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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"What do I get?"

I hear that all too often.  "If I do it, what are you going to give me?" Whether at church, at home or at school, our kids have been programmed to ask this.  Why?  Because we give them prizes and treats for everything! :) It is hard to motivate without them, but we don't want to create a mentality where kids ONLY do something in order to GET something.  So, what are we to do as educators to motivate?  Because, let's face it...some of the things we want the kids to learn aren't exciting enough right now for them to want to learn :)  Let's use the example of Bible verses - because many churches do that.  Children don't understand that years from now, when things aren't going the way they want, that those verses they memorized will help get them through those difficult times.  Kids live in the here and now - they can't fathom the future.  So...they need some motivation.  Again I ask, as educators, what can we do??  BE CREATIVE AND ...

Sometimes we want to motivate a class, sometimes an individual.  Each idea that I'm going to share has an individual and group suggestion.  There are five ideas - surely one of them can be tweaked to fit your class environment!

Our kids, whether we like it or not, know how to use electronics (better than we do;) and they speak that "language".  Video games and apps know how to motivate and get kids playing and learning.  So let's learn from them and use their language!  The kids understand it so why not?  Here are two words that you hear in almost every kids' game/app - "upgrade or level-up" and "unlock".  Every game/app, once a child gets to a certain point, let's them "upgrade" something, go to the next level or they get to "unlock" something.  I just downloaded a Bible memory app for kids and the motivator?  Every time a child learns a verse, they "unlock" an animal sound.  That's it.  As simple as that.  They get to push a button and hear an animal noise.  I don't think we need to get any more complicated than that! :)

So how can we apply these two words to church?  Easy!  Here are 5 ways you can motivate your kiddos by letting them "level-up", "upgrade" or "unlock" something!  Almost all of them lead to something they can do together - and I'll give ideas for that at the end.

1.  Puzzles - I don't mean crossword or word search...I mean actual puzzles with pieces.
         group:  If you want to motivate the entire group, buy a large blank puzzle from somewhere like oriental trading or amazon.  Or make one.  My suggestion - make it extremely easy to put together.  Number the pieces or draw the outline so the kids only have to match the shape and leave the puzzle blank.  Why?  Write a secret message on it.  You can get UV pens and lights from amazon for pretty cheap :)  Once they get a few pieces up there they'll start to ask why it's blank.  You could give them a little teaser and let them use the light to see what they can read.  You will need to figure out how you are going to measure each piece...when 5 kids memorize a verse, a piece goes up? (they "unlock" a piece)  or, when a class memorizes a verse...or some other way of measurement.  When the whole puzzle is complete (make sure the last few pieces contain the surprise!), shine the light and reveal your surprise!

         Individual:  Amazon has a pack of 24 small blank puzzles for $12 and they work pretty good.  You could get a small puzzle for each child.  For each verse they learn, the put a piece together.  you could draw the outline into the top of a shoebox and have them glue the pieces in.  Again, you could either write on them with sharpies so they can see it right away...or you could write with the UV pen.

2.  Marbles! - Many teachers have marble jars.  This is the same kind of idea as the above, in that when a child memorizes a verse, they put a marble in the jar - or, they "unlock" a piece.  When the jar is full, the group gets something.  You could make it more individualized for a class by giving each child a different colored marble...and they have to have at least 3(?) marbles in the jar in order to get to participate in the surprise (or something like that).

3.  Level - up!  Reach the ceiling!  Somewhere in your room create a measuring device.  Maybe put up a number every time ten kids learn a verse (?) - or whatever works for your group/class.  Once they reach your goal, they "level-up" and you put the next number up.  You could use a picture of anything or any kind of shape.  The point is, make sure it is a visual "climb" from the ground up to the ceiling, progressing in value.  once you reach the top, you get the "surprise".  This could also be made for individuals.  You could make it smaller on a bulletin board - as long as they know where the starting and ending point is.  Right now our theme at church is "kick-off" for the beginning of the year and our hallway is decorated like a football field.  I could make a bulletin board with pictures of the kids with a football helmet on their heads at one goal line and give them each a "football" in the endzone.  Each time they memorize a verse, their football moves ten yards (or, the move up another level).  When they score a touchdown - they get the surprise :)

4.  Apps - I have found two apps that help keep track of rewards.  "Stickerpop reward chart" and "rewards express".  Keep track of their progress (as a group or individually) on the app.  When they reach their goal - they get the surprise!

5.  Wheel of Fortune :)  Whatever your surprise is going to be, cut out the letters that spell it.  Every time they reach a goal, they unlock a letter.  Don't let them figure it out too far ahead of time because then it won't be as motivating!  Maybe put the letters in the wrong order ;)  Once they spell the surprise...they get it!

