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Making Your Children's Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid's Week

Overview

Promiseland is Willow Creek’s highly successful children’s ministry. Using examples from Promiseland and churches of all sizes around the country, this book provides step by step guidance and creative application exercises to help churches develop a thriving children’s ministry—one that strives to be the best hour of every kid’s week. Included are Scripture-based principles and practical resources for church staff members and volunteers who agree with the critical role ...
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Making Your Children's Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid's Week

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Overview

Promiseland is Willow Creek’s highly successful children’s ministry. Using examples from Promiseland and churches of all sizes around the country, this book provides step by step guidance and creative application exercises to help churches develop a thriving children’s ministry—one that strives to be the best hour of every kid’s week. Included are Scripture-based principles and practical resources for church staff members and volunteers who agree with the critical role children’s ministry plays in a local church.

Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week, based on twenty-eight years of experience at Willow Creek, explains four ministry foundations: Mission, Vision, Values, and Strategy.

Content includes:
Detailed answers to questions facing every children’s ministry:
• What does Jesus expect from children’s ministry?
• How can we evangelize lost kids and disciple saved kids at the same time, and should we?
• How do we engage kids so they don’t become bored?
• How do we get better at recruiting and leading volunteers?
• How can our ministry be a safe place for children?
• Six specific ministry values that address the needs of today’s children
• Practical first steps for ministries that want to get serious about change
• Clear indicators of success in children’s ministry

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
'The dream is possible and promising! If you've dreamed of a children's ministry where children beg to come to church, applying the principles from this book will make your dream come true!' — Christine Yount, , Executive Editor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310254850
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 821,676
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

David Staal es director de Promiseland, ministerio de ninos de la Iglesia de la Comunidad de Willow Creek en Barrington, Illinois. Con Sue Miller, escribio Haga que su ministerio de ninos sea la mejor hora de la semana para ellos. Tambien escribe y es editor de today's Children's Ministry, una publicacion electronica y sitio en Internet de Christianity Today International.

Biography

Since her iconic first novel, The Good Mother in 1986, Sue Miller has distinguished herself as one of our most elegant and widely celebrated chroniclers of family life, with a singular gift for laying bare the interior lives of her characters.

While not strictly speaking autobiographical, Miller's fiction is, nonetheless, shaped by her experiences. Born into an academic and ecclesiastical family, she grew up in Chicago's Hyde Park and went to college at Harvard. She was married at 20 and held down a series of odd jobs until her son Ben was born in 1968. She separated from her first husband in 1971, subsequently divorced, and for 13 years was a single parent in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working in day care, taking in roomers, and writing whenever she could.

In these early years, Miller's productivity was directly proportional to her ability to win grants and fellowships. An endowment in 1979 allowed her to enroll in the Creative Writing Program at Boston University. A few of her stories were accepted for publication, and she began teaching in the Boston area. Two additional grants in the 1980s enabled her to concentrate on writing fulltime. Published in 1986, her first novel became an international bestseller.

Since then, success has followed success. Two of Miller's books (The Good Mother and Inventing the Abbots) have been made into feature films; her 1990 novel Family Pictures was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; Oprah Winfrey selected While I Was Gone for her popular Book Club; and in 2004, a first foray into nonfiction -- the poignant, intensely personal memoir The Story of My Father -- was widely praised for its narrative eloquence and character dramatization.

Miller is a distinguished practitioner of "domestic fiction," a time-honored genre stretching back to Jane Austen, Henry James, and Leo Tolstoy and honed to perfection by such modern literary luminaries as John Updike, Flannery O'Connor, and Richard Ford. A careful observer of quotidian detail, she stretches her novels across the canvas of home and hearth, creating extraordinary stories out of the quiet intimacies of marriage, family, and friendship. In an article written for the New York Times "Writers on Writing" series, she explains: "For me everyday life in the hands of a fine writer seems ... charged with meaning. When I write, I want to bring a sense of that charge, that meaning, to what may fairly be called the domestic."

Good To Know

Here are some fascinating outtakes from our interview with Sue Miller:
  • "I come from a long line of clergy. My father was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian church, though as I grew up, he was primarily an academic at several seminaries -- the University of Chicago, and then Princeton. Both my grandfathers were also ministers, and their fathers too. It goes back farther than that in a more sporadic way."

  • "I spent a year working as a cocktail waitress in a seedy bar just outside New Haven, Connecticut. Think high heels, mesh tights, and the concentrated smell of nicotine. Think of the possible connections of this fact to the first fact, above."

