Faith Development Resources: Early Elementary

FIVE TO SEVEN YEARS

51g94ru3P-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Lucado, Max, Randy Frazee, and Karen Davis Hill. Illustrated by Josee Masse. God’s messages for little ones: the story of God’s enormous love. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz, 2012.

Well-known pastor and author Max Lucado leads a qualified team to present this devotional for children. With 31 devotions, the book can be consumed in a month with reading one a day. Parents can read it to their children but most six and seven year olds should have little trouble reading it on their own. Each devotional comes with an illustration of a Bible story and three textual components. The first component is a brief paraphrase of a scripture verse with a reference to the Bible story. The second component is a short three-line poem that summarizes some practical theological points from the story. The third component is a section called “God says to me.” This final part is a blessing/prayer/promise over the child spoken from the perspective of God towards the reader (http://www.familychristian.com/gods-messages-for-little-ones-31-devotions.html).

617vYV9yWrL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Lloyd-Jones, Sally and Jago. Thoughts to make your heart sing. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz, 2014.

From the author and illustrator of The Jesus Storybook Bible comes a book of 101 devotions with Scripture references that can be used by children and adults (http://www.zondervan.com/thoughts-to-make-your-heart-sing-deluxe-edition).

Wilhelm, Hans. Waldo, tell me about God. Norwalk, CT: C.R. Gibson Company, no date.

This short book is about a conversation between a boy and his talking dog named Waldo. The book begins with Waldo mentioning the handiwork of God and then the boy saying, “Who is God?” What follows is a series of answers from Waldo about the character and nature of God. The illustrations are appealing and the theology is Biblically sound. The main thrust of the story is about God’s enduring and ever-present love. A PDF version of the book is available online here: (http://www.childrensbooksforever.com/Childrenpics/WALDO%20TELL%20ME%20ABOUT%20GOD.pdf).

 IMG_7079Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

This is an excellent program developed originally by Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi with influence from Maria Montessori. It essentially takes the Montessori method of teaching children and transfers it to religious education. The “atrium” is the setting, which is kind of “halfway house” between the classroom and the sanctuary. Children both learn and worship in a way that is attentive both to God’s spirit as well as the needs, interests, and learning styles of the children. Lessons allow children to explore the stories of the Bible and the traditions of the church through interactive group experiences facilitated by a teacher (http://www.cgsusa.org/).

Berenstain, Jan and Mike. The Berenstain Bears: Show God’s Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz. 2010.

This single volume is a compilation of five Berenstain Bears stories. Each story teaches a Biblical concept. For example, the first of the five stories, Love Thy Neighbors, is a modern re-telling of The Good Samaritan story set in bear country. In this story, the bear family is surrounded by many neighbors in their town, most of whom appear to be all-around good people. Then there are the Bogg brothers. They live in a run-down shack, drive a beat-up car, raise dirty pigs, and spit in people’s properties when they drive by. But then the bear family’s car runs down on the way to the town festival. Both the mayor and the wealthy squire (who appear to be good people) whisk by the bear family on the road. Then come the Bogg brothers, who end up helping the bear family on their way and covering the costs for their car to get fixed at Uncle Zeke’s rusty repair shop. Each story opens with the corresponding Scripture reference so parents can discuss the Biblical basis for each story with their children (http://www.amazon.com/Berenstain-Bears-Show-Living-Lights/dp/0310720109).

Berryman, Jerome. The complete guide to Godly play. Vols 1-8. Denver, CO: Living the Good News/Morehouse Education Resources, 2002-2012.

Similar to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd mentioned above, Godly Play is a model/method of helping children experience God and the stories of God in a Montessori-like setting. Berryman has developed a series of lessons using simple wooden figures and other tactile materials that allow children to interact with and explore the stories of the Bible. The overall mood is reverent and reflective as the teacher leads the children in an attitude of wonder towards the stories of God. Below are some online links that explain more and show examples of Godly Play in action:

  1. The main website – http://www.godlyplayfoundation.org/
  2. A good summary of Godly Play – http://www.buildfaith.org/2013/07/01/godly-play-for-all-ages-all-abilities/
  3. Godly Play in Germany – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=360&v=py6vzIs_NcM
  4. My personal reflections on Godly Play from my blog – http://jessejoyner.com/godlyplay-a-model-for-ministry-with-children/

51gvnp4XnTL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_Hoth, Iva. The Picture Bible. Andre Le Blanc illustrator. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook. 1998.