Ok.  So now you have LOTS of ways that the kids can visually track their progress to their surprise.  Now you have to decide - what is the surprise going to be?  Well, here are a number of options.  But please, please, please with sugar on top and a cherry on top...don't fill them with treats and sweets.  Don't let your surprise be cupcakes or a party with punch and cookies.  I'm begging you!  Our kids are more obese than in any other country, we have diabetic kids and special needs kids with special diets and we have allergies like never before.  Please stay away from treats.  I feel like my kids get cookies and candy shoved at them every day from somewhere - don't let it be the church!  Teach them how to take care of their bodies - that includes eating healthy!  So here are some non-candy/treat rewards :)  If you would like to buy ($3) my reward tickets (called "Blessing tickets") to have something tangible the kids can see/hold, they are on my teachers pay teachers store.  There are 11 for individuals and 11 for the class/group and one blank for each to write your own.

1.  Getting together after church for lunch - this could be something like a potluck where everyone brings something, or you order in (like pizza or subs) or you meet out at a restaurant.

2.  a group outing - laser tag, bowling, bounce place, etc.

3.  Change up your sunday school for one sunday - have a movie morning with popcorn and water, have an organized game morning where you play games or go outside or go to the gym if you have one.  Or, have rotations and let them spend 10-15 minutes in each room playing with legos, or crafting, or games or a short program (something for every type of child).  Have a technology day - if your church has ipads or computers let them have some freeplay!

4.  Make it even simpler and make the goal easy to obtain so that they reach the goal every month.  Do they have a favorite song they like to sing?  Or favorite game they like to play?  Or a dance or a video?  Whenever they reach their goal, they get to do it!

5.  Take a page from the Bible memory app that I mentioned above.  Find 10 silly videos on youtube that would make them laugh - they could be biblical or not...just something that would get them laughing out loud :)  Put the list up somewhere but cover up the pictures/words.  Every time they level up they can watch a video, or whenever they reach their "goal" they get to watch a video.

And did you know (I just found this out!!) that amazon sells scratch off reward cards that you actually make and write your own reward on them?  And the kids scratch them off?!  It's genius!!! Here's the link :)  24 cards for $7.

I could keep going, but by now you probably are thinking about your kiddos and what they like and what would work best for them.  Hopefully, this has gotten your creative juices flowing :)  If you come up with another idea that works for you, list it in the comments so people can get even more ideas!

Enjoy your kids and God bless you in your work :)


Thursday, September 21, 2017

My favorite blogposts for Christian Educators!

So I've been writing blogs now for a while and started wondering how many I had written just for Christian Educators.  I thought I'd make a list...then I thought...why not turn it into a blog ;) lol.  so - here are my blogposts just for Children's Christian Educators!  I had more than I thought - 18 to be exact!! Click on the picture to go to the blog.

1.  Do you have a Trunk or Treat at your church?  If not, consider it - it's a fun, inter-generational ministry that provides a safe place for the kiddos in your neighborhood!  
2.  I love the idea behind Advent Angels and I've done it almost every year since my kids were born.  I get the church involved as well!  It's another wonderful outreach activity that is also inter-generational!  

3.  One year at a church we organize a Parent/Child Valentine's Dance.  I looked around for months for ideas and put the ones I decided on in a blog :)  it was a lot of fun...I need to do it again!

4.  Maybe you could do a little cheer-spreading around your church neighborhood :)  Easy to do RAK's and not expensive!

5.  Want to have a Christian Easter Egg hunt with Christian fillers?  Here's an ideas...

6.  Looking for some good religious Christmas books that don't talk about Santa?  Here are some great ones recommended by other Christian Educators!

7.  10 fun ways to celebrate kids' birthdays in the church!!

8.  Some great apps you could use in your ministry!  31 ideas!  For some reason, google deleted the pics of the apps...but the names and links are still there :)  

9.  Looking for free resources you can use at church?  Here's a list of 28 sites!!  All free! :)

10.  Here are some Bible study books other Christian Educators have used in their churches.  I have not checked them all out so make sure they fit your theology before starting a class!  

11.  Here are some great ideas for worship music for your kiddos.  These were all suggestions off of different facebook groups I'm in!

12.  Sometimes it's hard to think of ways our children can serve are some super fun ideas!

13.  A lot of churches are using worship bags are some really neat ideas of things to put in them!!

14.  Leading your first Easter Egg Hunt can be are some hints to get you started :)

15.  This is just an idea we had once to have our church "outside" of church :)  I thought it was a really cool idea but we didn't really do it.  Hopefully for the future!!

