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History Behind the Hymn: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

The great hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” depicts a rich understanding of God forged through times of loss and loneliness. The hymn’s lyricist was a native of Dublin, Ireland, a man named Joseph Scriven (1820-1886). This is part of his story.

After graduating from Trinity College, he greatly anticipated the day that he and his long-time love would be married. She was his childhood sweetheart, and all of the wedding preparations were made. The day before the wedding, however, tragedy struck. While riding to meet him, the young woman’s horse was startled by something, throwing the her into the river nearby. The impact knocked her unconscious and she drowned shortly before Joseph arrived to meet her.

After this tragic loss, Joseph was troubled by the sight of his home in Ireland, and soon left for Ontario, Canada where he spent the rest of his days in Port Hope. He devoted himself to good works and to caring for others in the village, being known as someone that never turned away those in need that could not repay him.

Eventually, he began tutoring the children of a man in town, and in the process, fell in love with the man’s niece, Eliza. The two planned to be married in 1854, but shortly before, Eliza fell sick with pneumonia, passing away at the age of 23. Once again tragedy invaded Joseph Scriven’s life, as the hoped-for marriage day never came.

Throughout the struggles and loss of his life, Scriven continued to find solace in the nearness of God, whom he described as his closest friend. It is unclear as to when the lyrics he penned were put to music, as he initially sent them in a letter to his mother, intending that they be seen only by her.

His words remind us that though life is challenging and often painful, we have someone with us that is a dearer friend than any human ever could be, sustaining us and remaining close to us through it all.

Remembering his story can give us and the children in our lives faith to persevere and to serve others in need in every season.

Lyrics

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer.

 

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

 

 

Child Development Guide PDF – Kids 3-11 Years Old

A few weeks ago, I was at a five-day conference, working with the children aged six months to 3 years old. As the parents were in sessions, my colleagues and I would spend time with the six or so children, finding activities and games for them to play throughout the day and evening.  By the fourth day, the children had grown accustomed to the room and toys, and in order to keep things fresh, I began thinking of new games for us to play together.

My experience with children was largely just with elementary-aged kids, which are more developmentally advanced than the toddlers, and so I wasn’t quite sure where the children would be in regards to what games they could play. I quickly learned a difference between the two age groups after gathering them together for a round of the classic game, Duck-Duck-Goose.

I got some blank stares while explaining the rules to the three-year-olds and quickly decided to demonstrate instead of just tell. After showing them a couple of examples, I realized that even demonstrating did not connect the dots, as one three-year-old kind of patted a couple of heads and then began running circles, around and around, as quickly as he could.

“Okay,” I said to them and to myself. “Back to blocks.”

Kids’ ability and our expectations

Perhaps at some point you have encountered a moment where your expectations of kids’ ability was different than what was actually the case. Maybe you chose an activity that was too easy or a game that was just too hard (whoops). The consequences might not be as obvious, but choosing music that does not match a child’s developmental abilities prevents them from really understanding what they are singing, though they might be able to recite the words.

Maybe you’ve had the common experience of hearing a kid sing a song with inappropriate words and upon asking them what the song means, they reply that they really don’t know–they just like it.

The same scenario can occur when you are seeking to teach kids songs with words you do want them to take to heart, such as songs about Jesus or lessons from the Bible. Reciting the words is different from understanding, and knowing where the kids you care about are in terms of mental development can go a long ways in discipling them on their level.

It can be hard to keep track of each age group, so I created a quick reference guide for you to download and use as you plan lessons and music for Sunday School or just hanging at home. It includes key characteristics of each age group, so you can tailor your lessons to speak right to where the kids are.

Download the free child development quick-reference guide here: KidTunz_Quick_Reference

Have you ever planned a lesson that just didn’t hit home with the kids you were teaching? How did you respond?

Not sure where to go from here? We created albums specific to each age group to get you started!

LaDonna Greiner on 2 Fresh Ways to Teach the Value of Gratitude

Throughout the month of November, we’re partnering with speaker and gratitude guru, LaDonna Greiner of 21 Reasons to Say Thank You and LG Consulting, to delve into what it really means to live with a sense of gratitude at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.

kid in the fall leaves

Maybe it’s a familiar scene.

You’re about to stuff the first bite of a freshly baked roll into your mouth after smelling scents from the kitchen all day. You break it apart, perfect steam wafting. 