  • "I like northern California, where we've had a second home we're selling -- it's just too far away from Boston. I've had a garden there that has been a delight to create, as the plants are so different from those in New England, which is where I've done most of my gardening. I had to read up on them. I studied Italian gardens too -- the weather is very Mediterranean. I like weeding -- it's almost a form of meditation."

  • "I like little children. I loved working in daycare and talking to kids, learning how they form their ideas about the world's workings -- always intriguing, often funny. I try to have little children in my life, always."

  • "I want to make time to take piano lessons again. I did it for a while as an adult and enjoyed it.

  • "I like to cook and to have people over. I love talking with people over good food and wine. Conversation -- it's one of life's deepest pleasures."
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Hometown:
        Boston, Massachusetts
      1. Date of Birth:
        November 29, 1943
      2. Place of Birth:
        Chicago, Illinois
      1. Education:
        B.A., Radcliffe College, 1964; M.A.T., Wesleyan U., 1965; Ed.M., Harvard U., 1975; M.A. Boston U., 1980

    Read an Excerpt

    Making Your Children's Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid's Week


    By Sue Miller David Staal

    Zondervan

    Copyright © 2004 Willow Creek Association
    All right reserved.

    ISBN: 0-310-25485-X


    Chapter One

    THE GREAT KID-VENTURE

    The Journey to Build a Dynamic Children's Ministry

    An Adventure That Can Happen in Any Church

    Children's ministry is an adventure, and I sure love adventure stories. There's just nothing like the quest to solve a complex problem, discover a lost treasure, or find a new cure. And the best part is watching the characters-how they're stretched and tested under impossible circumstances or unbeatable odds. It's fun to join them as they bravely face earthquakes, shipwrecks, or battles against stronger opponents. These stories require people's best, and then some.

    And these tales have another universal trait-their creation. At some point, somewhere, someone pulled out a blank sheet of paper and began to write. Okay, maybe today they'd click to open a new document. The point is that someone deliberately decides to tell a tale that's never been told.

    Including the stories that God authors. Rewind the ark story and we see Noah erase his current lifestyle, turning his new blank sheet into blueprints for a boat that will earn him mockery from the neighbors. Abraham was promised a new chapter in life that required a move, and expectantly looked at an empty page until he turned one hundred-a story that was also good for a few laughs. Before Moses' fiery encounters with Pharaoh, we read about his new beginning that started with a famous bush. Even Joseph's life story was deleted and started anew when he landed at the bottom of the well. And what a legend that story became.

    This book is also about an exciting adventure. Let's call it the Great Kid-Venture. And this story can take place inside any local church of any size and in any country-because it's about leading and building a dynamic children's ministry. The kind of ministry that prevails over time, and that does so much more than simply survive week to week. One with a plot that involves leaders who wrestle with how to teach the Bible relevantly to children, brainstorm ways to care for adult volunteers, and concoct cutting-edge recruiting strategies. And one that includes other scenes like intense budget and facility negotiations, safety and security precautions, and new kids arriving every week (especially in the infant area!).

    Sound familiar? With all the action required to serve kids well these days, no one in children's ministry is bored, that's for sure! But the best part of the story is that God unfolds this drama for more than pure entertainment. He has placed each of us in a ministry with the potential to change lives. And sifting through ideas about how to maximize this potential keeps every children's ministry leader awake at night. Or at least it should.

    In Hebrews 11 we see that the common thread of many great Bible characters is their faith-filled lives. Noah believed God had a reason behind the boat construction, so starting over was okay. Abraham remained steadfast in his faith, even when his wife did the chuckling. Moses took a little convincing, but eventually had faith to believe he was on a God-directed mission. And had Joseph given in or given up, which seemed much easier than remaining true to his faith in God, he would have become just another Joe.

    Today's children's ministries share common ground with these biblical patriarchs-it requires a modern-day leap of faith for someone in a local church to dare pull out a blank sheet of paper and change the way ministry is done. In many settings, there are years or even decades of tradition standing guard against change. Or maybe there's apprehension to do anything outside of the denomination's program. It can seem ludicrous to start a ministry over or even to seriously rethink whether it really works-to whatever degree. Let's be real-children's ministry must happen every weekend, leaving little time for pondering change.

