Archives for the month of: August, 2017

So the schools are back in full swing- and you are probably in “back to school” kickoff mode at your church. Schools are always reexaming their curricula and makes changes to better educate students in different cultures and decades. What about the curriculum we use for our kid’s ministry at our church? Curriculums come and go, Scripture does not. So, don’t die on the altar to any curriculum. Hopefully, the curriculum you pick serves your church well for a long time. When it has run its course -just the curriculum, not your vision or mission or Scripture- have the courage to let it go and begin the process of selecting a new curriculum.

How do you know if a curriculum has truly run its course and needs to be replaced? Curriculums are long-term commitments. Hopefully you don’t need to change them all that often. But wait too long and it can do a lot of damage. Here are some signs that your current curriculum may be getting outdated or be in need of a change:

  1. It is a remnant of a vision or mission for the church that no longer exists. It served someone else’s vision long ago, and the vision it supported is no longer the vision of your church. For example, years ago your church was doing “the purpose driven church,” and the kids’ church changed curriculum to “the purpose driven kids’ church.” Now your church has changed its mission to “reaching our world, one relationship at a time.” But the kids’ church is still using the same purpose driven curriculum. The rest of the church is going a new way; the kids’ ministry was left dangling. Time for a change.
  2. The kids are no longer getting the jokes or references. Everything is so outdated that the kids cannot relate or connect with what is being taught.
  3. The teachers do not want to teach it. They are not excited about it. They make excuses not to show up. You know for a fact that several of them are just teaching their own thing because they despise the curriculum that much. Time to amputate (the lessons, not the leaders).
  4. The kids don’t want to hear it. They are bored, acting out, disengaged. They are not excited to be there. They are making excuses to not show up. They are not inviting their friends.
  5. The parents don’t want to hear about it. They aren’t showing up for parent meetings, and they don’t want to sign up to help. They are bored and checked out and making excuses not to show up. Stop blaming parents and kids for checking out. Blame won’t get it done. Time to give them something they can’t wait to show up for.
  6. It no longer fits your format. For example, if you were once all small groups (Sunday School) and are now switching to a large group (children’s church) format, this will necessitate a curriculum change. New vision, new direction, new format is a great time for a new curriculum.

Keep praying throughout this whole process, and you will see: a curriculum change for the right reasons, implemented the right way, with the right planning can ignite your kids’ ministry service to a whole new level. Use with caution; this kids’ service is now power packed and extremely contagious!

(excerpt from “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” now for sale on Amazon)change-shift

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A lot of ministers forget a few crucial parts of their budget each year. Is your budget due in Sept or January or June? Some of us have to have ours turned in by September for the upcoming year (2018).  How many of the following items did YOU remember? What things are not on this list that SHOULD have been added?

