rufus.
  • Courage to press on under difficult circumstances and apparent setbacks in life, as Bo struggles to follow his dream throughout the movie.
  • Wisdom in following God’s lead, as Bo ultimately chooses to help Mary.
  • Trust in God’s plan, as Mary and Joseph discover their new life that begins with the conception of Jesus.
  • Passion to move forward with your dreams, with the awareness that God may move you in a different direction that will, in the short or long run, be better than any dream you could possibly imagine.

I and my family enjoyed this movie and I think you will too. So, scoop up your kids for an afternoon or evening movie this coming weekend. When you do, you will give them a fun outing that will produce discussion opportunities long into the future!

Children’s Ministry Elevate FC Kids

How to Use Elevate’s Roanoke Jones Series for Christmas!

You may be thinking, Roanoke Jones isn’t a Christmas series. I have to use Elevate’s Professor Playtime’s Christmas Shop Of Wonders every Christmas because it is the only dedicated Christmas series from Elevate. Well, we are here to tell you that thanks to the uniqueness of Elevate’s curriculum series, you can use many different themes or lessons during Christmas time in your children’s ministry. One series FC Kid’s used last year is Roanoke Jones: Ace Detective!

Unpack God’s Word with the Animated Bible Lessons

The Bible Lessons in Roanoke Jones easily fit with Christmas and help the kids see the bigger picture of the Christmas Story. Leading up to lesson 8, Roanoke Jones Kids talks about the mystery of who Jesus is. This is a good lesson to build up to and use for the Christmas experiences at your church. Since it is the last week of the series, and it is important to go in order during this series, you will definitely want to make sure you do week 7 the week before you plan to show week 8 for Christmas. And Roanoke Jones Jr. is about God creating the world – one of the perfect tie-ins to the most creative time of year! (Did we mention there’s a weekly craft for Jr.?)

Transform The Kid’s Area Into A Victorian Steampunk Christmas

You can transform any environment to feel like Christmas with just a few Christmas trees and some snow. Here at Fellowship Church, we used Roanoke Jones during Christmastime last year in FC Kids. In order to turn this series into an old-fashioned Steampunk Christmas series, we added regular Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and wreaths to our Roanoke Jones sets. We also bought some fake snow and quilting batting and hung it around the room and on the set. Whether you go with red and green or browns and creams, we think the key to this transformation is to keep the decor simple with what you already have, but add specific elements that will make the most impact. Here a some ideas:

  • Instead of cutting out paper and foamcore snowflakes, you can cut out cog shapes to make your “snowflakes” and hang them from the ceiling or your trees with fishing wire.
  • Make one main “tree” in the entry to your kids area to tie in the theme and get their attention. We found tons of inspiring pictures of steampunk ‘trees’ online.
  • Ask your stage leaders and check-in team to change their hounds-tooth jackets into red or green fitted jackets or their black bowler hats into festive top hast, or ask them to add some small Christmas pins or solid colored scarfs to their regular costumes.
  • Wrap different sized boxes in brown butcher paper and red or white twine to place under the Christmas trees.
  • Use wrapped ‘presents’ under the tree on your set as a way for kids to “draw” how many points their team receives for each element or game played during the service. Or make/purchase simple brown tags to hang on the tree with red ribbon that have different point numbers on them.

We have many Pinterest Boards where you can glean additional ideas! We used Victorian and Steampunk decorations for our sets but you can use any Christmas theme. To learn about more decorating ideas for Roanoke Jones and for Roanoke Jones Christmas, you can pin from the following boards:

Celebrate the Season with New Christmas Music Videos

With Roanoke Jones Digital, we have included the two original Christmas music videos we wrote in FC Kids! The children in our ministry loved these upbeat songs that celebrate the birth of Jesus and the true meaning of the season. These Christmas-themed videos are simple enough to use with any Christmas theme you pick and are sure to be perennial favorites. You can also find additional children’s Christmas Music Videos on ElevateKidsNow.com.

