Calling, Encouraging, and Equipping Leaders
Calling people to ministry is a process. Equipping people for ministry requires intentionality. In this section you’ll find the support and resources you need to do both things well.
Rosewood CRC pastor Bonny Mulder-Behnia says, “Find people who love God and love kids; then equip them with the skills they need to lead a group of children.” We agree!
The resources below have been curated to assist you in finding and keeping volunteers.
- Seeking Volunteers? outlines an effective process for inviting people to serve in ministry with children.
- Check out this post for ideas on planning a volunteer recruitment month.
- Send What Does It Take? to those who are considering the call to join the children’s ministry team.
- 30 Ideas for Calling, Keeping, and Celebrating Volunteers is a list you’ll want to print, save, and consult throughout the year.
- Once you’ve built your team, you’ll want to gather them. Meaningful Meetings contains tips to help you make the most of the time you have together.
- At the end of the year use this evaluation tool for Sunday school teachers to get valuable feedback from your team.
- It’s important to say thanks! You’ll find some great ideas for saying thanks.
- Dwelling is a monthly-ish e-newsletter that includes helpful articles, creative tips, and more. Sign up to receive it, and share the content with your leaders.
- Provide midyear support to your leaders with the posts A Piece of Encouragement and Standing on Holy Ground.
- Confessions of a First-Grade Sunday School Teacher is a fun read. Share it with your team and launch a discussion about the importance of the way we tell God’s story.
- The Network is a place to ask questions, share ideas, receive inspiration, and get resources. Sign up to receive notifications of new postings for topics such as VBS, Preschool, and Faith Nurture. Share the links with your leaders, and encourage them to sign up too!
Good leaders ask good questions. They are also good listeners. Kevin E. Lawson says, “As we create teaching ministries for children, we must be attentive to how children are processing what they are learning. We must allow time to listen to their questions, not just have them answer our questions” (Shaped by God, p. 144).
Check out each of these asking and listening skill-sharpening posts:
Supporting Kids with Behavioral and Learning Challenges
- With links to videos, books, blogs, and more, this post on Resources for Teaching ALL the Kids in Your Sunday School Class is a one-stop destination. Check it out!
- View the video Dear Teacher: Heartfelt Advice for Teachers from Students. Co-created with a group of children, it provides leaders with insights into the children in their group who find it difficult to sit still, who appear not to be listening, or who won’t look at them.
- 7 Tips for Teaching Children with ADHD provides practical advice for helping children with ADHD experience success as they participate in the programs and ministries of their church.
- People learn differently. When we lead sessions that involve a variety of learning styles, we help kids connect with God’s story and live more deeply into it. That means more fun for kids, fewer discipline problems for teachers, and greater opportunity for life-changing ministry! Leaders can use these learning-style quizzes to discover how the kids in their group learn best.
- For additional ideas, visit the Inclusive section under Providing a Welcoming Environment.
Responding to Disruptive Behavior
- On the days “when teaching feels more like hanging on for dear life than sailing on a lovely lagoon,” employ the excellent ideas found in Discipline: WWJD?
- Need ideas for calling your group to attention? Read Teacher Tip: 7 Ways to Quiet a Crowd.
- Re-telling the story by acting it out as a group is a great way for kids to live into the story. These 3 Tips for Involving Kids in Storytelling will help cut down on the chaos.
- Print and post this chart of Suggested Accommodations for Specific Behaviors.
- View the video Redirecting Challenging Behaviors and learn ways to respectfully redirect those who are having a difficult time focusing.
Praying with Children
- Children’s ministry leader Karen DeBoer says, “No matter how you’re wired when it comes to prayer, it’s important to invite kids into your conversations with God.” Get ideas for doing so in Praying with Kids.
- Praying Bible Stories offers a technique for combining Bible stories and prayer.
- Sybil MacBeth’s Praying in Color books provide a focused way for people of all ages to pray. Visit her website to explore ideas for “praying in color” with children and to download free templates.
Leading a Child to Jesus
- It’s not uncommon for those who are engaged in ministry with children to wonder (and worry) about the role they play in leading a child to Jesus. This post provides helpful answers.
- Crossroads Kids Club offers a great 5-minute video overview of God's salvation story. One note: This video does not describe the "now and not yet" aspect of the kingdom, but describes it as a future-only reality. If you show this to kids, talk about the fact that the kingdom is already here, but not yet here in its fullness.
Easy Extras to Supplement a Session
- 8 Quick Games for Sunday School and Youth Group contains ideas for active games that can be used as a structured break to help kids focus during the rest of the session.
- Download creative (and prayerful!) coloring pages from Flame Creative Ministries.
- These storytelling ideas can be used with a variety of Bible stories.
Music to Play and Sing
- DwellSongs is a series of three CDs (also available on iTunes) that feature Bible songs and Scripture verses set to music. If your church uses the DWELL curriculum, consider providing families with the music or pointing them to ordering information as a way to continue the learning that’s happening at church with the nurturing that’s happening at home.
- It’s easier to memorize Scripture when you’re singing it. Seeds Family Worship turns Bible verses into kid-friendly songs.
- The nearly 250 songs for children found in the Sing with Me Children's Songbook cover major biblical stories and themes using a wide variety of musical styles. The wonderful Sing with Me Leader's Edition includes information on each song and provides sign language for key words.
- Rain for Roots is a Nashville-based band that’s “making new songs about the old story for children.” One of our favorites is The Wedding Banquet—teach the chorus to your kids and ask them to sing it as an invitation to the communion table.
- Looking for global songs to sing with your kids? You’ll find 24 of them on Sing with the World.
