Monthly Archives

May 2014

Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning for Kids Ministry

May 31, 2014

strategic-planning-imageOne of my favorite sayings is, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

I was at Willow Creek Church, sitting in their board room, with a team of Kids Ministry people from around the world.  One of the staff from the Willow Creek Association was leading our session on Strategic Planning.  I was thrilled to get an inside look at the process that Willow uses for Strategic Planning.  (more on that in another post) I was reminded how important it is to take time to do Strategic Planning.

Each year, it’s a good idea to sit down & work through a process of strategic planning.  I suggest you do these steps:

1.  Take time to pray and ask God to show you what He has in His plans for Kids Ministry this year.

2.  Set aside time in your schedule (like a whole day, or a few half days) where you can focus on strategic planning with no interruptions.

3.  Write down what the Goals are for your Kids Ministry.  Then pull out your ministry calendar & make a list of all the programs & events that you did in the past year.  Evaluate.  Did these programs & events help you accomplish your goal?

4.  Write down your new or reoccurring goals for the upcoming year.  What steps do you need to take to accomplish those goals?  Write down those steps.

5.  Sit down with your Sr. Pastor & share your plan with him.  Make sure your plans line up with the mission & goals of the church.

6.  Then sit down with your leadership team or key volunteers and walk through the plan with them.  Get their input & feedback.

7.  Communicate your plan to the people who need to know.  Share relevant information with volunteers & parents.  Let them know that you have a direction & a plan for that year & you want them to be a part of it.

8.  Strategic planning doesn’t end there.  Schedule dates in your calendar to evaluate your plan along the way.  Several times a year do a double-check to see if you are on track and accomplishing your goals.

9.  One more thing.  Don’t forget to celebrate & thank God for what He has done.  As you look back on the year, be reminded of what God has accomplished & celebrate it.  Share stories.  Write a report for your Sr. Pastor.  Email stories to your volunteer team to remind them that their hard work is making a difference.  Say thanks to God for all that He has done.


Leadership Strategic Planning That's a cool idea!

What 3 colors will help you make great decisions in Kids Ministry?

May 29, 2014


I am part of a team of Kids Ministry People from around the world brought together by Sue Miller.  I get to represent Canada on this team of amazing people!  At our last international meeting Pat Cimo gave us sheets of paper in 3 different colors. She asked us to write down things about our Kids Ministry in the following categories:

Green – What do you need to keep doing?  These are things that are going well, and helping you accomplish your vision and values.

Yellow – What do you need to slow down on?  These are things that you need to evaluate & decide if they need improvement or to be cut.

Red – What do you need to stop doing?  These are things that are costing you time & resources and are not helping you accomplish your vision for Kids Ministry.

What aspects of your kids ministry could you put into these categories?

Leadership Motivating Volunteers

3 things to help reduce volunteer turnover

May 28, 2014


If you want to keep the volunteers that you have, here are some things that you should remember:

Communication – Volunteers want to be in the loop and know what is happening.  Don’t spring surprises on them or forget about them when it comes to communication.  Stay in touch with them on a regular basis.

Feedback – Ask volunteers what they think.  Ask them how things are going in their room.  Send out a mini survey to get  feedback on specific questions.  When you ask them their opinion it helps them to feel like they are valued on the team.

Make it personal – Doing ministry is about serving together.  It’s not about getting a job done, it’s about connecting with people on the journey.  Sure you may be working together to accomplish a task or a goal, but really the priority is about the relationship that you are building with them.  When people see that you value them as a person more than what they do, they will feel cared for.  By keeping teams of volunteers small (max 12 people per leader) then you can build relationships at a personal level.

What are you doing to help reduce volunteer turnover in your ministry?


Recruiting Ideas

Don’t make these mistakes when looking for volunteers

May 27, 2014


One of the biggest challenges in Kids Ministry is a shortage of volunteers.  There never seems to be enough of them.

I have volunteered for other people before and I have taken what I learned from that experience to see volunteering from a different perspective.

Don’t ask the question before you paint the picture –  Announcements, general emails, posters, videos, power point slides etc.  They may not result in droves of people banging down your door to ‘sign up’ but they do help raise awareness that you need help.  You need to paint the picture of WHY this ministry is so amazingly important.  Paint the picture of why you need their help.

Don’t be vague on what you are asking – Be clear on what you need them to do & what it will take to get the job done.

Don’t take their time for granted – My time is valuable.  I don’t want to show up just to be an extra set of hands.  I want a specific job to do and feel like they would be in big trouble if I wasn’t there to fill that role.

Don’t think that no response means ‘no’ – Sometimes people hear you ask the question, but they have to go through a process before they get to the place where they can commit to a ‘yes’.  Maybe they have to check their work schedule, or ask their spouse to take care of the kids.  Maybe they read your email on their phone, but were busy at the time and forgot to respond. All of these things take time.  Consistent, gentle reminders are usually effective to keep the idea in front of people.  And then, when you give them a personal ask, the chances are way better that they will be willing to help.