16.  I love writing my own VBS!  It also can be a little scary to do your first one - but I've got lots of ideas here plus some of my own supplies if you want to use them!

17.  So I mentioned above that I used apps at are some lesson plans i've written for Sunday school just for the ipad (and no the apps rarely include games!)

18.  this was just a cute idea I came up with for a t-shirt design for "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" - which was one of my VBS's :)

19.  Do you struggle with "prizes" or "rewards" in church?  Here are some ideas that aren't "candy" and trinkets"!  

So there ya go!!  maybe I'll keep adding some more as I get inspired at church and by other educators!  We're always a work in progress :)
God bless!

Friday, August 25, 2017

How I use Ipads in church!


I have been using Ipads in our Sunday school for 2 years now - I am planning our third.  I find it a lot of fun (and a challenge!) to use technology in an interactive way that not only engages the children but also teaches them!  Here is the first blog I wrote about apps/ipads and some ideas of different apps that I use/suggest.

I am sharing with you all the Bible stories that I have done in the past few years and the lesson plans I wrote for each story.  The curricula we use for Rotation Sunday school doesn't include Ipad/app lesson plans so I do my own researching, playing around, trying out and lessons.  It takes a lot of time to be creative (and buying and playing around :) and then write the lesson plan so I am charging $3 for each lesson or 10 lessons for $20.  As you'll notice in the lessons, I like to use youtube videos to review or introduce the story.  Once a month, it's a fun change of pace - especially if I can find a lego video - the kids love those :)  Since youtube isn't child friendly, I suggest only putting it on one ipad (if you can) and "hiding it".  You can put it in a folder with other apps but put it a few pages/swipes over so that it can't be seen easily by the kids.

  I have a few suggestions if you are just now setting up your Ipads.  Ideally you want to have an Ipad for every 2 kids - and yes, I suggest Ipads over other tablets for a couple reasons - which I'll tell you in a minute.  You don't have to have one for every two children though.  We don't.  Some classes have more kids and they have to share.  But, as you will see as you read some of my lesson plans, many of them work even better if you use the app as a group.  Those of you that have used computer labs in the past may be thinking - what?! :)  The great thing about apps is that they are SO much cheaper than computer programs and also that they offer a much larger range of activities.  Did you know there are apps that allow the children to draw "live" while recording their voice at the same time?  This makes for a great re-telling of a story that can be recorded and sent to the parents or showed on the screen for the congregation!  Or that there are apps that let you make a complete storybook that will play back to you?  Most of my lesson plans do not include "games" - although a few do.

  Okay, now I will tell you why I prefer Apple. One, there are more choices as far as apps and two, you can connect it with the apple tv.  I suggest you get one.  All of the tablets can be connected together - so when you buy an app on one tablet, it shows up on all of them.  The reason I suggest the Apple TV is because you can hook it up to a projector and then each child can project their own screen up onto the large screen.  That way, even if you are doing something in small groups, you can have a "sharing" time at the end where they can show their picture/drawing/video, etc.  to the whole group.  The Apple TV's are around $80 but you may have someone in the congregation willing to donate an old one - you don't need the latest version because you're only using it to project.

Another suggestion is that you set up some kind of movable cart to transport the ipads around and that also contains one of those outlet strips to charge them.  You will have a lot of cords and plugs and they will "walk away" if you're not careful ;)  I velcro-ed mine to the cart (as well as the strip).  So now, I can plug them all in and charge them by just plugging in the strip.

Now...for the stories!

All my lessons are on Teachers pay teachers.  This is a more detailed list, but I'm not giving away the farm :)  This took years of work and as much as I love my fellow educators, time is money :)  Most of these apps can be used with a variety of stories which is another reason I like ipads better than computers :)  so, the lessons are specific to the stories - but could be used for others (and I make some suggestions).

1.  Elisha/Elijah:  This lesson would best be used as a review to a story.  However, I've used the app as a discussion starter for a Bible study and I've used it for no educational purpose - just for fun :)  This is one of my favorite apps now and in the last year it has become an actual app you can download instead of getting it off your browser (which makes it even easier!).

2.  10 Lepers:  Do your kiddos like to act stuff out?  Are they "dramatic"? :) If so, this app would be great.  We used it for the Ten Lepers but any story with a simple plot, enough characters for your kids and minimal props would work.  I immediately thought of Daniel in the Lion's Den and Jesus Walks on Water.

3.  David and Goliath:  This is one of the few stories that get so much attention that it has apps just for it!  I tested out about 10 apps, some free, some I bought; and picked 4 that I used with my kids.  One we did all together and the other 3 I let them play around with.