All of this is included so that you can easily transform the Roanoke Jones series into your Christmas series. We would love to see how you are decorating your children’s environment for Roanoke Jones and/or for Roanoke Jones Christmas! We would also love to hear any life change stories from your weekend or Christmas experiences. You can share your pictures and stories with us on our Facebook page. We are praying that God does big things in and through your ministry this Christmas!

What’s your favorite Elevate series to use for Christmas?

Children’s Ministry Conferences Elevate

Q&A: “How can I extend my weekend curriculum to Wednesday nights?”

Seven Ways To Extend Your Curriculum

There are many ways to extend your curriculum an extra hour or even two. In Elevate, we’ve purposefully included additional small group activities and review games that you can use in an additional worship hour, or on a weeknight while showing the Bible Lesson again. Here are a few time-tested ideas to extend your lesson, no matter which curriculum you use:

  • Show the Bible Lesson and Main Point from the weekend – repetition is key at this age and the Bible Lesson is short enough to be seen again, even if you don’t show the Skit.
  • Use more or all of the small-group lessons – each Elevate lesson includes 4-6 activities for you to choose from and you can use whichever activities you did not use from the weekend.
  • Play the full review game – yes, this is included for each lesson in the Elevate curriculum but you can make up your own review game to play as well. We like to come up with wild ways to “buzz” in the answer (bean bag toss, catch the ping pong ball, etc.)
  • Add songs – you can add music videos to your media software, like an additional worship song or two. You can play your favorites from a past series or you can ask the kids which one they want to play. You can check out all the Elevate music videos on our website.
  • Use “Game Break” time – these Large Group games don’t have to relate to the lesson, they can just be fun themed games. You can search online for “Large group games for kids” and pick one that fits your time and space.
  • Minute to Win It – these type of games take very little supplies and are a lot of fun. You can use these at the beginning of your time as children come in or toward the end of the time as children are being picked up.
  • Make the time Game-Show style – if you are using the same lesson, capitalize on the review game style, ask the questions, and then have a spinner to spin in between each question that lands on either Song, Game, Minute To Win It, Activity, Messy Game, etc. Our kids LOVE this style as you can also make it a competition between teams and not just individuals.

Another option for your Wednesday night, especially if you have used Elevate for an extended amount of time, is to grab other lessons that reinforce the weekend lesson. For example, Elevate teaches many lessons on prayer from different Bible characters. If you learned about prayer from the lesson of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane on Sunday (Good News Kids), you can follow up with the lesson about the life of King Asa on Wednesday (To The Depths Kids).

What ways do you extend your curriculum lesson past an hour and a half?

 

This was one of many additional questions from Pastor Mike’s C3 Conference Q&A session. Stay tuned for more or click the Q&A tag to see other questions and answers.

Children’s Ministry Elevate FC Kids

Become a part of the greatest kid’s ministry on earth!

FC Kids Staff

One of the best things about children’s ministry is the team of people you serve with each and every day – and the FC Kids Ministry has a position open on our team! We are looking for someone who loves to serve kids in a creative way, and who wants to be a part of the amazing life-change happening here at Fellowship Church!

FC Kids and Elevate provide a strong Bible-based curriculum but also focus on all aspects of a child’s senses; we want to capture a child’s imagination for Christ the moment they walk into our building! The person to fill the role of Campus Children’s Pastor in South Biscayne/Northport, FL would be responsible for crafting a creative children’s experience to facilitate the spiritual lives of the children, as well as responsible for equipping the volunteers through recruiting and training. From the exciting opportunities that come up weekly, to the big events we plan for, you could be a part of the only thing Jesus ever built – the local church!

Please email your resume (or even a friend’s!) to [email protected].

Children’s Ministry Conferences Volunteers

Q&A: “What should a volunteer schedule look like to avoid burnout?”

avoid burnout

A Balanced Spiritual Life

This is a common question in any ministry, but especially for those working with children. The easy answer is balance and consistency, but the logistical answer depends on your church schedule.

