Can you concentrate??

As a volunteer with kids, a teacher, or a kidmin…how do you create an atmosphere that consistently draws kids’ minds to your voice.   Here are some tools that I use…in no particular order:

Holy Spirit:  NEVER underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to capture kids’ attention.  It’s THE thing I look for and notice in kids who are close to letting God be in charge of their lives.  They start looking at me….before I use my Simon Says trick to get their attention…because their minds are starting to WANT to understand some things that are going on in their hearts.

Objects:  It’s one thing to have a bag….with an object lesson….but it’s another thing to give the kids a container of playdoh and let them play with it.  I have seen little boys who struggle with ADD/ADHD stop squirming in their chairs and start forming and shaping a ball of green goo.  The amazing thing is that when I ask a question, their hands are the first ones to go up.  No eye contact, but they respond….and concentrate.  The balance between focus towards a simple task and hearing a simple lesson is comfortable for them.  Being comfortable makes it easy to concentrate.

Texture:  Now….playdoh can become clutter if it’s just used as playdoh.  Give everyone a container….and adapt it into your lesson:  “A long, long time ago, there was a man named Noah.  He was told, by God to make a boat…out of gopher wood.  I want you to make a gopher out of your playdoh as I finish telling you this amazing story.”  It’s a great way to bring out details for older kids (gopher wood….cause they already know the basic story).  It’s fun for the younger kids too….”Now, take your gopher and squish him or her into the biggest ball you can make….cause next we are going to make a boat!”  (awesome for large mulit-age groups….which happen to be my favorite)

Roleplay:  Don’t transform yourself into Abraham….unless that is your thing….and in that case….feel free.  Sit in church….think like a kid.  Watch kids….what are they doing?  What are they using to do what they do?  If you don’t notice in like ten seconds….then you are thinking too hard.  They are doing exactly what the adults around them allow.  So….we should be creative in what we allow our kids to do in the worship service.  Let them sit on their knees and draw a picture of the pastor.  Let them count how many people came to church.  Let them write out the words to their favorite song sung that morning.  Let them draw a picture of the worship leaders guitar….and dream about someday leading worship.  It’s fun….and kids come back to fun.  Don’t make them sit quietly until the day they understand what the pastor is actually saying.  Chances are they will either not be sitting there when they are able to understand/concentrate on big words….or they will have grown accustom to zoning out.

Challenges:  This one is simple.  Pick something….and make it yours.   There has not been one time where I have used the Simon Says trick and it not work.  I can take 200 kids (and adults) from chatty chaos to eager anticipation of what Simon’s gonna ask next.  (FBC people….don’t steal this….or they will figure it out….and i’ll have to think of a new trick! lol….jk).  For a smaller, wigglier (made that word up) group….30 second dance party’s are great….or see who can stand on one foot the longest.  You don’t even have to finish the game/challenge….just do it till you get everyone’s attention….then continue as planned.  This is a great way to not single children out.  Bring them together as a group…..it will be a nice little break even for the ones who seem to be paying attention.

Bring it…don’t wing it…

How many times have you sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?”  I am obligated to sing it every. single. night. around 9:00…to a two year old who can’t/won’t go to sleep without it  (along with two blankets/three dolls/a sippy cup/a night light/a kiss and hug from every person and pet in the house/and a prayer for whatever “sickness” she thinks she has).

There are not many “whims” of Madelyn (my 2 year old) that I give in to so willingly…but this one is an exception (humor me while I spend too much time talking about something so simple).  I get her jammies on her…most of the time.   I get her milk ready.  We find the blankets.  I lay them out in her bed.  She picks a baby.  Micah is put on hug/kiss duty.  By the time that is over, I am waiting at her bed…the lights low…the blankets/baby perfectly in place…her sippy cup placed on the fourth slat from the left (she started that…not me).  She lays down…I rub her back…I wait for her to say “Pray for me”…she likes to initiate that part.  Then she gives the signal…”Sing Twinkle Twinkle lil star.”  This is absolutely my favorite time of the day (second favorite: ten minutes later…when she’s finally asleep).  Every time we sing it, we sing to her like it’s the first time she’s heard the song.  Slow…so she can hear every word.  Soft…so she relaxes enough to fall asleep.

It is so easy…especially with kids programming…to just “wing it.”  We’ve heard the story of Moses a hundred times.  The kids have heard it 50 times!  If your audience is listening….BRING it!!  If your audience is not listening…keep BRINGING it till they do!  I can tell you moment by moment, down to the particular slat she wants her sippy cup to rest on, what we do for Madelyn’s night time routine.  It’s important to me.  I like it.

