Blog Archives

Need Help Starting a Conversation With Kids?

For some of us, it has been a long time since we were a kid. And in the words of an epistle writer, most adults have put their childish ways behind them. So how do you converse with children (especially today’s children!)? What do you say? What questions do you ask?

This is a great resource for starting a conversation with a kid: 100 Questions to Start Conversations

HT Ministry-To-Children


Bocce Bag | Bean Bag Games (video)

There are so many variations one can do with a bin of bean bags. In this iteration we played a sort of “bocce” version where the students had to get the bean bag “on” to an object, or the “closest” to an object. For the objects, we just used things that were readily available. We had cones that we set out and divided the group into 3 teams and the team with the most bean bags the closest won. We moved the cones back and forth, closer and further away during each round. Then we had one of the students grab the cone and hold it toward their teammates, who in turn tried to throw the bean bag into the cone.

In the video above, we were doing a handful of challenging group throws, and we challenged the students to try to land the bean bag on the garbage can. One person was able to do it!

source Vimeo

Followers | The EDGE Waterpark Adventure (video)

The Followers students venture up to The EDGE Waterpark in Duluth, MN on Sunday, May 22, 2011. We spent the entire afternoon and evening @ the waterpark which included the bus ride there and back. Good times!


Speaking Life into Your Kids

This is another great blog post from about speaking life into your kids:

I believe that parents hold the greatest, most powerful and life altering tool in our possession…


Not sure if you read the Bible much, but here is what is says about the tongue…

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”  Proverbs 18:21


  • SAY YES:  I say “NO” to my kids because it is the easy, simple and if I am totally honest, “NO” just requires less of me. Speak life to your kids by saying “YES” this week.  Try it; say “YES” to every reasonable & most unreasonable requests.
  • ASK HOW YOU CAN SERVE THEM: Try this with your most challenging kiddo, it will transform the relationship.
  • PRAY: Every day this week pray over your kid’s right before they leave for school.
  • LISTEN: God could be trying to get your attention or send a message to you through your kids.  Stop what you are doing, sit down and really listen.
  • ADMIT YOUR MISTAKE: I blew it big time this weekend by taking my kids to a movie that they just should not have seen.  As soon as we walked in the house I gathered Team Sprad together and admitted my mistake.  Parents, you will blow it…its okay be real w/ your kiddos and let them know.
  • DISCIPLINE THEM IN LOVE: I get a ton of things wrong in parenting, but this is one I get right.  I take a considerable amount of time in the discipline process to love and protect their hearts.
  • WRITE THEM A LETTER: The picture above is a copy of the letter I wrote my daughter for Christmas.
  • BE SOFT: Lower your tone and use life giving words.
  • IRRATIONAL GRACE: Cole came home last month trying to explain why he made a bad grade in Science.  I simply wrapped my arms around him, looked him in the eye and said “if you brought home a 100 I wouldn’t love you anymore.”  When you kids expect discipline, try love and grace.
  • I BELIEVE IN YOU: Your kids have to hear this from you weekly.  I believe in you because you’re a person of your word.  I believe in you because…

5 Ways to Get Kids to Listen in Your Ministry

Wayne Stocks wrote a great article entitled: Five Ways to Get Kids to Shut Up! Humorous and intriguing title, right? Read below:

1. Keep them Engaged

When kids are engaged they are much less likely to talk and cause problems.  This isn’t always true, but it holds up as a general rule.  So, make sure you’re presenting the Gospel and the Bible faithfully, but also make sure you are doing it in a way that kids are engaged.  Get them involved, have some fun, convey the excitement and your issues with kids talking at the wrong time will decrease.

2. Have Clearly Defined Rules and Consequences

Come up with a short list of rules for your class.  Keep it simple, but make sure being quiet when they’re supposed to is one of the rules.  Also have a very concise and clear consequence pattern.  Go over both of those every week so the kids know what is expected and know what will happen with they don’t follow the rules.

