Fall Kickoff

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15 new ideas to help you start a winning season of
ministry to children.

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Before you know it, school will be kicking back into gear. If
you’re a children’s ministry director, you’ll need to have your
team recruited, trained, organized, and excited about all that God
is going to do in the lives of children this year.

If you’re a teacher, program leader, or small group leader, most
likely you’re realizing that you need to get your space organized
and decorated before you even say hello to the first child in your
class.
So much to do…so little time.

And so many ideas! We’ve packed 15 reader-tested ideas into this
special section to help you start a phenomenally faith-enriching
year for children and their families. In the next pages, you’ll
find everything from organizing crafts for lessons to making
creative meeting reminders to staging a carnival for
families.

Don’t let this school year sneak up on you! Get in gear today so
you can kick off a great year this fall.

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REVAMPED ROLL CALL

Accurate attendance and follow-up can be difficult for teachers
with all they have to do during class time. So we solved this
problem by putting one person in charge of attendance for each
service. This person takes a clipboard with attendance lists for
each class. She goes to each room to take attendance and fill out
visitor information cards for new children.

After all the attendance is taken, she checks the list for kids
who’ve been absent for more than one week in a row. She then
addresses and stamps a postcard for each absent child and gives it
to the appropriate teacher at the end of the service. The teachers
then write personal notes to the missing children and mail the
cards that week. This has worked tremendously well and has been a
real improvement in our organization.

Amy McMunn
Lambertville, Michigan

PHOTO POSTERS

Why decorate with store-bought posters when you can make your own
that’ll thrill children?

Simply take color or black and white photos of the children in
your class. It’s helpful to take these outdoors where the light is
good. In your photos, use props such as park benches, playground
slides, or swings. Include two or three children in each
photo.

After developing your photos, choose a few to enlarge. You can
have photos blown up to poster size at copy shops or at kiosks in
stores such as Wal-Mart. To help your posters last, laminate them,
affix them to foam core with spray adhesive, or frame them.

Hang these posters in your classroom, hallway, or other visible
place in your building. Posters of your children will create a
sense of belonging for the children, parents, and teachers. These
posters will also foster self-esteem, look great, and create
smiles.

Sarah Hockenbrocht
Fort Worth, Texas

RESOURCE CLOSET

Our church members have been very generous in offering craft
items, such as paper towel rolls, fabric remnants, and egg cartons,
to use with the children. So we needed a place to store and
organize all the stuff to maximize its usefulness. We cleaned out
and painted an unused room, put in plastic shelving, and bought
plastic baskets from a dollar store. We organized the resources so
like items were together. Then we let our teachers and volunteers
know about the room. This has been quite useful all year-and
especially at vacation Bible school time.

Annie Yelton
Charlotte, North Carolina

INFORMATION BINDER

To help me get to know kids better, I’ve created a class
notebook.

First of all, I help each first-grade girl fill out a
get-to-know-you sheet with questions about her address, phone,
family, interests, and more. I put all these forms in a three-ring
binder.

Behind each girl’s information sheet, I put a few sheets of lined
paper to record when I call or send notes or cards to the child. I
try to write or call each girl at least every other week. When I
send a note, I send along the week’s memory verse, and I also tell
something fun we’ll be doing the following week in class. Or I
comment on something the girl told me in class or on an upcoming
event in her life. This makes the girls feel very special.

In my binder, I also keep my class’s attendance record, notepads
in fun colors, stickers to put on the outside of envelopes, and
bookmarks to surprise the girls.

Amy Szlapak
Columbus, Ohio

MYSTERY PERSON

Our children’s church averages 40 to 45 children each week, but
many individuals don’t attend every week. To encourage a family
feeling even though kids are in and out, we feature a Mystery
Person each Sunday.

The kids each fill out Mystery Person forms that tell us their
favorite colors, foods, school subjects, and more. Each week, we
choose the form of a child who’s present that day. As we read the
clues one by one, the kids try to guess who the Mystery Person
is.

We review the rules each week:

1. No saying “yuck!” to the Mystery Person’s favorites.
2. Only one guess per child.
3. When you realize you’re the Mystery Person, keep cool. Even
guess somebody else.
4. Everyone gets a piece of candy, and the Mystery Person and the
one who identifies the Mystery Person each get two pieces.

Our children look forward to this every week. We all benefit from
getting to know each other better, and we’ve found out some amazing
things about our children. We’ve even asked our senior pastor and
the children of our missionaries to fill out forms for us so we can
feature each of them as our Mystery Person at different
times.

