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Kids and Ministry: A ministerís guide to creativitycomment (0)

January 8, 2009

By Brittany N. Howerton

Most people would never consider moldable clay a church resource, but for a children’s minister, play dough can be an invaluable tool.

For that matter, so can tablecloths, wooden pegs, glitter pens and butcher paper. The creativity never ends for children’s ministers — at least that’s the goal.

But as these ministers seek to develop innovative, creative and attention-grabbing ideas, the ever-changing child becomes harder to reach.

“The characteristics and basic needs of today’s children have not changed, but many of those characteristics are much stronger because of the changing world around today’s children,” said Vicki Hulsey, childhood education specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

“Today’s children long for security and stability. Today’s children are growing up in a media-driven society. As a result, they are image driven. Children are not content to sit and listen. They are screaming, ‘Show me. Tell me. Let me do it,’” Hulsey said.

And that’s just what many Alabama Baptist ministers have chosen to do.

“Children best can be reached by activities and classes that are kid-friendly and current and where everything is geared toward them,” said Rhonda Freeman, children’s director at Green Valley Baptist Church, Hoover, in Birmingham Baptist Association.

Beth Havard, children’s ministry director at Cottage Hill Baptist Church, Mobile, in Mobile Baptist Association, agreed that the key to effective children’s ministry is developing ideas to meet the children where they are.

“Children’s ministry has changed a lot in the course of the 17 years I’ve been around, and you have to be willing to change and update programs and listen to the kids about what they’re interested in,” Havard said. “You have to be open to change, because [the ministry] is constantly changing.”

Understanding that change, the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) wants to equip children’s ministers to relate to children as effectively as possible.

James Blakeney, an associate in the office of Sunday School for SBOM, said he is eager to help churches develop more effective children’s ministries.

“[Our purpose is] to provide training to preschool and children’s leadership and Vacation Bible School for all Baptist churches,” Blakeney said.

Each year, the SBOM offers 15 conferences with an emphasis on children’s ministries across the state, from Mobile to Athens, strategically placing these training sessions within an hour’s drive of all Alabama Baptist churches.

“We offer free help for folks that come,” Blakeney explained. Blakeney encouraged any children’s minister wanting to learn more about available resources to contact his office at 1-800-264-1225 or e-mail jblakeney@alsbom.org.

“We live in a changing world,” he said. “We’re trying to reach folks that almost live in a different kind of culture.”

Upcoming SBOM conference dates include:

- Gulf Coast Regional Sunday School Leadership Training, Jan. 17 at Jubilee Baptist Church, Daphne.

- Metro Regional Sunday School Leadership Training, March 7 at Lakeside Baptist Church, Birmingham.

- Building a Vibrant Sunday School in the Urban Church, May 1–2 at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church, Birmingham.

Havard said that in developing a children’s ministry, it is important first to develop goals and an ideology toward which the leadership can work.

“The first thing … would be to sit down with the pastor and plan what your philosophy is,” she explained. “Why do you want to reach children?”

Hulsey agreed, saying the church’s vision statement is a good place to start. “The focus of a church’s ministry to preschoolers and children must be more than child care and activities,” Hulsey said. “It is essential that leaders are trained to know what preschoolers and children need to learn at each stage of development, thus providing a foundation for the day when a child recognizes his need for a Savior. Examine the church’s vision statement, using it to give direction for programming. Eliminate existing programs that do not support the vision.”

Freeman, who has served in children’s ministry for 16 years, added that in the end, the ultimate goal for the minister is to spread the message of Christ’s love.

“Whether studying the Bible or playing a game, you want to impart to kids that God loves them,” Freeman said. “Teaching the kids the Word of God is the most important thing.”


Play Dough
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon cooking oil
½ cup salt
1 cup water
Food coloring (optional)

- Mix the flour, salt and cream of tartar together.
- Mix the cooking oil and food coloring in the water and add to the dry ingredients.
- Stir and pour mixture in an electric skillet or nonstick pan on medium heat. Stir constantly until dough pulls away from sides of skillet or pan. (This process usually takes about 3 minutes.)
- Empty dough onto wax paper.
- Knead until smooth and cool. Store in zip-lock bag.

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