3. Give them Time To Talk

Build time into your lesson when they have the chance to talk.  Ask questions, get them involved in presenting the lesson, have an upbeat worship time.  Give them an outlet to speak and they will be less likely to talk when you don’t want them to.

4. Build a Relationship

Kids will have a lot easier time interrupting you and being disrespectful when you don’t have a personal relationship with them.  Build a relationship and speak into their lives, and you will be amazed at the difference in their behavior.

5. Whisper

No really!  Try it sometime when your classroom is really really loud.  No matter how much they want to talk, kids also want to know what is going down.  As they get louder, you get softer in your voice.  When it works, it’s magic!  The kids will stop talking because when you’re whispering they want to hear.


Nerf Battles

This past school year, about 10 elementary boys and I (and Pastor Heath and Wes) have really enjoyed playing Nerf battles here in our church building. The tradition kind of started when the students had a half-day of school and someone suggested that we get a couple of people together and play Nerf guns with each other. We didn’t broadcast announce it, just word of mouth and we’ve had around 10 students show up for these.

I’ve got to tell you… these Nerf battles are incredibly fun! Now I’m a particular kind of adult when I play games with kids: I don’t care! I don’t care if I win or lose… all I care about is playing. That’s just the kind of person I am. I’m not super competitive. All I care about is if the kids are having fun or not. So I usually have the least amount of darts and the simplest gun, but we laugh and play hard and it is really fun!

I really like that we have kept it small, but it has turned into a sort of tradition. Every time there is a half-day of school, all these participants are hounding me if we are going to do a Nerf battle. It’s been an amazing conduit for play-filled relationships and great memories!

You should try it sometime!

Easter Eggstravaganza (video)

Every year, on the Saturday before Easter, the children’s ministry @ Hayward Wesleyan Church puts on an event called Easter Eggstravaganza. Prior to the event we stuff around 6500 eggs with candy.

The event starts @ 11:00a with some singing, which Mark Wilson did this year. After some silly and serious singing, we do a character from the life of Jesus (someone who witnessed and interacted with Jesus). This year I was a Roman Centurion. So we sing songs and do a story, all of which last for about 20 minutes. We make it fast.

Then comes the gigantic egg hunt! We split the crowd into two groups and do the egg hunt in two separate places: 1) babies through kindergarten, and 2) grades 1-5.

After the egg hunt, families typically come back inside the church building to open their eggs, grab some popcorn and juice, and share stories of the hunt!

It’s a great annual event for the children in Hayward, one that lets the kids have lots of fun with colored Easter eggs spread all over the church property and also clearly communicates what Easter is all about and who this Jesus guy really is.

All in all we had 500-600 people in attendance. I wasn’t able to grab many pics, but was able to snap some quick ones. Here is a video collage of the Easter Eggstravaganza:

Outsourcing Our Children’s Spiritual Development?

Yesterday in church, Matt Jones shared about his role as a parent in the lives of his children. Specifically, Matt was alluding to his job (along with his wife, Cara) as the chief source of spiritual development for his children. While he appreciates the role of the church (particularly its programs), he does not “outsource” his primary role to the church. In other words, he doesn’t leave how his kids are going to turn out spiritually up to the church Sunday School program and mid-week gathering time. Matt said these church programs are great collaborative efforts to subsidize (not replace) what he and Cara are doing as parents with their kids.

Kudos to Matt and Cara Jones for starting this conversation in our church community. I really appreciate it.

I came across a blog post the other day that went right along with what Matt talked about:

I have outsourced my child’s swimming development.

You see, I’m just not an expert on the subject. I haven’t studied swim theory and I am completely unfamiliar with what it takes to learn how to become a swimmer even to the most basic of levels… which I would assume is ‘not drowning’.

So – I am comfortable with giving away control of my child’s swimming ability to a professional. In fact it seems to be working; my firstborn no longer screams when he observes large bodies of water and is slowly heading towards the aforementioned ‘not drowning’ level of swimming ability.

