I recently had a vision casting meeting with our elementary volunteers. Currently, my church runs a good program. The kids are dropped off in various rooms. Then they travel to a large room for some corporate worship before traveling back to their separate rooms for a lesson. There is a lot of loose time and transition time. My goal was to pitch that we have very little time with these kids to make an eternal impact—so we need to make every minute count. So I presented some goals we will aim for this fall:
Goals for this Fall:
- We want every child who comes to Kids Rock to feel noticed, loved and welcome!
- We want to make Sunday the highlight of their week!
- We want guests to come back because they had a great time and made a connection.
- We want kids to leave having learned something NEW and life-changing.
These are goals everyone could agree with, easily. But how do you make them a reality? You have to create a program that has some pop and power and that pulls the kids along. It can’t drag and it needs to have clear direction, purpose and it be intentional. There has to be a clear plan that is executed with precision.
So I shared some Principles for Powerful Programming that will take our current good program and transform it into a great program that will create an experience that makes it a magnet for kids—something kids won’t want to miss and that visitors will beg their parents to bring them back to. Ready? Here they are:
Principles of Powerful Programming (that engages an audience and holds it!)
1. Start like a horse out of the gate instead of a locomotive picking up speed.
You can’t have the kids come in and be mingling while you are still setting up, looking for your mic, cuing music, and engage in small talk and chit-chat—you need to start intentionally with a bang. Never ask kids to start or to pay attention. You command their attention by how you start, and then you never loose their attention by earning their attention from that moment on.
2. Don’t say what you are going to do… Just Do It!
Don’t introduce things with long explanations—just lead. Just start. As a senior pastor, my dad was once asked how the adults’ service could shave ten minutes off the service and he said, “Let’s stop introducing everything and just do the things. Instead of, ‘And now Mrs. Yakus is going to come up and sing a solo for us,’ just have her ready to sing as soon as the previous service element is over, and the music starts, and she starts singing. Everyone knows who Mrs. Yakus is anyway!” The same is true in kids church. Never say, “And now it’s time for the skit…” Just have the actors burst onto the stage acting!
3. Stop while the kids still like it. (Last emotion is the lasting emotion.)
Kids associate things with their last memory of it. If you milk something until they are tired of it, the next time you go to do it, they won’t like it. They will remember that they were tired of it. If you stop while they like it, even if they whine, the next time you do it, they will cheer!
4. Every element must flow into the next without pause, delay or hesitation. (Be “on deck”)
Have the next activity or element ready so it happens immediately. You can even have the next element happen almost as an interruption so the kids never get a chance to be distracted.
5. Do everything with excellence – practiced and presented with the highest quality possible. Along with this, you should have a written plan you are executing.
Whatever you do, do it as though you were doing it for the Lord! (Col. 3:23) Never think, “It’s just kids church.” Do your BEST. Souls are at stake! Never wing it. Have a written plan and work the plan. (Here is a PDF template you are welcome to use and adapt for your own service.)
6. Always use something visual to enhance what is going on. It can be on-screen or in-hand.
Never. Never. Ever. Just talk at kids. Use visuals. An object. A picture on screen. Hold your Bible. If you have nothing. Then YOU be visual as you talk. Or else a child’s mental screen saver will kick on and you will fade out.
7. Romans 12:11 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord!”
Be passionate and excited. Be riveting. Be engaging. If kids are bored, it’s most likely your fault. If you are having fun, they will be too! Learning doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it shouldn’t be!
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive—we are working on environment, kids in service, incentives, relational connections, follow up and other things as well—but it’s a place to start.
What are your tips for powerful programming? I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments!