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Time-Tested Truths

Here's our best to you! 15 years of great ideas and ministry-shaping advice from Children's Ministry Magazine.


Over the years, Children's Ministry Magazine has offered you, our beloved readers, tons of great advice and information about your role as a children's minister. Join us as we journey through 15 years, revisiting some of our most important, time-weathered words of wisdom-and bring to life the practical advice we're known for and that you still depend on.

On Teaching:

Engage kids' emotions in learning. Feelings are the key to amazing learning and they help kids remember lessons for a lifetime. (July/August 2004)

Interact -- don't lecture. One of the most effective teaching methods Jesus used was dialogue. Take turns talking and listening, and maintain eye contact. (July/August 1992)

Learn about how kids learn. A solid understanding of developmental appropriateness, learning styles, and multiple intelligences will make your teaching more effective and kids' learning more life-impacting. (September/October 1995)

Prepare during the week before each class. Start early in the week by reviewing the lesson, gathering supplies, and praying. (July/August 1992)

Debrief activities. Intentional questions and discussion help kids connect their emotions to a lesson and think critically. (July/August 2004)

On Growing Kids' Faith:

Let kids get their hands "dirty." Social events, retreats, mission projects, and service to others are all wonderful ways to let kids put their faith into action. (March/April 2000)

Identify kids' gifts and abilities, then use this knowledge to provide ministry opportunities for them. (September/October 1999)

Assess kids' spiritual growth as you teach. After every lesson, ask kids to express through words, art, speech, or other means what they learned. This will help you know whether kids are getting it. (March/April 1996)

Provide relevant programs, activities, lessons, and classes. Your ministry as a whole must relate to the needs and interests of the children who attend. (September/October 1997)

Create a climate that blesses and encourages kids' prayer lives. Pray aloud with kids to help them learn how to pray, and pray for your kids often. (November/December 2000)

On Parents:

Validate children from all shapes and sizes of families by welcoming their parents into your ministry. (May/June 2002)

Equip parents to be the primary spiritual educators in their children's faith development. (September/October 1996)

Communicate often with parents about their children -- what they're learning, how they're doing, and how much you enjoy having them. (March/April 2004)

Invite and welcome parents into your classrooms and programs. (May/June 2002)

Allocate some of your time, budget, and calendar to helping parents be better parents. (May/June 2005)

On Discipline:

Use specific, positive reinforcement. Praise children when you see them act in ways that are kind, loving, and inclusive to others. (July/August 2000)

Don't ignore misbehavior. It's better to create a connection with children who are making poor behavior choices because it communicates to the child that you noticed and that you care. If you don't, you'll likely face escalating behaviors as kids attempt to force a reaction. (November/December 1999)

Be consistent. Establish classroom guidelines for all children that promote respect for the leader and kids' peers. Follow through with set consequences. (January/February 2001)

Don't bribe kids with candy or rewards for good behavior. External motivators (prizes, gold stars, and food treats) represent a flawed philosophy in motivating children. A better way is to motivate children by touching real needs and creating personal satisfaction. (September/October 2000)

Partner with kids' parents if discipline becomes an issue. Offer support, frequent communication, education programs or training, or whatever is needed. (November/December 1998)

On Children:

The goal of children's ministry isn't to see lives changed; it's to teach children how to make decisions that'll change their lives. (March/April 2001)

Create a ministry that values relationships. Kids seek out and need relationships at church. (January/February 2000)

Know kids' culture. To make an impact, children's ministry must be relevant to kids' lives. (May/June 1999)

Be family-friendly. To create long-term growth in children, ministries must involve kids' families. (September/October 1996)

Love kids unconditionally. God's unconditional love for us gives us the freedom to risk. Our unconditional love for our children gives them the freedom to risk as well. (March/April 1993)

On Leadership:

Don't always ask for more from your senior pastor; try selling your vision for your children's ministry by painting a picture of what a huge win a thriving children's program is for the entire church. (January/February 2003)

Lead with your strengths. God has put you in your role, which means that how he wired you to lead others will work. Improve your ministry by leading with your God-given gifts, and leave your insecurities behind. (January/February 2006)

Focus on growing a healthy culture. A healthy ministry culture creates a place of trust and synergy that should produce an abundance of fruit in ministry. (November/December 2001)

Evaluate your ministry regularly. Evaluation examines the difference between your vision and what you're currently providing to help create new ministry goals and plans. (September/October 2000)

Keep expanding your personal knowledge and expertise in ministering to children. Demands on families, cultural norms, values and morality, and basic religious beliefs are all shifting so quickly that we must keep up with the issues that are impacting children. (September/October 1997)

On Personal Growth:

Don't stand in the way of spontaneous moments of spiritual refreshment. Accept moments of renewal. Seek alone time with God. (January/February 1999)

Surround yourself with a support team. Whether it's people inside your ministry or church, or "outside" friends, having a prayer and encouragement team is crucial. (September/October 1995)

Make church attendance a priority. Too often in children's ministry, we allow our attendance in the church service to suffer while we serve kids. But you must be renewed with worship, teaching, and fellowship. (January/February 2005)

Know your needs and name them. Don't expect others to guess what they are. Your needs aren't more important than other people's, but they're as important. (September/October 2003)

Exercise discipline over your work habits. Balance your work life and your family life, and commit to neglecting neither. (July/August 2000)

On Volunteers:

Plan strategically for staff growth and needs. Be proactive in assessing your ministry's needs and have a plan in place for future staffing needs. (January/February 2002)

Make resources and tools available and easy to access to volunteers. Distribute relevant articles, stock a mini-library of ideas, and provide tips for personal spiritual growth to volunteers. (January/February 1994)

Screen, screen, screen. Background checks, safety policies, procedure standards, training, and supervision are all critical components to the safety of your children. Don't skimp in this area. (November/December 1999)

Train a few leaders who'll train others. You can transform your children's ministry from a traditional fill-vacant-slots approach to the discipleship approach to volunteer management this way. (September/October 1994)

Affirm your volunteers effectively with gifts and words that speak to their hearts. Find out what makes volunteers feel appreciated and cater to them in that manner. (November/December 2004) cm


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