As parents and rightly so, we want to open up our children’s worlds as wide as possible and allow them to experience life to the full. My children will study science at school but may not become scientists; maths, but may not become mathematicians. So I am comfortable allowing many of these skills to be developed by teachers far more capable than me (especially maths ☺).

At this point in his short life, it is highly unlikely that child No.1 will become a professional swimming athlete. His parents simply don’t have it in them to generate the kind of passion for swimming that he would need to succeed in that arena. But on the off-chance that he develops a passion for and wants to pursue a career in professional sports then I’m confident my attitude will completely change and I’ll become far more involved in the training and discipline that it will take to pursue that dream.

Far above any academic or physical achievement that my children can attain is my desire for them to have an Olympic-sized faith. I desire to have kids who can stand up to the culture of this present age and live in such a way that they demand the attention of the world. I want my children to have the kind of faith that moves mountains and stands strong against any trial or tribulation that they will face; to grow up in a way that identifies them as a living, breathing ambassador of Christ on earth.

As parents, we tend to take quite a structured view of the education of our children. Emphasis is placed on testing and exams because we are led to believe that these processes indicate or lead to success. Here in Australia this culminates with the HSC (Higher School Certificate) in the last year of High School; the mental and psychological equivalent of David facing Goliath for many kids.

So where is the structure for my son’s spiritual development? Where is the passion to see my boy become an expert in his field, a champion in his arena?

This will take more than a ‘one hour a week’ soccer practice. I need to commit fully to this process because although not every child will become an athletic champion, every child can become a spiritual champion.

We may never get up at 5:30am to take our children to swimming practice in the local pool, but what is the equivalent for your child’s spiritual journey? Let that question drive you to your knees in prayer to seek God and ask His help to engage the hearts and minds of your children as you train them in the way that they should go.

Every child is different and every child’s spiritual journey requires us to listen to the Holy Spirit closely as we strive to raise children who love God and love people.

At Hillsong church most of our families do not attend every week, in fact on average they attend once a month. Can you think of any other area in life where 25% was good enough for success? They are missing out on 75% of the training and teaching that we as a church work hard to give the children we have been entrusted with.

Don’t think for one minute I am being religious about this – I am not suggesting attendance to keep up appearances. The reality is that your child will be at Church a maximum of 70 hours this year (if you attend each week), but they will attend school for maybe 1,500 hours and STILL apparently need homework to complete their learning.

Attending church every week will not guarantee your child grows up to be a spiritual champion, but it’s a pretty good start. Deuteronomy 6 places the primary spiritual responsibility for your children on you as a parent. But we as the church occupy a unique position in the life of your family – one that cannot be replaced with clubs and teams. This is the house of God, a gathering of the saints together and an absolute essential in the lifestyle of a Christian family.

So be careful not to prioritise the preparation of your children for a future that may never eventuate. Instead, give your life to establish a legacy for your children and your children’s children.

You cannot outsource your child’s spiritual development.

David Wakerley

Big Night in a Small Town (video)

I don’t know how I missed this, but the Main Street students sang a couple of songs for the Worship service the Sunday before Christmas. I completely forgot to grab the video camera, but managed to catch one of songs on my horrible cell phone’s video camera. The children, however, were far from horrible. They sang magnificently! Song: Big Night in a Small Town (Click here for the video on YouTube)

Click here to access the video directly, or watch it embedded below:

Residual Impact of Small Group Ministry on Children

My friend, Jesse Smith, wrote a great blog post about the impact their weekly small group has on his kids.

I really resonated with it because our small group has been really impactful for our family as well. My kids really look forward to spending time with their friends at small group. Our small group’s kids are a little younger than Jesse’s because we still pay babysitters to watch them while we are talking. The sitters we have are amazing!

A couple of weeks ago, when the parents went downstairs to get their kids, we witnessed a storytelling time. The babysitters had been telling them the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus and they were live acting everything. The kids were all playing different roles and parts from an angel, to a donkey, to the characters of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. It was incredible!