This is a comic-book styled Bible. The stories are illustrated with bubble texts coming from the mouths of the characters. With over two hundred stories from the Bible along with maps and “Did You Know?” excerpts, this book helps children (especially those familiar with comic book literature) engage with the stories of the Bible.

Vischer, Phil. Buck Denver asks…What’s in the Bible? Church edition. Jellyfish Labs, 2014.

This is a 52-week curriculum for use in children’s ministry settings. Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, has headed up this project that teaches kids deep spiritual truths through puppetry, songs, and storytelling. I personally like the emphasis on Biblical theology taught by Vischer. The Veggie Tales franchise was very successful, but it seemed a little shallow on Biblical “meat” (which may have been the intent in order to reach a wider audience). This curriculum is unashamedly Bible-focused and Vischer speaks directly to the audience through the camera in a pastoral teaching role. Here is the link to the curriculum resource: (http://whatsinthebible.com/). I also wrote my own blog post reviewing it: (http://jessejoyner.com/whats-bible-curriculum-review/).

IMG_2272Memory Verse of the Week.

MVOTW – This acronym stands for “Memory Verse of the Week.” I speak at summer camps every year and several years ago I gave the memory verse of the week at one of the camps this nickname and the kids loved saying it (pronounced “muh-vah-twah”). We also added a dramatic motion to go with it (slowly raising one’s arms above the head to form the letter “M” over the head while emphatically saying “MVOTW!”). The boys then do a muscle-man pose while the girls jump like cheerleaders and kick one leg back. I, of course, give them the option to do either motion at the end so as not to reinforce any potentially negative gender stereotypes (such as ‘girls can’t be strong’ or ‘boys can’t be cheerleaders’). But nobody has ever had a problem with it because it is all done in jest. The MVOTW consists of the memory verse itself put to motions (some sign language mixed with made-up silly motions) and then the dramatic MVOTW pose at the end. For several years now, the MVOTW has been a huge hit with kids, especially preteens. My own five-year old daughter found this method to be helpful in memorizing Scripture. Here is a YouTube video of eight hundred kids and leaders reciting 1 John 4:4 using the MVOTW model: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PIV-v86qe0).

IMG_7057Tabernacle Diagram Canvas – Alpha Artistic Evangelism.

This unique wall canvas at my daughter’s Christian Montessori school depicts the Israelite Tabernacle when they were wandering through the desert between Egypt and the Promised Land. It shows the tent city, the tabernacle, and close-ups of the Ark of the Covenant and what it all may have looked like during this period before the construction of the permanent temple in Jerusalem. It’s large size allows teachers and parents to show children a visual of the worship practices of God’s people in the Old Testament. I cannot find a solid reference for the work, so let it be an inspiration to create large images as aids for children to better understand the cultural and historical settings of the Bible. Below is a picture with a child to give proportion:

Family Fun Puzzle: Hosanna in the Highest! Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

This 100-piece jigsaw puzzle depicts Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey at what is called his “triumphal entry.” This is a great family activity for Palm Sunday weekend. The parents and children can assemble the puzzle as they talk about the meaning of Palm Sunday and how Jesus is the humble King who has come to save.

*This list comes directly from a paper I wrote for a class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL in March 2016. The class was ES 7524 (Education and Ministry Experiences for Children) taught by Dr. Magdalene Larson.

Faith Development Resources: Preschool

This is the second list in a series of posts I am doing that list resources for ministry in both the church and home in regards to nurturing faith in children. Here we turn to the preschool age group.

TWO TO FOUR YEARS

591448Arch Books. Various authors. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

There are over a hundred of these small books that creatively tell and illustrate Bible stories through rhyme and art (http://www.cph.org/p-7003-arch-book-set-set-of-125.aspx).

Brown, Margaret Wise. Pictures by Clement Hurd. The Runaway Bunny. New York: Harper Collins, 1972.

While not explicitly Christian or faith-based, this classic children’s story by the same author of Goodnight Moon communicates a beautiful story of a mother’s pursuing love. The little bunny tries repeatedly to run away from his mother, but the mother always finds a way to track him down. Once the little bunny realizes that he cannot escape the love of his parent, he surmises, “Shucks….I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” The connection to God’s love being like a shepherd going after the lost sheep is evident. A parent can read this to their child and very little explanation is needed. At most, the book can be followed up with a simple phrase like, “Just like I will always find you” or “Just like God will always find you.” Or it can be left to speak for itself and the child will naturally see the mother bunny’s resemblance to God in due time (http://www.amazon.com/Runaway-Bunny-Margaret-Wise-Brown/dp/0064430189).

Stewart, Sonja M. and Jerome W. Berryman. Young children and worship. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988.

This guide for parents and teachers helps these leaders facilitate worship for young children. Stewart and Berryman present their tested models which combine worship experiences with faith education (http://www.amazon.com/Young-Children-Worship-Sonja-Stewart/dp/0664250408).

IMG_7128Gibbons, Erin ed. Whirl Story Bible. Minneapolis: Sparkhouse, 2014.

The Whirl Story Bible, like other story Bibles, provides shortened versions of major Bible stories meant for reading out loud to children. It follows the Revised Common Lectionary, which is used by many Christian denominations. The characters in the illustrations are depicted in a wide variety of olive/dark skin tones, which is probably more accurate to the people of that time and place. Many children’s Bibles depict the historical figures as Europeans in Middle Eastern clothes, which can be confusing and alienating to many cultures/races around the world (May, Posterski, Stonehouse, Cannell, Children Matter, p. 185). Each story lists the corresponding lectionary lesson at the top of the page and includes simple follow-up questions the parents/leaders can ask the children (http://www.wearesparkhouse.org/kids/whirl/classroom/).

The Gospel Project for Preschool. Lifeway.

This is the new LifeWay 3-year curriculum focusing on the idea that the story of Scripture is one unified whole pointing towards (OT) and back upon (NT) the person and work of Jesus Christ. The tagline is “Every Story Casts His Shadow.” There are dozens of contributors including author Ed Stetzer and pastor Matt Chandler. Colorful and creative graphics such as a timeline wheel of salvation history  accompany this curriculum, which also has modules for all other age groups in the church (http://www.gospelproject.com/kids/preschool/).

Jones, Stan and Brenna Jones. The Story of Me: God’s Design for Sex, Book 1. Colorado Springs: NavPress. 2007.

Part of a four book set, this book helps parents talk with their kids about the body and sex from a Biblical perspective. Each book in the set progresses a bit deeper into the discussion. Appropriate illustrations are used.  (http://www.amazon.com/Full-Set-Design-Revised-Paperback/dp/B00O5DIVTU)

079-179-2TLloyd-Jones, Sally. Illustrated by Jago. The Jesus Storybook Bible. Grand Rapids: ZonderKidz, 2007.

The tagline of this extremely successful children’s Bible is “every story whispers His name.” Excellent artwork accompanies creatively written Bible stories that the parent can read to the child. Lloyd-Jones is keen to point out the foreshadowing of Jesus Christ throughout the Old Testament. There is also a compact disc (CD) set available with David Suchet reading the stories aloud in his baritone British voice (http://www.sallylloyd-jones.com/books/jesus-storybook-bible/).

Prayers for little hands. Illustrated by Tammie Lyon, Judith Pfeiffer, and Tish Tenud. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International. 2001.

This board book is a collection of simple prayers in the language of modern 2-4 year-olds. Each prayer is accompanied by an illustration depicting something within the prayer. It opens with a prayer by Cecil Frances Alexander: “All things bright and beautiful/ All creatures great and small/ All things wise and wonderful/ The Lord God made them all.” Most of the other twenty-seven prayers are anonymously attributed and follow the same simple format of child-like poetry. This book is perfect to use for teaching little children how to pray. It shows children that prayer is not complicated and is often best communicated when it reflects the natural language of the things of normal everyday life (like family, nature, food, and school) (http://www.amazon.com/Prayers-Little-Hands-First-Treasury/dp/0785351078).

Psalty the Singing Songbook. Character and company created by Ernie and Debbie Retino.

Psalty is a clown-like character played by Ernie Retino. He is a large anthropomorphized blue hymnal who teaches kids about God, Biblical character, and worship. There are books, videos, live shows, and musical albums featuring Psalty along with his friends and family. Psalty’s worship songs are catchy and lend themselves to simple accompanying motions. The children in Psalty’s programs experience the ups and downs of life and learn how to navigate life by trusting God and experiencing a meaningful relationship with Him (http://www.psalty.com/).

Worship Baskets.

Some churches have materials available for children to read, color, or manipulate during an intergenerational worship service. It is helpful if these materials are placed in individual  baskets or on clipboards so parents can grab one for their family. The baskets can include children’s Bible story books, crayons with Bible story pictures, or beads and bracelets that tell a story. Here are some  pictures from the worship baskets at Providence Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia:

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*This list comes directly from a paper I wrote for a class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL in March 2016. The class was ES 7524 (Education and Ministry Experiences for Children) taught by Dr. Magdalene Larson.