Let’s start with balance. We want everyone who is a part of our church to find a place to serve so they can grow as Christ followers. That being said, we have the policy that if you are not attending church, you need to stop serving. Does that sound harsh? We have this policy to protect our volunteers. For example, we all probably have those “super volunteers” in our ministry who will say yes to everything we ask of them. Can they serve an extra service? Of course! Can they stay late to watch the staff kids? Their pleasure! Can they come Tuesday and count out small group supplies? Sure! However, the longer we ask them to do everything, the swifter they burnout, especially if they do not have an opportunity for corporate worship. It is better for us to protect our volunteers and help them learn a balanced spiritual life so they can be an example to others long-term.

On the other side, we all have the volunteers who are so afraid of committing because they don’t want to experience burnout. They may have already experienced burnout before, at a ministry or even as a PTA parent. So they try to “balance” serving with the rest of their life by signing up to volunteer once a month or just “when they can.” However, in this scenario, they miss out on true connection with the kids and other volunteers and eventually drop out of serving entirely.

That is why we talk to our volunteers about this up front during recruiting and in volunteer training. We first talk about Matthew 22:37-40 and God’s plan for a balanced spiritual life, and then we show this short video example to our volunteers.

A Balanced Spiritual Life (volunteer training video)

Hopefully, as volunteers see this modeled out by our leaders and other volunteers, they’re able to grow into consistent, thriving volunteers who do not burnout.

The Logistics Of A Balanced Schedule

Now onto logistics. As I mentioned in our Q&A breakout at C3, I’d encourage you to talk to your pastor or leadership team about having two services; then volunteers can attend one and serve the other every weekend. We have 3 services available at our Grapevine campus. When we first opened our Fellowship Church Celina campus, volunteers had the opportunity to come to Grapevine on Saturday night and serve at Celina’s single service on Sunday morning. The Celina campus has since moved to two services on Sunday morning.

If you only have one service for the foreseeable future, we have heard of churches on a 4 week or 8 week schedule – where the same teachers teach the whole Elevate series, or at least 4 weeks in a row. Other churches’ volunteers serve on an every other weekend schedule. There are pros and cons to both. Whatever your schedule, remember consistency and balance is key to connect with kids and avoid volunteer burnout.

What ways does your church help volunteers avoid burnout?

 

This was one of many additional questions from Pastor Mike’s C3 Conference Q&A session. Stay tuned for more or click the Q&A tag to see other questions and answers.

FC Kids Leadership Parenting

20 Questions To Ask Your Child Instead Of “How Was Church?”

FC Kids Church

When my girls were younger and I would pick them up after church each weekend, my usual question of “How was church?” was met with an unenthusiastic “Fine.” Or if I changed the question up and asked, “Did you have fun?” the usual answer was “Yes.” Or if I would ask them the expectant “What did you learn today?” I would be answered with an indifferent, “I don’t know.”

I knew our children’s church was fun. I trusted that the teachers spent lots of time preparing a great lesson. Why wouldn’t my girls tell me about it? I didn’t realize the problem was with my questions themselves. These questions were terrible starters to get my girls talking about their experience at church.

So, to help out all the parents who ask these questions to their children as they leave church, like I did, I’ve started a list of questions my girls answered with more than a single word. Try them. Your kid’s may even talk to you about church all the way home!

Questions a child will answer at the end of their time at church:

1.  What did you eat for snack?

2.  How did you help someone today?

3.  What games did you play?

4.  What was the funniest thing that happened today?

5.  Did anyone do anything super nice for you?

6.  Who made you smile today?

7.  What new fact about the Bible did you learn today?

8.  What challenged you today? (This is a great question for older kids)

9.  Who was the Bible Lesson about?

10. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?