Children’s Report on Christianity and Characteristics of Jesus

A couple of weeks ago I had sent a couple of our Main Street Teachers to a leadership class during our Sunday morning children’s ministry hour. As a result, I ended up “teaching” grades 3-6 in small group time that morning after our large group time. I get to rarely do these kinds of things so I asked them to do some assessment stuff for me.

I had them answer a couple of questions: 1) What do they think it means to be a “Christian”? and 2) What are the qualities of Jesus that God wants us to be like? (Basically, what are the characteristics of Jesus that made him, and continue to make him, unique?)

Here are the answers they provided:

Question #1 – What does the word “Christian” mean?

  • Follower of God
  • someone who praises the Lord
  • to be a follower of God
  • to believe in God
  • believing in God and the Bible
  • you follow God and believe in God
  • someone who believes in or follows God
  • you are loyal to the Lord or a follower
  • believe in God
  • follower of God and who believes that Jesus died on the cross
  • to love God
  • to be a part of God’s family
  • a person who believes that Jesus Christ died on a cross for them of his own free will because he loves them
  • believer in Jesus
  • Bible follower
  • believer in Jesus and stuff
  • a person who trusts God and listens to God and believes he died for us

Question #2 – Characteristics of Jesus

  • nice
  • powerful
  • graceful
  • best
  • awesome
  • loving
  • humble
  • caring
  • kind
  • helps others
  • doesn’t sin
  • died for us
  • happy
  • dangerous
  • un-mean
  • honest
  • non-hurtful
  • strong
  • brave
  • helpful
  • scary
  • friendly
  • not afraid of anything
  • sweet
  • cares for people
  • Savior
  • grateful
  • generous
  • cool
  • not afraid to do what he needs to do
  • Son of God
  • one of the 3 parts of God
  • forgiver
  • open to everyone
  • weird
  • smile
  • joyful
  • son
  • Lord
  • cries
  • all powerful
  • compassionate
  • miraculous
  • amazing
  • omnipotent
  • wise
  • does right
  • healing
  • holy
  • perfect
  • everlasting
  • never sins
  • magical (heals people)

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do (TED video)

In our increasingly safety-conscious and bubble-wrapped world, this presenter defies the mainstream. Think about it: as you watch the video above, don’t you find it offensive and wrong at times? I mean, giving a kid a knife to play with?! Fire?! A spear?! What kind of a parent would do such a thing?

Gever Tully takes the listener through some of these wildly unpopular ideas in this TED Video that you can decide for yourself: Is our world too safe? Or is our world not “dangerous” enough?

The 5 dangerous things are:

  1. Play with fire
  2. Own a pocket knife
  3. Throw a spear
  4. Deconstruct appliances
  5. Break the Digital Millennium Copyright Law / Drive a car

Update: There is a blog entitled Fifty Dangerous Things that Gever Tully and friends write at.


Rachel South interned @ Hayward Wesleyan for a couple of months last summer. She had the opportunity to experience the end of our Main Street Sunday morning ministry in May, and then she “created” and crafted a curriculum for the students over the summer months. She ended up self-publishing her curriculum:

This past fall semester I took a class entitled “Curriculum Theory and Development.” In that class I had the opportunity to self-publish my curriculum book. I designed, wrote, illustrated, and self-published a book called “TrueStory: Genesis”. The description reads:

TrueStory Genesis focuses primarily on the idea of storytelling. It takes the stories of the Bible and enables the students to tell, retell, and tell again the story of the week. It encourages using different ways to tell the story and to help every learner feel accepted. This curriculum goes directly through the Bible and empowers children to be able to understand the stories and retell them. It will help them as they grow older and start asking the “big” questions. This curriculum includes the whole family and brings the “faith home.”