Four Ways to Help Kids Get Excited About the Bible

(Picture above thanks to JaredFanning.com). Also found at http://visual.ly/top-10-most-read-books-world

Here’s the file of the image:

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In my previous post, I shared about a large group game idea called “Super Bible Trivia.” I wanted to follow that up with a few practical tips that help us share the wonder of God’s Word with children. Here are a few ways that we as leaders can help bring to light the joy of reading and studying God’s Word.

  1. One place to start is to explain that the Bible is indeed God’s message to us (“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16, NIV).
  2. Use Bibles that are in an easy to read translation. There are many publishers who now make Bible versions for all age and reading levels. There are also Bibles out there with stunning visuals and graphics (even comic book Bibles and magazine Bibles). 
  3. Show kids that the Bible is not a boring book of old fashioned stories. Show them the thrilling narratives of the Bible, including the lesser known stories. Some kids think they have heard it all. They think that once they know Noah’s Ark and David defeating Goliath then they know it all. Ask them if they know about the sword that got swallowed up into the gut of a king on the toilet (Judges 3). Or see if they know the story of the woman who nailed a man’s head to the ground with a tent stake (the very next chapter: Judges 4). Kids love these stories if you tell them.
  4. Of course, all these stories lead up to or look back to the apex of The Story, which is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Show the kids how the Old Testament points ahead towards the cross (see Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, for just two of many examples of clear Christological prophecies).

What are some ways that you instill a joy and fascination for God’s Word in the hearts of children? What have you learned about God’s Word from children?

Talking to Kids About Martin Luther King, Jr.

The great thing about a holiday is not just the fact that many people get the day off, but it also carves a memorial into the annual calendar that commemorates something or someone that we as a society deem important. When children see that they have a day off of school and that people are celebrating something, many of them naturally ask, “why?”

That is why holidays are brilliant. They ensure that certain topics and values will be passed down through the generations. Even if the adults forget to cover a certain topic in raising children, the holiday topics will almost always come up (year after year) and the children will learn about them.

For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we are reminded of the great values of love, respect, diversity, overcoming the impossible, justice, faith, courage, community, and all sorts of other positive teachable topics. What comes with his story is also the harsh truth of sin and darkness in the world – topics such as hate, racism, injustice, murder, terrorism, and the like.

Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, DC.
Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC.

We told our daughter (who is five now) that there was no school on Monday because it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. That sparked her curiosity about the subject. She had already learned a little about him in school recently, but she wanted to know more when we were talking about it in the car.

Here are some of the things she asked (progressively as I was answering each question:

“What did he do?”

“Is he still alive?”

“How did he die?”

“Why did someone kill him?”

“Where was he when he died?”

As you can see, she was very curious about his life and the circumstances of his death. I chose not to sugarcoat anything and answer her in a very honest matter-of-fact way. She may be five, but I have learned that even young children are ready to hear about the harsh realities of this sinful world in which we live. Of course I’m not graphic in describing how he died, but I tried to be straightforward about it – and she was able to understand and handle it well.

Before I show you how I answered, I wanted to jot down a few ideas on what I feel are helpful things to keep in mind when speaking to young children about tough, dark subjects. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m just sharing what appeared to work with our daughter…..

  1. Be honest – the worst thing we can do to our children is lie to them and make them think there is nothing bad or evil in the world. They will wake up to that reality someday and it is best if they hear it first from their parents.
  2. Be straightforward – I don’t see any value in beating around the bush or creating a fog of confusion in her mind by using ambiguous generalizations such as “we need to be nice to other people.” It’s better to be specific and use MLK Day (and every other day) to combat racism in its face and talk with children as early as possible about treating everyone with love and respect no matter their skin color.
  3. Be God-focused – we believe in God. So did Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, he was known for saying that the arc of the universe curves towards justice. And that curve is because of the hand of God. Full justice and love may not be evident at this moment, but God’s finger is pointing in that direction. We shall follow, and he shall lead.

Here is the gist of the answers I gave:

“What did he do?” A lot of people are mean to other people just because of the color of their skin. He challenged those ideas and gave a speech about a dream he had. He had a dream that little girls of different skin colors would hold hands and play together in the playground. And guess what? That dream came true (I said that not to say that all is well, but to point to the example that she knows, which is the fact that she does play with and hold hands with children of different skin colors). Now there are no more laws that black people need to use different water fountains or bathrooms than white people. (We will continue to explain to her that not all things are completely better between people of different skin colors and there is still a lot of work to do to make sure there is equality and community amongst our diversity in this nation).