 

“WAIT. STOP. What is everyone thankful for?! We can’t eat until we’ve said that!”

 

You freeze, mid-bite, narrowing your eyes slightly at the enthusiastic family member. They mean well, you remind yourself, dropping the roll to the plate.

 

Each family member takes a turn, some nodding in appreciation of the sentimental moment, others anxiously tapping their fingers on the table trying to think of something to say that seems semi-meaningful.

 

The scene above is not exactly something you’d put on a greeting card, but for some, it is just as much a tradition on Thanksgiving as turkey and pie. While being grateful is certainly wonderful, LaDonna Greiner notes that the “everyone-say-one-thing-you’re-thankful-for” part of Thanksgiving may not be the most effective way to go about training kids in the family to live with gratitude throughout the year. Here are a couple of her recommendations:

Bring gratitude into Thanksgiving festivities in a more natural, spontaneous way.

Perhaps a grandparent or parent could mention to some of the adults beforehand that there will be a time for the family to talk about what good things have happened throughout the year. This will give them time to gather their thoughts before the meal begins. A few minutes after everyone has started eating, the grandparent could simply begin to mention some of the good things they have observed over the past year:

“I was so proud of Abby for getting all A’s and B’s on her report card this year, and wow! Drake really worked hard to become first viola over the past few months in orchestra.”

Perhaps thoughts on a family vacation or a funny memory from the summer could spark additional memories about the good things that have occurred. The adults can share in turn if they desire to do so, and maybe upon hearing all of the stories, some of the kids will want to chime in, too, about things they have liked throughout the year.

LaDonna mentions that this more natural, spontaneous way of giving thanks creates a low-pressure environment that still teaches the value of gratitude. The goal is not necessarily for every person to say something, but simply to focus each person’s thoughts on gratefulness. Even if a child or family member prefers to stay quiet, they are most likely still thinking of good things, which is still incredibly meaningful. When put on the spot to say something, it can be easy just to say the first thing that comes to mind, without truly thinking it through.

Ask creative questions

Throughout Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season, one additional way to cultivate a practice of gratitude is to ask the kids in your life a different question than the typical, “What are you thankful for?” This question lends itself to abstract things such as “family” or “beauty”, which are good, but tend to stop the train of thought.

Reframing the question to, “What have you liked about this year?” still explores the avenues of thankfulness, but in more concrete terms. Perhaps a child liked being on their soccer team or a drawing the made in art class, for example. It trains them to be thankful for specific things that are rooted in their day-to-day lives, which helps to create a habit of gratitude.

 

How do you teach the kids in your life the value of thankfulness?

Neuroplasticity, kids’ ideas and everyday creativity

Classroom and creativityWe sat at our metal desks, staring at our teacher, blinking.

“So? What crackpot ideas do you have for me today?” She asked with expectation. It was our first Friday in her communication arts class; our sixth grade selves are unsure of how to respond. Even in public school, it wasn’t every day that a teacher used the word “crackpot” in class.

She saw she wasn’t getting through to us. “Okay, I’ll give you an example. You know how the paparazzi follows celebrities to take their pictures?” We nod, still blinking. “What if we took pictures of people from the paparazzi and made those into trading cards? Then celebrities and others could collect them! See? A crackpot idea. I know you’ve got some, too. What ideas do you have for me today?”

Our blinks turned to nods—we got it. She was asking us for off-the-wall ideas that we thought might just work.

Someone across the room from me perked up. “What about a dog brush that could also be used as a chew toy?”

“Or a thing that makes waffles in the shape of toast!”

Students began voicing their harebrained ideas, some feasible and some downright odd, stretching our young brains and creating space to dream.  Ideas that might be lame or embarrassing in another context suddenly became acceptable, and we gave voice to things we may have otherwise considered not worth speaking aloud.

Crackpot ideas became a part of our Friday routine. Throughout the week, my brain would take note of odd ideas and connections I saw throughout the week, saving them for the weekly exercise. Maybe, just maybe, one of them might work?

 

Everyday Creativity & the Brain

For some reason, the memory of Crackpot Idea Fridays has stayed with me.  We weren’t entrepreneurs looking for the next business model or artists trying to create their next best work. We weren’t even brainstorming for an assignment or trying to solve a problem.  At the end of each session, we didn’t act on the ideas, and to my knowledge, the teacher never did end up creating those trading cards.  So was it a waste of time? No, not at all.

Those times were opportunities to ideate and be creative just for creativity’s sake, unselfconsciously spouting off odd connections and combinations of ideas and objects, on the off-chance that one might work, whatever that would mean. It was a time to exercise different mental muscles besides those we used for tests, memorization or writing. There was no right answer, no measure to uphold. No preconceived structure or expectations; just space to let our minds wander new paths of thinking.

Measures and tests and structured learning have their place, but opportunities to participate in unfettered creativity infuse these things with new life. They give kids opportunities to practice seeing new connections between everyday things, and these new connections are what drive creative expression and innovation.

The concept of neuroplasticity can speak to why this ability to identify connections between disparate things is so useful. Sarah Bernard of Edutopia and the George Lucas Education Foundation, explains that “if you perform a task or recall some information that causes different neurons to fire in concert, it strengthens the connections between those cells.” As these networks of neurons become stronger, they become more efficient and thereby more capable of identifying relationships between varying subjects. These relationships then increase the brain’s memory storage capacity, increasing a kids’ ability to retain and apply what they learn.

Looking back, I’m not entirely sure of the motivation or end-goal behind the weekly Crackpot Idea time. But as I speculate on this memory that remains so vivid, it seems to have provided a free place to practice what it means to think beyond our brains’ routine “networks” and patterns, which as demonstrated above, played a part in laying a solid foundation for creative learning. And crackpot ideas or not, discovering novel connections between everyday things just seems to make life that much more wonder-full.

Guest Post: Setting Your Volunteers Up For Fall Success

children in the fall with leavesFall is a great time of year. School is in session in the US. Children and their families are finishing their summer travels. New people are moving to your area. It is a time of growth for your church, but it can also be a pinch for children’s ministry leaders. More people attending means the need for more volunteers.

When faced with a need for more volunteers, the first thought is to recruit. Before you put effort into recruiting, take a look at how you can expand the volunteer base you have. It may surprise you at the opportunities you find.

 

Revisit the Frequency Your Volunteers Are Serving

If a volunteer only serves once a month, ask them to serve twice a month. If they serve

twice a month, could they serve weekly? An increase of 50% goes a long way.

 

Expand the Roles Of Current Volunteers

Look for complementary volunteer roles that one volunteer could fill. Example: Have parents drop kids off in their small group or class area. This way teachers can greet parents or greeters can serve as security during the service.

 

Create Opportunities For Leaders To Help

Create leadership positions in your ministry. Give seasoned volunteers new roles. Have them recruit, train, and minister to the new volunteers. Allow your leadership to help you can expand the volunteer base in a more organic way.

 

Ask For Temporary Season of Dedicated Ministry

Ask infrequent volunteers to dedicate a season (3-9 months) of consistent service. Having a definite end point will be encouraging to volunteers. Most like it so much they continue to serve even when the season is over.

 

How do you do this?

By connecting with these volunteers and asking them. Nothing fancy. You get to know the volunteer and ask why they serve in the pattern they serve. Many will have good reasons. Their spouse serves in another ministry who kept a similar schedule. Or they travel a lot and can only commit to that much. But many would say this is how they always served. No one asked them to do more. Of people serving in 2014, 41% did so because someone in the organization asked them.

Volunteers who already understand your vision will welcome another chance to serve. Sometimes all they need is for you to give them the opportunity.

 

In the Ministry Accelerator community, we discuss ministry design, best practices, digital tools and volunteers. Join us today. Email [email protected] and put “I want to join” in the subject line.

Music as an Effective Discipleship Tool for Children

Music can serve as a lifelong discipleship tool. Research demonstrates that musical training can increase children’s working memory capacity. And the repetition, rhyme and rhythm of songs combined with the brain’s plasticity during childhood can cause songs to stay with children long into adulthood. The ways people use and access music have shifted with the increasing availability of music online, including how people incorporate music into the church.

Below is an interview with composer John Morton, who has written, produced and published hundreds of children’s songs for curricula for companies such as Standard Publishing and Group Publishing. He is also the co-founder of the nonprofit, EduCAN Development Corporation, and has been invited to various countries throughout East Africa to train teachers in child development.

We sat down to discuss the music trends he’s observed over the years and how children’s ministry leaders can use music to effectively teach children biblical principles.

A: What are some shifts or trends you have observed in how children’s church leaders use music?

One thing I’ve observed is that there is no longer a common set of songs that children know and sing across many different churches and regions. You can’t assume children know particular songs now because there are so many for leaders to choose from, as well as so many more ways to find songs than in the past.

Another would be an increase in leaders using adult worship songs in kids’ ministry services. Leaders do have more songs to choose from this way, but adult songs can be less effective in terms of discipleship, since so many of them contain a lot of metaphors and abstract concepts that children do not yet have the cognitive ability to understand.

A: Oh, I hadn’t considered that. So, how would kids’ comprehension of songs be different between preschool and elementary school?

In preschool, children are not able to understand abstract ideas, so it is important to sing songs that include very concrete and literal language. The songs should include repetition, easy melodies and simple lyrics that connect children with sensory details of biblical stories. What did characters see or touch? The kids may be able to sing more complex tunes, but the key is to sing songs that they actually understand. Checking in by asking questions about what they think a song is about is a good way to measure whether it’s a good fit for them.

A: And elementary school?

Kids begin to understand more abstract concepts at around the ages of seven or eight , but there is still a large gap between early elementary and late elementary in terms of cognitive development. In early elementary, simpler songs are still the best way to engage the children, but as they get older, children develop a wider vocal range and more complex vocabulary, and can therefore sing songs with more complexity in terms of structure, melody and content.

Just like speaking and reading, singing can provide children with opportunities to develop their language abilities, as they interact with teachers and peers and use words to communicate meaning.

It’s not as common as it used to be in churches, but using simple rhythm instruments during worship or class time can further engage the children as well. They can keep time with woodblocks, rhythm sticks, or instruments of their own making, keeping their minds, mouths and hands fully engaged throughout the songs.

A: Early middle school is sometimes considered to be part of children’s ministry; would music change much between late elementary and middle school?

In early middle school, kids begin to exert more independence, entering the more “grown up phase.” They may not be as enthusiastic about the sillier songs as they were before and it is important for leaders to consider the fact that young boys’ voices are changing when they choose a song’s key. By middle school, the students can begin worshipping Jesus from their own hearts, so leaders could even ask them for input as to what songs they would like to sing.

A: How do you think children’s ministry leaders can help teach kids what it means to worship Jesus from their own hearts?

When teaching children how to worship, it is most important to convey what worship i s , and not necessarily what it is “supposed” to look like . Worship is ascribing worth to God, and it can take many forms. Children may have ways that they like to worship God that might look different than adults. Allowing them freedom to express what is in their hearts for God in their kid-like ways teaches them about having a heart for God and not necessarily just doing church-like things.

Modeling life with Jesus is very important, as is living in community. It is important to keep in mind, though, that discipleship is not about enculturating kids or showing them how to simply fit-in with the rest of the church-goers. It is about teaching them who God is, what he has done for them and what it means to have a relationship with him, which includes expressing their hearts in worship.

A: Any last parting thoughts?

Just one thing. Worship styles come and go, but the fact that music enables kids to memorize principles and verses will stay the same. The heart of worship stays the same. The purpose of kids’ church is to train children to know and love Jesus, and that is the most important thing.

The benefits of being in a church children’s choir

smiling girl in choir!

Children’s choirs can have impact beyond just the performances for which they practice. Choir directors and those that teach kids music through their lessons or service time at church influence children’s lives in ways that extend beyond children’s church and into the future. Here are a few things I took away from growing up in church choirs. What would you add?

Friendships

One day while sitting in 7th grade geography class, I remember my classmates staring as bearded, biker-looking Mr. Smith (name changed) intensely questioned my faith beliefs and why I chose to believe in Jesus. After taking ownership of my relationship with Jesus the year prior, these faith discussions had become relatively usual in my public school setting. 

In light of those sometimes-intense moments, choir practice on Sunday mornings became a time of reprieve, where I was able to set the defenses aside and be in a setting that didn’t require them.  It was an opportunity to sing songs alongside a few friends, working together toward a common goal. And though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, the consistency of seeing these friends week to week provided support to thrive at public school. We sang together and went on choir tour trips, where we would sing and serve in other communities, creating opportunities to go deeper in friendship and understand what it means to use our gifts for others’ benefit.

Musical Training

Along with consistently providing opportunities to develop friendships, kids’ choir also created the opportunity for musical concepts to be cemented into our minds from an early age. 

We learned how to follow along to music sheets and anticipate melodies and harmonies by reading music. We learned vocal warm-ups and how to pronounce particular words for the best pitch and sound. We practiced singing in front of crowds of all sizes, reducing stage fright little by little by performing throughout the years.  We practiced stage presence and how to convey the feeling of songs through facial expressions to engage audiences.

We practiced blending our voices with those around us, to ensure that the sound was cohesive and that no one person’s was heard above the rest.  We learned teamwork as we picked up on parts we didn’t quite have memorized yet by listening to those next to us, practicing the part until we had it down. We learned the basic building blocks of creative, musical expression which we could build upon in the future and use to express meaning to others.

Though, to my knowledge, few of the people from those choir days have chosen to become professional musicians, the skills we developed throughout our years of practice still prove valuable, in public speaking, in laying the groundwork for working with others, in different means of creative expression. Those are valuable throughout many areas of life.

Song Truths

Walking the halls at school, often times I would rehearse my parts from choir in my head, while also unintentionally rehearsing the truths the songs contained. Even today, many of those songs are ingrained in my mind, and as I have grown, the words have taken on new depth and meaning. 

For example, a re-make of the hymn “Nothing But the Blood” has continually stuck with me since we learned it in junior high choir, continually resonating in different ways as the seasons have brought deeper understanding of grace and how Jesus’ death and life provide the means of healing and righteousness as we walk with him. It has brought comfort to my soul many times.

And as you rehearse songs with the children and students, it creates opportunity for the Holy Spirit to use those truths down the road by bringing them to mind and revealing different aspects of who he is.

 

Start where you are

Not all churches have choirs of any kind as worship styles have changed, but even simply bringing children together to sing and practice their musical skills can enable musical members of the church to use their gifts for the next generation, while also instilling additional skills into the children’s repertoire at an early age. Choir can also provide musical opportunities to children that may not be able to afford private instrument or vocal lessons. 

Choirs and teaching kids musical skills don’t have to be huge productions, but can be once a week, once a month or even once a quarter, depending on the resources and people available. Whatever it looks like, in a time when consuming often usurps creativity and critical thinking, being intentional about making space to develop these skills becomes even more valuable.

 

Did you grow up in children’s choir or other musical groups? Now that you’re a few years down the road, how did it affect you? Have you decided to teach your kids music?

8 Back-to-School Songs for Work & Friendship

girl blowing a bubble

It’s nearing the time of crisp notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils and all of the excited-wondering feelings of starting a new school year.  As you are preparing the kids in your life for another new season, here are some songs to sing that will encourage them to be people of character in their relationships and work.

Making New Friends

 

Many New Friends 

“Find a hand and shake it! Find a back and pat it! Find a pal and hug ‘em real big. God gives us many good friends…”

 

A Good Friend 

“Jesus is my best friend. I love Him, and He loves me. God gives us friends to love us and help us. A good friend loves all the time.”

 

How Do We Love Other People

“We forgive; we are kind; we are helpful. This is showing love. We will give; we will share; we will show we care. Then they’ll know it’s love…”

 

Together

“Together we learn. Together we give. Together we pray. And together we care…”

 

colored pencils in a cup

Working Out of Love for Jesus

 

Whatever You Do In Word or Deed

“Giving thanks to God, the Father, through Jesus, working hard with all your heart, You are working for the Lord and not man. Let all that you do be in the name of the Lord.”

 

Friends of Jesus

“Friends of Jesus are helpful. Friends of Jesus work hard. Friends of Jesus will pray and share God’s love…”

 

We Will Serve

“What do you think of when you hear the word “serve?”
(Is it a waitress or a valet parker at the curb?)
What do you think of when you hear the word “serve?”
(I think of tennis or soft ice cream with a swirl.)”

 

Character

“We’re building character with Jesus, ‘cause that will honor God. So pardon the dirt, we’ll continue our work on our C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R.”

 

 

How do you prepare the kids in your ministry or home for the start of another school year? What are some of their concerns and how do you address them? 

Beans, Drama and and Other Everyday Creativity Practices

Cultivating Creativity in Kids

Click Image to Tweet!

 

“I’m boooooooored!”

Ever heard that from one of your kids?

“Only those with unimaginative minds are bored!” I’d retort to my
daughters. “It’s time to be creative!”