    But maybe there's something just a little exciting at the thought of a new adventure in children's ministry. Maybe it can be a place that kids love so much that they actually want to attend each weekend. Maybe it's an experience they enjoy enough to invite their friends. This thought-this dream-quickens the pulse of many children's leaders and can become the heartbeat of an entire ministry. And the good news is that this isn't a fairy tale. Every year more kids' ministries throughout this country and around the world decide to try something new-and report the awakening of a new, exciting day.

    Often these adventurous days come filled with very real challenges. Throughout my tenure in children's ministry, I've known what it's like to survive the lows and then hang on for the highs. I have felt overwhelmed with panic from a shortage of volunteers on weekends. But I've also seen God convince a man to change his schedule so he can build into a group of fifth-grade boys. I have labored under the weight of a commitment that Sundays will never bore kids. Yet I've also watched God inspire creative gospel messages that help usher kids across the line of faith. I have tasted the loneliness that sets in following church leadership's resistance toward change. And I've also received leaders' support to expand our budget and space, support that can only be attributed to God.

    Across years of meeting with and challenging leaders to begin a new adventure within their children's ministries, many have asked me to tell the Promiseland story. Most are surprised and encouraged to discover that our blank-sheet-of-paper experiences happen over and over again-and that we remain a work in progress. The rest of this chapter describes our ministry's early journey and provides five faith-promises from God to hold on to when considering or experiencing change. Then chapter 2 focuses on a personal epiphany that landed me in Promiseland. The remainder of the book provides detailed guidance that, when adopted, will help you start your own Great Kid-Venture.

    The Story of How Promiseland Began

    As you read the next few pages, you will see that our story offers at least one scene that will strike familiarity with nearly any ministry. Look for one or more that relate closest to your situation. You will also see that Promiseland hasn't always been so promising. But it will become clear how God can use ordinary people in extraordinary ways and give them the adventure of a lifetime. And he can do the same in your ministry.

    In the Beginning, There Was Nothing

    The Promiseland story begins with the genesis of Willow Creek Community Church. A twenty-year-old college student named Bill Hybels attended a New Testament course taught by Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian. During this class, Dr. Bilezekian often spoke about the amazing church described in Acts 2. This was a church completely devoted to Jesus Christ-one in which people actively loved and cared for each other, shared all they had with those in need, took care of the poor, and met in homes where they enjoyed deep community. "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). What a picture! Dr. Bilezekian loved to cast the vision for this type of church, and always concluded with a longing to see it happen again.

    Sitting on the edge of his classroom seat was Bill Hybels, who loved to catch this vision. God placed a passion in Bill's heart so strong that he often went to his professor's office to talk more about what this modern-day church could be. Dr. Bilezekian recalls a conversation on his patio in May 1975, when Bill announced that he and his team were going to start a church.

    "I nearly fell off my lawn chair," Dr. Bilezekian says, "but I discovered Bill was serious. We prayed, we thought, we strategized. And it was there, in my backyard, that Willow Creek was born."

    So Bill and a few of his friends decided to launch an Acts 2 church in Chicago's northwest suburbs. Each of them held tight to a conviction that God was calling them to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ. Because of their passion for that mission, they invested all they had to turn this dream into reality. But they still fell short of enough rent money for the movie theater they planned to meet in each Sunday morning. So they sold tomatoes door-to-door, squeezing out enough profit to enable the new church to open its doors on October 12, 1975. This core group believed that God could make anything happen, so they began with no permanent facility, no salaries, no long-term strategy, and no seminary degrees.

    Interestingly, their leap of faith also started with no children's ministry. But that would soon change.

    Faith and Nothing Else

    The brand-new Willow Creek Community Church had an obvious problem. Families did not want to attend a church that had no kids' program. To fill this ever-widening gap, Bill Hybels called Jo Kelly, a nineteen-year-old Trinity College student, and asked her to consider helping in the Sunday school area. Jo agreed to show up and lend a hand. She arrived to discover that "helping" meant she was in charge, because there were no other adults in the Sunday school area. A quick inventory also revealed that there were no toys, no curriculum, no volunteers, and no budget. Not even a blank sheet of paper. Not exactly an ideal time to accept a leadership role.

    But Jo Kelly believed God had called her to this position, and that he was larger than all the challenges. So she uttered six frightening but faith-filled words: "God, you lead and I'll follow." Jo describes her experience as Promiseland's first official volunteer and ministry leader:

    "Each week varied widely-sometimes we'd have five kids, and I also remember hitting a high of nearly fifty. We broke up into two groups-'readers' and 'nonreaders' is the best way to describe them. We were so limited by space and volunteers, and there was no way to provide care for babies, because the lobby of the theater was just too dirty and uncontrolled.

