the five minute kidmin debrief

20131006-204809.jpg

Once every month I have the privilege of leading kids church at my church. I have two teen team members, a 19 year old young man and a 14 year old young lady. They are da bomb.

Our children’s director emails us our curriculum a couple of weeks in advance. Then, one week ahead of our scheduled Sunday, we gather to plan our lesson. We did this last Sunday. This morning we delivered our lesson as a team with each person carrying out specific responsibilities as leaders at times, and helpers at other times. It was fun!

However, we understand there is always room for growth. So, we gathered for a five minute debrief after all the children had left with their parents. That’s it. Just five minutes. But the information was fresh in our minds. We talked about what worked and what didn’t work. How we felt, and what could be better to make next time an even greater success. Just five minutes, sharing as colleagues in preparation for our next collaboration in a few weeks.

It gave me the opportunity to encourage one of the team members not to be too hard on himself when he struggled a bit. It also allowed me to recognize and affirm them when they created an environment in which students interacted with each other meaningfully on the content of the lesson, sharing insights discovered and ways to apply them. A powerful moment in the lesson, brought on by the sensitivity of the 14 year old as she recognized something special in the statement of a 9 year old girl during the discussion.

A simple five minute debrief, wisely executed, can ease insecurity, embolden fledgling confidence, affirm quality performance, and encourage ongoing growth and learning. Be present in the moment with the team and keep it simple, short, and positive.

When is the next time you will have a five minute debrief with your team? How will you frame it so that it speaks to immediate needs without feeling rushed, or going too long?

Try it. It can be cathartic for your team, and provide all of you with just in time learning opportunities that can get missed in formalized training situations.

class starts when the first child arrives

I showed up to church early last Sunday. I was called late Saturday night to fill in for the scheduled Kids Church teacher. I had not been in front of a group of kids for over one year. I was thrilled to receive the call. Of course, I said yes. 

I met with the children’s directors. They trained me on how to use the curriculum, and instructed me concerning the normal procedures for the morning. While they set up the laptop in order to play the video curriculum, a brother (10 yrs) and sister (9 yrs) arrived early for their Sunday school class which occurs in the same room. The two kids quietly sat down. I looked away from the computer to observe the children. With their teacher not yet present, my reponsibilities were clear.

I grabbed a balloon from my right front pocket, invited them to stand up to play a game with me, and then made a big show out of inflating the balloon. Yes, they laughed. And then we spent the next ten minutes bouncing the balloon to each other. Our rules were simple. We each could only hit it once at a time and we could not let it fall to the ground. The key is communication and teamwork. They loved the game, having played similar ones in the past. Indeed, they invited other children to play when they began to arrive.

It was a prelude to their kids church lesson later in the morning concerning the Israelites who needed to trust God and each other as they marched around Jericho. Although I intended to use the game later for that purpose, my plans were adjusted according to the needs of two children at risk of becoming bored.

After all, class starts when the first child arrives.

Crabby Children’s Pastor Powers

If you are a children’s ministry leader or teacher and have been at it for a number of years, you have been there. The kids are wild. They won’t settle down. They know your buttons and have elected to push them, all of them, all at once. And you feel yourself ready to use that all powerful tool. You invoke your crabby children’s pastor powers.

The photograph depicts a scene witnessed in the many homes. Momma is mad and is threatening to use her crabby mommy powers to settle matters once and for all.

I have seen it in children’s ministry, too. Continue reading

apprentice, really?

I am a fan of Celebrity Apprentice. It is one of my guilty pleasures. I watched the first episode of season 9 tonight on Hulu. It is fascinating to watch so many strong personalities attempt to work together. Some are trainwrecks. Others whom we might expect to be trainwrecks turn out to be solid performers. But that is not why I am writing this post now. After having watched several seasons of Celebrity Apprentice, and the regular iteration of The Apprentice, I find myself asking, “Apprentice of what? Or of whom?” Or perhaps the more apt, “Apprentice, really?” Continue reading

when a little boy cries

This morning a four year-old boy entered my classroom crying. He was sad about a game he had just played in another group. He did not get a turn to lead a particular activity. Tears flowed freely. I tried to comfort him with a hug and kind words, but to no avail. He puckered his lower lip and wept. Again, I tried to comfort him but with no results. So, I tried a different approach. I asked him to breathe deeply. In and then out. Once. Twice. Three times. As he followed my example he visibly calmed. This gave me opportunity to redirect his attention into a new activity where he had an opportunity to have a turn first. Finally, he smiled.

When a little boy cries there can be many reasons. Physical pain, being frightened, harsh words, sadness about perceived unfairness, and so on. I try to comfort first while also determining the cause. In this case the cause  was the boy who feeling left out when other children received a turn. Life can be unfair that way. But parents, caregivers, and children’s ministry workers can also show that God provides new and different opportunities to find fulfillment. For this boy the solution was a simple as a few moments collecting his composure, and being redirected into a new fun activity where he could participate actively. It is one snapshot into the many moments which comprise a typical Sunday morning in the local church.

Bible story telling technique

I created a new (to me, maybe not to others) Bible story telling technique this morning for my older kids, grades two through six. I have two general types of kids. Those who are generally self-motivated to listen and participate and those who are not. The latter often frustrate the former. So, today I tried something different for me. Here is what I did.

  1. I asked each child to remove their right shoe and place it in a pile in the middle of the floor.
  2. I broke the kids into two teams and asked them to sit single file in a row on their bottoms with their feet sticking out and facing the other team, with the pile of shoes separating the two teams. 
  3. I asked each team to create a name for itself. One team chose the name “bombers” and the other team chose the name “Aces.” (Made me wonder if they have been watching WWII movies lately….)
  4. I gave each child a number. I had fifteen kids this morning, so I asked my teen helper to be on one of the teams. Each team had eight members, so the participants were numbered one through eight on both teams.
  5. Today’s Bible passage was Luke 2:41-51, the account of twelve year-old Jesus and his family journeying to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover celebration. As I read the account I worked into the story each of the numerals one through eight. When the children assigned to specific numerals heard them, they were to search for their right shoe in the pile, put it on, and be sure it was tied or zipped up before the opponent. The winner of each number scored a point for his/her team.
  6. Because I played it up a bit and the kids were having so much fun, I had them do the same with their left shoes after completing the first round with their right shoes.
  7. It worked out that the story completed at the end of the second round.

Here is what I am learning from this experience.

  • Necessity truly causes us to invent knew ways of doing things. In this case, I desired to capture and keep the kids’ interest and do so in a way that teaches Biblical narrative and truth.
  • Many of my tried and true Bible story teaching methods are great, but my older experienced kids know them, and my new neighbor kids aren’t always motivated to learn Scripture and how to live for God on their own initiative. So, I have to discover what motivates them.
  • Integrating fun, active games as the delivery system for biblical narrative and truth seems an effective way of reeling diverse children into the message of the day without sounding preachy, or using methods which seem to them to be boring or too childish.
  • Because the children were motivated to win the bragging rights for scoring the most points, they policed each other and helped each other listen to the content of the message. The point here is to learn what motivates them and use that constructively to guide them in the right direction.

What do you think? Have you ever tried something like this?

Bonus suggestion

After the story, we took a brief break and then returned with Bibles in hand. I had them open their Bibles to the passage I cited above. I drew a hangman apparatus (dreadful, I know, but the kids understand the game and realize that is all it is, a word game), and then the lines representing spaces for the first word below. As we played the game, I told them the word (or later phrases) were directly from the passage we just studied. I allowed them to look in their Bibles to try to determine which word I had chosen. Once again, they were motivated to win, so they diligently did their work in the Bible.