“Only those with unimaginative minds are bored!”(Click to Tweet) 

Here are 3 tips for introducing new creativity to your children:

1) Act out a favorite song complete with costumes, props and dramatic
actions.

2) Work on math skills by keeping a plastic bag of beans in your purse.
When waiting at the doctor’s office, pull the bag out and ask your child
to count out a certain number of beans. Introduce adding and subtracting
with them. (It doesn’t have to be beans. Anything…coins, Legos, etc.)

3) Look for a particular shape, letter and number all throughout the
day. Say, “Today’s shape is a circle, the letter is ‘C’ and the number
is ‘4’!” As you take walks, go to the store, wash dishes, play in the
back yard ask your child if she sees any of these things.

Creative thinking takes practice and these are just a few ways to incorporate thinking outside of the box into your everyday life.

What do you find effective in teaching kids to be creative? What do you think hinders their creativity?

5 Ways to Help Kids Be Explorers & Try New Things

Children start their life with a natural, innate curiosity. Think of how many times a two-or-three year old asks, “Why?” All those questions and experiences help make the connections in the brain that become the basis of knowledge for the rest of life.

As children grow, though, their environment affects that curiosity. When they are encouraged to explore and try new things, the curiosity rockets onward laying down a rich web of brain connections. However, if curiosity is criticized, condemned, punished, or unstimulated, fewer brain connections form.

Brain connections equate to knowledge, experience, critical thinking, worldview, self-image, etc. The richer the environment and opportunities the greater the depth of development.

So how does one promote exploring and trying new things in children? Here are 5 easy ways to try.

(1) Model the behavior you want to see in your child.

If you want them to explore, then YOU explore. If you want them to try new things, then YOU try new things. This sounds simple, but it’s really the gatekeeper of your effectiveness. Your children WILL imitate you, so be what you want them to become. There’s really no other way around this.

(2) Be a scaffold, not a guy wire.

You’ve seen a tall radio tower. As the builders add section after section, they attach “guy wires.” Those wires help the tower grow taller and remain stable. What happens when the guy wires are taken away, however? The tower cannot stand on its own. By design, it relies on the guy wires.

By contrast, when builders begin constructing a skyscraper, they create scaffolds to help add floor after floor. They supply the temporary support until the building can stand on its own. Eventually, the scaffolds come down, but the building remains.

That’s nice in theory, but how do I scaffold my child’s development? Let them do things on their own. Challenge them to do things that are just a little beyond their ability. Stretch them. And when they accomplish it, tell them how proud you are of them making the effort. Be careful to praise the process NOT just the product. Praise them for trying, not just for succeeding. Remember, we have to try a lot more than we actually succeed. You want them to always be willing to try, regardless of the outcome.

(3) Read, read, and read some more!

Before your child learns to read, YOU read to them! Read to them every day. You will both love the time spent together. Go to the library and choose books together. A website or video reading a book to your child is better than nothing, but YOU reading to them is the best.

Once they learn to read, support their efforts by supplying them with books. Get them their own library card or form a book cooperative with some friends where you trade books. Visit the used bookstore often. Books make great gifts and rewards.

If you have older children, encourage them to read to younger siblings as well. There may even be a “big brother/big sister” reading program at their school where they read to younger students. Check into it. Suggest it.

Reading promotes achievement in school—not just in language arts, but in math, science, social studies, and arts as well! Promoting reading at home is one of the best investments you can make in your children.

(4) Limit screen time.

An hour a day of TV or Video or tablet or phone is plenty. Explorers are active. They move. They go outside. They go to the park. When the brain sees, hears, touches, smells, and tastes, the learning is much deeper. Those experiences are all wired into different brain systems and then connected. Remember, the more connections…

Explorers are active. They move. They go outside.

(5) Expect them to explore and try new things.

Make that expectation the “norm” in life. Give them many chances. Don’t settle for less. Communicate your expectations in positive ways. “Wow, we ‘get’ to try new food from another country tonight!” Rather than, “You will try this or you’ll be punished.” Or “I know it looks gross, but do you want to try it?” Be positive and expect exploration.

These are five ways you can promote that natural curiosity that God has wired into all of us. You’ll be glad you invested and took the time to make explorers who love to try new things.

9 Kids-Church Ideas for Summer Adventures

What better time to make adventurous memories than summer? Here are a few easy ways to incorporate meaningful exploring and adventure into kids church, to combine discipleship with summer fun!