Don’t think that ‘no’ means ‘never’ – Timing is everything. It just might not be a good time for them to help.  Or, the job you are asking them to do doesn’t light a fire in them, but perhaps a different job will.  Always have a back up plan.  If now isn’t a good time, when would be better?  If you don’t want to do this, would you consider that?

Usually people are willing to help.  It’s your job to effectively communicate that you need help, and to help them find the right fit, at the right time.




Church Tours That's a cool idea!

We need Help!

May 25, 2014

help sign

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!


John Maxwell’s Eleven Keys to Excellence

May 24, 2014


When I started my very first job as a pastor, my senior pastor said, “Have you ever heard of John Maxwell?  You need to listen to his Injoy Life Club tapes.”  I think that was some of the best advice that I received in my early days of ministry.  My husband and I would listen to tape after tape when we would drive in our car.  (I know I am dating myself by admitting they were in the form of ‘tape cassettes’.)

Today I still listen to CDs, mp3’s and audio books by John Maxwell.  I have many of his DVD training kits on leadership and teamwork that I use when I teach my students in my Children’s Ministry Courses at Emmanuel Bible College.  His material is jam packed with great wisdom about leadership.

One of the audio cassettes (which I have converted to MP3) is called, “Eleven Keys to Excellence”.  There is a version of this talk on YouTube.  The last part is missing, but you get most of the content.

Here are the Eleven Keys that John teaches in this talk:

1.  Value excellence

2.  Don’t settle for average

3.  Pay attention to detail

4.  Develop a deep commitment to excellence

5.  Possess ethics and integrity

6.  Show genuine respect for others

7.  Go the second mile

8.  Be consistent

9.  Never stop improving

10.  Always give 110%

11. Make excellence a lifestyle

If you come across any of John’s material, take the time to read it or listen to it.  Time well invested in growing your leadership.

Church Tours That's a cool idea!

Creating a Creative Stage

May 23, 2014

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!

Church Tours

Church Tour – Calvary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

May 22, 2014

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! I thought I would share with you some pics from the church tour in Cambridge.

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Church Tours

Church Tours – Granger Community Church

May 21, 2014

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.

Church Tours

Church Tours – Church In the Son – Orlando

May 20, 2014

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.

That's a cool idea!

Stacking Cups – Books of the Bible

May 18, 2014


cup-game cup-game2

This idea comes from Patricia Ann Striegel and her blog

Each team has a stack of 66 cups.  The first team to build 3 stacks of 22 cups – of the Books of the Bible in order, wins!

The kids at that church play this game once a month to help them learn the Books of the Bible.

What do you do to help your kids learn the books of the Bible?

Church Tours

Church Tours – Willow Creek Church Preschool Area

May 17, 2014

Stairs – The place is massive.  They do a great job of moving high volumes of people quickly and easily.

Check In Area – This is mainly for first time guests.  They give you a DVD of a typical day in Promiseland when you come for the first time.  Their greeters are super friendly and helpful.  Other check-in areas are located in various locations & entrances.

Kids Area – This is technically a hallway (very wide) or gathering space outside of several rooms.  Parents connected in this area before/after services.

Activity Panels – Kids and parents can have fun at church together.  Also keeps kids occupied while parents chat.  Activity Panels are interchangeable.  I have been here at various times and some of the panels were different.

Nursery Hallway – The nursery area consisted of many rooms that all looked very similar.  This hallway was the common area for all these rooms.

Nursery Drop Off Window – Love that the children are passed over the counter & only volunteers were allowed in the rooms.  Less traffic & less chance for little ones to get stepped on or escape.

I hear that the kids ministry area at Willow Creek church is currently under renovation.  I will have to update this post when I get new pictures of their new kids space!


Church Tours Family Ministry That's a cool idea!

Church Tours – the halls of Willow Creek Community Church

May 16, 2014

IMG_1506 IMG_1505 IMG_1510IMG_1511

When you walk the halls in the kids area at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, you will find these pictures displayed.  They are trying to encourage families to grow spiritually together.  The visual images show examples of families serving together, or reading the Bible together etc.  Many of the display boards include a Bible verse that families can read as they pass by.  I love that it is a visual reminder to families that they can do things together as a family to grow spiritually.


Leadership That's a cool idea! Training Volunteers

Want to improve your leadership skills? Try this with your team.

May 15, 2014


I teach 2 Children’s Ministry courses at Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario.  One of the classes was on the topic of leadership.  I used this team building activity to demonstrate how important communication skills are when leading a team.  The students were able to pull all kinds of valuable lessons from this exercise.  Here’s how it works:

Team: works best with 4-6 people in a group

Supplies:  Duct Tape, a marker, a piece of paper & blindfolds

Prep:  cut long strips of duct tape (one for each person on the team) and attach one end to the marker.  This video at the end of this post illustrates how to do this.