“Is he still alive?” No. 

“How did he die?” Somebody shot him with a gun and killed him.

“Why did someone kill him?” The man hated him and did not like what Martin Luther King, Jr. taught and wanted to keep doing things that were very bad for black people.

“Where was he when he died?” I think he was on a balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

I added, “We believe that God made all people – and that he made all different colors of skin. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor who believed in God and that God was going to bring justice to this earth over the course of history.”

Let us press on in every fight against injustice and trust in the grace of God as we follow Him on the journey towards justice.

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Bring Me Game Ideas

What do you do when you have a room full of children causing havoc (or could potentially do so) and need to engage them in a way that is both fun and simple to execute? Well, education is a good idea. But perhaps you’ve taught and they’ve learned all day and it’s time to kick back and play a good old-fashioned group game.

Play the “Bring Me” Game!

The Bring Me Game concept is simple and the variations are endless. You, the game leader, should stand up front with a microphone (or not if your group is small enough) and ask for random objects/items. I’ve got a list to get you going below.

The first person or group or team to produce the requested item and bring it to you gets a point for their team. WARNING: Kids tend to RUN a lot in this game. So make sure you remind them to not trample one another or trip over anything in their effort to bring the items up to you. You can decide how long to play (such as “first team to ten points wins”).

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One major thing to keep in mind when playing the game and coming up with ideas is the fact that nearly everyone has a device these days (even youth). If you’re at an event where most everyone has a device on them or at least some representatives of each team (such as adults in mostly-kid events) have devices, then make the most of technology in your requests. The internet is an endless supply of “scavenger-hunt” challenges. Just ask for a picture of BB-8 from Star Wars or a map of the country of Malaysia or any other fun idea they can search for.

The types of things you call up will vary depending on the size and the average age of your group. For example, not many kids will have a credit card on them if you ask for one. So be creative with ideas that fit what you think is out there in everyone’s pockets, purses, and accessories.

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Here is a list of ideas to get you going. You can come up with your own ideas by thinking of other things similar to or related to items on this list.

  • two different shoelaces tied together
  • five different socks bundled up in a ball
  • a selfie on a device
  • a photograph of exactly ten people on a device
  • something edible
  • chocolate
  • something that has a picture of a rainbow on it
  • a double-A battery and a triple-A battery
  • something that is completely blue
  • two people wearing glasses doing jumping jacks next to one another
  • two unrelated people with red hair
  • a human hair
  • a non-human living thing (this will usually be a bug or insect found on the floor)
  • lipstick
  • chapstick
  • nail clippers
  • six people forming a human pyramid
  • a red pen or marker
  • something with a disney symbol or character on it
  • two unrelated people with braces
  • a nail file
  • a one dollar bill, a five dollar bill, and a ten dollar bill (exactly)
  • a penny, a nickel, a dime, and a quarter (exactly)
  • a liquid
  • something that feels cold
  • something that feels warm
  • something that lights up (that is not a phone or tablet device)
  • ten people in a line that goes from tallest person to shortest person
  • a pencil
  • a tissue
  • a crumpled up piece of paper
  • something silver
  • something gold
  • a person wearing two different kinds of shoes
  • a rock
  • a visible piece of dust/dustball
  • something sharp (and if it is a dangerous/forbidden object, you can confiscate it 🙂
  • something conical
  • something circular
  • something in the shape of a cube
  • a ball of some sort
  • something chewable
  • five breath mints
  • three different kinds of breath mints
  • a picture on a device of the White House in Washington D.C.
  • a picture on a device of a mother and a son
  • someone who can say the alphabet backwards (for real, not someone saying, “alphabet backwards”)
  • pocket fuzz/lint
  • a device playing the United States’ National Anthem
  • a device playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
  • a paper towel
  • a circle of exactly twelve people holding hands

I posted about this back in 2012 with more ideas you can use as well!

Please share your lists and ideas in the comments below and we can have a trove of items for people to say “Bring me……!”

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Teaching Kids About Street Performing

I performed for a small group of three to five year-olds at my daughter’s school today. They were studying about Europe, so I figured I would teach them about Europe’s rich tradition of busking (another term for street performing). I showed them a picture of a busker at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland as an example of Europe’s street performing scene.

But I wanted to take the lesson a bit further. I concocted a social experiment that I have never before tried (or heard of anyone doing). I counted out fifteen pennies per child and set the money on each child’s carpet square before they entered the room. When they came in, I told them to count their money (an opportunity to practice math) and that the money is now theirs.

