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Funny words and why we should use them

3 kids laughing 09-08-14

This is a guest post by Andy Partington who is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at www.andypartingtonblog.com

I have this tendency to think faster than I talk. I don’t stutter, but what usually ends up happening is my words tend to come out funny. The first letter of the second word likes to swap places with the first letter of the first and I end up creating an entirely new vocabulary.

As a child, this occurrence bothered me.
Kids laughed.
As an adult and performer I tend to use it to my advantage.
After all, kids laugh.

Saying it Silly
Now in the grand scheme of things there is a hierarchy of words in the dictionary based on silliness. It may not always be easily seen to the beginner, but years and years of copying Merriam Webster’s big book through disciplinary action has taught me that this is so. Over the years playwrights, clowns, and vaudevillians have always held to the rule that the hard “k” sound is particularly funny. I haven’t the slightest reason to give, but through practice I’ve always tried to include it in my routines. For instance, if I’m picking a random city or locale, I’ll go with “Kalamazoo” or “Kisatchie” as opposed to “Baltimore” or “Springfield.”

Children also respond to their own unique fun words that seem to be universal. “Spaghetti” is a word that usually draws laughs. It’s also one of the favorite foods that kids yell out most often when asked. Perhaps there is humor in familiarity paired with the natural mouth feel and silliness of the word. This is great fun to explore and play around with. During your next message or performance, take a little time to throw in a few new words or try out some of the examples above. Then see if you can find a reason for all the chuckles. If you can’t find the cause, who cares?
Kids are laughing.

Funny Names
Another way to make kids laugh is to use funny names. Go for something meaningless and stupid. It’s always best to stay away from hurtful or descriptive names, because we’re in the business of making laughs, not psychological scars.

At a recent church, I was blessed with two girls named Joyce. I could have easily gone with “Joyce 1” and “Joyce 2”, and that would have resulted in a few smiles. But inspiration hit and I realized that I had one Joyce and a copy… another Joyce…a resulting Joyce…a re-Joyce…Rejoice!

Also, you might have noticed that parents have become increasingly clone worthy in their naming and that you might have a room full of Austin’s, or Hunter’s, or Reginald’s. The common classroom quick fix is to add the last initial to the name..Ex. Austin A and Austin F.
But we want kids to laugh.

How about something completely different?
How about some nonsense?
Austin A and Austin “Potato Salad”.
Okay, first off…it’s dumb, but kids laugh.
The second thing is that I didn’t point out which one was given the silly name. So, it works out that neither of them has to wear a label that they didn’t necessarily want and they both get to claim it if that’s the attention that they want. (9 out of 10 times they both want to be “potato salad.”)

Mostly Magic Words
I have a lot of props in my act and tend to name them completely off the wall names that, through repetition, help the youngsters to easily identify what I’m doing based on what prop I’m holding and referring to.
A few examples are: My screen remote is called a “flurb.” My puppet trunk is called the “box-o-stuff,” and I often refer to any kind of magic wand or pointer as a “spatula.”

All of which garner laughs with very little mention. Returning kids will even mention these items when I fail to on a regular basis.

This helps us in two ways.

One, they laugh.

And two, they repeat.

Parents are constantly stopping me and asking if I’m the guy who taught their kid this. When parents notice, word of mouth grows.

But most importantly, kids laugh.

Something’s Fishy – Focused Prayer for Kids and Leaders

disciples praying

Guest Post by Dawn Farris who is the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris

“And pray for my cat and my dog and my goldfish and bless all the world. . . Amen”

While children’s prayers can be heartfelt and sincere, part of our call in their discipleship process is to help children grow deeper in the discipline of prayer.

Because prayer is more than just talking to God, it is both an offensive and defensive weapon in the spiritual battles we face every day, this week in our children’s ministry, we used what we called “fish prayers” to help HiSKidZ grow in their prayer and spiritual lives and walks with God.

Our younger children made fish refrigerator magnets and our olders made bookmarks to help remind them to pray the fish way. (Yes, along the way we practiced our fish faces, fish sounds and fish tales!)

Here is what we shared this week with our kids; and our leaders and parents loved it, too, since this isn’t just a great way for kids to pray, it’s a great way to pray for kids.

F=Faith
Pray for faith. The disciples prayed for Jesus to increase their faith and we can learn from their example. We talked with HiSKidZ about how the world can chisel away at their faith, so we need to pray that God increases our faith and the faith of our friends.

