On a recent visit to Woodstock City Church in Atlanta, I was able to get a behind the scenes tour of their room for kids with special needs. The staff person in the room was super helpful and explained how their program works. Here are some pics from my visit to their campus.
I was so impressed to see what Woodstock City Church does to celebrate birthdays for kids. The kids look forward to their Birthday all year long so that they can visit the Birthday Cart. The Birthday Cart is pretty exciting, but it doesn’t compare to the PERSON who is at the Birthday Cart. I did not find out this person’s name, but he was amazing as he celebrated each child and their birthday.
Recently I went to the Drive Conference at Northpoint Church in Atlanta, GA. It was like drinking from a firehose. I learned so much and took so many pitures. I decided to share my info with all of you in hopes that you can learn from them just like I did.
Before the conference began, I had the opportunity to tour Woodstock City Church, and spend a lot of time behind the scenes. Woodstock City Church is one of Northpoint Church’s campuses. They use the same curriculum, systems and processes. Their staff and volunteers were absolutely incredible. Over the next few posts I will share with you all kinds of things that I learned and show you pictures of some of the things that they do to make their kids ministry awesome! Today I’m going to show you some of the pics from the Preschool Area, aka, Waumba Land.
When I was visiting The Grove Community Church in Riverside, California, I saw a system that they used to help motivate kids to listen & participate. They used ping pong balls to give to the kids when they brought their Bible, or a friend, etc. At the end of the service, the kids could put the ping pong balls that they earned into their display box. The group who filled their box first was rewarded with a pizza party. I liked that the reward system was visual for the kids, and they worked together to achieve a goal.
On a recent trip to California, I went to visit Sandals Church. This amazing group of people showed us around their building & shared their stories of what they are doing to see people come to know Jesus. Here are a few things that I learned from our visit with them.
1. Their average weekend attendance is 5799 people and in 2014 they had 3890 first time attenders. They run 7 services at 2 locations each weekend.
2. Their kids and youth area were themed in a way that was appropriate for each age group, yet it all tied into the look of the whole building.
3. They have some creative people on their kids staff who write their own songs & make videos for their kids worship. It was fantastic! (Shout out to Andrew & thank you for giving me a jump drive of your videos at CPC. You rock!)
4. They had bulletin board for their volunteers where they communicated “stuff” with their volunteers.
5. Kids got a button on their birthday (just like at Disney!).
Here are some pics of the youth/student ministries area at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.
I am enjoying being in sunny, warm California in the middle of February. I am attending the Children’s Pastor’s Conference in Ontario, California. While I am here, I am taking the opportunity to visit churches in the area, and learn from their staff & volunteer teams in Children’s Ministry.
Here are some pictures of the main campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. Their staff were more than friendly and very willing to share their ideas and information with us.
They have a separate building for their kids ministry. Around the outside of the building, they have several areas that they can use as teaching spaces. The tomb & 3 crosses are a great place to take kids to teach them about the death & resurrection of Jesus. The stone wall with windows make a great backdrop for just about any story.
Each room in the 3 story building, had age appropriate toys, games & interactive spaces where kids could connect before the lesson began. The preschool room had little doors that could be inserted into the doorway of any regular door. The older kids area had an entire wall that was a whiteboard. They did a great job of making each room age appropriate & fun for kids.
They used a WIN system for the volunteers in each room.
W – Welcome – the person responsible for welcoming each child as they enter, & help them get their name tag
I – Integration – helped kids move from the door & get connected with other friends
N – Networking – this volunteer kept everyone on schedule & doing the activities for the service
In the next blog post, I will share pictures & ideas from the student ministries building.
We did a lot of research before we put together the plans for our new kids space. Here are some things that we intentionally included in our design:
1. Indoor Playground. This will be used for outreach during the week. It will be open 4 mornings a week to the community, completely free of charge. One morning a week is reserved for groups with special needs kids. The Indoor Playground will also serve as a place for families to connect on Sunday mornings. It creates an opportunity for people to build community.
