Recruiting and Keeping Sunday School Team

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One common struggle in Children’s Ministry is to grow the Sunday School Team. Tina Houser provides some suggestions for doing this in her book Building Children’s Ministry: A Practical Guide.  In one sense, everyone in the church can be a part of children’s ministry regardless of the gifts, skills, time and energy they can give. We need people to pray for this ministry, the teachers and the families we serve. We need people to donate craft items. We need people to encourage us and to help lift us up when the going gets tough. On the other hand, growing a ministry team requires wisdom and prayer. Houser writes an important caution: “Don’t act out of desperation. A healthy church matches people with a ministry that God has called them to and it’s just as important in children’s ministry as anywhere else in the church” (pg. 74). Another important task in children’s ministry is to support the team that God has given you to lead.

Know what you are looking for

Before you begin (or continue) to recruit Sunday School team members, take a moment to prayerfully consider what you are looking for in such people. What qualities would bless your children’s ministry? What strengths do you need for this position and to complement the strengths that you already have? What gifts would be ideal for this type of ministry?

Houser writes a few qualities that you may want to consider (pg. 75) – “If they have these qualities, you can train them for the rest!”:

  • They have expressed a personal faith in Jesus and are committed to their own spiritual growth
  • They have a heart for children. These are the people who respond with a tear or goose bumps, butterflies, and tingly sensations when you tell them about a precious comment a child made.
  • They see children as individuals, and understand that kids aren’t made with a cookie cutter or given the same personalities, desires, and preferences
  • They show a willingness to step out of their own comfort zones to learn new things in order to reach a child.
  • They feel an urgency and express a sense of importance in leading children to a personal relationship with their heavenly Father through Jesus.

What do you expect of them?

Potential volunteers will want to know what you expect of them. The more you are able to answer this question, the less surprised your team will be. Houser offers a few questions to help you think through the expectations of this commitment (pg. 77):

  • How much time is involved each week?
  • Is there an ending to this commitment or a time of re-commitment (e.g. in a year)>
  • How much preparation is anticipated?
  • Will there be a training period?
  • Will they be expected to train others?
  • Is there a budget for additional items or are they responsible for covering the costs themselves? Who will purchase these supplies?
  • What happens if something comes up and they get sick? Who do they inform? Who will find a substitute teacher?

Keep your eyes and ears open for people who may join your team

Ask your team to do the same. Some people may approach you to be part of children’s ministry. However, often people need to be affirmed before they will step up to volunteer and therefore you will most likely need to approach people. Start by developing a relationship with them – without asking for anything. Get to know them, their gifts, and their passion. If you feel they might be a good fit, ask to take them out for coffee or lunch if your budget allows. Ask them questions about their life as well as their involvement in the church – what are they excited about? Are they involved in the church already? If you feel led at this point, share your vision for Children’s ministry, the need for staff and ask the potential team member to prayerfully consider it.

Keeping your volunteers

Houser identifies several reasons why volunteers get frustrated in a particular ministry (pg. 86-87):

  • I felt abandoned once I took on the responsibility
  • It felt like a life sentence. There was no end or break.
  • I never had the supplies I needed. It was frustrating and a financial burden to buy everything for my class
  • I felt like a fish out of water. One week I was sitting in an adult class, the next week I was teaching five year olds. There was no training.
  • I never knew what was expected of me.
  • It would’ve been nice to get a little encouragement once in awhile.

Houser argues that we need to include these concerns in our plan of action in hopes to prevent them as much as possible. Perhaps your children’s ministry budget could include an amount for sending teachers to workshops or conferences. CECE offers an annual children’s ministry conference on the first weekend of November. Perhaps you need to free up your time on a Sunday morning so that you are able to float around to the different classrooms to know both the successes and challenges each teacher is facing and can provide constructive and encouraging feedback.

Keeping Momentum

Houser claims that part of our role as Children’s Ministry Director is to help keep up the momentum. She offers several suggestions for encouraging teachers (pg. 87):

  • write notes to the teachers that speak of specific things that you’ve noticed them doing.
  • Display pictures of your teachers in action
  • Ask teachers to email you with the good things that are happening in their class to share with the team
  • while the teacher is present, point out to others something unique and creative they are doing in their class
  • leave a small gift and a card to let them know you appreciate at them. This doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary – a chocolate bar could do the trick. The important thing is that you are letting them know that you appreciate their energy, time, and love poured into the children.
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Filed under Building Children's Ministry, Inspirational/Theology, Making the Christ Connection, Resources for Teachers, Uncategorized

FREE workshop on Bible Story Telling

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Spark Publishing is offering a FREE workshop on the Art of Bible Story Telling on April 30 from 1-2pm (EDT)

Click here to register

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Filed under Resources for Parents, Resources for Teachers, Workshops and Events

Book Review: Raising Faith-Filled Kids

In conversation with many children’s ministry leaders and others involved in the Church, there seems to be a growing concern for how we equip and encourage faith formation in the home. In one church where I served, the children would have a great time in Sunday School, earnestly take in the lesson of the day, and say “see you next week” as they left the church with their families. Yet, more often than not, it would be a few weeks before I saw them again. It is through this experience that I began to see that children ministry is far more than occupying the children on a Sunday morning. Rather, my job was to support families and encourage them to be the primary faith teachers in their child’s life.