- In addition to being helpful for those who deliver children’s messages, these two articles are important reads for anyone who works with children: How to Deliver an Effective Children's Sermon and Children's Sermons: 6 Essentials.
- For three children’s messages about the Lord’s Supper, open the Worship Resources tab in the Welcoming Children to the Lord's Supper toolkit.
- The Feasting on the Word Guide to Children's Sermons equips storytellers to deliver messages that are developmentally appropriate, theologically sound, and free of gimmicks and simplistic conclusions.
- Josh Sweetman, youth director at Maranatha CRC in Lethbridge, AB, shared two children's message series he developed: a Lent series called The Broken Pot and an Advent series called The Words of Advent.
Bible Story Books and Picture Books
It’s great to have a selection of wonderful Bible story books and related picture books available for children to page through themselves and/or to read together in addition to or in place of the story found in your curriculum.
When choosing such books, it’s important to pay close attention to illustrations and language. Look for those that portray God’s people as diverse, and avoid those with cartoonish or all-white characters. Also steer clear of those that turn God’s story into a moral lesson.
Explore these lists of our favorite Bible story books and our favorite picture books.
Looking for a book on a particular theme, Bible story, or passage? Go to http://storypath.upsem.edu/
It’s important to have Bibles available for children to see and to use during your time together.
We recommend the New International Readers Version (NIrV) for its accessibility to children.
Always have a Bible present when telling God’s story with young children, and show them where in your Bible the story you are about to tell them is found. Take the time to look up and read the Bible passage together with older children.
For an excellent resource on which Bibles and Bible storybooks work best according to age groups, check out the book I Wonder by Elizabeth Caldwell. In addition to her recommendations, Caldwell includes ideas for engaging a child’s curiosity about the Bible. We highly recommend this book for children’s ministry leaders and parents alike.
Does your congregation give children their own copy of a Bible? This post contains ideas for making that practice intergenerational.
Other Training Resources
- Share these excellent tips for Step by Step Session Prep with your leaders.
- Check out the blog post from Building Faith called 10 Tips for Sunday School Teacher Training.
- Provide annual training on your church’s child safety policies. See the Safe section in Providing a Welcoming Environment for ideas on how to do this well.
- Gospel summary for kids: While it’s important for kids to understand the whole arc of Scripture, it’s not always easy to communicate it! Equip your children's ministry leaders with a copy of this Gospel summary.
Conferences for Growth
- The Association for Presbyterian Church Educators is a Reformed binational organization that hosts an annual event. The speakers, workshop leaders, and opportunities to connect with others involved in ministry with children make attending this event worthwhile!
- Faith Forward is an ecumenical event held each year for children and youth leaders who are interested in creating “radically inclusive, generous, and thoughtful” faith formation.
- Children's Spirituality Summit: This conference brings together children's ministers, developmental psychologists, spiritual formation leaders, lay leaders, pastors, teachers, sociologists, parents, and theologians from a broad spectrum of Christian traditions to explore children's spiritual formation.
Resources for Development
- Check out the books listed in the posts Go-to Books on Nurturing the Faith of Children and Essential Books on Children's Ministry for the top picks of experienced leaders.
- Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community, and Worship offers a complete framework for intentional intergenerational faith formation.
- Helping Kids Include Kids with Disabilities provides practical tips for helping students welcome children who have disabilities into their classes at church or at school. (See additional resources in A Community of Belonging in Providing a Welcoming Environment.)
- 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation offers an overview of one hundred essential topics that all children growing up in the church should learn about, including key Bible stories, church history, the sacraments and creeds, world religions, and more.
- While dealing with loss and grief can be difficult for anyone, children’s reactions may differ from those of adults. Picture books provide a way of engaging and talking with children about grief. Buildfaith.org’s blog post Processing Grief and Death with Picture Books provides five picture book recommendations, including one in Spanish. Find additional children's books and resources for parents and ministry leaders on the Network. And here's a three-part blog series that offers suggestions to consider when helping a child who is grieving:
- The Advocate is a regularly updated blog from the Association for Presbyterian Church Educators.
- Visit the Sticky Faith website for blogs, books, and research on what makes faith stick.
Videos Featuring Bible stories
- A Google search for Zonderkidz’ “Jesus Storybook Bible video” will yield a variety of video retellings of many of the stories found in The Jesus Storybook Bible.
- You’ll want to bookmark Flame: Creative Children's Ministry because it contains so many wonderful ideas for crafts, prayers, storytelling, and more.
- Looking for an easy activity to do with multiple ages or when you have extra time at the end of a session? A giant-sized coloring poster from Illustrated Ministry may fit the bill! (Read Talk, Paper, Scissors for why that’s such a good idea.) Sign up for the ICM mailing list to be alerted when new resources are available.
- A well-written children’s book can provide powerful connections to a story from Scripture. Storypath reviews a wide variety of children’s books, creates ministry ideas, and organizes the results for you in lectionary, Scripture, and theme-based indexes.
- Some participants describe the wealth of information in the webinars from Practical Resources for Churches as a “gold mine” of information. We agree!
- We’re thankful for the ideas and resources made available by the fine folks who run the Buildfaith.org site. Check it out!
Networking and Support
- The the Hope4CE Facebook page is a great place to ask questions and share ideas.
- Connect online with other CRC children’s ministry leaders in the CRC Children's Ministry Leaders Facebook Group.
- Our Children's Ministry Catalyzer, Mimi Larson, would love to assist you with faith formation challenges and opportunities in your church. Email [email protected] to connect.