Now…the question is…do I like doing children’s sermons/leading children’s church/etc.?  Are they important to me?  (answer honestly…or the whole bring it/wing it rule won’t apply)  My answer: YES!  Here is my approach to bringing it.  Know your material before the event!!  OWN IT…how does it apply to you…right now…in your life?   The hard part…how do I tell it to a kid? Answer that question.  Write it down…simply…a huge outline for a three minute children’s sermon will only be a distraction.  SHARE IT…every Saturday night, I read my Children’s sermon to Micah (my husband).  It helps me just to say it out loud.  Last…I pray a simple prayer right before I go up.   Something along the lines of  “God…This is all about You.  Thank you for fun at church.”

Do I ever just wing it…YES!  Sometimes Madelyn falls asleep in the car (without sippy/baby/blanket…) and we all know…you don’t wake up babies!!  It’s important to be able to wing it…cause life is unpredictable.  Can God totally rock out on a “wing it” children’s sermon….YES!   Am i still going to try to BRING IT every Sunday?  yep!

Texture vs. Clutter

So…the debate between texture and clutter began because of a pillow.  It was given to me by a dear friend as a wedding gift.  My house was EMPTY. We didn’t realize that buying furniture was really more like ordering furniture that would come in three weeks. I moved the ironing board into the living room to make things look more like “home.” It was that bad. The pillow was definitely going on my our bed. Shantung silk with tiny, silver beads hand-sewn on the front.  My husband hated it: “Shards of glass?! On a pillow?!”

I hated letting go.  I liked it.  After several years of sharing a home, we finally have a general rule for the “stuff” in our tiny house. Texture is good. Clutter is not. A functional pillow that gives a great punch of color to a neutral couch?Texture! Love it!!  A pillow covered in “shards of glass” that gives a great punch to the face? Clutter. Gotta go. This particular pillow now resides on a couch that never gets sat on- in my mom’s basement. 🙂 She can’t say no to a cute pillow-clutter or not. I adore her.

I won’t make all the parallels, and forgive me if every thing I say comes across in the form of a children’s sermon. People’s lives are much like my tiny house. There is not much room.  When you get a piece of their life, make sure your activity is rich in texture cause people don’t generally come back to clutter, and if they do, they shouldn’t because life is precious! Take the time to find the perfect “pillow” to add pizazz.   Is it functional?  Is it fun?  Does it serve a purpose in your main purpose?

Example…for all of you story telling learners…

Our pastor skypes in missionaries before we pray for them. This is a great way to add texture to a very predictable service of prayer without taking away from prayer-the main purpose of the gathering.

Evaluate the programs you offer.  Does the effort you put into it add texture to the big picture or clutter it up?  Look at the programming you decide to keep.  Use the extra time you have (because you no longer have to plan for “Bring your Aunt’s-Brother’s-Sister to church Day”) to add texture to your events.  You can add texture with decorations, media, role play, a mission project, a guest speaker, etc. Let your programs develop over time. Can you imagine decorating an entire house in one day? Get your core pieces (things that don’t change) then throw in some easy/trendy texture! But, don’t hold on too tight! Old trends=clutter!! 🙂

About me: Super Amber…not me

Well…let me just start with an apology.  I abuse “…” and “””” (that’s quoted quotation marks), and I end sentences with prepositions all of the time…so there.  Almost every time I go to work, I am surprised by how much I love my job.  Almost every time I get home, after a long day of work, I’m surprised by how much I love my home…and all the great people who share it with me.

I was enlightened by Beth Moore (surprise, surprise).  She said, “It’s tough being a woman…under another woman’s shadow.”  A-freakin-men!   I often live my life under the shadow of Super Amber.  She’s the woman that I “should” be…cause she’s got her act together.  Yeah…I’m learning to let that go.

My best friends in life will totally make fun of me for anything I say here…cause they know exactly how NOT super I am…and love me regardless!!

My family has their own special ways of telling me that I married up.  It’s true.  With that said…I must give Micah credit for Madelyn (our “big” girl).  She took three hour naps everyday, and loves life as long as she gets to “help” in whatever is going on.  Allie  is our baby.  Umm…I guess I’ll take the “credit” for her.  She must have eye contact at all moments of the day…outside of her two minute, thirty second nap.