Tom McGrath, in Raising Faith-Filled Kids: Ordinary Opportunities to Nurture Spirituality at Home, seeks to encourage parents to “pass on a living faith” to their children. In a very readable book, he looks at the hope, and responsibility that parents have in modelling the Christian faith to the next -generation. Faith begins at home. Moreover, spiritual formation will happen whether the parents take an active role or not – and McGrath challenges parents to guide that process rather than let the world do it.

He then focuses on every day ways of teaching the faith through ordinary things that happen in life. For example, he speaks of encouraging a life of praying without ceasing and gives examples of how parents can do that in their busy lives. He suggests praying for a safe journey each time they get into a car, and saying a simple prayer of gratitude whenever a child has had a good day. He also suggests ways that a family can celebrate important moments in the faith. For example, in addition to celebrating birthdays, he suggests marking the day that the child was baptized.

Each chapter is laced with practical advice as well as principles, giving tangible ways that families can start now to seek God in the ordinary parts of our lives regardless of how much faith training they have. In addition, he has a series of “Taking Action: What you can do now to nurture spiritual life at home” that look at how to be a nurturing parent, how to increase your family’s sense of the sacred, how to be  open with one other and many more ideas.

This book is an excellent resource for children’s ministry leaders and parents alike in their endeavours to pass on the faith to children.

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Filed under Making the Christ Connection, Resources for Parents, Resources for Teachers

How to involve children during Lent

Tom McGrath offers some excellent ways that families can involve their children in Lenten disciplines. Here are a few that he mentions in his book, Raising Faith-Filled Kids:

  • Practice the traditions of fasting, prayer and giving to the poor. McGrath suggests that children could come up with something that they could fast from (e.g. a favourite TV show, a particular snack they enjoy) and that families could discuss how this fast impacts and challenges them over the weeks leading up to Easter.
  • Encourage children to pray for someone who has hurt them. McGrath suggests that this helps foster a posture of forgiveness. He cautions against making children forgive that person, but to instead focus on simply praying for their enemies and blessing them through our prayers.
  • Have children commit to a secret act of kindness for someone who irritates them. Doing this act in secret will help to ward against manipulation or expecting to be rewarded and will help encourage a posture of doing good to those who are unlike us or upset us.
  • Encourage children to read about Christians. There are many good biographies out there that are age-appropriate. For the younger children, one fun resource is Holy Crocodile! Stories of Saints and the Animals who Helped Them by Caroline Cory. This illustrated book has opened the door to many interesting faith conversations about saints and what it means to follow God.

Do you have suggestions for how families can practice Lenten disciplines at home? Send Elizabeth an email at animator [at] thecece [dot] org

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Filed under Inspirational/Theology, Making the Christ Connection, Resources for Parents, Resources for Teachers, Seasons of the Church

God working: Shrove Tuesday

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Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is a day of feasting and preparation for the lenten fast ahead. According to one author: “Traditionally viewed as a day of repentance, Shrove Tuesday has become the last day for celebration and feasting before the period of fasting required during the Lenten season. The name “Shrove Tuesday” is derived from the word “shrive”, which means to confess and receive absolution. The name denotes a period of cleansing, wherein a person brings their lusts and appetites under subjection through abstention and self-sacrifice.”

It has often been nicknamed as “Pancake Tuesday” and many churches serve up a feast of pancakes, (real!) maple syrup and a some manifestation of pork.

St. Clement’s Anglican Church in Toronto hosted activities for the whole family as well as a feast at this year’s Shrove Tuesday celebration! Christine Ivy, Children’s Minister, describes how they set up tables in the corner of the room for anyone to drop by and make fancy masks. The children decorated masks with sequins, glitter glue, feathers, pom poms and stickers. Parents and others helped make the masks.

The mask table was open throughout the evening and children often returned to add finishing touches to their masterpiece or to make another mask.

St. Clements advertised this event in the neighbourhood through posters on bulletin boards in coffee shops, bus stops and a few street polls. While mainly church goers attended the event, there were a few people for whom this was the first time they walked into the church.

This month, we pray for Christine and the children and families of St. Clements, that the relationships and ministry will continue to grow deeper in the knowledge and love of God.

Do you have a story to share from your church? Email Elizabeth at animator [at] thecece [dot] org

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Filed under Inspirational/Theology, Making the Christ Connection, Marks of Mission, What is Jesus Doing?