Friday, February 12, 2016

6 Things I Wish I Had Known …
About Communicating with Parents

1.  They love to hear good things about their child! Always make a positive comment about the child during pick-up time. Report how the child engaged, something cute they said, or how you noticed an improvement on an issue that you had previously discussed with the parent.

2.  Follow up conversations where action steps were discussed to confirm what was decided. This simply gives both parties an opportunity to clarify in case there has been any miscommunication.

3.  Get any information out about upcoming events or expectations at 6 different times in a variety of ways. Send out a Facebook message telling parents their child will receive information this Sunday about ______, then briefly state the info. Follow this by a detailed written note that can be placed on the fridge. Send out email reminders. Text the day before the event and say, "See you tomorrow evening!"

4.  After a program or event, follow up with the child in some way so the parent knows their child's presence was acknowledged. "We missed you" is appropriate occasionally, but don't reward absence with your attention as much as noticing when they are there.

5.  Involve each parent in some way. This raises the importance of your communication o their radar, because they are invested ... been if it's a seemingly small responsibility.

6.  Ask parents how you can pray for them. When you genuinely approach parents repeatedly about praying for their specific needs, they will open up and take your relationship to a more intimate level.

To get more "6 Things I Wish I Had Known" articles, 
check out issues of KidzMatter Magazine.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Unwrapping a Servant

Compassion is sympathy (sorry this happened to you and that you’re going through this) and empathy (being sensitive to the feelings of others) together, with action thrown in.
Compassion is:
Recognizing a need …
being touched by it …
and taking a step to help.

Don’t Wait! Since the brain is developing faster in the 3-year period of 3-4-5 years of age, then we need to be teaching about compassion at a young age, rather than waiting until the teenage years or adulthood.

Once kids grasp what compassion means and they have regular opportunities to exercise it, it becomes the foundation for what is the “normal” and “right” thing to do.

Kids DO NOT see needs around them. They really don’t! Their world is about them, but let’s not put blame on them by saying they’re selfish and self-centered. Parents and teachers have made it that way. Most families are kid-centered. Restaurants, vacations, and TV programs are chosen because of what the child desires.

Zechariah 4:10 tells us that the Lord rejoices when we begin. He rejoices when our empathy and sympathy become compassion that does something about the needs. Stop talking about it and nodding your head that it’s a good idea, and start changing the mindset … the heart throb … the worldview … of the kids you have influence over. Lay the foundation for a servant’s heart that will become a cornerstone of their faith development. Unwrap the servant that God has within each child. It’s a beautiful present to unwrap!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Grab Kids with Fascination

There’s no doubt that you can learn without being fascinated—say it repeatedly or listen to someone talk, talk, talk. But, it is GUARANTEED, yes guaranteed, that you’ll learn something when you’re fascinated. These are the “Oh my goodness” moments. “I didn’t know that.” “I’ve never seen that.” “How does that work?” “How did you do that?” (Read those first two sentences again and grab onto the difference.)

So, why are we doing the same things over and over and over again when we teach kids in the church? If kids (actually people of all ages) learn every time they are fascinated, then we need to make it a goal to use fascination as a tool to draw kids into the Word of God. That means not doing it the same every time.

Being fascinated focuses your attention. Have you ever been delayed in a traffic jam for an hour … or two? Of course you have! More than likely the reason for that delay was that there was an accident and everyone wanted a chance to take in the scene when they finally got close. A flood of questions went through each passerby’s brain as they observed the flashing lights, car in the ditch, and the contents of a truck scattered on the ground. Although it was terribly unfortunate circumstances, people were nonetheless fascinated. It was unusual. It was something they didn’t understand. It put their curiosity on high alert. They had questions. They wanted to know more. Those are the characteristics of fascination.

It only makes sense that if we create an environment where fascination is everywhere that kids will grasp that we serve a fascinating God! So, how do we go about incorporating fascination as we challenge kids to live a life where Jesus is Savior and Lord? Seriously, I could spew out ideas the rest of the day on this, but let’s just hone in on a few specific areas.

Science Experiments
We often talk about the most difficult group to engage being 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade boys. They could be off in no-where-land, engulfed in their handheld device, or bouncing off the walls … but when you introduce a science experiment, they’ll lose all interest in what they were doing. Eyes will be glued on what could happen next. Our purpose, though, is not to teach the science. Our purpose is to draw kids to the Word of God, and now that you have their attention and created fascination, encourage them to voice their observations—the characteristics of the experiment. Take those observations and then increase the challenge by asking them to relate what they observed to a spiritual truth. Of course, you’ll have something in mind—a direction you’d like to go—but don’t discount that they may see something completely different and it is totally valid. Connect a fascinating experiment to Scripture and you’ve given kids a visual that won’t easily fade from memory.

Live and In-Person Experiences
Showing a photo of what you’re talking about is always helpful. But, what if you had the actual item or person, instead of the photo? What if kids could touch the object and turn it to look at all sides? What if they could ask questions of the actual person, like a ballerina or firefighter? That takes it to an entirely different level—to a fascinating level.

A friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook of her three children watching the tow truck load their family van to transport it to the repair shop. She said the event took over an hour and the kids stood at attention in the grass at the edge of the driveway mesmorized the entire time. Which is more fascinating? Showing a picture of a tow truck or watching one load a vehicle on the back? It was a live experience. Now, I’m not saying you need to bring a real tow truck into your classroom (although I bet some of you are trying to figure out how right now), but anytime you can go the extra step by taking a photo and making it a live experience, you have created fascination.

We have the greatest story to tell—God’s story and how we can be part of it. His story is told with giant warriors, loaves of bread, jars of oil, on a mountaintop, in the belly of a fish, from jail, and on and on. God let His creativity go absolutely crazy when telling His story. So should ours! Want to see eyes get big? Want to fascinate? Turn out the lights and tell the mysterious story of Nicodemus going to Jesus in the middle of the night, but do it using blacklight figures. Bring in Abraham, in full garb, to amaze the kids as he tries to count the stars in the sky that represent his descendants. Take kids out under a tree where they’ll look up and find Zacchaeus perched on a limb recalling the day his life changed. Make it fascinating so they’ll fall in the love with the Word.

I’ll be the first to admit that fascinating takes extra time and energy. But, it makes teaching so much more memorable and fun—for both students and teachers! When kids chatter to their parents later in the day about what they did while with you, you’ve achieved fascination. So, how are you going to fascinate your kids this week?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

6 Things I Wish I Had Known …
About Meetings

(1)  Meetings need to start and end on time, regardless if everyone is present. If you wait to begin a meeting until that one last person arrives, you’re telling the others who made it on time that their time isn’t quite as important as the one you are waiting on.

(2)  Only have a meeting if there are definite items that need to be addressed or tasks to be accomplished. Attending meetings just because they are on the calendar discourages the people involved.

(3)  Setting a timer is a great way to keep one topic from monopolizing a meeting. You’ve got that person who likes to talk every topic to death. Limit discussion with a timer, and if it doesn’t get resolved by the buzzer, then hand it off to a sub-committee, come back to it next time, or figure out a new way to approach it.

(4)  At the end of the meeting, you should be able to identify what was accomplished, rather than what was reviewed. Too many church meetings review what everyone already knows.

(5)  Everyone should leave knowing their action points and what their deadline is. This provides everyone with a point of accountability.

(6)  Be organized. You should go into a meeting knowing the points you’ll be covering and having gathered any information that will be beneficial for making decisions. Do the legwork and be prepared!

Do you have more tips that you wish you'd known about when starting out?  Leave your comment here!