In kids ministry we try to connect with kids in order to reach them – Kidology is a philosophy of ministry that strives to minister to kids from within the culture of kids. In order to interest, engage and even at times (dare I say it?) entertain kids, we will do the craziest things, won’t we? Dunk tanks! Drop eggs from helicopters! Pies in the face! All manner of craziness and silliness goes on in children’s ministries.
And this is good!
But there is also a danger.
We can risk losing the sacred.
We can risk being flippant with holiness.
And at some point, all that FUN needs to decrescendo down to some sacred seriousness, or else it loses it’s purpose and was all for naught. Fun isn’t the goal, it is a means to a greater end.
We aren’t in the business of giving kids a great time. We are in the business of making disciples.
“Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.” Matthew 7:6 MSG
I’m not going to offer the answer here – just a challenge as you plan to also pray and ask God to give you wisdom. The balance between silliness and the sacred will be played out differently in each ministry – but it needs to be there.
We are working with children, so there needs to be silliness and fun. But at the same time, we need to draw kids into the mystery and awe of God. That calls for a level of reverence and seriousness. You can have both! Actually, you need both. Ministries that try to be all serious lose kids and ministries that are all fun aren’t making an eternal difference because life isn’t all fun. Kids need to know the serious side of a life walking with an Awesome God.
Question: How do YOU “bring it down” and help kids appreciate the sacred and serious side of the Christian life? I have my techniques, I’d love to hear some of yours.
I was invited to be a special guest again at Cherry Hill Community Church, where they have a wonderful children’s ministry. Whenever you are given the opportunity to teach at Christmas time, it presents a unique challenge. You are, of course, teaching the greatest story in HIS-Story – but it is also a very familar one. So how do you tell it in a new and creative way that will still engage children who can easily “check out” when they start to hear the familiar parts of the story. I searched my computer for countless ways I have addressed Christmas in over twenty years as a children’s pastor – and then walked into my vast kidmin prop warehouse and started seeing things that could be used to tell the story! At the same time, as I prayed about it, I was wanted to elevate the story above the mere facts of the traditional story to WHY did God sent Jesus? The story is truly epic and transcends the birth of Christ from the origins of time all the way to Christ’s Resurrection all the way to today!
Then it hit me! Why don’t I tell the ENTIRE STORY OF CHRISTMAS FROM CREATION TO TODAY!
I know, sounds crazy. But I’m known for crazy ideas. So I sought out to bombard the children with an onslaught of props to capture their eyes and engage their imaginations and begin with eternity past, creation, the problem of sin (yes, you can get philosophical with kids!) carry it through to Christmas, explain several of the rarely taught truths of Christmas such as why did the wise men know about the star (from missing writings of Daniel in Babyon) to the fact that they were not even at the stable as is often depicted! And then carry the story through Easter and then through to it’s conclusion today by presenting a child from the audience with the same choice Adam and Eve had – only a forbidden gumball from a gumball machine instead of a forbidden fruit from a tree!
I ended up with four trunks of propped, a few tables and a lit up star up on a pole!
Click to view larger
The kids enjoyed it and leaders even told me they learned some things they didn’t know! By the end, included were God, Adam, Eve, Satan (Snake), Cain and Abel, Noah, Moses, Prophets, Mary, Joseph, Caesar, George Bush, King Herod, Wiseman (just one), David, Solomon, Daniel, Shepherds*, Angels, Simeon, Jesus (baby and grown), Mary Magdalene and Mother of Jesus, Disciples, Roman Soldiers Angel and… and a boy from audience to represent today. (My son!) I think that’s everyone I covered!!
(And yes, my son was the boy who helped at the end. He did a great job!)
Note: I included a bit of the Cherry Hills opening to show how they do it, since they do such a great job and model how to start with a bang and lead into the teaching time with songs that start out upbeat and fun and gradually get more slow paced. It is a model of how it should be done. (I edited out their welcome time, it is extremely well done, but didn’t want to put visiting kids on YouTube without permission.)
There was A LOT to put away at the end! I didn’t even USE all the stuff I brought, later I kept seeing objects and agonizing, “Oh, I forgot that!”
This is a panorama, so click to view full size.
What have YOU done to bring the Christmas Story ALIVE for your kids?
*Note: I think during this second service recording I left out the shepherds… oops!
It is always a fun and unpredictable time when those who work with children get together! And the highlights of a Children’s Pastors Conference are often from around a table sharing a meal, rather than a workshop or general session – as wonderful and inspiring as they may, in fact, be for helping with one’s ministry. But I’ve long made by Mission one of “Equipping and Encouraging” because I know that laughter is often as needed as another great idea or resource.