  1. Ongoing training- What will your church/ministry be offering for your volunteers/leaders for ongoing training? Will you bring in a speaker(s)? Will you all read a book series together? How about conferences? Are you all going to CPC or CMConnect or a different conference? Ongoing training for your leaders is crucial. If you do not plan for it, it will not happen.
  2. Special speakers- If you are planning on bringing in special speakers for that camp, VBS, Harvest Fest, Family Night, Couples/Marriage Night, you need to plan for that now. Many speakers book out a year in advance so do not wait until the last minute!
  3. GROWTH- Are you planning to survive or are you planning to GROW? If you are planning to grow numerically in your ministry next year then your budget numbers should reflect that faith in action. Even if you do not meet your projected numbers, it is better to aim for growth. Those who aim to maintain last year’s numbers only end up barely surviving or in decline.
  4. Facility Improvements- Now in some situations, rooms, paint etc. will fall under a separate budget, such as the facilities budget or the maintenance budget. However, if room improvements do fall under your kid’s/youth/family ministry budget, then you have to remember to include these in your dream budget. I believe that ministries-including ministry environments- should always be improving. Again you have to plan, and budget ahead of time, to see your facility dreams become a reality. Include the costs of paint, carpet, rugs, flooring, child sized chairs, one way windows, murals, new lighting, themed environments etc.
  5. Snacks- This would include snacks for nursery, pre-k and elementary if you provide those (we only provide snacks through pre-K). Keep in mind that you may need to special order snacks that are gluten free, dye free, peanut free etc. We only offer raisins or peanut/dye/gluten free crackers or pretzels.
  6. Curriculum- Are you changing curriculum this next year? Do you need to order more? Are you planning enough for growth? Do you need a separate VBS curriculum?
  7. Outreaches- The churches I have seen that are growing are actively engaged in outreach. What will you need for that VBS, Family Night, Community Serve Day, Talent Night etc. etc.? This goes right along with planning to GROW!
  8. Childcare- This is a big one. Children’s ministry is not childcare. Is your church planning to have childcare for each and every event next year? I would highly suggest planning to hire babysitting for those services if you have to. You and your team should not be finding volunteers for weekend/midweek services AND babysitting for every church event (see my blog on the dangers of too much church sponsored childcare). Plan right there in your budget to hire the help you need for childcare, so your volunteers can do the ministry THEY are called to do.
  9. Props, costumes, crafts and miscellaneous items- What exactly are you going to need for those weekly services, those outreaches and for your trainings? Do you need prizes for a Bible Bucks incentive program? What about T Shirts for your team? The more specific you are, the higher your chance of getting your budget approved.
  10. Fundraising- You may have to spend money to make money. What are you going to need to buy in order to reach your fundraising goals for camp, missions or community outreach? Will you need to purchase 50 little banks for the kids to take home? If you do an incentive, such as a “human burrito day” what will the costs of that be?
  11. Teacher/leader/volunteer appreciation- What are you going to do this coming year to show you appreciation for your leaders? Will you do a special dinner? Will you do thank you gifts? How will you make your team feel your love and appreciate this year?

What did I miss? What things are so important for you to include in your budget for the next year? For more information on writing budgets, check out my first book, Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch available on Amazon.

God bless you in all your planning for an amazing new year of ministry!!

Love Trisha

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I had a good discussion this week with a young lady children’s pastor who I was hired on to coach this semester. We talked about any differences we had observed between children’s ministry in large churches versus smaller churches. She started off as a volunteer in a very large church, and is now full time as a children’s pastor in her own right full time at a smaller church. I started out at a very small home missions church and through the years I have served at churches of all sizes- ending up in a growing “mega church” with several sites. I now travel all over the country speaking and doing trainings at churches of all sizes/denominations. Here are a few observations I had as to what is the same and what is different in small and large church kid’s ministry:

