Directions to Athens, Atlanta, and Eternal Life

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (ESV)

One of my favorite children’s sermon times was when our pastor’s sermon title was “Directions to Athens, Atlanta, and Eternal Life.”  The text was John 3:16.  I was extra excited to see the text for the week since John 3:16 is one of the verses our Children’s Bible Drillers learn.  As I thought about the verse and the sermon topic, I decided to do a Bible verse activity related to John 3:16.

Using the idea of travel and directions from the sermon title, I grabbed a couple of older highway maps that were lying around at the house. (My husband loves to travel, so we are not lacking for maps at our house!) They were cut to fit some 8 ½ x 11 card stock that I had.  Using adhesive, I attached them to the cardstock. Taking a black permanent marker, I wrote 2-3 words from the verse per sheet.  I saved the reference (John 3:16) for the portion of the GA map that had Hwy. 316.  I highlighted 3:16, circled Athens, and then put a circle around Monroe where our church is located.  I then laminated them for durability.  We had a great time using the John 3:16 memory verse activity during our Children’s Sermon time as we involved children and adults in our congregation.

Our Christian life is a journey as we come to know Christ and grow in him.   In my opinion, John 3:16 is a great verse to use in illustrating the idea of directions for a trip or a journey in relation to our Christian life.   Many of us use it as a key verse when we share with others the directions to eternal life – how to become a Christian.

With many churches at various phases of reopening and currently having an intergenerational worship time, include a fun Bible Skill activity if you have a Children’s Sermon time. This John 3:16 activity is a great Bible Skill resource to have on hand in your Kids Ministry files. I would love to hear about any creative Bible Verse Games that you have used with your kids!

10 Ways to Welcome a Newborn Baby to our Preschool Ministry

On April 29th, I became “Mimi,” as we welcomed Rhett to our family as our first grandchild. As a new grandparent and a Kids Minister, my thoughts have turned to newborns and first time parents in our Kids Ministry. In our video, three kids ministers share their ideas of how to welcome these bundles of joy:

  1. Send expectant parents a letter letting them know that they are prayed for. Susan Allen includes a prayer calendar that the parents can use in praying for their unborn child.
  2. Have a drive-thru baby shower if you can’t have an in-person shower.
  3. Present the new parents a onesie with your Preschool/Kids Ministry logo on it. Josh Wilson shares that he orders the onesies in blue and pink to have on hand to welcome the baby boy or girl to their church.
  4. Send a card from the Kids Ministry and another one created by one of the older kids in your ministry. This is a great project for a GA/RA group or a Kids Sunday School class to do.
  5. Visit the newborn and parents at the hospital/their home and bring a gift.
  6. Drop-off a gift on the front porch (especially during Covid-19) welcoming the new baby and parents.
  7. Include a copy of BabyLife Magazine with your gift.
  8. Create a bib and/or diaper tag with your Church/Kids Ministry Logo to give to the new parents.
  9. Provide dinner for the new parents. The first meal can be from your preschool ministry. Create a meal train. Enlist their adult Sunday School class members, friends, and church members to help provide several meals. Thank you Jennifer for this great reminder!
  10. Don’t forget the siblings. Bring a gift for the big brother and/or sister when you visit or drop-off a gift for the baby and parents. Susan Allen shares that she often has a stuffed bear with a big brother/big sister button that she brings.

A special Thank You to Susan Allen (FBC Statesboro), Josh Wilson (Shirley Hills, Warner Robins), and Jennifer Zeager (FBC Barnesville) for sharing these great ideas for welcoming babies into our ministries. Watch our video for these and extra tips on related to welcoming newborns!

3 Fun Bible Skill Activities – Part 2

As we have increased family time, it’s a great time to work on Bible Skills. This week’s Bible Skill Activities will focus on using arts and crafts!

  1. Create a Memory Verse Frame Items needed: Inexpensive picture frame, scrapbook or colored paper, dry erase marker and Bible. To create: Cut the paper to fit the size of the glass. Assemble the frame so that the colored paper shows through the glass. Have kids write the Bible Verse they are memorizing on the glass with a dry erase marker. (Hint: Use a paper towel to erase the verse and write next week’s verse.)