In that spirit, one of the highlights of CPC this year, happened not at the conference at all, but as Tom and John and I, joined by some new friends from the shuttle, Darcie and Rebecca, where hanging out at my favorite restaurant in Downtown Disney, The Earl of Sandwhich. When I suggested this location for our pre-conference meal I explained that it was named after the inventor of the sandwich! Which is explained the cups you get your drinks out of:
The History of the Earl of Sandwich
As a bit of fun, I invited each person at the table to read the cup in their own dramatic fashion, as they would if it were a movie trailer, or as they might for a kids church drama. Then, as it turned out, Josh Baker, one of the children’s pastors at the table, informed us that he actually produces full scale dramatic productions every week at his church. He said he doesn’t do voices, but he could rather, approach the subject matter as he would his weekly topics, as a writer/director. “THEN!” said I, “you must create for us the screen play for the Pastor of Sandwich! What is the children’s pastor’s version of the classic story? How might this simple historical event be seem through the eyes of a children’s pastor? What are we missing? And how might it be presented properly?”
On the spot, Josh amazed us by creating a scene, describing the set, the characters, the situations, and unfolding a story, changing it as he went, adapting to our collaborative input as we contributed to the story as it unfolded. In the end, we figured out that the Earl of Sandwich, must have been a children’s pastor who was too busy getting ready for Sunday to stop for lunch and made the sandwich from left-overs in the church kitchen.
I challenged Josh to finish the manuscript and submit it to me later. Here is the finished work. Soon to be a major motion picture from Walden Media and DreamWorks Productions and Disney as soon as funding is secured.
See what creativity can be inspired and spurred when children’s pastors get together and share a sandwich? Creative fellowship is the best fellowship!
THE PASTOR OF SANDWICH
By: Pastor Josh Baker
Capital Baptist Church, Annadale VA
Dedicated to the work of Kidology.org
and the shared fellowship of friends over what else? A sandwich.
Pastor: P (dressed in vintage “Dickens era” clothing if available)
Props: desk, chair, desk lamp, books, pencil or feathered quill (older looking on first five items the better to set the proper time period) paper, trash can, bread, chicken leg, bread knife
[scene opens with P sitting behind a big old desk that is littered with papers, open and closed books, a dimly-lit desk lamp, and an overflowing wastepaper basket near the desk on the floor. P has got his head down looking over his work, head is leaning on left hand, with his fingers spread through his messy, unkempt hair. His right hand nervously taps a well-worn pencil now lacking an eraser.]
Lighting: very dim with just a soft glow, almost candlelight, over the desk.
Music: if available, some instrumental medieval time period or classical Dickens style music could be played softly in the background
(N speaks from a microphone off stage and out of sight)
N: Our scene opens in the English land of Sandwich, Kent, a historic town in southeast England. It was late at night on a Saturday evening in the dead of winter back in the seventeen hundreds…
N: In a scene that would remind one of the classics like Dickens and Scrooge, we find a haggardly looking pastor of children burning the midnight oil seeking inspiration for his message needing to be done for morning worship at his church in Sandwich just a few hours away…
N: Unfortunately, for those of you who write or are thusly employed to provide inspiration to those who seemingly have none, you would know that often when inspiration must be rushed due to deadlines, it is in this time, that inspiration often fails oneself.
N: Thus the night becomes long as one struggles to force a story from one’s brain, all the while praying to God that He would provide where you have found yourself lacking.
N: It was in such a state of mind we find poor Master Montagu, a tireless worker of the church. It is likely that had there not been a hearth and pantry at the church, Montagu would have starved to death many a time over as these late nights were a common practice. But as it was, the church pantry was often found littered with remnants of feasts and celebrations gone by to which Montagu survived his late night writings.
[P exits his desk and goes backstage. He then returns eating a chicken leg and a loaf of bread.]
N: In this time, long before pizza delivery and Chinese take-out, Montagu often relied on appetizer remnants of fruits and vegetables. When he found himself particularly blessed, he would find leftover meat and bread.
P: Tis blessed I am this night! For I have meat and bread! (sitting back down at his desk, he realizes both his hands are full and he can not write)
P: Tis good food, but alas! For I can not work and eat at the same time in such a manner as this! Cursed be I! (pausing to survey the situation deeper and think about what he should do) Wait! Cursed be not I! For I have been blessed with an idea! If I were to take my bread and cut it in two and then place my meat between it, then I could have a free hand in which to write and I also would not get so messy!
