My 2010 Reading List

Inspired by Kenny Conley (as always), and his post “My 2010 Reading List,” I thought I would put together my own reading list for 2010.  I love to read, but I tend to go through stages throughout the year.  There are months where all I read is my Bible, and there are period where I read insatiably.  I usually have many books going at the same time. I hope to accomplish two things by posting it here:

  1. It will help me to organize my thoughts and have a plan for what I intend to read; and
  2. I hope it will help to ease my wife’s concern that I continue to buy tons and tons of books and never read them.  See, honey, I have a plan!

So, here is what I plan to be reading in 2010:

Books Written to or for Children

Books Related to Children’s and Family Ministry

Books About Teaching

Parenting

Theology

Devotional

Biography

Fiction

I don’t read a lot of fiction as a general rule, but this year I’ve already started reading the Chronicles of Narnia series to my kids.

So, there we have it – my planned reading list for 2010, and its only 30 books.  We’ll see how it goes!  For the record, and for my wife’s peace of mind, I only need to buy one of the books on this list.  That book is Me, Myself & Bob which I haven’t gotten around to buying yet.  If you have one laying around, feel free to mail it to me!  I already have all the others.  What are you reading this year?

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What If Church Were Sponsored?

Seems like every day I see something else with a corporate sponsor. In this funny video, Tim Hawkins demonstrates what would happen if corporate America got hold of our your worship service.

#8 – Keep It Fresh (Tips For Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

Always be on the lookout for the next “thing” to use in your lesson.  Any method, trick, gizmo or other thing done over and over and over again will eventually get old.  Even a laser light show with live music and a smoke machine will be boring after a few weeks.  I think a child (or adult) who lived at Disney World for a while would eventually find even that boring!

Constantly be on the lookout for, and thinking of, new ways to present your lessons to the kids.  Teach them in a normal large group.  Show them a video.  Video yourself from a “remote location.”  Use characters.  Use puppets.  Incorporate music into the teaching rather than just using it during worship.  Ask the lead pastor to come in for a day.  Play a game.  Put on a show.  Have a question and answer time.  Let the kids act out the lesson.  Let the kids teach the lesson.  Play a round of “stump your leaders.”  Involve small group leaders in the teaching.  Interview people during your lesson.  Go for a walk.  Invite guest speakers.  Hire a magician.  Have older kids come in and teach.  Whatever you can think of to keep things fresh and new will go a long way towards keeping the kids involved.  That is really the point of this whole series – finding exciting and innovative ways to teach kids about Jesus.

If you can get kids to the point where they sincerely don’t want to miss church on Sunday because they’re afraid they might miss whatever it is you’re going to do next, you’ve succeeded.  The good news in this area is that most kids don’t have the long memory.  Just because you’ve done something once doesn’t mean that you can’t use it again.  Just make sure that you aren’t doing the exact same thing every week!  Finally, remember that everything you do in the limited time you have kids at church should be relevant and serve the purpose of teaching them about Jesus!

Return to the Tips for Large Group Teaching in Children’s Ministry index page.

#7 – If You Can’t Remember Names, Be Creative! (Tips for Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

There will be times when you just can’t remember every child’s name.  It happens.  On Wednesday nights, we usually have roughly 150-200 kids for our Awana program.  I handle game time which is split into three groups.  I try my best to remember names, but no matter how much I try, I know I will never get them all down (especially the quiet ones).  I tell people that my memory is inversely proportionate to the number of kids I have and that it’s pretty much gone at this point with four kids of my own.

I am a rare specimen in that I am not at all good with either names or faces.  So, God has helped me to cope.  I always refer more generically to some kids each week (even when I know their names).  It could be “bouncy boy” in the second row, or “pink girl” in the back, or the “oh oh oh oh” kid to my right.  Or, I’ll pretend not to remember names of kids who are sure that I do know their names (my daughter, for example).  That way, if I don’t know a kid’s name, and I can’t see their name tag, I can still improvise and they don’t feel singled out or forgotten.  I also find that it adds some fun to the teaching.  The more creative you are with “names” the more the kids will laugh.  I will offer one word of warning though – some kids do not take well to it and might feel like you are making fun of them.  Never pick a name that will make a kid feel like you’re picking on them.  Your goal is to have all the kids in the class having fun WITH one another not laughing AT one another!

Return to the Tips for Large Group Teaching in Children’s Ministry index page.

#6 – Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Tips for Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

This was a line from the popular show Cheers in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  It extols the comfort that comes from knowing that there is somewhere in this world where everyone knows who you are.  In the real world, that’s what our Children’s Ministries should be like!  There’s just something a lot more personal about calling a child by his/her name rather than just “you.”  Even in a large group setting, using a child’s name helps to build personal rapport.

Knowing every kid’s name is a lot easier in a small group setting where you only have 8-10 names to remember.  It’s a whole lot harder when you have 20 or 30 or 50 or more kids to try to remember all their names.