Explore Time

Choose a time period from the past and immerse the kids in sights and sounds from that period, incorporating a couple of stories of men, women or children who lived boldly for God in that era.

  • Find clothing from the 50’s or 60’s, inviting a fun grandma or grandpa from the same city/town as the church to share a couple of kid-friendly stories about what it was like for them to go to kids church during that time.
  • Dress up and act like missionaries from the past, “visiting” the kids to tell them stories from life in other parts of the world
  • This one is for any young readers in your ministry! Ask a few kids that enjoy reading to read about a Christian man or woman from history and/or the Bible and then briefly interview them for a few minutes at the beginning of service like a talk show about that person. This will not only encourage them to learn on their own but will also be engaging for the other kids to hear these stories from friends closer to their own age.

“Time Stone Travelers” by John H. Morton

Explore Culture

We can learn so much from people of different cultures, so finding adventures that train kids to be open to people and experiences that are different from them can benefit them at church and beyond!

  • Find some foods from other cultures that are very different from what the kids are probably used to eating. Set up a table at kids church and have a few kids participate in “Will You Try It?” where they try various foods that may seem odd!
  • Invite the children’s ministry leaders from a neighboring church that is predominantly of another culture to co-host a kids’ event with your ministry, inviting their church’s families along. It could be a back-to-school barbecue, a summer outing, or a Sunday service. It’s a great way to not only share resources but also build bridges in the community.
  • Find a large map and play, “Can You Find…?” Each month can have a prayer focus for a particular continent or region. Before prayer each week, you can take a few minutes to have a volunteer see if they can identify countries in that region as you say them. Each meeting could include a focus on a specific country in the region, connecting kids with parts of the globe that are very far away from them, but still close to God’s heart.

“Love in Any Language” by Phil Reynolds

Explore Creativity

Chances are, there are many different gifts and abilities represented in your church, and many different kinds of creativity. Here are a few ways to incorporate adults that work in kids’ ministry and other parts of the church to foster bold creativity in the kids.

  • Host a community “Creativity Day Camp” for a few days (or even just one day!) where kids will be able to try out different creative tools. Invite adults and young people from the church to volunteer to teach kids pottery, dancing, various instruments, drawing, songwriting, coding, singing, painting, woodworking, photography, or any other gifts that are represented in your church. Kids can sign up in advance for which class they would like to take and pay a small fee if needed.
  •  Make a piece of kid-community art. Perhaps the kids have just finished school or will be marking another milestone soon. You can explore creativity by working together to make a piece of art that will remind everyone of a particular event or holiday. The kids can all press their thumbprint or decorate hearts to piece together into a mosaic, or each draw something they like on a canvas. Though this can be as simple or as complicated as you like, it can take some creativity to organize a project like this.  However, it is worth the time when the kids are able to see something they accomplished together. You can even make something with a nearby elderly care home or other group in mind to encourage them.
  • During downtime for older kids or before Sunday School, create a “Summer Invention Corner”, where students can tinker with miscellaneous items simply to see what they can create or invent. (Of course, discernment is important in determining what kinds of items the kids can handle.) This invention corner can show children that they can worship Jesus by using the mind he’s given them to invent and create, even if it doesn’t seem directly church-related or “spiritual”. And while they are at school and home, they’ll know they can worship him in everything they do!

“Wuh-Wuh-Wuh Work” by Mark & Lori Lawley

What is your ministry looking forward to this summer? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. 🙂

Music Builds 7 School-Readiness Skills

Researchers have identified certain skills that caregivers can help develop in their children to improve their school readiness. Generally these skills are based around the broad areas of social and emotional development, physical development and well-being, approaches to learning, communication, and cognition (thinking) and general knowledge. Each of these areas contain multiple skills that children need to develop to be effective learners. Let’s look at how you can foster 7 of those skills (of course there are many, many more) using music.

1. Build Memory Skills

Children build the ability to anticipate when they sing songs. Anticipating beginnings and endings of activities, songs and stories represents Read More »

How Music Changes Your Brain and Life

Music has the power to change one’s life! Are you skeptical of that? Let’s look at some research and some of our own experiences to test the truth of that statement.

Music Changes the Brain

Current brain research suggests that when we actively participate in music it helps develop brain systems that aid in language development and literacy. It also has a positive impact on general intellectual development. One gains various health and well being benefits as well (Hallam, 2010). Read More »