2. Scripture Light Switch PlateItems Needed: Light switch plate, permanent marker and Bible. To create: Have kids write a scripture verse on the light switch plate. Parents – Install the light switch plate in your kids room and challenge them to say the verse each time they turn off/on their light.

Verse Suggestions: Psalm 56:3, Psalm 34:4, Joshua 1:9

3. Verse RocksItems Needed: Rocks, craft paint, permanent markers, and Bible. (Use ultra fine tip markers for writing the verse.) To create: Paint rocks and allow time for rocks to dry. After rocks have dried, write a verse on the rocks and decorate.

Note: I received this rock as a gift from Shoal Creek Baptist Church during my son’s Move In Weekend at Truett McConnell University.

What are some ways you use arts and crafts to help you memorize scripture?

3 Fun Bible Skill Activities – Part 1

Looking for fun activities for your kids and families? Here are three fun Bible Skill activities that could also serve as PE time for your kids.

  1. Enjoy a books of the Bible Relay Race. Download my printables of Old and New Testament books at the end of this blog article. Make two copies. Cut apart and put each set in a bucket or bowl. Have your kids enjoy a relay race in the backyard as they put the books of the Bible in order.
  2. Bible Verse toss. – Use a beachball or basket ball for kids to toss back and forth to each other as they are saying a Bible Verse. If using a beach ball, you can use a sharpie to write the verse on the beachball to help your kids as they are learning the verse.
  3. Books and Hoops – Have kids dribble and shoot hoops while saying the books of the Bible.

I’d love to hear what fun Bible Skills activities you are doing with your family.

3 Tips for Engaging Kids in Intergenerational Worship

Recently, a friend shared with me about how he liked having his children join him during the worship time at church. As a huge fan of intergenerational worship, I love to hear parents and grandparents share about worshiping with kids. Research by Parr and Crites emphasizes the importance of intergenerational worship. In their book, Why they Stay, it shares that “Young adults who attended worship services that separated them from their parents when they were children were 38% more likely to have strayed as a young adult than those who were not in separate services.”

Families and churches that are intentional in their approach to intergenerational worship can help kids engage in worship. Below are 3 tips that can assist:

Tip 1: Provide resources for parents to assist in the transition to intergenerational worship. Parenting in the Pew by Robby Castleman is a great resource to assist parents in the journey of helping their kids learn to worship. “Baseball and ballet are taught through participation, practice, and patience. Children learn best by doing . . .Children learn to worship by worshiping – through participation, practice, and patience.” (Castleman). Another resource that is helpful for parents is a bookmark or booklet providing helpful tips for engaging kids in worship. It can be a simple resource created by your church. I love the bookmark above that my friend Jennifer provides for families at FBC Barnesville.

Tip 2: Provide a Bible and worship notes or a church bag for Kids. Make sure each kid in your church has a Bible with the Old and New Testament. Many churches make a special presentation to 1st graders as they begin the school year. Two Bibles I like to recommend are the CSB Kids Bible and the ESV Following Jesus Bible. Worship Notes are also a great resource to provide for the families at your church. You can download free printables from various websites or create your own. I had fun creating one and you can download it for free below. Many churches also provide a worship bag that families can pick up in the foyer at the beginning of the worship service and return at the end. If your church does not provide one, you can create your own. Several great things to include are: your child’s Bible, a clipboard, a journal or worship note sheets, blank paper, chenille stems (pipe cleaners), and crayons/pencils/gel pens (depending on the age of your child).

Tip 3: Encourage parents to intentionally teach their kids how to participate and worship during services. “Children learn that prayer is important when they see their parents make it a priority. Children learn to give generously when their parents do.” (Castleman, Parenting in the Pew) Parents and grandparents can also help kids locate Bible verses/passages and follow along as the scripture is read, using a finger for early readers. Kids can be encouraged to stand, sing, and be involved in worship.

What are some of your tips for Engaging Kids in Intergenerational Worship?

Five Great Resources to use for Your Family Devotional Time.