I use our check in list each week to keep track of who is and isn’t there.  I also make a conscious effort to study it every week to try to memorize the kids’ names.  I make notes about any distinctive characteristic a child might have, who is related to who, and anything else I can think of that will help me to remember their names.  I try to either great the kids every week as they get dropped off or be the one to wish them well and say goodbye as their parents pick them up.  This helps to further reinforce memorizing their names.  When all else fails, name tags are great!  I’m getting better and better every week at seeing a 1 inch by 4 four inch name tag from twenty feet away!

Return to the Tips for Large Group Teaching in Children’s Ministry index page.

#5 – Be Willing to Adapt (Tips for Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

I know! I know!  The very last tip was stay the course, and now we’re going to talk about being willing to adapt.  But, as a large group leader, adaptation is a critical skill.  You must be willing and able to adapt both in terms of long-term strategy and the immediate lesson at hand.  This does not mean you have to stop for every question, comment, and idea a rowdy five year old has for you during your teaching.  We talked about that last time.  That’s where you need to “stay the course.”  What we’re talking about here is an ability to adapt where you see the need.

It takes a certain amount of discernment to know the difference between an idea that is still developing and growing and just needs a little more time before the kids really catch on and an idea that has just plain bombed and gone up in smoke.  But, let’s face it, sometimes you try things in your teaching and large group time that just don’t work.  Maybe it’s the puppets that really make you smile, but even the younger kids find just a little bit too juvenile.  Maybe it’s the videos that you find insightful and engaging but the kids find to be way over their heads.  Maybe it’s the laser light show that you do every week that had just gotten to be a little bit too routine.  Even ideas that start out with a bang can grow old after a while.  You have to know when to cut your losses and go a different direction.  Part of being a leader is constantly evaluating, what’s working and what isn’t working?  Just because it worked last week doesn’t mean we should do it over and over and over again.

Likewise, you will also need to be able to adapt in the present.  As a large group leader, you likely spend hours and hours each week planning out your lesson and envisioning exactly how you want things to go.  You’ve tried to plan for the curve balls you can anticipate, but you know the road you want to go down with the lesson, and you have an good idea how to get there.  As a leader though, you have to recognize when it’s time to scrap your original vision and all that hard work you did and go down a road you never planned to be on.  God has a way of showing us that his ways are not our ways when we least expect it.  Don’t let your schedule and your idea of how things must be done stand in the way of a God moment.

I remember a lesson I was doing last December on the Gabriel and Mary.  I asked the kids a simple question, “Who is Jesus?”  One child answered, “The Son of God.”  Another answered, “Jesus is God.”  One of the boys in the class exclaimed, “Jesus isn’t God.  He can’t be the son of God and God at the same time.”  I had planned and planned that week for my lesson on Gabriel and Mary, but in that moment God showed me a need and an opportunity.  We got back to an abbreviated version of the story of Mary eventually, but I spent the next several minutes talking about the trinity and God’s plan to die on the cross for our sins.  I hadn’t planned for it.  I didn’t see it coming, but it turned into a God moment!

Return to the Tips for Large Group Teaching in Children’s Ministry index page.

Where is God in the Pain?

I never cease to be amazed at how God teaches me and convicts me through my kids.  This is another one of those stories.

Here’s the background on the situation.  These days I find myself struggling through some pain.  Late last year, I woke up one morning with some lower back pain.  Within a couple of weeks, that pain had spread into my leg and hip.  I went to a chiropractor a couple of times, and it seemed to be getting a little better.  Then, over the Christmas vacation, including a trip in a mini-van to and from North Carolina, the pain increased substantially.  Over the last couple of weeks that we have been back, I have continued to see a doctor regularly and do some physical therapy to try to alleviate the pain.  Following a session with the physical therapist this past Thursday, my pain level increased significantly (hopefully that is actually a sign that it is getting better).  Well, Saturday was a particularly bad day.  In addition to everything else, I came down with a bad cold and sore throat to boot.  At times the pain in my back and leg was so severe that it bordered on excruciating, and I’ve been told I have a high threshold for pain.  Whether I sat, or stood or laid down, the pain would not get any better.

At one point in the afternoon, Jacob (my 8 year old) told me:

“Dad, I hope your leg gets better soon.  Remember, God has a reason for everything.”

There is was again.  Words from God in the mouth of an 8-yr-old that shifted my focus in an instant.  I had been concentrating on me, and frankly starting to feel sorry for myself.  Anytime my focus shifts in that direction – towards me and away from God – things just seem to get out of whack.  So, I am left with two things to do and think about out of this whole experience:

  1. Pray about, and try to figure out, what God is trying to teach me in this situation.  Given that a lot of my focus over the last couple of weeks has been on how frustrating it is not to be able to do normal things that I want to do, I imagine what he is trying to teach me has something to do with total reliance on him; and
  2. Marvel and praise him for how he continues to work through my kids to make me a better child of his.