[P goes about cutting the bread in two and putting the chicken leg in between and then holding up his creation proudly for all to see.]
P: I do believe I have something here! I believe others will soon be asking to have what I have here in my church of Sandwich- they will be calling to have “the same as Sandwich!”
[P begins to munch on his creation while he puts his head back down to his studies and returns to thinking.]
P (thinking out loud sadly): If only I could be as inspired by God’s Word as I am with this meat and bread tonight! (momentary pause as he thinks) Wait! I do believe I have it!
P (turning to his paper, he begins to scribble quickly and excitedly with his pencil in one hand and the sandwich in his other):
There once was a group of people, quite large indeed you see, that sought the words and inspiration of a Man, calling to them to follow…and yet they were hungry, distracted from his Words. And so the man called out to his disciples and ask them to seek out bread and meat in which to serve the people, but his disciples said unto him, Master! There are too many of them! We shall surely not feed them all!
Despite their disbelief, they sought out amongst the crowd anyone who could provide a creative solution to their problem. Found among the masses was just one small boy with nothing more then a few pieces of bread and a couple fish, mere leftovers most likely from the home pantry and a feast of the night before.
But what inspiration and solution it would provide to the Master! For the humble offering was combined together and miraculously multiplied and the masses were fed while the Master continued to speak!
Boys and girls, if we humbly seek to take what is available to us that the Lord provides and then use our Lord as the source of inspiration towards its use, it can become a blessing to many!
[P setting his pencil down and looking at his sandwich for a moment and then lifting his eyes to heaven:]
P: Thank you God for taking a humble leftover and an ordinary Pastor and combining the two to show the kids how you can combine what others have left behind and a searching soul to bring about a message of blessing!
Lighting: fades out as the P gets up from his desk, turns off his desk lamp and quietly leaves, eating his sandwich.
Tonight was the night for our annual family pumpkin carving. Which means, I carve two pumpkins and Sara carves out hers. (I’m not letting Luke handle a sharp knife just yet!) But we did let him design his pumpkin on paper first.
It was fun looking at pumpkin designs online first – and boy oh boy are there some amazing pumpkin designs out there! So much potential in a simple pumpkin! You start with this plain ol’ pumpkin, and yet it can become anything you want it to be. It all depends on how creative you are willing to be, how patient you are willing to be, how careful you are willing to cut away at it, how much time you willing to spend on it, and how unique you want it to be. You can settle for something like everyone else – or you can decide to be different and unique. And of course, practice helps you improve over time. My least favorite part is cleaning out the insides – but it is a necessary evil if you want the light inside to shine out!
It kind of reminds me of how we build our ministries. There is so much potential! And how effective we are all depends on the same factors. Are we willing to look at others to see what they have done? There is lots of help online available too! From Kidology.org and other great websites. And if you are willing to be creative, patient, and carefully cut away at it, and put time and effort into it – you can build a pretty amazing ministry! Are you just going to build a basic one like every other church? Or do something unique and different that will draw kids and families? And of course, practice will help you improve over time. And don’t forget, if you really want God’s Light to shine through you and your ministry, you must be willing to get rid of the junk that that distracts. The good news is – inside that junk, are seeds that can result in spiritual growth!
So how did our pumpkin carving go?
I went with a SCARY pumpkin!
Sara was much more creative and artistic with hers….
Luke made his throwing up…. (totally his idea!)
If we were having a contest, I think Sara won!!
Pumpkins won’t last… but your ministry will have eternal results! If we can put this much time and energy and fun into something so fleeting… what are you doing to make your ministry creative and lasting?
It’s not a contest… but it does matter! BE CREATIVE!
Just had to share this YouTube video that my sister made. She may not be a children’s pastor – but she has to be one of THE most awesome volunteers in kids ministry I have ever known. (And, of course, we both had the same mom!) Every church she is at, is blessed to have her, as are the kids she always pours into. While she may never have a kidmin website or blog – she is living out what I write about on Kidology and my blog with her life. And not always in a church setting, she invests in the kids in her community and in the families of those she knows, raising funds for a bike for a kid that got beat up and his bike stolen, to countless other stories.
And so I just wanted to brag on my little sister a bit and show you the Pastor Appreciation video she made for her pastor with the kids in her Sunday School Class. It made my day!
If you enjoyed it, post a comment her that she can read, or comment on the video on YouTube!