Saddleback Church Youth Area – Church Tour

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Here are some pics of the youth/student ministries area at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Saddleback Church Kids Area – Church Tour

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I am enjoying being in sunny, warm California in the middle of February.  I am attending the Children’s Pastor’s Conference in Ontario, California.  While I am here, I am taking the opportunity to visit churches in the area, and learn from their staff & volunteer teams in Children’s Ministry.

Here are some pictures of the main campus of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest.  Their staff were more than friendly and very willing to share their ideas and information with us.

They have a separate building for their kids ministry.  Around the outside of the building, they have several areas that they can use as teaching spaces.  The tomb & 3 crosses are a great place to take kids to teach them about the death & resurrection of Jesus.  The stone wall with windows make a great backdrop for just about any story.
Each room in the 3 story building, had age appropriate toys, games & interactive spaces where kids could connect before the lesson began.  The preschool room had little doors that could be inserted into the doorway of any regular door.  The older kids area had an entire wall that was a whiteboard.  They did a great job of making each room age appropriate & fun for kids.

They used a WIN system for the volunteers in each room.
W – Welcome – the person responsible for welcoming each child as they enter, & help them get their name tag
I – Integration – helped kids move from the door & get connected with other friends
N – Networking – this volunteer kept everyone on schedule & doing the activities for the service

In the next blog post, I will share pictures & ideas from the student ministries building.

Kids Ministry Volunteer Training Book – Free Download

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Every year we have a volunteer training event in September.  We review the safety stuff as well as the vision and values.  It’s a chance for new volunteers to learn the basics and returning volunteers to be reminded about why we do what we do.

Volunteer Training Manuals can be boring to read.  We decided it was important to work on making it look interesting so that it was easy to read.  Here is the link to our Volunteer Training Book.  You can download a copy and use it as a sample to create your own volunteer training book.

What American Girl does to help families connect


Yesterday I had a great day enjoying some time with my daughter at the American girl store.  We booked a reservation to attend their Bistro.  While we were sitting there, we noticed a box in the middle of the table.  The box had small strips of paper with questions on them.  The questions are meant to spark conversations while sitting at the table.  The kids at the table enjoyed asking the rest of us questions and hearing our responses.

There are many conversation starter sets available for free on the internet.  Pinterest is loaded with them.  You can even put scripture verses in a small container and pull them out as you sit around the table as a family.  What other ideas do you use to encourage discussion around the dinner table?

This one thing will help take your storytelling to a whole new level

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When telling a story to children, you can really make the story come alive if you use a backdrop.  A visual reminder of where the story takes place helps children get a better picture of the story.

Backdrops do not have to be elaborate or complicated.  This backdrop was made using some cloth and some paint.  The animals and manger are made with cardboard, paint and a few items for texture and dimension.  The total cost was less than $20.

Our stories in our curriculum come in units of 4-5 weeks.  Each unit has a theme, so a backdrop can be created for the theme, and used for 4-5 weeks before changing it to a new one.

Lessons learned from behind the scenes of Frozen

The Story of Frozen- Making a Disney Animated ClassicToday I watched a behind the scenes look at the popular movie “Frozen”.  As I watched the show, I couldn’t help but learn from their experiences.  Here are a few things that I noticed, and how they relate to kids ministry.

Research – Some of the Frozen staff went to Norway to look at the scenery & architecture there.  They opened their eyes, ears & minds to what they experienced there and incorporated a lot of what they learned into the movie.  Also, some of the animators, (who are from southern California) went to Wyoming to play & interact with snow.  They even took turns wearing Anna’s costume so they could see how it moved in the snow and they could incorporate the smallest detail into their animation.
I am a huge fan of going on field trips to learn so that ideas can be added into the kids ministry that I lead.  When was the last time you went on a field trip to do research?