    "I had lots of easy-to-teach lessons, short memory verses, songs, and simple crafts. We kept the message simple. I regularly had to clean up the floor of the lobby because it was full of leftover trash and popcorn from the night before. Eventually the stage crew made me room dividers that we set up in the corners to try to section off as rooms. I brought blankets to serve as a clean area for the kids to sit on and snuggle up in, because the lobby was so cold.

    "Probably the hardest part was volunteers. By being involved with kids, they would not be able to attend the service. As we grew, I depended on a small group of willing adults whom I had to pull out of the service when we had really good numbers.

    "Mine was not a glamorous ministry. But I knew the Lord wanted me there, so I was content."

    Park on that thought for a moment. Despite floors littered with stale popcorn and Milk Duds, shivering kids, and no one to help, Jo was content.

    (Continues...)



    Excerpted from Making Your Children's Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid's Week by Sue Miller David Staal Copyright © 2004 by Willow Creek Association. Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

    Read More Show Less

    Table of Contents

    CONTENTS
    Foreword by Bi l l Hy b e l s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
    Foreword by George Barna . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
    Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
    1. THE GREAT KID-VENTURE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 The Journey to Build a Dynamic Children’s Ministry
    2. IMAGINE THE BEST HOUR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 A Compelling Vision Makes All the Difference
    3. YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 The Benefits of a Clear Starting Point
    4. THE BIG SIX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Core Ministry Values to Reach Today’s Kids
    5. LARGE GROUP, SMALL GROUPS, BIG PEOPLE . . . . . . 85 So What Does Sunday Morning Look Like?
    6. SHARING THE DREAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Get Wild about Volunteer Recruiting
    7. LESSONS LEARNED. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 How to Treat Volunteers
    8. FIT FOR THE ADVENTURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133 Thriving in Ministry—Not Just Surviving in Ministry
    9. SUNDAY MORNING HEROES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145 Real People Making Real Differences
    A Final Word . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
    Personal Exercises and Team Experiences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
    Appendix A: Mission Statements Based on the Great Commission; Indicators of Spiritual Maturity—The Five Gs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
    Appendix B: The Ten Core Values of Willow Creek Community Church;
    Six Core Ministry Values . . . 183
    Appendix C: A Typical Hour in Promiseland; Spiritual Gifts . . . 187
    Appendix D: Promiseland Curriculum . 191
    Notes . . . 193
    Acknowledgments . . . 197
    Read More Show Less