I=Integrity
First we had to explain integrity. Our simple definition “doing the right things for the right reasons” helped kids to understand that they could pray to be honest, sincere, helpful, kind, forgiving, generous and more. Since we have used virtue based curriculum in the past they understood praying that the words adhered to our walls would be adhered to our hearts.

S=Salvation
As we talked we found that most of our kids were not praying for people to get saved. It didn’t take long to realize that prayers for people to “be saved” were most definitely in God’s will and we became excited to see what God will be doing as we begin to pray for our family, friends and classmates to know Jesus as their Savior.

H=Holiness
HiSKidZ define holiness as “being set apart for God.” Again when asked, most realized they had never considered praying for their life to be set apart for God. Our older kids even concluded that one of the reasons many kids grow up and don’t follow God could be that there weren’t enough prayers being prayed for them to be set apart for their whole life.

Just as a fish can swim deep down into the water, HiSKidZ and their leaders went home this week with a new tool and plan to help them go deeper in their relationship with their Savior and Friend, Jesus.

Growing in times of ministry drought

Growing in the Seasons of Drought blog picture

Dawn Farris is one of my Graduate Coaching students and the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris

Children’s Ministry, like many other forms of ministry, can be prone to seasons of drought. Many of us who serve as children’s pastors or volunteers often endure long seasons where we don’t attend worship services (because we are teaching), aren’t being poured into (because we are pouring into others), face continual shortages of team members (because of enough reasons to warrant another blog post), wear too many “hats” serving in too many places (because of the same shortage of team members), and are often overlooked by leadership and adult ministry with an “out of sight out of mind attitude.”

While many times creativity, enthusiasm and growth are the song we sing, many other times fatigue, discouragement and disillusionment take over. We can become dry, weak and in danger of burn out.

This past week I have been on vacation with my family, and we have driven through many areas affected not only by drought, but also by the stress of high temperatures. Grasses in most areas were dry, brittle and brown. But in a few places we saw patches of lush, green fields. The reason? Irrigation systems.

Some farmers were using irrigation to make sure that their crops were being taken care of and continued growing in the midst of harsh, hot, dry, stress inducing times.

As a kidmin leader, I love a good object lesson, and this one was too easy to pass up. In the dry, drought or stress filled seasons of ministry we need to be sure that we are being spiritually irrigated.

So the question of the day is, “How do we keep growing in desolate times?” Here are a few examples of how we can stay hydrated in dry times gleaned from our family vacation.

1) Faith–Trust God to fill you. Stand on His promises that He will care for you in hard times. Don’t give into the temptation to believe that your circumstances can’t or won’t change. Those plants weren’t worried about being watered, and we can trust God to take care of us in dry times as well.

2) Prayer–Pray for wisdom, strength, and refreshing. Then keep praying that God brings workers for your fields, encouragement in these end times, and joy through your trials. Just as God provided a farmer to hydrate the fields we can trust God to provide people in our ministries—after all, He was the One who told us the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few and that we should ask Him for workers for the fields.

3) The Word–Take in the living water of God’s Word DAILY. It’s so easy to skip a little time here and there and not even realize it. Like the farmer daily irrigates his crops, be sure to take time, and make time to let God’s Word refresh you.

To be honest, sometimes droughts pass quickly, but there are times when it takes a while before the drought will pass. But we can still grow, and even flourish when we allow ourselves to be spiritually watered through on a consistent basis through faith, prayer and the Word of God.

The only 4 puppets you will ever need in ministry

Puppet Kids

Guest Post by Andy Partington who is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at www.andypartingtonblog.com

Puppets are expensive and can put a heavy burden on your already labored ministry budget. But fear not, there is a way to continue to build your puppet ministry with very limited funds. You only have to think in ensemble format.

The ensemble is one of the most effective tools used in modern narrative today. Watch any sitcom and you’ll see ensemble put to use. They even have their own category on all the major entertainment awards.
How does this impact you and the dusty half used puppets in your resource closet?

In the ensemble format you’ll notice some recurring characters. There are four types that have existed from the first dramatic writings all the way to today. Dramatic theorists call them the four humours: Phlegmatic, Melancholic, Choleric, and Sanguine. Using these four types and your best puppeteers, you can put on almost any presentation needed in your ministry.