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Each child started with fifteen pennies. It was my job to perform and try to earn some of those pennies in my hat. They could keep and take home what they didn’t spend.

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I then instructed them that I was going to perform for them and lay a hat out in front of me. I explained the tradition of paying street performers if you like their tricks and think they’re funny. I emphasized that they can certainly keep their money if they choose. If they didn’t like my show or thought I wasn’t funny, then there is no need to give me any money. In fact, even if they like my show, they still don’t have to give me money. But I as the street performer will respectfully ask that they put something in the hat if they like the show. It’s all voluntary.

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Some of the equipment I used to try to earn some pennies today.

So I turned on the music, picked up my juggling things, and went to work. I was actually performing for seven little children and two adult teachers just hoping that I would earn some pennies for my hard work. I was surprised at how seriously I took it.

After a few tricks, low and behold, they started coming. The children and the teachers began to trickle up towards my hat and drop pennies in at various times when I would do tricks. It certainly warmed my heart to know that they liked what I was doing.

Some kids held most or all of their money back. And that was totally fine. Enough children were voluntarily showing me their appreciation through pennies that it didn’t bother me. In fact, as a street performer, I should still do my work with excellence whether people throw money or not. As street performers, we are always putting ourselves out there and making ourselves vulnerable to the fate of the audience’s appreciation or lack thereof. It is a risk we are willing to take. And if it means no pay, then that’s life and we will go out and try harder the next day.

Thankfully, these kids were generous with their penny throwing and at the end of the day, I counted up exactly one hundred pennies. It was a buck hard earned.

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Here is some of my pay. More pennies came in after I took this shot.

The header image at the top of this post features Kezzie learning to put money in the busker’s basket when she was only one. This gentleman was happily playing his accordion for us in Malaga, Spain while we were on a family vacation.

Teaching Kids About Money

Thanks to Dave Ramsey and other financial teachers, we were inspired to use clear labeled jars to show our daughter how much money she has and how to categorize it. I know that she will grow up in an even more digital world than we did, which means money will become more and more “invisible” as she grows up in the twenty first century. When money is simply an unseen number out there in the cloud of the internet, it is very easy to lose track of how much is there and where it is all going.

So that’s where clear jars come in! It is tangible, real, and visible. She has acquired money through gifts from others as well as through some age-appropriate work. We will let her use the money as she sees fit – and then she will tangibly watch how fast it goes (as well as how it adds up when you save it). She is very much the crafty kid, so we let her take ownership of the process, from the cutting and taping of the labels to the counting out and categorizing of her own money.

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Sarah and I agreed not to dictate to her how much she should put in each jar. We want her to have autonomy and responsibility over those decisions. Of course we will constantly have conversations with her about how we categorize our money and offer suggestions on percentages. In fact, when I let her fill her own jars, she just liked plopping coins wherever she wanted, and her “giving” jar was looking nearly equal to the other three categories. I don’t want to tell her to give 10% when she wants to give 25%! God wants a generous and cheerful giver – and it looks like our daughter is off to a good start. Maybe we should learn something from her!

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As for the categories – we have her doing the obvious saving, giving, and spending. I decided to add “business” because we are encouraging her to explore entrepreneurial ventures as a way to earn money if she so desires. I have a hunch her desire will suddenly manifest itself when she sees the “spend” jar empty! She could purchase art supplies to make crafts to sell on Etsy, for example. When I was a young child, my mother made me buy the lemonade powder for my lemonade stand. If I was making my own profit, I needed to purchase my own expenses. I’m so glad she made me do that.
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What are some tips and tricks you use to teach your kids about money?

5 Fun and Easy Summer Camp Games

Millions of kids across the country are participating in some sort of summer camp experience this summer. Camp is such a meaningful time for kids because of the memories they make, the friends they meet, and the fun they have. Since I travel to many camps each summer, I get to see a lot of great camp ideas and a sampling of what works and what doesn’t work. I have also developed some of my own games and activities and have learned which ones work through trial and error.

And while many camps have plenty of planned activities throughout the day (pool time, zipline, lake time, climing wall, organized field games, etc.), it is important for leaders and volunteers to have an arsenal of back-up games in the event of rain-outs or other unforseen schedule changes (which happen more often than we think). For example, I was at a large camp in Texas a few weeks ago with about a thousand kids in attendance. Tropical Storm Bill came right through the camp on Wednesday and the kids were couped up in the cabins for much of the day. I traveled from cabin to cabin (not all of them) and led the kids in some fun activities that helped pass the time and make the day fun for them. There are also times where the kids may be waiting in line or in a room for the next activity and you as a leader want to do something fun with them until the next scheduled event. Here are some ideas for those “rain-outs” or in-between times….