Last week a friend texted me and asked for some recommendations for a family devotional book. With the beginning of a new year, you may also be looking for a new resource to use in your family devotional time with your kids or grandkids. Below are the ones that I shared with her:

The Way to the Savior is a new book releasing in February from Jeff and Abbey Land. I am looking forward to this new release as a great way to prepare our kids for Easter. If you haven’t seen their Christmas one – The Way to the Manger, you’ll want to check it out also.

Between Us: A 52-Week Keepsake Devotional for Moms and Daughters is a great book for moms and daughters to do together. Even though I have boys, I read through it and loved it. With the beginning of a new year, it would be a good time to start with your daughter!

Foundations for Kids: A 260-day Reading Plan for Kids by Robby Gallaty is a great resource for Kids to use in reading through the Bible and contains activities to reinforce the Bible reading for the day. There is also a resource for your teens – Foundations for Students.

The Bible is my Best Friend – Family Devotional: 52 Weeks for Families is a family devotional resource that includes activities each week, a verse for the family to memorize, and a weekly challenge. The recommended ages listed are 4-10 years of age.

Once-A-Day At the Table Family Devotional is a resource that we used with our boys several years ago. Our oldest son was a teen and our youngest son was a tween/early teenager. It contains 365 daily readings and conversation starters for your family.

What are your favorite family devotional resources?

Don’t Miss the Blessing from Life’s “Interruptions”

Don’t miss the blessing of life’s “interruptions.”  I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year, especially, I have a packed “planned” schedule – my workday, my family commitments, my Christmas to-do-list, preparing meals, housework, and so much more.  Unless I am intentional in my quiet time and intentional in seeing life through “the Master’s eyes,” I can view life’s interruptions with impatience and a hint of irritation for it messing up my “perfectly planned” schedule for the day.

Recently, I had a day where I almost missed “the blessing.”  It was one of those packed days where I was hurrying to get out the door for the day’s schedule when I got a phone call.  I didn’t have time to talk, but I answered the phone anyway.  With an eye on the clock, I began the conversation in a hurry with what I perceived to be an interruption to my schedule.  However, by the time I ended the conversation with this sweet friend, I realized that this “interruption” had turned into a “blessing.” . . . And I almost missed it.

Can you imagine the shepherds that night long ago out in the fields?  It was a normal night at work – out in the fields.  They were doing their job – when their night was “interrupted.”

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:8-16

Through this “interruption,” in the midst of their night at work, they received an incredible invitation to see the Savior and they hurried (yes- they left work early) to see the baby in the manger.  

Lord, This Christmas, may I not be so busy with work, everyday life, the busyness of the season that I miss the blessing of interruptions and the joy of celebrating your birth. 

3 Tips to help keep Christ at the center of the holidays for your family

1. Practice Thankfulness

Items Needed:

  • Die cuts of leaves or copies of a leaf printable (fall colors)
  • Tree (and hooks) or a bowl to hold the leaves
  • pen

Have family members write one or more thing that they are thankful for on each leaf. You can do this as an activity throughout the month or around the table Thanksgiving week.

2. Use a Family Advent Devotional Book or Plan

  • The Way to the Manger (Jeff and Abbey Land) published by LifeWay is a great family devotional book. It features 25 family devotions, journaling pages (to save family memories each year) and family activities and crafts. Currently this book is 1/2 price at LifeWay.com
  • You can also download a free Family Advent Guide at LifeWay Kids

3. Pray for others during this holiday season

During this holiday season, make an intentional plan to teach your kids to pray for others.

  • During November – have your family Thank God for family members and other special people in your life.
  • During December, pray for individuals and families as you receive their Christmas Cards. Especially pray for things mentioned in their cards or Christmas letters.

What are other ways your family keeps Christ at the center of the holidays?

Use this fun Bible Skill Game for your class this week

One of our VBS teachers, Laura, adapted a Bible Skills game in LifeWay’s “In the Wild” VBS material this summer to create this fun game –  “Snapped by the turtle.”  