Here’s a breakdown of the four humours:

Phlegmatic: The everyman. This character can often be used for narration. He’s the well-balanced guy in the bunch that either tells the story or helps find a solution to the conflict presented by the other three characters. Kermit the Frog has a great phlegmatic personality and is usually seen as the leader of the muppets. Bob the Tomato can also be seen as a phlegmatic personality, balancing the sanguine of Larry the Cucumber. Which leads us to…

Sanguine: The dreamer. The comic relief. The foil to the straight man. Kids love the Sanguine. In early dramatic theory , the sanguine has an overabundance of passion and that causes him to bubble over with personality. Every situation needs a clown and the audience needs someone to lighten the moral. For this, your sanguine is your go to guy.

Melancholic: The victim. The worrier. This is the character that usually makes their entrance after someone utters a line like, “Hey, did you hear about…?” or, “I can’t believe what happened to…?” There’s going to be a conflict and someone has to bear the brunt of it. That’s going to be your melancholic.

Choleric: The hot head. The villain. In most tales there has to be someone who is a cautionary tale or an example of how not to do things. That’s the Choleric. He can easily be interchanged with the Sanguine. The difference is in intentions. The Sanguine means well and is usually just trying to have fun. The choleric either doesn’t know any better or just plain doesn’t care.

These personality types can take either gender. They can also be anthropomorphized animals or objects. The sky is truly the limit. But keeping your puppet ensemble true to these character types will help you do more with less. Kids will also start to look for certain puppet characters that they relate to and will totally believe them in multiple roles as long as you stay within the character confines of the four types.

My challenge to you is to look around you and notice the four types. Can you find them in your favorite shows, movies? Maybe even in your friends? Once you begin to identify these characters see how they fit into your puppet presentations and start writing for your ensemble.

Actions for guaranteed improvement

walking around mentorship

That title makes a strong statement, but if this one BIG idea and the suggestions that follow are committed to you will experience guaranteed improvements regardless of what level you may be operating at in your ministry.

BIG Idea:
Live out Management by walking around. This idea is extremely important and a must do.

My yard outside my house has really reinforced the lesson of “management by walking around” for me. To have a great yard, you have to walk it and pull even the small weeds. If I spend a little time every week walking my yard and pulling weeds that I notice, my yard stays healthy. Once I stop and the weeds don’t get attention, they come back and begin to choke out the health of my yard.

So to keep up a healthy yard or a healthy ministry we must practice “Management by walking around.” Here are some results that you can experience –

1.Showing your team you do care about them because the interest you will show in them by the questions you ask about them and what they are doing. This will create a stronger team.

2. Helps you create tailored coaching and training times. You will notice several things that in your mind you will say, “I wish they would do it this way or that way”. They won’t be big things but they would improve your service and ministry that you offer to the people. You can custom fit solutions to what is actually going on in your ministry.

3. On the job training instead of waiting for the end of year review and dragging all the cold and old stuff out. Now it can be done in real-time.

What would add to this list?

It’s OK to give up in children’s ministry

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Amazing and yet very sad when you can watch a children’s pastor move from one ministry to another children’s ministry and they sink terribly at the new one.

As many of you know I have moved from my last church to my new one here in Des Moines, Iowa as the Family Life Pastor for First Church of the Open Bible. Making this move from my last to my new has caused me to look at my ways, systems, processes, and challenging me to also “Let Go” of some great things that I would have used at my last church to pick up some new ways for my new church.

This is what has me thinking through the terrible mistake many children’s pastor will make as they too make their new moves into a new ministry. I have never seen where the children’s pastor wasn’t knowledgeable enough to succeed or could have learned to do the new, it was they didn’t want to “Let Go” of the old and comfortable for the new, exciting, and challenging.

To avoid this you need to learn about your new place of ministry. What are the things you need to know? Being an efficient and effective learner will reduce your window of vulnerability to loss. Here are a few things I am personally spending time on:

Before I even arrived:
* Read up and asked questions of my network about this church and the team members who are here.
* Spent tons of time talking with my new Senior Pastor
* I created a list of questions that help guide my learning once I got here.

Right after I arrived:
* Met with my direct reports and we settled on how we would communicate.
* I listened and arrange myself to be in places where I could here volunteers talk. They would all bring their own perspective to what each of the problems and strengths were here.
* I would also in this step re-do my questions some as I was able to target them more specifically because I was armed with more knowledge.
* Always kept my senior pastor in the know of what I was thinking. In this piece is where I started to learn of things I had to let go of to pick up some new stuff.