4.  Abraham and Sarah:  The app I chose for this story is a very versatile app that I've used for different kinds of stories.  I liked it especially with Abraham though because this is a long story, with different parts and settings.  Other stories that would go well with this would be similar - like Jesus' birth story (the whole story), Easter, Joseph, Jonah, Shadrach/Meshach/Abednego, etc.  This app would work best if you have the apple tv because each small group will need to project their screen up for everyone else to see.  I like this app because it brings old school to new school :)

5.  Four Friends (man lowered through roof):  this app is funny but a little complex.  Let the kids have some time to mess around with it to get the feel for it.  It works in the same was as the one above, but settings are limited so stories that take place in one spot work well with it.  This app has more animation though than the one above.  Other stories that I can think of - Samuel's call (bedroom), Adam and Eve (garden), lost sheep (outside), etc.  most of these aren't religious apps (which isn't a big deal) so the kids had to substitute different characters and things to represent what they needed.  It turns out to be pretty funny...yet educational!

6.  Creation:  I LOVE this app :)  I could use it with every story!  I think it works best with stories that have numbered items like the 10 commandments, beatitudes, Psalm 23 or other long scripture.  Give each small group their section and let them figure out what they are going to draw and what they are going to say!  One of the reasons I love this app is because I can make a youtube video out of it and the parents can watch :)

7.  Samuel's Call/Jesus' baptism/Joshua and the battle of Jericho and other stories about "listening":  There are a lot of stories in the Bible that focus on listening - listening to God, listening/obeying your parents, listening to others, etc.  I use a variety of listening apps that I found and tried out that contain games and activities as well as a group activity to film and show to the parents or other classes.  In addition, there are some youtube videos utilized to teach about sound and videos to watch on the stories.  This lesson plan has 2 separate lessons - one for Samuel and one for Joshua.

8.  Joseph:  This app could be used for any story as a review.  It's a popular game and the app can be used for this game or other activities.

9.  Prodigal Son:  The apps I used for this lesson plan (this has a separate lesson for prek/k) can be used with other stories, but the lesson is written specifically for the Prodigal Son story.  They concentrate on the "lost and found" part of the story - how we may, at times in our lives, be or feel lost, but God is always with us.  We are never lost to God :)

10.  Feeding the 5000:  As the one above - this lesson is written specifically for this story, but the apps can be used for other stories.  I emphasized the number in this lesson - just how much is 5000?  It's hard for anyone to comprehend but even more so for kids.  This will give them a visual to just how many times did Jesus multiply the fish and bread!

11.  coming soon - Ruth and christmas!

If you have found any other apps that you think would work great in church please comment below!  I'm finding new ones every day :)

Saturday, May 20, 2017


...a not-quite-five year old little Quechua boy, hiding behind his mother's legs as she answers the knock at the door. On the other side stand two tall figures, members of the terrorist group "the shining path", looking for his father.  If his father goes with them, he would be forced to kill and forced to denounce God. If he doesn't, he'll be killed himself. By God's grace, he wasn't home.
...a five year old, walking with his family to visit friends, and the trip taking longer than they thought. When finally arriving they find their friends murdered.
...this family fleeing for their lives - protected by the church - being flown to safety to another part of Peru. Flown to a remote area where there was nothing but woods.
...un niño Quechua de casi de 5 años, se esconde detras de su mamá mientras ella va a la puerta que alguien está tocando. En la puerta están parados dos figuras altas, miembros del grupo terrorista 'sendero luminoso', y preguntan por el padre del nino. Si su padre va con ellos, sera forzado a matar y negar a Dios. Y si no, le mataran a el. Por la gracia de Dios, el padre no estuvo en casa esa noche.
...un niño de 5 años, camina con su familia a visitar a sus amigos, y el viaje se demora mas de la cuenta. Cuando llegan a la casa sus amigos encuentran que sus amigos fueron asesinados.
...esta famila huye por sus vidas- protegido por la iglesia- llevados a un lugar seguro pero remoto donde no hay nada excepto palos y monte.

....a new community, fittingly called Peace and Hope,  being built by hand - homes, a church, a one- room schoolhouse. No electricity, no running water.
...a now seven-year old boy, going to school for the first time - dirt floor, crude desks, very little supplies.
...the seven-year old boy loving to learn even at a young age - getting the top grades so that he won the prize- a book. A book that he would study the next year, but which he read over and over during the summer before the school year even started.
...being on the receiving end of missionaries - coming to your village to help, work and spread Gods love.
...una nueva comunidad, que apropiadamente es denominado Paz y Esperanza, se construye a mano - casas, iglesia  y una escuela de un solo salon para todos los grados.
...un niño de siete anios de edad, va a la escuela por primera vez - el piso de la escuelita es polvo, pupitres rusticos y no hay muchos utiles escolares.
...el niño de 7 años a quien le encanta aprender, logra ocupar el primer puesto en el primer grado y recibe la enciclopedia Escuela Nueva. El libro que usará en el segundo grado pero que en las vacaciones el nino lo devora pagina a pagina.
...reciben misioneros - que vienen de muchos paises- que vienen a ayudar, trabajar y compartir el amor de Dios.

