Monday, September 29, 2008

Where do we Restructure?

My husband said something today that I totally agree with. "It seems that leaders of ministries love to restructure leadership but tend not to restructure those they are ministering to."

How often is this true? We see that something isn't working, or at least we aren't seeing the level of success that we'd hope for, so we change the way we do things from the top down. But really, we need to look further. Maybe the root of ineffectiveness in a ministry isn't in the person that leads or how they go about leading (although I will acknowledge that this can be the case), but the structure of what they're leading. We get so caught up in doing things the way that they've always been done that when it doesn't work, we look to ourselves. Do I need to improve my communication? How can I change my training methods? If only we didn't have to work with people...

While leaders do need to look inward on a regular basis to see where they need to improve, none of those adjustments will be effective unless we're willing to take a step further and look at who it is we're ministering to. Over time, people change. The culture changes. Our churches change. What may have worked 5 years ago probably won't today. Not because it wasn't a good method to begin with, but because the people the method was designed for no longer exist--they've matured, grown older, or maybe even moved on.

We found an area that needed to be restructured this year--our entire elementary department. As a whole, it was hurting. The kindergartners weren't understanding the lessons while the fifth graders were disengaging. And the problem didn't lie in our large group teachers or small group leaders. Nor was it in our training (after all, we had our best year yet of volunteer training!). The problem was in how our kids were structured. And by simply separating one age group from the other, new ministry doors were opened. I've heard comment after comment from parents about how much their new 4th & 5th graders are loving Bridge 45. I see kindergartners understand the lessons, while third graders are still involved.

And now that we've restructured those we've ministered to, I can start looking at improving other details of our ministry--without feeling like nothing works!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Teaching about Teaching

I was invited to teach a class called "Teaching the Bible," at Corban College this week. I graduated from Corban in 2004 (back when it was still Western Baptist College), and Teaching the Bible was one of my favorite classes! It was an incredible experience to go back to the school that made such an impact on my life and teach on what I'm so passionate about. My assignment was to teach the class about teaching methods to first through fifth graders. It was a blast! I had the students up and down participating in each element. I will say, though, I do prefer to teach the little ones more! I thought I'd share what I taught.

I opened with an activity (thanks to an idea listed on Kidology) where we used a 14 food string to represent each hour in a child's week. Sections were marked for how a child spends each of those hours, with only 1.5 inches for church. I used this to help show the students how short our time is, so we need to make it as impactful as possible.

Then I covered our mission statement and values to show how we keep ourselves on track at Morning Star.

After that I got into how we need to know what a child can understand spiritually at different age levels. This portion came from an article from Today's Children's Ministry by Marlene LeFever.

Bible Truths for Kindergarten & First Graders
-Jesus loves everyone and that’s why He came to earth.
-I know who God is, what He’s like, and what He’s done for me.
-I can talk to God whenever and wherever I want.
-I know people in Bible times loved God and served Him, and I know how I can love and serve Him today.

Bible Truths for Second & Third Graders
-The Bible is God’s truth for me.
-Jesus’ death and resurrection makes a difference to me.
-The Ten Commandments are hard to obey. I need Jesus’ help.
-The world is a big place, and God is working all over the world.

Bible Truths for Fourth & Fifth Grades
-The Bible defines right and wrong
-Salvation is for me and all people who trust Jesus.
-The Bible is the big picture of God working with His people, and I’m part of that picture.

Then, because it's important to not just know who you're teaching, but also who they will become, we looked at
Bible Truths for 11-14 Year Olds
-Being a Christian is a part of who I am and the choices I make reflect that identity.
-God’s Word is filled with people just like me who were faced with difficult circumstances. I can look to the Bible for solutions to problems I face.
-God wants me to serve Him by serving others through missions trips and ministries.

And, since we now know who it is we're teaching, we need to know how they work. As I introduced each learning style (which you can read more about here) I gave interactive examples of how you might incorporate these in the teaching, first in a K-3rd grade way, then in a 4th/5th grade way. We used the story of David and Goliath for each one to show how many different ways a Bible story can be taught.

Auditory Learners
-Not just hearing, speaking
-Group discussion
-Interactive teaching

For K-3 we had a lot of story telling/kids repeat back elements from the story, question and answer, etc.
For 4/5 one student read the passage out loud then they were given potential small group discussion questions.

Visual Learners
-Not just looking, participating
-Highlighting, drawing pictures, writing notes

For K-3 we did a modified "Art Attack" where three students helped draw the picture as I read it. One person drew every reference to people, another drew objects, and the third drew action. The pictures were hilarious!
For 4/5 we talked about how you could hand out papers to each student so they have the option to take notes, doodle or draw pictures of what is being taught.

Kinesthetic Learners
-Need to stay in constant motion
-Hand motions
-Non-specific movements

For K-3 the kids were given three different actions to do when referenced in the story--hitting your legs with your hands for running, turning your arm in circles in the air for the sling, and victory arm movements for triumph.
For 4/5 we marched in place while saying, "The battle is the Lord's" in different ways--like we really mean it, like we're going to battle, so the kids next door hear us, etc.

-Always need to know more
-Focus on specifics
-How, why, where?

For both age groups we looked a the specifics that are listed in regards to story--how many stones David got, where he got them, what they were like, why he didn't wear Saul's armor, etc.

Global Learner
-Skip the details, go for the action
-Think about the details relevant to the big picture
-Let them help tell the story

Several students helped act out the big elements of the story--the tallest guy in the class was put on a chair and played Goliath, the shortest girl was David, and three people each represented the Philistines and the Israelites. They had to act out the story as it was told.

Over all, it was a lot of fun, and a great reminder to me of what all needs to be thought about as we plan lessons and write curriculum.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's been a while

I've been meaning to blog for a few weeks now. But every time I start to type in the blogger website, I just feel tired. We've been busy lately... but then I suppose who in Children's Ministries hasn't? Fall is up and running and I'm really happy with what all's going on in our program. Some highlights from the past month:

-At the end of August we had a training meeting for our Bridge 45 volunteers. We had each person share about their previous experience in Children's Ministries as well as why they're volunteering now. Two women shared that they want to be involved in Bridge 45 to better know and reach their 5th grade daughters(I love parents who get involved!), another was a father who wants to be involved in the ministry his kids are in. One man, Geary, has been involved in Children's Ministries for years and next to him sat a college senior who was one of Geary's boys 12 years ago! I love the heart of volunteers.

-September 6 and 7 was our fall kick off weekend. Several classes of kids promoted to their new rooms, and other classes were shuffled. It was our first week of separating the kindergarten-third graders from the fourth and fifth graders. The energy in Adventure Mountain (K-3) was incredible! Each child enthusiastically participated in worship, activity stations were buzzing and small groups were a blessing to watch. The fourth and fifth graders looked nervous and excited to be in their new class, and the word I heard in response to it was, "awesome!"

-We switched back to three weekend services and the volunteers of our preschoolers LOVED the smaller class sizes! Hooray for manageable numbers.

-Tasha, our new Early Childhood Director, was offered a new job that was too good to pass up. Her last day was Sunday the 14. On Friday the 12 I met with Lucy Younis who's experience is incredible and her philosophy of ministry was exactly what I was looking for. I planned to take the hiring process slowly, but sometimes you just can't ignore it when God speaks so clearly, so I hired her on the spot. She started in the office on Tuesday and is already doing a fantastic job!

So while busy, hectic, and constantly changing, things are going well!

Sony Style USA