This past weekend our church had the privilege of hosting Aaron Reynolds, creative children’s ministry trainer. I wish I could box up the event and deliver it live to anyone who was not able to attend. There’s a lot in this entry so I’ll give you a summary so you can get to what you’re most interested in. This entry is broken up into the following sections:
- Meeting Aaron Reynolds
- Arrival in Sarnia
- Preschool Teaching
- Friday Leadership Discussions
- Transformational Teaching
- Transformational Relationships
- Collection of Tweets and quotes from the Weekend
MEETING AARON REYNOLDS
Aaron flew into Flint, MI where I picked him up and then brought him to Sarnia. I got to know him as a guy who loves the arts, family and video games. As a child his father was in the military and so he moved around a lot. He told me some stories of his experiences as a consultant. One story he told was of a church who invited him not knowing that he was a children’s ministry guy, but thinking he might help their dying church improve their Sunday School. Aaron ended up working with them, encouraging them to actually drop their ineffective program and pour their resources into children’s ministry. Two months later the congregation was gaining great satisfaction from serving in and not merely attending church. Our call as the church was NEVER to simply attend, but to serve. This particular church, when immersed in seeking to transform kids lives by Jesus, was in turn transformed and revitalized. I believe children’s ministry is where it’s at!
ARRIVAL IN SARNIA
When we arrived on Thursday night, we were honoured to be hosted by Jen and Duncan Viragos for dinner. Dinner was fantastic! Our discussion quickly turned to the broad subject of recruitment. This became a bit of a theme for the weekend as the question came up frequently. Of course, there is no simple answer or quick tips to “getting people to serve” (which isn’t a very appealing phrase). I’ll explain his thoughts briefly here with a caution that “recruiting” is much more than something we do, but that it’s a lifestyle and mindset to be embraced.
Aaron suggested that recruitment isn’t the greatest word to describe what we’re hoping to do with volunteers. The word has negative connotations. Instead, he talks about multiplying your ministry. He began to distinguish types of volunteers such as core people who have really bought in and committed themselves to what’s going on. He also talked about people who are there, but don’t own the ministry. To illustrate he uses a target. In the middle are the core. On the outside, he says, what tends to happen is we make a plea from the bulletin or apologetically ask for a hole to be filled. Then we duck-tape them to the outside. This will never grow a ministry. We must build the core.
Building the core is done through an apprenticeship model. Each volunteer is expected to also find one apprentice. This is done through personal invitation. We all have what I call a sphere of influence. There are people around us that we influence and are influenced by that no one else can or is. We know them like no one else does. Larry Plett says, “Get to know before you get to do.” I, the children’s pastor, cannot do the multiplying. The church body works together to invite others to join an adventure like no other! So invite someone you know to come and watch you. Build into them, grow them, encourage them to take some little risks and then bigger risks. Then, the eventual goal is to have them lead their own area.
With Jen and Duncan we also got into some insightful discussion on preschool ministry. Aaron made an observation that I hadn’t considered before. He suggested that while elementary children love the unpredictable, “keep me guessing” approach to teaching, preschoolers love to be in the know. This translates into keeping the same format week in and week out, choosing one theme for an entire year. Within this theme is included the same components such as, for example, each week Miss Pink comes out with her pink wig and reviews the Bible point. Or at the same time in each lesson a couple of sock puppets come out to teach the verse. Several things are chosen and repeated each and every time for huge engagement of each and every preschooler.
FRIDAY LEADERSHIP DISCUSSIONS
I’ll run through these in brief bullet form.
- Aaron and I talked about my style and personality. In all transparency, my accommodating and apologetic approach to leading has slowed down the good things I want to implement.
- Aaron talked about the importance of a volunteer group huddle before “game-time.” This is a time to get leaders together for prayer and connection.
- Small group leaders should be weekly because they are about relationships. If small groups don’t do relationships well then why would we do them?
- Make the ministry desirable and do not apologize for requiring higher standards. (ie. make an audition)
- Make a clear ministry results target and communicate it frequently.
- Serve where you’re gifted.
For our Saturday training we can break it up into two sessions: Transformational Teaching and Transformational Relationships.