...this child and his four younger siblings - now the first in their family to finish elementary school.
...a middle school boy, timid, an outsider, being sent on his own to "the city" to continue his education.
...este niño, sus tres hermanas menores y su hermanito menor- terminan la escuela primaria.
...en la escuela secundaria es un muchacho tímido, un nino peregrino con muchos complejos tratando de sobrevivir la vida de ciudad.

...the proud feelings his parents must have felt to watch all five of their children continue on to be the first to graduate high school.
...el orgullo que sus padres habrán sentido al ver a todos sus hijos terminar la secundaria y ver a su hijo mayor terminar la secundaria.

...the sacrifices these parents and younger siblings made - sometimes having hardly any food to put on the table - to make sure their eldest son could attend the teaching college.
...the elation, hope and thankfulness of this young boy - now a man - when he secured his first job as a teacher in the Annie Soper Christian School.
...los sacrificios que estos padres y sus hermanos menores hicieron- a veces sin nada mas que comer arroz con huevo frito - para asegurarse de que su hijo mayor y todos sus hijos vaya a la universidad. elación, esperanza y gratitud de este joven - ahora ya un hombre- cuando recibió su primer trabajo como profesor de historia en la escuela cristiana Annie Soper.

...the confusion this young man, who was entrenched with and so proud of his Peruvian culture, felt as he fell in love with an outsider. confusion de este joven, que era tan apasionado y orgulloso de sus raices y cultura peruana, sintio cuando se enamoró de una chica de Estados Unidos, una extranjera.

...being thrown into a culture you know nothing about - not the habits, language or laws.

...having the guts to not only learn the language, but learn it well enough to study in graduate school.
...this young, Quechua boy growing up and becoming ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian church.
...organizing and leading mission trips to your town, where you used to live and work.
...this refugee, fearing once for his life and for the lives of his family, becoming not only (along with his siblings), the first to graduate Elementary school and high school, but the first to graduate college, graduate school and now getting a doctorate in ministry.
...fue lanzado a una cultura diferente, que no conoce- las costumbres, el idioma y las leyes son diferentes.
...pero tener las agallas de no solo aprender el idioma pero aprender lo suficiente como para estudiar estudios de post-grado en el seminario.
...este joven Quechua creció y fue ordenado como pastor en la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Estados Unidos.
...Organiza viajes misioneros a su tierra natal y a otros paises.
...Este refugiado, que alguna vez escapaba por su vida, no solo llego a graduarse de la universidad sino que llego a hacer su doctorado.

Your life, Noe, is a story of hope and an example of Gods great love for us - if we listen, trust and obey God's call for us, amazing things can happen. The last 13 years with you have inspired and touched me in so many ways. Thank you for being my husband, a servant of God and a wonderful father to our children. I couldn't be prouder.
Tu vida, Noe, es una historia de esperanza y ejemplo del amor de Dios para todos- si escuchamos, confiamos y obedecemos el llamado de Dios, cosas maravillosas pueden suceder. Los 13 anios que estamos casados me han inspirado y tocado profundamente. Gracias por se mu esposo, un siervo de Dios y un padre fantastico para nuestos ninos. Me siento muy orgulloso de ti.

Friday, April 28, 2017

You CAN write your own VBS - here are themes, ideas and suggestions to get you started

I have really enjoyed writing my own VBS's.  It's not as hard as you think - especially if you have helpers.  I planned it all on my own this year and it was a little harder.  Next year I will have some help :)  This year was my 9th year leading VBS and my 8th year writing it.  I have worked at four churches so I have repeated some of the themes, but now I am ready to look for new ones!  This is what I look for in a theme...

1. The most important thing is that it is Biblically based.  Cowboy themes, NYC, jungle themes, deep sea diving, etc. are cute and fun but not at all Biblical.  What I've found is that these themes really have to stretch to connect the stories to the theme and half the time they don't connect at all.  If they do connect, I guarantee you the kids don't get it - especially the younger ones.  VBS themes CAN be Biblical and still FUN!!

2.  Another thing I think of is decoration ideas.  In the small church I worked in, this wasn't a big deal, but at the church where I am now I have a lot more freedom and help to create some amazing sets.

3.  Obviously, one of the things I look for is FUN!!  Yes, there are lots of stories in the Bible that talk about people dying...but that's not exactly fun is it? lol  Pick a theme that you think the kids will find interesting, fun and exciting!