Debbie Rowley
Santa Ana, California

CHILDREN’S RALLY

Right before school starts each year, we hold a Children’s Rally.
We serve a free spaghetti dinner with all of the fixings and invite
neighborhood families, our day-care families, and folks within our
church body. We have a team of people who love to cook, so they
volunteer their time to prepare and serve the meal. They make
homemade spaghetti, tossed salad with dressing and croutons, garlic
bread, and brownies.

We set up tables at one end of our fellowship hall for our meal
and tables at the other end that serve as booths. Ministry leaders
run the booths, and booths have information on all the programs we
offer to minister to children, our partnerships with area
elementary schools, upcoming events, parenting classes, and family
fun nights. At each booth, kids get candy, balloons, and
informational handouts. Parents can also sign up to receive
additional information or to help out in each area of
ministry.

We make sure this is the only event scheduled so we have plenty of
room. We also open up Sunday school classrooms and ask teachers to
be present, so our Children’s Rally is an open house too.

Because we provide a meal and child care, parents are willing to
invest time in this event. It’s a huge success, and we plan to do
it each year to kick off our ministry season and to promote how we
love God’s kids!

Brenda Stearns
Anchorage, Alaska

F.R.O.G. CARNIVAL

We kick off our new Sunday school year with a Kickoff Carnival.
After an opening ceremony, children meet their teachers and then
travel to game stations with their teachers. One year we built our
carnival around a F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely On God) theme to tie in with
Proverbs 3:5-6 — our Scripture for the
year.

We rented some carnival games and created others. Many traditional
carnival-style games were easily adapted to the F.R.O.G. theme. For
example, we had children take turns catching rubber frogs floating
in a pond, and the number on the bottom of each frog determined
which mini Bible storybook the child got for a prize. Another game
was a penny toss we made with verses about giving scattered across
a large laminated playing space. Each child tossed a penny. If it
landed on a verse, the child read the verse and then put the penny
in an offering box that we used to start our fall collection.
Children who missed got to try again, while those whose pennies
landed on a lily pad got to keep their pennies.

Great prizes for this event include things that connect to kids’
classrooms, such as boxes of offering envelopes, class supplies,
special name tags, welcome notes from teachers, or Bible
bookmarks.

Our teachers played get-to-know-you games with children while
traveling to games or during any short wait they had at any
particular stop. This event was easy to easy to staff and a fun way
for everyone to get to know one another while kicking off a new
year.

Sarah Storvick
Woodbury, Minnesota

PARENTS NIGHT

To help parents learn what we do in our classes, we hold a Parents
Night. During summer Sunday school, the children make invitations
for their parents to attend this special kickoff event.

During our Parents Night, we have our regular classes with our
theme, motto, and pledges done by the children. We have the parents
go through everything with us, and then the games begin.

Parents are the players for all our games and activities, and the
children cheer on and encourage their parents. The parents have so
much fun that we’ve even been able to recruit some of them as
helpers. We have snacks at the end, and we also give parents bubble
gum for being great sports. The whole night is a great success, and
everyone talks about it for weeks.

Deb Harrell
Warsaw, Indiana

BOOK CLUB

When making goals for the new ministry year, I often include a few
goals for my professional growth. Countless times I’ve made it my
aim to read books that I know will be of great benefit to my growth
as a children’s minister. But much to my disappointment, 365 days
fly by, and I’ve barely opened a book. Well, not this year!

In the St. Louis area, I’m starting a children’s ministers book
club. During the course of the year, we’ll read four to six books
together. Our first selection is Joining Children on the Spiritual
Journey by Catherine Stonehouse. We’ll follow that with Focus on
the Family’s Parents’ Guide to the Spiritual Growth of
Children.

We’ll meet every other month to have lunch and discuss ways we can
implement what we’ve read. That’ll give us 50 to 60 days to read
each book. Our club will most likely run with the school year since
most children’s ministers’ summer schedules are so busy.

Here’s a sample outline we’ll follow for our discussions:

• What was your overall impression of this book?
• What are the most valuable insights you gleaned from reading
this book?
• What did you learn that you want to apply to your
ministry?
• What challenged you the most?
• Are there any points at which you disagree with the
author?
• Is there anything you didn’t understand?
If you want to start a book club, call a few colleagues in your
area and make yourself accountable to reading in the new school
year!

Lori Salomo
Ballwin, Missouri

SAMUEL MINISTRIES

To encourage children to serve and to train them to be leaders, we
invite children to team up with mentor teachers in the kindergarten
department. Each mentor teacher works with a child, builds a
relationship with the child, and provides an opportunity for the
child to actually teach the mentor teacher’s small group during
class time. We give the children special name tags to set them
apart from the younger children. And we give them special
recognition at our annual volunteer appreciation event.