Having seen so many kid’s ministries both large and small, I can say that I have seen a few things that I have found to be similar in both large and small church kid’s ministries:
1. Kids are kids all over the country- and the world. They need love, limits, the truth, the gospel….they need to move, need to laugh etc.
2. I have found that certain ministry elements work well in kid’s ministry regardless of the size of the church: music, drama, dance, VIDEO etc. Kids are visual AND participatory learners!
3. Everywhere I have gone, there have been common elements that have contributed to the growth of kid’s churches regardless of church size: A. Outreach B. targeted recruitment and training of quality leaders C. Using students IN ministry D. Having clear cut vision E. Having a “participatory” ministry ie having children DOING ministry, not just sitting and listening out of a book.
4. I have found that budget dollars and number of people do NOT equal quality of ministry. I’ve seen very small churches with amazing, quality, growing kid’s ministy and very large mega churches with poor, stagnated ministries. The key to quality and growth regardless of church size seems to be passion, vision and creativity- also ability to recruit and lead teams and ELBOW GREASE (as in a whole lot of hard work by you and your volunteers). I’d take creativity and teamwork over a large budget any day. Just throwing money at something won’t make it GREAT.
5. I’ve also seen that both large and small children’s church ministries suffer when there is lack of vision, and especially if there is disunity and infighting. Both die rather quickly if you add in a “survival” “let’s just by” mentality.
6. All sizes of churches MUST recruit and delegate. I was teaching a workshop at a conference recently when a children’s pastor of a smaller church said aloud to the children’s pastor of a larger church, “Well, you would understand what it is to hurt for volunteers. Your church is so big you wouldn’t even have to recruit” I started laughing. We have had Sundays that 11 leaders all call in sick and must be replaced. When you have 270+ volunteers, you will always need replacement leaders for those who are sick, who have moved, or who have switched ministries etc. There are many more open positions to fill at any given time in a larger church- but there is also a bigger pool to pick from. But no matter what the size, the statistics still tell us in ANY church, 14 percent of the people do 88 percent of all the work that is done in a church. We all need leaders!
What about differences?
1. Smaller churches have a tendency to get a bit more stuck in the church politics or in the whims of one or two individuals who are prominent in the church.
2. Larger churches may lean more towards a business model in practical operations (this can be good and bad- that is a lot of money and leaders to manage well but the focus still needs to be on the fact that you are a CHURCH.) This means a lot more forms, paper trails, systems of operation etc.
3. Larger churches MAY have a longer and more involved budget process. Again, there are so many departments that all need funding in a ‘mega” church, and to be efficient and effective with people’s tithe money takes time and a lot of planning.
4. Small churches tend to START with human creativity and innovation (elbow grease) because they know (or assume) that the sets, props etc could not be paid for any other way. This leads, in my opinion, to some amazing innovation, creativity and problem solving coming out of smaller churches and missions works because they CAN’T just throw money at a problem. Necessity really is the mother of invention.
5. Larger churches do tend to be faster paced. There are so many people, so many projects in the works that excuses just do not go far. You learn to keep up, delegate more than you ever thought possible and you grow as a leader- or you do not make it long at a very large church.
6. Larger churches DO have to deal with much larger expectations. When someone visits, they see the massive building and unconsciously they expect something on a higher level. You cannot get by with what is in the curriculum alone. “Good” ministry will NOT cut it. You really have to keep pushing your level of excellence and challenge yourself to exceed where you have been.
7. Smaller churches MAY offer the children’s pastor opportunities for a broader, more varied ministry. In a smaller church, I was able to help lead worship, lead an adult Bible study etc. In a very large church, the kid’s department all by itself was more than enough to push me WAY beyond full time. Smaller churches can offer a broader, more well rounded church ministry experience. Larger churches offer a more indepth and targeted ministry experience.
OK so I know that I am missing some things! What is the same and what is different between large and small church kid’s ministry? What do you think or what have you experienced?
Love Always, Trishasmall-vs-large-628x250

This past week, I heard several people on social media broach the subject of Christians and child adoption. One young lady said, “Christians are only pro-life until the embryo is born, then they couldn’t care less about the child or the mom.” Another responded with, “You can’t be pro-life when so many kids are stuck in the foster system with no family.” And yet another, “I cannot understand why so called Christians refuse to adopt any of these kids they claim to care about.”

I am interested in this topic because I am a Christian, a children’s pastor, a parent AND my sister and brother in law are adopting this beautiful angel- Eva Marie Hope. I also

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have several good Christian friends who have adopted children. I very much would like some of them to weigh in on this, as well as adults who grew up in foster care, to hear from those who have first hand experience.

I am 100 percent FOR adoption. Each of us is adopted by God after all. I am thrilled to see a rising interest in adoption by Christians and churches alike (our church celebrates an “adoption day”.

My experience tells me that more Christians have not adopted children for many different reasons. The assumption that Christians do not WANT to adopt or are not interested in the lives of at risk children just does not seem to be accurate to me. Here are a few reasons that Christians may not adopt, that have nothing to do with apathy.