4.  Lastly, I look at the stories that relate to the theme.  Are there enough stories to go with the theme?  Are they child friendly and fun stories?  Are there stories from both Testaments?  One example of this is what I did this year.  About 5 years ago there was a VBS kit being sold called Let's Get Cooking or Shake it up (something like that).  The theme was cooking and I thought it was a really neat idea!  When I looked at the stories not only were they obscure (which is ok...although I wouldn't want all of them to be that way) they were not very interesting!  Since the theme had intrigued me, I made up my own cooking one this year with my own stories :)

So, here are some theme ideas, some stories to go along with them; and, if I've done the VBS, I may have a few resources (including songs, print outs, etc) you could buy on my teachers pay teachers page.

Here we go!!

1.  WATER!  
You don't have to go nuts and do scuba diving or tropical paradise, etc.  Just make the theme WATER!  Call it what you want :)  There are tons of fun stories with this theme.  I did this about 5 years ago and we had a great time.  I lost a lot of my documents but I do have my skeletal outline with all my activities and songs.  You can find it for sale here.
Moses - in the basket and parting the red sea,
Jonah and the whale (not my fave but still has water),
Jesus walking on water and calming the sea,
Noah (also not my favorite, but well-known),
Jesus changing water into wine,

this really goes with the Bible in general.  you can pick any story you want to promote reading.  But you could concentrate on the Books of the Bible and how it is made up.  Also, using the Scripture from Deuteronomy 9 about writing the Scripture above your doorposts, etc would be good.

OT suggestions - Queen Esther, David, Daniel, Joseph
NT suggestions - Paul, Silas, Disciples, and of course, Jesus


I've done this one 3 times - at three of the four churches where I worked :)  I am passionate about missions so it's special to me.  I've got a lot of resources for it so feel free to pop over to teachers pay teachers and you can look at what I have to offer.  Basically, I picked 4 continents for the kids to study, one for each day of VBS (the last day we did something different).  Each day, when they went to their rotations (art, games, etc) they traveled to different countries.  They learned how the kids in that country ate, sang, played, created, etc.  The decorations were so much fun :)  Because you have different connections at different churches, every year I did this it was very different.  One church has a couple from Thailand so they came in, talked to the kids and made Thai treats for them.  Another church had someone who had gone to a few countries in Europe and brought back some clothing from different countries - the kids got to try them on and take pictures :)  I could do this every year and make it different every time!  The Bible verses focused on making Disciples of all Nations, how every part of the body is important and how God made us all different but loves us just the same.  You can buy all my materials here for $45.

5.  COOKING - 
Like I said, this one we did this year.  It was tons of fun!  Instead of t-shirts each child got and decorated an apron :) The stories we used (but certainly aren't limited to) were:
Moses and Manna
Elijah fed by ravens and widow
Jesus feeding the 5000
The Last Supper
We also contemplated Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were at the palace and ate the healthy food instead of the unhealthy food - but decided on Elijah (a longer story and pretty interesting).  Plus, the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego story isn't really about that...
There are other parables as well that have food/seeds in them but I really liked the Feeding of the 5000 and Last Supper for the New Testament.  To purchase all the files I used and generated for this VBS you can go here.  It's $35.

6.  ANIMALS - 
this could be a barnyard type theme where you only use stories with farm animals or you could extend it to every animal and just call it God's Animal Kingdom :)
 - Noah's ark
 - Balaam's donkey
 - Jesus' birth (stable and wise men/camels)
 - Jonah and the whale
 - some of the plagues of Moses
 - Palm Sunday
 - Creation/Adam and Eve
 - Jesus' baptism (dove)
 - Disciples catching the fish
 - Elijah fed by ravens
 - David as a shepherd
 - Daniel and the Lions
 - Matthew 6 talking about the birds in the air
 I could go on but I'll stop there :)

7.  BOATS - 
instead of just a water theme you could go more specific and make it a Cruise ship theme!  lots of stories with boats in them!  Let the kids each build a raft :)
 - Noah's ark
 - Jesus calms the storm
 - Jesus walks on water
 - Fisher's of men
 - Moses in the basket (sort of a boat :)
 - Jonah
 - Jesus fills Peter's boat
 - Paul traveling in boat or "prison ship" (acts 27)
 - Jesus preaching from the boat

8.  LOVE - 
for a shorter VBS I have done this one.
 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart (greatest commandment)
 - Love your neighbor as yourself (Good Samaritan)
 - Love yourself - I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

9.  GO GREEN - 
take care of our earth; which embodies taking care of ourselves, our land and our animals
 - creation - you could just go with this the whole week
 - ezekiel 47
 - romans 8
 - many psalms - 19 is good

10.  Pick a Location
pick a popular/well known city in the Bible and teach stories from that city.  Dress from that time, decorate from that time period, etc.  You could also make it a DESERT theme and do stories from cities in the desert.