    First Chapter

    Making Your Children's Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid's Week
    An Adventure That Can Happen in Any Church Children's ministry is an adventure, and I sure love adventure stories. There's just nothing like the quest to solve a complex problem, discover a lost treasure, or find a new cure. And the best part is watching the characters---how they're stretched and tested under impossible circumstances or unbeatable odds. It's fun to join them as they bravely face earthquakes, shipwrecks, or battles against stronger opponents. These stories require people's best, and then some.
    And these tales have another universal trait---their creation. At some point, somewhere, someone pulled out a blank sheet of paper and began to write. Okay, maybe today they'd click to open a new document. The point is that someone deliberately decides to tell a tale that's never been told.
    Including the stories that God authors. Rewind the ark story and we see Noah erase his current lifestyle, turning his new blank sheet into blueprints for a boat that will earn him mockery from the neighbors. Abraham was promised a new chapter in life that required a move, and expectantly looked at an empty page until he turned one hundred---a story that was also good for a few laughs. Before Moses' fiery encounters with Pharaoh, we read about his new beginning that started with a famous bush. Even Joseph's life story was deleted and started anew when he landed at the bottom of the well. And what a legend that story became.
    This book is also about an exciting adventure. Let's call it the Great Kid- Venture. And this story can take place inside any local church of any size and in any country---because it's about leading and building a dynamic children's ministry. The kind of ministry that prevails over time, and that does so much more than simply survive week to week. One with a plot that involves leaders who wrestle with how to teach the Bible relevantly to children, brainstorm ways to care for adult volunteers, and concoct cuttingedge recruiting strategies. And one that includes other scenes like intense budget and facility negotiations, safety and security precautions, and new kids arriving every week (especially in the infant area!).
    Sound familiar? With all the action required to serve kids well these days, no one in children's ministry is bored, that's for sure! But the best part of the story is that God unfolds this drama for more than pure entertainment. He has placed each of us in a ministry with the potential to change lives. And sifting through ideas about how to maximize this potential keeps every children's ministry leader awake at night. Or at least it should.
    In Hebrews 11 we see that the common thread of many great Bible characters is their faith-filled lives. Noah believed God had a reason behind the boat construction, so starting over was okay. Abraham remained steadfast in his faith, even when his wife did the chuckling. Moses took a little convincing, but eventually had faith to believe he was on a God-directed mission. And had Joseph given in or given up, which seemed much easier than remaining true to his faith in God, he would have become just another Joe.
    Today's children's ministries share common ground with these biblical patriarchs---it requires a modern-day leap of faith for someone in a local church to dare pull out a blank sheet of paper and change the way ministry is done. In many settings, there are years or even decades of tradition standing guard against change. Or maybe there's apprehension to do anything outside of the denomination's program. It can seem ludicrous to start a ministry over or even to seriously rethink whether it really works---to whatever degree. Let's be real---children's ministry must happen every weekend, leaving little time for pondering change.
    But maybe there's something just a little exciting at the thought of a new adventure in children's ministry. Maybe it can be a place that kids love so much that they actually want to attend each weekend. Maybe it's an experience they enjoy enough to invite their friends. This thought---this dream---quickens the pulse of many children's leaders and can become the heartbeat of an entire ministry. And the good news is that this isn't a fairy tale. Every year more kids' ministries throughout this country and around the world decide to try something new---and report the awakening of a new, exciting day.
    Often these adventurous days come filled with very real challenges. Throughout my tenure in children's ministry, I've known what it's like to survive the lows and then hang on for the highs. I have felt overwhelmed with panic from a shortage of volunteers on weekends. But I've also seen God convince a man to change his schedule so he can build into a group of fifth-grade boys. I have labored under the weight of a commitment that Sundays will never bore kids. Yet I've also watched God inspire creative gospel messages that help usher kids across the line of faith. I have tasted the loneliness that sets in following church leadership's resistance toward change. And I've also received leaders' support to expand our budget and space, support that can only be attributed to God.
    Across years of meeting with and challenging leaders to begin a new adventure within their children's ministries, many have asked me to tell the Promiseland story. Most are surprised and encouraged to discover that our blank-sheet-of-paper experiences happen over and over again---and that we remain a work in progress. The rest of this chapter describes our ministry's early journey and provides five faith-promises from God to hold on to when considering or experiencing change. Then chapter 2 focuses on a personal epiphany that landed me in Promiseland. The remainder of the book provides detailed guidance that, when adopted, will help you start your own Great Kid-Venture.
    The Story of How Promiseland Began
    As you read the next few pages, you will see that our story offers at least one scene that will strike familiarity with nearly any ministry. Look for one or more that relate closest to your situation. You will also see that Promiseland hasn't always been so promising. But it will become clear how God can use ordinary people in extraordinary ways and give them the adventure of a lifetime. And he can do the same in your ministry.
    In the Beginning, There Was Nothing
    The Promiseland story begins with the genesis of Willow Creek Community Church. A twenty-year-old college student named Bill Hybels attended a New Testament course taught by Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian. During this class, Dr. Bilezekian often spoke about the amazing church described in Acts 2. This was a church completely devoted to Jesus Christ---one in which people actively loved and cared for each other, shared all they had with those in need, took care of the poor, and met in homes where they enjoyed deep community. 'And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved' (Acts 2:47). What a picture! Dr. Bilezekian loved to cast the vision for this type of church, and always concluded with a longing to see it happen again.
    Sitting on the edge of his classroom seat was Bill Hybels, who loved to catch this vision. God placed a passion in Bill's heart so strong that he often went to his professor's office to talk more about what this modern-day church could be. Dr. Bilezekian recalls a conversation on his patio in May 1975, when Bill announced that he and his team were going to start a church.
    'I nearly fell off my lawn chair,' Dr. Bilezekian says, 'but I discovered Bill was serious. We prayed, we thought, we strategized. And it was there, in my backyard, that Willow Creek was born.'1
    So Bill and a few of his friends decided to launch an Acts 2 church in Chicago's northwest suburbs. Each of them held tight to a conviction that God was calling them to turn irreligious
    Read More Show Less

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