Samme Rousopoulos
Indianapolis, Indiana

CRAFT PARENTS

If you’re not looking forward to all the crafts you’ll need to
coordinate for the upcoming school year’s lessons, get some help.
Ask a few parents of children in your class to periodically help
prepare crafts for your lessons.

Make a list of future lessons and corresponding crafts. Assign
each parent a different craft to prepare, gather supplies for, and
teach to the children. Encourage parents to come up with new crafts
if they don’t like the crafts in their lessons.

This brings fresh ideas to your class. And children love having
their parents in class. It also encourages parents who might want
to help but aren’t sure how to get started.

Post a sign-up sheet so you give teenagers and college students
the chance to sign up too. And remember to send thank you notes to
all helpers and volunteers.

Here’s another idea: Parents who don’t do crafts (like many dads)
may want to plan and lead games instead.

Deedra Mettlen
Liberty, Texas

PHOTO RECRUITING

We discovered a great way to impact our church members during
recruiting time for our new church year. Because most people don’t
see all our children together at one time, we decided to show
people what a great group of preschoolers we have.

Using our church’s digital camera, I took a photo of each of our
145 preschoolers. We then downloaded the photos to the computer and
enlarged each one to an 8¥10 print. We mounted each photo on a
brightly colored sheet of paper and laminated the mounted
photos.

Near our front entrance, we made a display using all the photos
with the slogan “Here are 145 good reasons to serve in children’s
ministry! Get the picture?”

This display was a hit! I heard many people say, “I didn’t realize
we had that many preschoolers!”

Janet Butler
Independence, Missouri

REMINDERS THAT STICK

Part of our volunteer recruitment each year includes preparing a
written job description for every position in children’s ministry.
In each job description, we list the mission of the job, the
responsibilities, the preparation needed, and the training events
that are part of the commitment.

Letting people know at the beginning about training sessions is
very important to us. So this year in addition to listing the
training dates on the job descriptions, we’ve also made little
stickers for volunteers to put on their calendars that’ll remind
them of the training dates.

We don’t have a large budget, so we just use mailing labels and
Microsoft Publisher software to make the labels. Each label
contains the name of the event, the date, and the time. We give a
set of stickers to each volunteer. All volunteers have to do is cut
them apart and stick them on their calendars. This is our way of
informing our staff well in advance, and it helps volunteers
fulfill their commitments with excellence.

Lori Salomo
Ballwin, Missouri

WHOSE POLICY IS IT, ANYWAY?

Here’s a fun way to get your volunteers to become experts in your
ministry’s policies and procedures.

You’ll need:

• Several copies of your volunteer handbook.

• One hat or bowl with several slips of paper, each containing a
challenge that your handbook addresses, such as “You’re out of
construction paper,” “Two children get in a fight, and one gets a
bloody nose,” or “A parent tells you Johnny is deathly allergic to
peanut oil.”

• One hat or bowl containing slips of paper listing movie and TV
genres, such as soap opera, low-budget action movie, western, or
infomercial.

Form groups of four. Have each group draw one slip of paper from
each hat or bowl. Instruct groups to first find the solutions to
their ministry challenges in their ministry handbooks. Once group
members find the solution, their next job is to create a skit to
present their findings using the movie or TV genre they drew.

Give the groups 10 minutes to prepare. Then have groups present
their skits one at a time. After each skit, provide any other
pertinent information that may’ve been missed in the drama. Your
volunteers will have a blast and will actually read their
handbooks.

Note: Some policy matters shouldn’t be explored using this
exercise. Avoid discussing your child abuse reporting policies and
other sensitive subjects with this activity.

Larry Shallenberger
Erie, Pennsylvania

HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER

Throughout each year, we use a theme from that year’s recruitment
time. This year we’re using a fishing theme. The following are just
a few ideas we’re using to carry out this fun theme.

• Affirmations-We have a fishbowl with a sign that says “Fill Our
Tank” at our children’s ministry information table for parents and
children to write positive comments about teachers or other
workers.

• Training-We’re promoting teacher-training events as Fish for New
Ideas sessions. We’ll encourage our volunteers to have the patience
of fishermen, to know the fish they’re trying to catch, and to have
their tackle clean and ready.

• Decorating-We’ll decorate with obvious fishing items and use
fishing Scriptures, such as the paraphrased Matthew 4:19: “I will
make you fishers of people.”

• Outreach and Discipleship-We’ll “cast our nets on the waters” in
outreach, and for discipleship, we’ll “go to deeper waters.”

Shelly Atkins
Roanoke, Virginia

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