11. If you had the chance to be the teacher next weekend, what would you teach the class?

12. Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?

13. What is your teacher’s most important rule?

14. Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?

15. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.

16. Did you catch anyone picking their nose?

17. What rule was the hardest to follow?

18. Which person in your class is the exact opposite of you?

19. Which time during church is the most fun?

And the most important question…

20.  What was your Main Point for today?

The last question is by far my favorite, because if your church uses a curriculum, like Elevate, that includes an application statement, or Main Point, then you can be sure your child learned something to put into practice during the week.

In FC Kids we do this so parents can connect with their kids. And it’s not just through the Main Point! There’s a poster by each classroom door in the preschool that gives parents a question to ask their children every week, and we post the Main Point on our FC Kids Facebook page with links to the corresponding lesson on the free website LeadershipForKids.com.

What questions have you used to engage your children in their church experience and to help them apply the Bible Lesson all week long?

Children’s Ministry Elevate FC Kids

Q&A: “How many games should you plan for one children’s service?”

To answer the question “How many games should you plan for one children’s service?” we have to go back to why we use games in the first place. We believe that children learn while having fun, which is why we revolve all our games around the lesson or theme to engage the children’s attention for each lesson. The number of games we use in FC Kids at Fellowship Church varies from 3-6, and some weekends a lot more. This is also why we write 5-6 different activities per lesson in Elevate Children’s Curriculum. These include Small Group application activities, Opening Activities, and Review Activities. We usually start off with an opening game to help all of the kids become involved. We do this because children can be dropped off in our FC Kids ministry up to 15 minutes before service actually starts. Then there are games that help illustrate the lesson, like “Forgiveness Freeze Tag,” “Courage Shield,” “Thank God And Share,” or “Worship Cube” to name a few. How many of these we pick depends on the time we have available to play games. Are we having an extra long service? Even if you are not sure how long service will go, it is always best to prepare a few extra application activities and games just in case! We also like to play Minute to Win It games or other games like I Spy during the review time of the lesson.

So the short answer to the question “How many games should you plan for one children’s service?” is, “However many games you need to fill the time and teach the children that week’s lesson.”

 

This was one of many additional questions from Pastor Mike’s C3 Conference Q&A session. Stay tuned for more or click the Q&A tag to see other questions and answers.

Current Affairs Parenting Uncategorized

Miracles From Heaven – The Movie

Recently I was asked to review the upcoming movie Miracles from Heaven set to be released on March 18, 2016. The movie is based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl named Anna Beam living in Burleson, Texas. In the movie, Anna is suffering from a physical abnormality where her intestines are unable to digest food properly. Because of this, she relies on feeding tubes to keep her alive and active. Without giving away the full plot (see the trailer here), Anna falls into a large, hollowed out tree and has a near death experience. When she awakens she discovers that the fall has cured her from her disease. This is a story about faith in God and the many ways that He moves in the life of the Beam family as they live with the diagnosis that is given to Anna by her doctor.

The film stars some big names in the film industry including Jennifer Garner (Television series Alias and various movie roles), Kylie Rogers (The Whispers), Martin Henderson (Off the Map) and comedienne, Queen Latifah.

I must admit that as I began the movie I was doubtful about its direction (it begins with a church service that didn’t feel quite right. I think maybe it was the unrealistic congregation that responded in a way that was just a bit off). However, after the first 10 minutes the movie quickly gained momentum and I was thoroughly moved throughout the film by it’s touching, and often heartbreaking, story line. The film is directed by Patricia Riggen (Disney Channel’s original film Lemonade Mouth) who does a fantastic job keeping the emotions stirred by focusing on:

  • The faith struggle of Anna’s mom, Christy;
  • The strong belief by Anna that Jesus is with her throughout her struggles (especially in a very emotional scene between Anna and a cancer-ridden little girl in the hospital);
  • And the strong belief of Anna’s father, Kevin, who’s faith in God assures him that somehow, everything will work out.