After being there for a bit:
* Met with key parents and got their ideas and feedback
* Met with the kids and got their ideas and feedback
* Talked with the community people and asked what they knew or thought of my new church
* Met with area children’s pastors
* I would also in this step re-do my questions some as I was able to target them more specifically because I was armed with more knowledge.

I find for me if I spend the right time asking the right questions I will soon discover I need to let go of some old tried and true things that are comfortable, and pick up some new and unknown ways to help the ministry God has blessed me to be part of. If you don’t, the result is never good.

The Office – The whys and hows of my kid friendly space

Dawns office

Today I had some visitors in my office. As they came bursting through the doors they exclaimed, “Ms Dawn! You have the best office ever!! It’s just full of so much fun!”

Seriously, few more precious words could ever be said to me about my office. I have always wanted my office space to be a kid friendly place. Years ago, when I first got an office, I was the volunteer coordinator of our children’s ministry program. I didn’t want the office to be seen as “my office,” but rather “the office” where children’s ministry took place, where other volunteers and of course, kids were welcome.

So I painted the former closet now turned office a beautiful color of obnoxiously perky orange (Yeah, I was orange, when orange wasn’t cool!) and we let the fun begin.

I’ve moved office space since that time. After being asked to consider a color other than orange for my new walls, I chose a lovely shade of white—but added vinyl adhesive polka dots! And, there are the orange curtains, an orange desk chair, orange tractor seat stools and tall table. There is gum ball machine, some sponge balls, a partial Mr. Potato Head collection, bouncy balls, a mini fridge, electric fireplace, and a zillion other kid friendly attention grabbing things. (No, my office isn’t really that big, it’s just well-rounded!)

People often comment about how much fun my office is, although not always with as much enthusiasm as today’s guests, and it makes me smile to realize that my office isn’t just a fun place, but instead it is a place that kids can relate to, connect with and enjoy. When they feel those things about my office, they also feel those things about me. They gain a sense that I am someone who “gets” them, and that I am someone they can trust.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to bring a smile to a kids face through my office space:

1) Color. You may or may not be able to paint your walls some crazy color, but even if your walls are white like mine right now, you can still make it pop with some great accessories, wall art, press ons, curtains, furniture, etc. (Most of what I have come from yard sales or someone else’s left overs.)

2) Toys. Keep some cool toys in your office. They don’t have to be the latest; they just have to be something kids will relate to. Currently one of our kids favorites is a sparkly filled water bottle, some old hand puppets, and my paper clip holder (it looks like a lady and the paper clips are her hair—the kids love it!)

3) Snacks. I try to have something on hand like fruit snacks or granola bars. Need to talk to a parent? A snack is a great way to occupy their child. Want to get a child talking? Have them sit down over a pack of fruit snacks and chat about their day.

4) Fun Furniture and Office Supplies. From my orange tractor chairs to my zebra striped stapler to my stiletto shoe tape dispenser, kids love the creatively eccentric things they find in my office. I even have a polka-dotted broom that rests on top of a curtain rod. Why? I don’t know! I guess the question is, “Why not?”

So everyone now and then I look around my office and decide it’s time for something old to go out and new to come in. This helps to keep my view of ministry fresh, and keeps my focus on the heart of children and the precious responsibility given to us to help them understand how much Jesus not only loves them, but He “gets” them.

Todays post was brought to you by my friend Dawn Ferris. Dawn Farris is the Director of Children’s Ministries at New Testament Christian Church, Keokuk, IA. You can find out more about her at her blog www.whosthefarris.com or follow her on twitter @whosthefarris

3 Things Every Boy Needs To Hear

three

A lot of time has been spent in my ministry on recruiting men, fathers especially, to volunteer with children’s ministry. Our church has been blessed with a great group of guys who work the nursery, pass out snacks, go on camping trips, drive vans, and lead worship for our kids. It’s a great privilege to see men and women serve alongside each other to reach boys and girls for Christ.
But there is another reason I have for bringing men into our ministry to children. In the community around us and all over the country it seems there is an absence of fathers. A boy may grow up in a two parent household, but the true paternal role is rarely ever seen. Boys have a list of essential needs that only a father or male role model can supply. We need to make sure that they hear:

“I love you”
It’s a basic human need to be loved. We were created to be love and be loved by God. Despite this fact, it can sometimes be a huge hurdle as a man to express love to your sons and an even larger one to the boys that aren’t a part of your household. Yet, the need is still there. Find ways to say it, to show it in the way you live, to be an example of love to even the greatest discipline problems that you face. It will make such a difference and you will begin to see trust form in the eyes of the young men that you serve.