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1. Heads or Tails 

I have called this “The Easiest Large Group Game Ever” and still stick to that title. All you need is a coin. And then the fun begins. You flip the coin and tell the kids to pick heads or tails before you flip it. If they’re right, they stay and play the next round. If they’re wrong, they’re out. Keep flipping until you’re down to one winner. You know who picked what by telling them all to stand up and put two hands on their head for heads and two hands on their behind for tails. If they are ever wrong, they have to sit down. Last person standing wins. A fun variation is to give each player two lives. The first time they are wrong, they have to stand on one foot. The second time they are wrong, they “lose” the other foot and therefore are forced to sit down. I don’t know why or how, but kids LOVE this game.

2. Flag Tag

This can be played indoors or outdoors. You need bandanas or flag-football flags (one per player). You wear the flags (tuck the bandanas partially into the belt area) and play tag. Create a boundary of some sort (a large circle or square) in which the players must play during the game (or else they are out). Instead of touch-tagging, the players have to pull out flags. When your flag is pulled, you must sit down in place. When you’re down, you can still pull flags from players who are still running around; you just have to stay seated and in place when you do so. I found a youtube clip that has some footage of this game, starting at 1:41 in the video and going until 1:55. There are a lot of variations on this game – such as….

  • every man for himself
  • red team vs blue team (or whatever colors you have)
  • adults vs kids
  • boys vs girl

3. Freeze Dance 

All you need is a fun song on your music player and speakers loud enough for all the kids to hear the music. Play the music, the kids have to dance. When you stop the music, the kids have to freeze. Repeat those two steps (dance, then freeze, then dance, then freeze….). I like to have a little fun with it and give the kids instructions to follow for the freeze times or the dance times. Here are some ideas….

  • play dead (for the freeze)
  • touch a friend (for the freeze)
  • touch an adult (for the freeze)
  • make a large conga line (for the dance)
  • do the shopping cart/lawnmower/sprinkler/[whatever your favorite dance] (for the dance)
  • stand on one foot (for the freeze)
  • pretend that you are your favorite animal (for the dance or the freeze)

4. Nine Square 

Many people have heard of Four Square, but Nine Square (aka Nine Square in the Air) is relatively new on the camp scene. You need a pipe apparatus that creates a three by three grid above the head height of the players. Each square is protected by a player and play starts in the middle with the “king” or “queen” and basic volleyball rules apply (one hit per person per square at a time). Instead of telling you all the rules, allow me to direct you to the 9SquareInTheAir website to read all about it. In my opinion, it is a close second to Gaga Ball in ranking the kid-favorite (and leader-favorite) games of camp these days.

5. Speaking of GaGa Ball

If you haven’t heard of this game, then either you have not been to a summer camp in over a decade or the one you go to is seriously missing out on the world’s best camp game. The set-up is the most elaborate of this list (you need to build an octagonal-walled ring) but the payoff is the greatest you will find these days in terms of how much the kids love this game. It is a form of dogeball played in a walled pit and the ball must be hit (not thrown) towards other players using an open palm and only below-the-waist hits count (which makes it much safer than traditional dogeball). Trust me….invest in a GaGa pit and watch the kids play the day away. I found some helpful links that explain the rules of the game as well as provide building materials for the pits….

 

I hope this list helps you with some camp game ideas this summer. Have fun and let me know if you have some great summer camp game ideas for others to read about!

How to Build a Portable Puppet Theater

Several years ago I built a portable puppet theater out of PVC and black fabric. We have used it since then for puppet shows at our church. Our church has different locations, so this is perfect for moving the theater back and forth to different spots where we have children’s worship services and summer activities. In a few months, a friend of mine will be borrowing it for a class she is teaching on puppetry at her elementary school.

It has been such a convenient and affordable way to get a big payoff in terms of doing puppets for and with kids that I thought it would be worth sharing with you how it was built. I hope this comes in handy to someone out there who wants to build their own.