11.  CAMPING - 
this would be a neat theme as far as decorations.  I would pick stories like Moses wandering in the desert, Jesus traveling from town to town, Paul and Silas and Abraham.


Building things!  I'm at a church where we do a lot of missions which include building/rebuilding houses.  What great decoration and craft ideas this would be!  You could do literal building stories (see below) or you could do "build your faith", "build your friendships", "build yourself", "build your family", "build your nation" or  "build your church"...or try and do both.
We did this one in 2017.  Here are my materials!

 - Parable of the wise and foolish builders
 - Solomon building the temple
 - Noah building the ark (not my favorite story for kids)
 - Exodus 25-30 Building of the Tabernacle offering
 - Jesus' father as a carpenter
 - the building of the first church in Acts (metaphorical)
 - Joash repairing the temple
 - you could go the opposite route and do the story of Jericho and how obedience is important...and how sometimes you have to tear things down before they can be built back up

13.  Jobs in the Bible - 
working in Biblical times - focus on some stories that talk about some of the important jobs people had back then
 - teacher
 - healer
 - preacher
 - and how Jesus was all 3!
 - you could also throw in carpenter/builder...which Jesus most likely was also because his father was one!
 - fisherman

14.  Focus on a person - 
I've sometimes felt that some of the people in the Bible get shortchanged because their stories are so long and the kids don't get to hear all of it.  We just pick out bits and pieces.  You could take the time to focus on the life of one person all week.  If you do multiple weeks of VBS this would be a really cool idea.  Here are some people in the Bible that have a story too long to learn in just one sitting!
 - Joseph (OT)
 - David
 - Moses
 - Jesus
 - Paul

15.  Kids in the Bible - 
little kids can do big things, too :)  Isn't that a Veggietales song? :)  Give the kids a boost of self-confidence by telling them stories of kids in the Bible that have done amazing things!
 - David
 - Joash
 - Samuel
 - Moses
 - Josiah
 - Jesus
 - little children brought to Jesus
 - Naaman's captive maid
 - Timothy

16.  Giving/Stewardship - 
Widow's Mite, Parable of the Talents, 1 Peter 4, 2 Corinthians 9, parable of the rich fool, Jesus

17.  Mission/Service - 
Paul, Disciples being commissioned, Romans 12 (we all have different gifts that we use to serve the Lord), Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus/Jesus washing the disciples' feet, Abraham, Moses, Philip, Daniel

18.  Prayer - 
You could talk about ACTS - adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.  Use examples from the Bible:
Adoration - Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2 would be great for this as well as many psalms
Confession - Psalm 32:5-7; psalm 51 David's confession
Thanksgiving - pick a psalm, any psalm :)  phillipians 4; Psalm 100
Supplication - paul praying for the people in Ephesus (eph 1); jonah
and of course, the Lord's prayer which pretty much encompasses all the above!

19.  STEAM Bible? 
would love to do this one...still working on it though...
 - God telling Abraham his descendents would be as numerous as the stars (astronomy)

20.  Praise God with Song and music!  
If you've got a musical church, consider learning about stories that have people singing to God with thanksgiving and praise or the Psalms that talk about praising God with the lyre and trumpet!  Bring in different bands, let the kids make instruments and play different instruments.

21.  Creation Story!  there are materials for purchase here.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Church has Left the Building!!

Or, others have called it "Meet the Need" or "Matthew 25 Ministries" or Gone Servin'" or "Service Worship" or Vacation in God's Creation!".  Whatever you call it, the idea is the same...

On Sunday  morning, you meet at the church for your worship service as normal.  After an abbreviated worship/Bible study (or after your normal worship decide), those who are able leave the church to serve the community.  Those that are not able to go, can continue to worship, or there can be an alternative mission for them at the church.  As I have a passion for missions, I LOVE this idea of putting your faith into action.  It is something our church is considering for the summer months and so I asked other churches who have done it to give us some ideas.  They obliged!  So, here are some suggestions for the "Church has left the building" ministry!...If you try it, share with us what worked!