Items Needed:

  • 70-75 Jumbo craft sticks (multi-colored if possible)
  • Permanent Marker
  • 5-10 Small foam pieces – turtles
  • Container to put the sticks in

Prepare:

  • Using a permanent marker, write the books of the Bible on the Jumbo Craft sticks- 1 book per craft stick.
  • On 5-10 of the craft sticks, attach one small foam turtle per craft stick
  • Place sticks in container to play

To Play: 

  • Have children sit around a table or in a circle on the floor. Place container of sticks in the middle. This game can be played individually or with teams.
  • Decide what each child (or team) will be looking for (New Testament books, Old Testament books, books of Law, Minor Prophets, Paul’s Letters, etc.)
  • Have child #1 draw out a stick without looking.
  • If they pick one that they are looking for, they can keep it.
  • If they pick any other book (not what they are looking for), place the stick back in the container.
  • Have child #2 draw out a stick without looking. Continue in play until all children have had a turn and then start back with child #1.
  • If at any time they pick a turtle, they are “snapped by the turtle” and lose all of the correct ones they are holding.
  • The child (or team) with the most sticks at the end of the allotted time wins.

The Reminders and Challenges of these pins.

Last month I was at my parent’s house and my mom mentioned that she had come across my “Sunday School pins” and thought I might want to take them home with me. For those of you who grew up Southern Baptist and are over the age of 50, you probably remember the pins we were awarded for perfect attendance in Sunday School.  Each year that we had perfect attendance, we received a pin to add to our collection. 

 I hadn’t seen these pins in years.  As I took them out of the box and “reconnected them,” I was reminded of one memory especially.  When I was probably about 11 or 12 years old, my brother and I spent the weekend with family who lived out of town.  This was a rare treat and we had lots of fun.  However, on Sunday morning, I woke up to discover that it had been decided we were not going to church.  I never knew the reason why – we just weren’t going.  While we were playing outside, all I could think of is how “weird” it felt not to be at church and that I wasn’t going to get my Sunday School perfect attendance pin that year.  

While we don’t award perfect attendance Sunday School pins at my church or other churches I’ve been a member of over the years as an adult, these pins remind me of the following:

  • They remind me of a habit that was developed at a very young age in my life – that of going to Sunday School and Church on a weekly basis.  My parents didn’t give us the option of whether to go to church or not. Just like they didn’t give me the option of going to school or brushing my teeth, going to Sunday School and Church wasn’t a choice. 
  • They remind me that I had a strong Biblical foundation laid through Sunday School as different adults taught me growing up about God, how He created us, and worked in the lives of people throughout the Bible.  I am thankful for all the teachers that served weekly and who invested in my life and are a part of my spiritual journey. 
  • They remind me that because of my parents and church partnering together – laying spiritual foundations, I became a Christian at a young age.
  • They remind me that because of this “habit” that was developed, I have always been a part of a church family.  A church family that we have served alongside with in VBS and on mission trips.  A church family that has celebrated as we were married and later when we had our two boys.  A church family and Sunday School class that has supported and walked along with us during the tough challenges in life.

These pins also represent a couple of challenges for me as a parent and Kids Minister:

  • The challenge for us as families to continue to develop this habit of weekly involvement of our families in Sunday School and Worship.  (Based on Lifeway’s Research, Jana Magruder shared with us in Nothing Less – Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of faith that the average regularly attending family is at church 2-3 times a month).  With busy lifestyles and kids involved in multiple activities, attending Sunday School and church is becoming less of a habit.  This means less of an opportunity for churches to partner with parents in laying spiritual foundations and less likely for our kids to be in church as young adults. 
  • The challenge that in the midst of busy family schedules, it is often hard to find the needed volunteers to teach our kids in Sunday School.  As a Kids Minister, I am reminded of the huge impact that volunteers in Kids Ministry have as they serve and as they teach our kids each week.  They are helping lay life-long spiritual foundations.  They are planting seeds and helping introduce kids to Christ. 

While I know that these pins don’t make anyone “more spiritual” because of perfect attendance, I  appreciate the value that Plentitude Baptist Church  placed on helping me develop that habit of weekly Sunday School and worship attendance while I was growing up.  Even though many years have passed, this is still a priority and a habit for our family – to be at church on Sunday morning in Sunday School and worship. 

I was glad when they said to me, “let us go to the house of the Lord!”  Psalm 122:1