  1. MONEY- If you did not know, adoption is INCREDIBLY expensive. Yes, the costs vary from state to state, and from agency to agency. But overall, these costs can be prohibitive for the average person. My sister was literally told by one agency “It would not be worth it to apply until you can show at least 20,000 in your bank account.” YIKES! This was impossible for them. Overseas adoption was creeping up on 50,000 from certain countries. A friend of mine had a private open adoption, and the costs still went over 10000. Parents determined to adopt may be forced to go instead to foster care and HOPE they can someday adopt. My sister went this route twice before this. She ended up adopting privately through a girl she met at church- a private adoption, but it still cost 18,000+. Anyone else feel like we are SELLING CHILDREN HERE? Why are these costs so high? I am honestly asking. It seems we are limiting adoption to the rich, as if rich people are somehow better parents.
  2. RACISM and DISCRIMINATION- This may be a very controversial section of this           blog. And I’m certainly open to other perspectives on this one. But it is a fact that certain children, in certain states cost MORE than other children, based entirely on the color of their skin or the state of a disability or their gender or age. For example, white female babies in some areas are considered “very desirable” and therefore cost more. My sister was told that Americans want to adopt girls because we think they will be “easier” to raise. They told her that if she would consider a child of color, or a bi-racial child or a child with disabilities the costs would be MUCH cheaper. Someone please explain this to me! This ANGERS me. Isn’t this institutional racism? Isn’t this SELLING CHILDREN? This is appalling!
  3. Unreasonable Requirements- Did you know that most states, adoption agencies have a long list of requirements that you and your spouse must meet in order to adopt. These requirements MAY include, but are not limited to A. Age- you may have to be under the age of 37-40 B. Medical History- Any medical problems on your or your spouse’s record may disqualify you to be an adoptive parent. C. Finances- If you do not have the required money on hand, or your finances are not what the agency considers good, you may be disqualified. D. Size of family- Some agencies will disqualify you if you have ANY children of your own (infertile couples only). Others, such as the one my sister was first using, will not allow you to adopt a BABY if you already have children. E. Single people often have a harder time adopting children F. Sometimes you will be required to be the same race as the child you are adopting. What wild requirements have YOU heard about/encountered? It is my opinion that these requirements disqualify too many people who would be GREAT parents and provide wonderful homes. And children wait in foster care for a person who matches these expectations.
  4. Heartbreak- Due to the high costs of adoption, my sister started with foster care, in hopes of adopting. Both long term placements went almost all the way up to adoption. In both cases, at the very last second, the child went to be with a family member. Even though my sister knew if could happen, and she knew not to get attached, it was still heartbreaking. We have all heard horror stories of adoptive parents thinking everything is fine, only to have the child taken away later. Many brave Christian parents step up every year and take that risk, trying to adopt. But I bet others simply do not want to put their hearts on the line like that with no guarantees. I have never heard my sister sob like that, like when she lost the second child. She described the loss as, “I feel as if I lost a child, but I’m not allowed to mourn publicly. I have no monument to mourn at. No one will be sending us cards or meals. But the pain is still here.”
  5. A Broken Foster System- A lot of attention has been given lately to the problems in our American foster system. It seems that the well being of the children isn’t always top priority to put it lightly. Too often the children suffer due to over regulation, outdated rules, politics, corruption and red tape. I highly suggest reading these articles: http://michellecaldier.houserepublicans.wa.gov/2017/04/18/op-ed-time-reform-broken-foster-care-system/    and ABC’s “Foster Care- Stretched Too Far,” http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130266.  The state in which I live, proudly asserts, “The best place for a child is with the birth parent.” I have to disagree. The best place for a child is where they are safe, loved and cared for. What about adoptive parent’s rights? As a children’s pastor, I have personally witnessed children returned to abusive homes FAR too soon, only to be abused all over again. Where is the protection for these vulnerable children???
  6. Our culture of Materialism- Sometimes we think we cannot provide all the “stuff” that kids “need.” People matter so much more than stuff. And children can be happy, safe and healthy in a loving home, without all the “stuff.”

How about you? Do you have experience in the foster system? As a foster parent? An adoptive parent? Why do YOU think that more Christians do not adopt? How do you feel about proposed foster/adoption system reforms?

Love and Blessings- Trisha

And if you’d like to hear more about my sister’s journey to adopt Eva, you can read about it HERE: https://www.youcaring.com/erikagoffin-894207

I absolutely LOVE my baby niece!! Love you Peanut!