  • Way to promote - give everyone a t-shirt, button or sticker to wear that has your slogan.  That way everyone in the group is recognized.  If you're going to a park or retirement center, etc this would be a great way to keep up with your group as well. One church made t-shirts that said "Gone Servin'...the church has left the building" :) 
  • So what are some things you can do when you go "out into the world"?...
  • "Bag hunger" - give every group a plastic bag with a shopping list inside.  Go shopping for the things on your list then deliver them to wherever you are donating the food.  For those that need financial help, perhaps ask those that are staying behind if they would like to contribute $2-5 for those that are buying.  Include the $ in the bag for those that need assistance.
  • Helping your own - are there elderly in your congregation that need some small repair at their house?  perhaps painting a deck, mowing their lawn, weeding, moving furniture out to throw away or donate, rake leaves, etc.  Divide up your congregation into work teams and go help.                                                   
  • One thing we do at our church (Highland Presbyterian) is 10,000 meals - Stop Hunger Now.  It's a great intergenerational activity that, although it costs quite a bit to do, you can raise the money and they take care of all the organization.  This will be one of our projects this summer.
  • Retirement home - go and sing, do crafts, play games and worship with a nearby retirement home.
  • First responders - make goodie bags with homemade treats, bible verses, etc (go on pinterest and get ideas!) and deliver them to hospitals, fire stations, policemen, urgent care facilities, etc.  If you have multiple groups going, make cards ahead of time of places to go and give each group a card so that every place is covered and you don't have 5 groups go to the same place.
  • Go to the mall and hand out waters and a small treat to the employees.  Meet at the food court for lunch! 
  • neighboring schools!  During the summer when there are no students many times there are renovation projects going on.  Ask you county if any of the schools closest to you need help with simple projects like planting, mulching, painting, etc.  If there is enough space outside you could have a bag lunch picnic afterwards.
  • parks - talk to you county as well about cleaning your local park(s) - picking up trash, mulching/planting, etc.  This would also be a great place to have a picnic bag lunch afterwards!
  • Mission trip provisions - if your church is going on an upcoming mission trip or if you sponsor mission workers that need supplies, put lists in the bulletin with supplies that are needed - these could be bought or found at homes or neighbor's homes (maybe like a scavenger hunt?).  If money is needed you could find a way to give to those that need it to buy their supplies.  If you had a fundraiser beforehand you could even give out money to everyone to buy the supplies. Go out and buy/collect supplies and then come back and pack them up.
  • Check out this church that is currently doing this 4 times a year on the 5th Sunday.  Quote from their page, "Successful churches that provide Service Worship offer a wide variety of mission opportunities for all abilities. For example, some groups may write letters to people who are in care facilities or bake cookies on the church property for a shelter. Other groups may go to the home of a veteran who is deployed or disabled and do yard work or paint the walls at a church in need. The morning will start with a short service to bless the workers and send them on their way."
  • Another organization that is doing this is called "workship".  Although I like what they are doing, I feel compelled to state that the danger of what they are doing is losing the spirituality of church.  Church isn't just action and providing for physical needs - there are many non-profits that do this.  The church also needs to fulfill the spiritual needs of its members.  That includes teaching the Bible - not just a 7 minute snippit of a social justice sermon.  However, you can definitely get some ideas from this group as to how to run your "the church has left the building".

  • Now here are some things to do back at the church...
  • There will be people who are not able to go out with your groups or simply don't want to.  Make sure you have things for them to do back at the church so they feel included.
  • One church had those that stayed back prepare sandwiches/lunch for the volunteers who were out doing missions.  When they return to the church they all eat together.
  • Do your own Meals on Wheels type program.  Get a list of your shut-ins and/or those in your church that are sick.  Have the people at the church prepare meals (could be freezer meals that could be cooked or prepared hot meals) that could then be taken to the members.
  • Card ministry - this is a neat idea.  Those at the church can write and address cards to those that are mourning, celebrating (birthday, anniversary, etc), that haven't been at church in a while, that are new - a welcome to the church card, etc.  Whatever they are going through, send a card :)
  • Church beautification - this could be inside or outside - whatever needs to be done.  
  • Make sandwiches for local homeless shelter.
  • make door decorations or table centerpieces for any upcoming events
  • make a treat for first responders
  • we have an afterschool program.  They could put together little welcome bags to our next group of kids that sign up.

  • Figure out how you want yours to run - maybe every other week?  Every week for a month?  Will everyone come back to gather at the church to discuss what they did and what it meant to them?  Some of the activities above would be perfect for a picnic afterwards - everyone could take their own bag lunch - or the people back at the church could prepare them and someone could take them to the volunteers if they are at a park, school, etc.
  • Maybe you could do the missions every other week and the weeks in between you could regroup and have someone speak about what they did - this would help both groups know what they others did.  Plus you could show pictures.  
  • I think the idea behind this is wonderful.  Take our faith and belief in Jesus Christ and the Church and put it into action with our neighbors and community!
If you have any other ideas please share!  I would love to hear them :)  God bless!