2. Washrooms in each room. Each kids room has one or two washrooms in them. That way, once kids are checked in, they have no reason to leave until their parents pick them up.
3. Wide hallways. With the volume of people coming in to our space, it was necessary to have wide hallways so people could get where they needed to go.
4. Storage. We included space in each room for larger props (behind the stage) and smaller items in cupboards right in the room.
5. Sink. Each room has a counter with a sink in it. Great for washing hands & convenient clean up.
6. Self Check-In. Our check-in process is electronic. We have included 5 stations for self check in, and they are spread out in our atrium to avoid congestion of people.
7. Windows. Each class has lots of windows so people can see in the class. In most rooms, the stage is on the opposite wall so during story time, kid will not be distracted by people walking in the hallway.
8. Technology. All classrooms from Kindergarten & up have a projector, screen, stage lights & sound system in each room.
9. TVs. We have intentionally placed TVs in locations where people will be standing around. We can play video clips and announcements to communicate a variety of messages.
10. Themed Spaces. Our Themed areas are in areas where people will be connecting & kids will be playing. (entrance & playground room) We did not theme our kids rooms, but instead, made them interesting colours and patterns to keep the kid feel, but not distract from the theme of the lesson for the day.
Glenn Reinders from Reinders & Reider Ltd designed our kids area and entire new building. He has designed both kids areas at the churches I have been employed at. Best. Architect. Ever.
Bruce Barry from Wacky World designed our Entrance area. He drew sketches & we built it with our volunteer team. At the time of this post, we have not completed this area, so there are no pictures. When it is finished, I will post pics.
We did research by visiting churches & children’s museums including: Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Christ Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach Florida, Willow Creek Church in Chicago, IL and children’s museums in Chicago, Indiana & Toronto.
I have been on a journey since I started working at my church 2.5 years ago. We have be in a building project and part of that project has included a new kids area. It’s been exciting to dream, research & design a new kids space. It has taken many meetings & emails to cover a zillion details. The most difficult part of this journey has been the last few months as the kids rooms have started to take shape. Sorting, packing & moving an entire kids ministry is a huge job. Transition of any kind is not usually easy for people, so helping hundreds of families make this transition has also been a process. Volunteers have worked countless hours far above and beyond what they signed up for so that the BIG MOVE could get done.
However, in the last few months, despite the chaos, and change, there has been very little complaining. There is excitement in the air, and people are filled with anticipation to see the new space open. People have stepped up to do work that needs to be done, and done so with a willing heart & attitude.
All of this work is for a building, but it’s just a building. Without the amazing team of volunteers to connect with the kids and the families, it is still just a building. It is a tool that will help us tell kids about God & grow closer to Jesus. We will use this tool to the very best of our ability, but the real ministry takes place as volunteers connect with kids and their families. We are looking forward to what God has planned in the new building. We are looking forward to the life change that will take place there.
Here are a few pics of our new space. In the next post, I will walk through some of the details that we intentionally included in our design.
We are in the middle of building a new kids area at my church. We are scheduled to move into our new space in 4 weeks. I am SUPER EXCITED about what lies ahead, but there are a LOT of details to look after in the next 4 weeks.
I have been doing a lot of research about Kids Spaces & Suppliers of ‘stuff’. Have you heard of Gressco? They make unique library and children’s commercial furniture. There are so many cool ideas in their catelogue. Everything from furniture to creative spaces & activity centers. If you have not heard of them, you should contact them & request a FREE catalog.
Crossroads church in Cincinnati, does a great job of communicating to parents what the lesson was about in the kids program. At the door of each room they have a sign that they change each week. They list 2 questions that parents can ask their child to start a discussion about that day’s lesson. I loved that it was simple, visual, and user friendly!
Another thing they do is post the lesson plans online. Parents can see what the lesson was about, what the small group questions were, what they did for connection time etc. It helps give parents a place to start to chat about the lesson when they get home.