In the last 15 minutes or so, the movie touches very briefly on Anna’s experience where she goes to Heaven and sees some of the wonders of what Heaven will be like. The primary focus of the movie, however, is on the emotional bonds shared between a God-fearing family (primarily between Anna’s mom Christy, and her) who deal with a real-life crisis that defies a worldly explanation as to its purpose.

I would highly recommend this movie. Miracles from Heaven provides a dignified, real world look at how Christians struggle with life’s difficulties and, in the process of these difficulties, see God move in miraculous ways. I left the movie feeling inspired with the hope of Heaven, assured of the goodness of God, and filled with a renewed passion for my faith. A faith that tells me that even though God moves in ways that I often do not understand, I can be assured His ways will ultimately bring glory to Himself and will bring light to a lost world.

Oh, and by the way, don’t go into the theater without a healthy supply of tissues. You’ll need them!

FC Kids Uncategorized Volunteers

I Serve: Recruiting New Volunteers!

As a leader of a children’s ministry, one thing you need to be comfortable with is the fact that you will always be recruiting new volunteers. If you’ve been in children’s ministry long enough you realize that volunteers come, and volunteers go. No matter what you do, the back door to volunteering will always be open because people enter into different seasons in life, people move away, or life circumstances simply cause your volunteers to step away for a while. Knowing this, it is imperative that you always keep your front door open. In other words, if you’re not constantly bringing in new volunteers, your ministry will suffer. You need to make sure that as one person goes, you have another person coming in.

To help us do this, we promote volunteerism here at Fellowship Church every weekend. One of the ways we do this is through promotional campaigns. Our latest volunteer campaign is called “I Serve FC Kids”. In this campaign we used flyers, posters, and standup cutouts to keep in the forefront of everyone’s mind that the programming in FC Kids only happens because of volunteers, and that those volunteers are people just like them.

Our goal is that, when people walk into Fellowship Church, they understand that we value volunteering as a major tenet of our church. Therefore, when the ask is made of them to volunteer, it doesn’t catch them by surprise. We want them to think, “Volunteering is important here, so I’m sure someone will be asking me to volunteer soon.” And believe me, we will.

Scroll through the pictures above to see some of the ways we promoted this campaign.

Children’s Ministry Current Affairs Leadership Uncategorized

Tweetable Leadership – A Review And Thank You To Jim Wideman

One of my all-time favorite books in the Bible is the book of Proverbs.  What I love most about it is that there are hundreds of bite-size nuggets that give you so much to think about in just a few words, nuggets that are key to living a successful Christian life.

Over the last couple of days I have had the privilege of reading through the new book by Jim Wideman entitled, “Tweetable Leadership”. When I received it in the mail, I opened it up and immediately felt right at home as I saw literally hundreds and hundreds of bite-size statements packed with wisdom and knowledge on how to be a successful leader within Children’s Ministry.

This awesome book is divided up into seven chapters dealing with a wide range of leadership topics such as leading by example, how to keep your life simple to do more, how to stay spiritually healthy, and probably my favorite chapter entitled “What old Jim wishes young Jim knew”. In addition to the bite-size sayings within each chapter, each chapter also concludes with 5 to 6 pages that are traditionally written and packed with insights from Jim.

I would highly recommend that you pick up this book, but I must say that you need to be careful with it. Go ahead and sit down and read through it once, but don’t let the overwhelming amount of information discourage you. This is a lifetime worth of information that you will need to take some time incorporating into your ministry. Take a few of the principles and apply them over a month or so, then continue to add along the way. Trust me, I can honestly say that after 22 years as the children’s pastor here at Fellowship Church, these are the things that will make you very successful over time.

Thanks Jim, for taking the time to put this great book together. I appreciate all that you’ve done for kids ministry in the 19th, 20th and 21st century…just kidding, you’re old but not that old. 🙂

You are an Absolute Children’s Ministry Rockstar!