Click to view or purchase “TrueStory Genesis” @

Read more about Rachel @ her blog:

VBS 2011 @ Hayward Wesleyan

We are planning VBS (Vacation Bible School) for July 11-15, 2011 @ Hayward Wesleyan Church from 6:oo-8:3op (for preschool children potty-trained up through grade 5). Web landing page for future info:

For as long as I can remember we have used Group Publishing‘s curriculum for VBS. And while it has served us well over the years, I am ready for something different. I noticed it last year as I was planning for it. It was easy. I didn’t take much work. I knew the format and layout and expectations and ins and outs. And while this is typically a good thing, for me it is not. It lost it’s “allure” for me. It was predictable and boring.

If you’re not used to me (and how I manage things as a children’s pastor), I’m usually always writing, crafting and arranging my own stuff. I don’t trust curriculum companys to think for me, nor minister to Hayward Wesleyan’s children. Now I know you have to make curriculum your own and Group’s curriculum is just a shell, but for me I needed a change.

Typically we would just ALWAYS choose whatever “theme” and “content” Group had to offer. And with this year’s Group theme of “Pandamania: Where God is Wild About You” it helped me make an already easy decision even easier (I hope any church who uses this curriculum the best and hope it communicates the Word of God to children).

So with freedom of choice on my plate what are we planning on using this year? Inside Out and Upside Down on Main Street from Standard Publishing. Three things I like about this curriculum:

  1. It has to do with living the “Jesus-kind-of-way”, which is inside out and upside down.
    This is a topic which I talk and emphasize constantly with the children (and youth) @ Hayward Wesleyan: if you want to live “like Jesus” basically do the opposite of your natural human reaction (or intention) is and that opposite is usually the “Jesus-kind-of-way”. I’m intrigued to see how this is done with this VBS curriculum and excited to see not only the content, but also the effects after VBS.
  2. The theme compliments what our “environment” already is: Main Street!
    Again, for those of you unfamiliar with the children’s ministry @ Hayward Wesleyan, it is called Main Street on Sunday mornings. Over the last several years we have slowly tried to decorate and “theme” the “Main Street Hallway” and rooms. My (secondary) hope with this curriculum is to help propel us to complete some of our decor and leave this “temporary” theme, permanent.
  3. It’s different.
    Like I’ve already said, for me it’s going to be different and I am excited about that. Not only because it presents a new challenge, but I will have to redo our material and re-communicate and re-structure better. I think the way the flow works with this curriculum better fits our time frame and our expectations. I’m also excited to see how the volunteers and directors do with this new curriculum. They are always up for new challenges!


Parenting and Some Spray Paint (or Water)

This picture is from, where people, you know, post secrets. I got the idea for this post from Parents | Celebrate Your Kids.

As a parent myself, I wondered how I would have responded to seeing this on my garage floor initially. Would I praise and celebrate? (probably not) Would I scold and yell? (yep, more likely!)

This picture, however, makes me stop and think about what we as parents get mad and frustrated at, instead of looking beyond “the messes” and into the creativity and celebrating our children. I know it is much easier for me to “get on” to my daughters when they spill water on the floor while attempting to fill their water cup at the dispenser on the refrigerator… instead of praising their independence and ability to try and fail, try and succeed at performing basic human tasks, like getting water for oneself.

Maybe it’s perspective. One way parents look at these situations is that they are inconvenient, messy, and a teachable moment of what not to do. We get mad, scold, and tell them not to do that again. Another way to look at these situations are training for life. What if our children are not learning to not spill water, but rather “when I mess up, it is normal to get yelled at”? Don’t we want our children to learn that it is okay to mess up? And isn’t it our job as parents to help our children learn life’s basic (and later, complicated) tasks in an environment that is okay with them making mistakes to learn these things?

Thinking about these things helps me to parent with much more grace. It also reminds me of my ultimate job as a parent: to train these “little, dependent people” to be “big, independent people” someday.

A further side benefit? As a parent, I’m not as stressed then about some water on the floor (or spray paint on the garage floor).