To take it a step further, they post the videos online that they use in their lessons. That way, the families can watch them together at home.
What can you do to help families continue the lesson discussion at home?
Food Allergies are common in children. Kids Ministry should be a place where kids are safe & details such as food allergies are important. When I was at Crossroads Church they told me about their system when it comes to Food Allergies.
- Parents are responsible to put an Allergy Sticker on their child each week. Stickers are available at every check-in station. Parents simply write the allergy on the sticker, and put it on their child. They use round stickers that have red printing on them, so that it stands out from their name tag.
- Snack options are limited to 2 choices. Goldfish crackers & Graham Crackers. That’s it. Nothing else.
- Stickers are placed on the snack containers that clearly label the name of the snack as well as common allergy ingredients that are found in that snack (e.g. milk, wheat)
- A list of ingredients is taped on the inside of the cupboard door for volunteers to easily reference. The font size is much larger than what you would read on a packaging label. Easy to read!
- A list of ingredients is laminated & kept in the snack cupboard to give to parents to read if they ask about an ingredient list.
Click on the pictures above if you want to see a larger version.
Does your church have a clear plan for emergencies? Crossroads Church does. In fact, it’s so clear, that they have a Safety Manual displayed in each Kids Room. Each Manual is custom made with instructions for that specific room. The staff was kind enough to give me permission to share their Safety Manual on my blog with pictures for everyone to see. Hopefully it will inspire you to make a plan for emergencies that is clear for your volunteers.
Keeping vision in front of your volunteers is one of the most important things you will do as a Kids Ministry Leader. Reminding people over and over of why they do what they do.
On my most recent trip to Crossroads Church in Cincannati, I was reminded of something that they do to keep vision in front of their volunteers. Many of their kids ministry rooms have a picture wall. The pictures are specific to the ministry that happens in that room. The volunteer room has pictures of volunteers with kids, the special needs room has pictures of one-on-one buddies with their special friend. Each picture represents a story of a volunteer making a difference in the life of a child. Many of the volunteers that came with me from my church noticed the picture walls, and were impacted by the message in the form of pictures.
How do you keep vision in front of your volunteers?
When I went to visit Church in the Son in Orlando, I saw this volunteer badge. I thought it was a great idea to assign someone the official position of RUNNER. This person could get more supplies, or go page a parent, or ‘run’ to get what ever was needed. This could be a great job for an older child or teenager. Finding ways to involve kids teaches them the importance of serving, and they don’t need to be an adult before they can serve.
What other roles do you have that kids or youth can do?
I am getting ready to go on another church tour. I am taking some of my key leaders from my Kids Ministry with me. We will drive for about 8 hours one direction, do a little shopping in the US (something Canadians get quite excited about), and spend time attending various classes & services at the church we will be visiting. We will spend time together in the vehicles and get to know each other in the process. We will ask a million questions to our gracious hosts (aka Kids Ministry Staff & Volunteers) . We will come home with our brains ready to explode from all that we saw, heard & experienced.
You should go on a church tour! I am sure there is a church within driving distance that you could learn from. Here are some reasons why you should invest time in going on a church tour:
1. Seeing vs Hearing. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can learn so much from seeing something rather than just listening to someone tell you about it. You will notice details and things that people take for granted.
2. Casts Vision to Your Team. You should take a team of people with you. It will multiply the learning experience and the enthusiasm will be way higher than if you came back to try to tell your team all about the church.
3. It’s FREE! OK, well almost free. You will probably have some travel expenses if you are going any distance, but unlike attending a conference, there is no registration fee.
Is there a church in your area you could connect with and go on a tour?
The Student Center at Northview Church in Carmel, Indiana was amazing!
Spaces for large groups of people as well as smaller spaces for connecting.
Tons of creativity in this space!