“I’m proud of you”
Often times, it’s easy for the men in children’s Sunday school classes to become the “enforcer of rules” and the major disciplinarian in the class. This is absolutely fine, but we miss out on an opportunity to serve and show Christ-like love by not telling kids the good things that they’re doing. Point out when boys are well-behaved. Take time to mention how good they did during the relay or scripture memory game. Give praise when praise is due. All too often, our boys don’t get the praise they deserve from dads and men in ministry.

“You’re good.”
This is a little different than “I’m proud of you”. I think everyone can benefit from knowing that we have the potential to be virtuous. The statement “You’re good” transcends pride and acknowledges that a boy can have and does have value in your eyes. I’ve seen this simple phrase melt the hearts of the most hardened elementary bullies.

I hope that this list of things that boys need is helpful to you. It’s certainly not exhaustive. Can you think of other ways to reach out and touch the lives of the young men in your church or community? Maybe there are some things that you felt you didn’t have that you needed growing up? Maybe there was a memorable moment in your development that you can look back on and bring to the table as you minister to your sons and the boys under your care.

This was brought to you by a good friend, new blogger named Andy Partington. Andy is the Minister to Preschoolers and Children at First Baptist Minden, Louisiana. You can find out more about him at andypartingtonblog.com

Starting new Family Life Pastor position finding Break-even Point

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For those who may not know or who have not been following me long, you need to know I have had the opportunity to start a new position in Des Moines, Iowa at First Church of the Open Bible. I thought as long as I am starting a new position I might as well journal the journey.

There are a ton of great books out there on every topic but not many if any on the practical how to’s of when starting new at a medium size church, in another state and for me even a different denomination as i am going from Assembly of God to Open Bible.

So let’s begin!

There is such a thing as what I would call a “Break even point”. This is a point when new leaders have contributed as much value to the new ministry and church as they have consumed from it. Being a consumer when you first start is natural seeing that this is what many call the “Honey moon” time as well. During this time everyone is your friend, helping you in every way, you can purchase items more frequently, you can get information, etc.. The goal even as nice as this Honey moon period may be is to not camp here. Gather and move on.

When 210 CEO’s were asked for their best estimates of the time it takes a typical midlevel manager in their organizations to reach the “Break even” point, the average of their responses was 6.2 months. With this being said, it should be our goal to accelerate the time spent here to get out earlier than most. Doing so will help us create value sooner and that will lead to stronger influence into the lives of those we lead.

There are 2 types of people that you want to secure for yourself pretty quickly and they are:

1. Environmental atmosphere
2. Personal

Real quick, Environmental atmosphere people are those who can help give you the pulse of the environment in which you are working. These are the people that you want to hear from when you get ready to make your changes.

Then the personal advisers will help you keep perspective in times of stress. They will keep you accountable to your reasons of “why” you are doing this or that. They will serve behind the scenes and stay removed from the mechanics of your ministry due to their main ministry is your personal well being.

Have fun gathering these 2 types of people. Do this before you move much into changing anything. These 2 types will help you get to your break even point faster.

Your children’s ministry can benefit from your use of Evernote

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Anyone who knows me in even the littlest ways knows that I love my Evernote. Evernote has truly become my brain in many ways.

My heart for equipping and inspiring world changers on their leadership journey, combined with my children’s ministry vision of Preparing parents and volunteers to influence first our community then surrounding communities and finally the world through Leading, Coaching, and Equipping kids to be World Changers creates in me a desire to convert everything I do and use into a tool to get these larger than life goals accomplished.

One tool that constantly fits this bill for me is Evernote. Here is one of the several ways to use Evernote to help build your leaders, your parents, and keep a constant supply of teaching material.

In Evernote, as you web clip articles, scan articles from magazines, send pictures and more to your Evernote account, I enjoy sending them into a few notebooks. Example would be: Classroom discipline. In this notebook I would have all the material from a variety of resources that cover discipline in a classroom. I could easily share this 1 notebook with my leaders so they could benefit from all of the resources I have on this one topic. As items would be added to this notebook, they would continue to see the most updated material on that topic. It would be like a constant stream of info on a very specific topic.

You increase the know how of your leaders, you will raise the bar of the childrens ministry you provide for your community.

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