Willingness to change – Did you know that the song, “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” almost didn’t make it in the final movie?  They had taken it out & then decided to put it back in at the last minute.  Also, once the song, “Let it Go” was composed, they decided to change the rest of the movie from what was originally written.  They were willing to make changes as needed, even if it meant going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch.  Sometimes we need to evaluate what’s happening in our kids ministry.  If something is not working, or is no longer accomplishing the goal we want it to, are we willing to change?

Some things take time – Did you know that Frozen was in the making for over 70 years?  They began working on ideas in 1937 but started and stopped the process several times because they couldn’t quite get things going in the right direction.  Despite the challenges they faced, they did not give up on the project, even though it really did take a long time to see the final product.  When it comes to kids ministry, sometimes the timing just isn’t right & ideas don’t take off.  It doesn’t mean that you should give up on them altogether.  Perhaps in a different season the idea will work, when God’s timing is just right.

Teamwork – 600 people worked for 2 and a half years to make the movie.  Each department & individual worked according to their gifts and talents to put the movie together.  When working with your team of volunteers in kids ministry, work hard to put people in positions where they are gifted so they can excel in areas they are good at, and kids ministry can be better because of it.  Then work hard to get each department & individual to work together to see kids come to know Jesus and grow in a relationship with Him.

Attention to detail – Like most things Disney does, they pay attention to detail.  The scene in the movie where Elsa creates her castle, took 90 days to make.  The detail in the castle theme is stunning, even though the total length for that part of the movie is only a few minutes.  Do you pay attention to detail in your kids ministry?  Do you make the environments neat, clean & exciting for kids to be in?  Do you go out of your way to tell volunteers how much you appreciate them & the difference they are making?  Do you acknowledge special moments like birthdays & special events for kids & volunteers?

If you are interested in watching the behind the scenes show, you can still watch it.  The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic airs SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2014 (4:00-5:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.


New kids area @ my church – part 2


We did a lot of research before we put together the plans for our new kids space.  Here are some things that we intentionally included in our design:

1.  Indoor Playground.  This will be used for outreach during the week.  It will be open 4 mornings a week to the community, completely free of charge.  One morning a week is reserved for groups with special needs kids.  The Indoor Playground will also serve as a place for families to connect on Sunday mornings.  It creates an opportunity for people to build community.

2.  Washrooms in each room.  Each kids room has one or two washrooms in them.  That way, once kids are checked in, they have no reason to leave until their parents pick them up.

3.  Wide hallways.  With the volume of people coming in to our space, it was necessary to have wide hallways so people could get where they needed to go.

4.  Storage.  We included space in each room for larger props (behind the stage) and smaller items in cupboards right in the room.

5.  Sink.  Each room has a counter with a sink in it.  Great for washing hands & convenient clean up.

6.  Self Check-In.  Our check-in process is electronic.  We have included 5 stations for self check in, and they are spread out in our atrium to avoid congestion of people.

7. Windows.  Each class has lots of windows so people can see in the class.  In most rooms, the stage is on the opposite wall so during story time, kid will not be distracted by people walking in the hallway.

8.  Technology.  All classrooms from Kindergarten & up have a projector, screen, stage lights & sound system in each room.

9.  TVs.  We have intentionally placed TVs in locations where people will be standing around.  We can play video clips and announcements to communicate a variety of messages.

10. Themed Spaces.  Our Themed areas are in areas where people will be connecting & kids will be playing.  (entrance & playground room)  We did not theme our kids rooms, but instead, made them interesting colours and patterns to keep the kid feel, but not distract from the theme of the lesson for the day.

Glenn Reinders from Reinders & Reider Ltd designed our kids area and entire new building.  He has designed both kids areas at the churches I have been employed at.  Best. Architect. Ever.
Bruce Barry from Wacky World designed our Entrance area.  He drew sketches & we built it with our volunteer team.   At the time of this post, we have not completed this area, so there are no pictures.  When it is finished, I will post pics.
We did research by visiting churches & children’s museums including:  Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Christ Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach Florida, Willow Creek Church in Chicago, IL and children’s museums in Chicago, Indiana & Toronto.