On the walls before you enter one of the Elementary Classes at Willow Creek Church you will find these signs. Here are some of the benefits of having these signs displayed:
Intentional – Each part of the service time is very intentional. There is no downtime or wasted time. These signs communicate what will be happening during the service.
Communicates to Kids – It lets the kids know where the boundaries are and what is expected during each of these elements.
Communicates to Parents – As parents walk past these signs, they are also reminded about what is happening in the room & where the boundaries are for kids while they are there.
I have been to Willow Creek Church many times and each time I go I see something new. During my last visit, I saw this prayer wall in one of the kids rooms. I thought it was a great visual for kids to see their prayers represented on the different colored papers. They took time in their small groups to think of something to pray for, write it down, and put their paper on the wall.
It looked like it would be fairly easy to make and lightweight to move as needed.
Sometimes volunteers in classrooms need assistance. Maybe a child needs a parent, or they need help to clean up a spill, or they need more volunteers.
An easy way to get the attention of a hall monitor or Kids Director is to use this sign. I saw this when I went to visit Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta. Each preschool room had one of these signs that they could just wave out the door when they needed someone. As long as someone is assigned to being a hall monitor, this system could work!
On one of my trips to Orlando, I was able to visit Calvary Church. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into their elementary kids room and saw this stage! Here are some of the things I loved about this stage:
Color: It had bright colors everywhere!
Multilevel: There were lots of options for people to appear from several different entrance points.
Stairs: They had 2 stair options and they were both different.
How it was made: Home Depot was the place they got most of their supplies. Every kind of hose & pipe you could imagine. They just painted them cool colors and it made an instant kid-friendly design.
Faux Design – There were gadgets and gizmos everywhere. Buttons and levers, but none of them were real. In fact they just used stuff from Home Depot, and made it look like they were real. They also painted the wall with highlights and shadows to make it appear 3-D.
DIY – This was a DIY project. They didn’t hire a contractor or creative architect to design & build this for them. With a little creativity & some hard work, you could build a stage like this too!
I was the kids pastor at Calvary Assembly in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada for almost 12 years before I moved to my current position at Creekside Church in Waterloo, Ontario. I researched & visited Kids Spaces across Canada and the US for several years before building this Kids Ministry Space. It was the first church in Canada to have 3 levels of Themed Environment Space. Bruce Barry from Wacky World Studios designed and installed the kids area. I met him at a Conference in Chicago, and several weeks later Bruce came to visit us in Canada. A year later, our space was completed and transformed into an amazing space for kids!
One of the first church tours I ever went to was at Granger Community Church in Granger, IN. Their creativity and innovation was like nothing I had ever seen before. (well, other than Disney) Every kids room was designed in a different theme. They even had slides that took you from the kids check in area, right into the class room. When kids landed in the room, they could look at the monitor and wave good-bye to their parents. The parents could wave back using cameras and monitors at both ends of the slides.
What I love about themed spaces is it communicates to kids… “we think you are pretty important and we hope you have fun here”. If kids want to come to church they will beg their parents to bring them. That means more opportunities to tell them about Jesus and build relationships with them.
I went to visit Church In the Son in Orlando Florida. Their Sunday morning program for kids is called G.A.K. (God’s Anointed Kids) They have worked hard to create a space that kids will want to come to so they can teach them about Jesus. Here’s what I loved about this kids space:
The Look – They took tables, chairs, sofas etc and painted them or made them look new again in a way that screams “We love kids”.
Game Center – Kids love video games. They included this in their design so that kids had the option to choose an activity that was already familiar to them when they arrived.
Activity Center Area – They had lots of room to include spaces for kids to build relationships with other kids and with volunteers.
Stage – Their set was ‘interactive’. It included video as well as different places where people could appear from behind the set. They also had tons of storage space behind their set.
Mailboxes – Kids could write letters to the kids pastor, or to different characters that appeared on the stage for different stories.
Lobby – This area matched the color scheme of the GAK room and had signs that clearly communicated where people should take their children and where to pick them up.