In the morning session Aaron powerfully illustrated how to teach for transformation. He contrasted ministry on Sunday with school teaching. For example, a child struggling to get his three times tables isn’t even remotely close to the importance of him having Scripture rooted in his life in a changing way. My favourite example was his story of the paralyzed man being carried to Jesus. He nearly brought all of us to tears and the silence in the room was palpable. This can be true when we tell stories to children as well.
Here are some foundational principles Aaron laid out to start the morning session:
- Aha! moment of reinventing children’s ministry: BE EFFECTIVE. Our ministry can yield actual, measurable, tangible change and results.
- The word “teaching” trips us up. Many associations with school are negative. Our teaching must be transformational!
- I’m not ok if kids don’t fall in love with Jesus. I’m cool if they don’t fall in love with a times table.
- We must go beyond “information exchange” to heart transformation. We can’t be satisfied with simple Scripture memory for its own sake or to give out a prize. The Scripture needs to be implanted on the heart.
How to Identify when Transformational Teaching is Happening (or, what is the transformational bulls-eye):
- Past head-knowledge towards heart knowledge.
- Kids “should be falling in love with God and with Jesus and the life change that He holds.”
- Provide the whoa factor!
- Go there yourself and let God’s Word get into you.
- Know your learning styles.
- Only about %30 of kids are auditory which tends to be our primary style of teaching.
- Teach to all styles including visual and kinesthetic. Engage them.
- Auditory: like notes, good students, the “good kids,” they process through listening.
- Visual: need to see it (reading is not a visual, but an auditory).
- Kinesthetic/tactile: “Johnny fidgets too much, talks too much, wanders too much.”
- Two extremes: 1) not entertainment! 2) entertainment overload that crowds out the Biblical content.
- That 2nd extreme is the fun part and the Bible lesson becomes the boring part.
- The job of creativity is to do heavy lifting. Creativity’s job is to lift up and honour Biblical content. Kids should not leave only thinking about the creative. They should walk out knowing the Biblical content and loving Jesus.
- “[Transformational teaching] equips for life-change in specific, detailed ways.”
- Know where they live and meet them there.
- Put something in their tool-belt so they’re prepared when the temptation happens. At that moment they will wrestle with making the right decision because you set them up for success.
Simple Tips for Working With Squirrelly Kids:
- 1st approach should be to soften your tone. A whisper will often draw them in.
- 2nd approach should be proximity + softening. Get close and without making eye contact or giving “the look” keep teaching.
- Small group leaders are your support crew for this if those methods fail. The teacher should focus on teaching. Small group leaders are also right in there to help kids engage.
Teaching Example: Story of Jesus calming the storm. When story-telling, build up the excitement of the storm and bring it to a halt when Jesus says, “Peace be still.” Don’t tell them to be quiet, they just know.
For this section I am going to let Steph Hollingsworth give her recap. She has prepared a fantastic report covering the big idea behind small groups and some of Aaron’s strategies for making small group ministry transformational. Don’t skip reading her Small Group Workshop notes. Thanks Steph!
After the training day, Aaron and I had to bolt for the airport. We talked about follow up and accountability and working the plan. So from here on out, we plug away and seek to show the target of transformational teaching + transformational relationships week in and week out. I’m ready for it!
COLLECTION OF TWEETS AND QUOTES FROM THE WEEKEND
I’m thankful God invented Aaron Reynolds! We had a fantastic weekend with his insight, support, wit, and transformational impact. #kidmin
Powerful small group leading practices: consistent presence, intentional parental handoff, preparation. Aaron Reynolds. #kidmin
Transformational teaching must also be applicational in very detailed and specific ways. #kidmin
Transformational teaching must change the heart, be experiential (alive) and meaningfully creative. #kidmin
#kidmin is more than fun and creativity. It must be effective, bear fruit and yield results. Aaron Reynolds
#kidmin equipping event w Aaron Reynolds starts in 2 hrs!
Serving in #kidmin is an amazing privilege not a burden.
#kidmin is the greatest fruit bearing ministry in the church. Aaron Reynolds. // most people who ever come to Christ do so b4 13.
Put the flower in the right spot and it will bloom. Jessica Hillman // serve in your sweet spot!
U don’t grow a ministry by duck-taping people to what you’re doing. U multiply it through an apprenticeship model. Aaron Reynolds #kidmin
Drove to pick up Aaron Reynolds tonight. Mtgs tonight and tomorrow. Then all day training on sat for anyone interested in #kidmin! Awesome!