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Materials: The materials cost me around $150. And it helped that I have a mother who sews, so she volunteered the labor of making the black fabric pieces that hang on the PVC piping. Here is a list of what you will need:

  • Four king-sized flat bed sheets (black color)
  • Four 10-foot lengths of 2″ PVC piping (if you can only get 8-foot lengths, you’ll need to get seven pieces)
  • Four T-couplings of 2″ PVC
  • Four 90-degree elbow couplings of 2″ PVC
  • Four flat caps of 2″ PVC
  • Seven different colors of electrical tape (only about a foot of length needed for each color)
  • A saw fit for cutting PVC
  • Someone with basic sewing skills and a sewing machine (if you don’t have this, then you’ll need to find a way to attach the fabric to the stage on your own, which is very possible with some creativity)

Steps:

Step 1: Cut three of the 10-foot PVC lengths in half, leaving you with six 5-foot lengths.

Step 2: Cut the remaining 10-foot PVC length into the following: two 30-inch lengths, two 24-inch lengths, and two 2.5-inch lengths, and you should have some scrap remaining.

Step 3: Assemble the pieces into the design as seen in the pictures below. It is fairly simple, so study these pictures a bit and you’ll see how all the parts fit together. The caps are the feet of the four posts. The 5-foot lengths are the four posts and the two that go across from side to side. The 30-inch pieces are the front-back connectors. The 24-inch pieces are the height extensions on the back posts. The 2.5-inch pieces serve as a way to connect the T-couplings to the 90 elbow couplings on the front part of the stage. All of this makes the stage just over seven feet tall in the back and just under six feet tall in the front. It is about three feet deep.

Step 4: Take the four king sized black flat bed sheets and sew 2 sheets together and then the remaining 2 sheets together, so you are left with two pieces that are roughly 12-foot by 6-foot each. Then fold and sew a 5.5-inch” “tunnel” across the 12-foot length of the sheets. This tunnel will be large enough to slip over the 2-inch PVC.

Step 5: Color code all of your connections using the colored electrical tape. This helps for re-assembly when people unfamiliar with the stage are helping to set it up.

Step 6: Slip the sheets on using the tunnels as seen the pictures. Stand up the stage if you haven’t already. Get out your puppets and have fun!

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This is the stage laying on its back. The longer lengths on the sides will be a front extension, as you’ll see in the next pictures.
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Those two pieces sticking up are the 30-inch lengths. They go into the T-couplings.
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Use three of the 5-foot lengths to finish this off. Two are the front posts (hanging in the air) and one is the “across” piece at the top of this picture. The stage is still laying on its back at this point. You are now ready to stand it upright.

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This is that short 2.5-inch piece that connects your T-coupling to the 90 elbow coupling on the front side of the stage.
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Sew together 2 king-sized flat black bed sheets into a 12-foot by 6-foot large piece. Do this twice.
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This is the “tunnel” that you need to sew. Just fold over about 5.5-inches of fabric across the 12-foot length of the black sheets. Sew that part down.

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Want more ideas on crafts and supplies you can use in performance settings? Sign up here for my free monthly newsletter. It is full of ideas about children’s ministry and performing, along with updates about my road travels.

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Get a free quote on my juggling show here. I travel full-time nationwide.

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Protecting Children in Church from Sexual Abuse

Every so often, we’re reminded of the importance of security and the screening of children’s ministry volunteers.

Just yesterday, this story came out about a 57 year-old man from Largo, Florida who got busted for possessing child pornography and having chats online with kids about sex and cannibalism: http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/25/justice/florida-puppeteer-porn/index.html

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Here’s another detail to his story that is also frightening: he volunteered at his local church in the children’s department. He was a puppeteer by trade and performed on a Christian puppet show for television (according to his Facebook page). He would invite kids to his house for pizza and then take them to church in the church van.

Many churches think “this will never happen to us!”

Sooner or later, without the proper defenses, it will. Predators often look for opportunities in churches because unfortunately, many churches do not have good defenses built up because they think it won’t happen to them.

Here are some ways we can reduce the risk and help protect our children from sexual abuse in the church:

1. Screen ALL volunteers. I don’t care if it’s the pastor’s wife or the woman who has served for 60 years. Run background checks, call personal references, and personally interview each person to see if they are fit and safe for work with kids.

2. Maintain a multiple person rule. NEVER allow an adult volunteer and a child to be alone together. This extends to their personal lives. Train volunteers that it is unacceptable to be alone with children in their own homes or driving around town. This is basic common sense that is often the policy of schools and children’s programs (such as the YMCA).

3. Train volunteers to report (not investigate) suspicions of any signs of abuse in a child’s life. Each church should have a policy in place about reporting abuse to the proper authorities.

Here are some more articles and resources provided by the Assemblies of God denomination about protecting our children: http://ag.org/top/legal_matters