Directions:  Designate one person on the team to be the leader.  Everyone else on the team puts on a blindfold.
Give the leader a simple picture that you want their team to draw. (e.g. happy face) Don’t tell or show the picture to anyone but the leader.
Each person on the team holds one of the duct tape strips, and together, they try to get the marker to move to draw the object.The leader must give instructions to their team to get them to draw the picture while blindfolded.

After you lead your team through this activity, ask them what they learned from this.

Church Tours Missions That's a cool idea!

Try this idea to teach kids about missions

May 14, 2014


When I was at Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, Florida, I saw a room that they use to help raise awareness for missions.

It runs on a reward system.  When kids come to church, bring their Bible or learn their Bible verse, they get “dollars”.  They can use these dollars to purchase things at the store.  The neat thing is, the items for sale in the store are things like “clean water” or “rice” or “blankets” or other items that are needed by people both locally and across the world in their missions projects.  Then the church uses real money from their missions budget to purchase those items to give to those who need them.  Kids are motivated to help others by learning their Bible Verses and coming to church.  How cool is that!  For more information, you can email Dale Hudson.  Check out his blog at .

Church Tours Recruiting Ideas That's a cool idea!

Are you a visual learner when it comes to Recruiting Volunteers?

May 13, 2014


When I went to visit Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, I saw this board in one of the offices.  As people move through the process of becoming a volunteer, their name is moved along in the categories.  (names are greyed out for privacy) It’s a great way to remember who you have connected with, where they are in the process and what is the next step for them.  It even included details such as the date they got moved to that category or which service they will be serving in.  If you are a visual learner, this method might be beneficial for you as you look for volunteers to join your team.

Church Tours

Church Tours – Northpoint in Atlanta

May 13, 2014

P1020024 P1020090 P1020104

When I went to Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, I was excited to see their Kids Area.  Each area was appropriately themed for the kids in that age group.  These pictures are from their preschool area.  Preschoolers sat on wide risers with their small groups to listen to the Bible Story.  The hallways were brightly painted and doors had gates on them to keep kids in while the doors were open.  They had signs to communicate information to parents.  The volunteers were friendly and very helpful.  Room capacity and volunteer to child ratios were displayed.  I got the impression that if you left your child there, they would be safe and well cared for.

As I walked through their kids area, they communicated a message without speaking to a single person.



Attention to detail.



Planned in advance.


Volunteers well trained.

Kids are valued.

What message are you communicating to families when they walk through your kids area?

That's a cool idea!

Photo Spot?

May 12, 2014

IMG_1846Before Monsters University was released, this display was up in the lobby of the movie theatre.  Kids of all ages wanted to get their picture taken in the photo spot.  Of course people would share their pictures with friends on social media.  Disney knew this cardboard display would be an interactive way for people to get in on the action and help Disney “advertise” the up and coming movie.  Churches could use this same idea.  Just about every phone comes equipped with a camera so people are snapping pictures all the time.  What creative ‘photo spot’ can you create in your kids area?  Be sure to include the logo of your Kids Ministry so people will know where the picture was taken.

Church Tours Motivating Volunteers That's a cool idea! Training Volunteers

New Volunteers

May 11, 2014


When new volunteers come to volunteer in Kids Ministry it’s important to make them feel welcome and give them details about what they need to do.  Crossroads Church has a sign posted in their Kids Rooms that reminds the current volunteers what they should do when a new volunteer arrives in the room to serve.

Greet them – Saying hello when they arrive lets them know that they are valued and you are happy to have them there!

Make Introductions – Help them get connected by introducing them to the rest of the team.

Give them the 411 – Let them know what is going to happen that day, and what you need them to do.

Action! – Connect them with an experienced volunteer and help them jump right in.

Any Questions? – Ask them if they have any questions.

What do you do to help your volunteers on their first day in Kids Ministry?

Events That's a cool idea!

Giant Kerplunk Game

May 9, 2014


Did you ever play Kerplunk when you were a kid?  We built one of these games for our church.  It’s a great game to play as a group and have fun together.

You can find detailed instructions and a how-to video on this website, This Old House.  Find someone in your church who likes to build things and ask them to build it for you!

Church Tours

Church Tours – Christ Fellowship Kids

May 7, 2014

Christ Fellowship Church is in West Palm Beach Florida.  I have been there many times.  In fact, I call it my “other church”.  I go every time I visit Florida.  Their kids space is like no other that I have seen!  The hallways & every room have themed environments.  It almost feels like you are entering Disney World!  If you are ever in the area, be sure to check out Christ Fellowship Kids!

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