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3 Questions to Ask Before Planning A Family Ministry Event

3 Questions to Ask Before Planning A Family Ministry Event

As I’ve spent time with other children’s and youth ministry leaders over the years, I’ve noticed that the idea of “family” ministry has seen a resurgence amongst churches of various denominational backgrounds and sizes.  However, many peers in ministry (and you might be one of them) have been given the role of “Family Ministry” without being told what exactly that title means.

For many churches, the assumption is that, once someone is given the responsibility of “Family Ministry” they’ll simply run a couple “Family” events during the year and meet some sort of unspoken quota by which families will then feel cared for and invite their friends to the church.  Though family ministry is more than simply just running a couple picnics during the year for your congregation, it’s important to ask yourself 3 questions before planning a Family Ministry Event at your church.

1. Would a Dad want to Show Up?

I begin with this question as someone who has written and spoken at great length about reaching out to modern families and understanding that not all families have a father present in the home.  Also: not every dad is the same – offering an electronic shooting range during the event or a BBQ competition isn’t the simple answer to getting dads to show up.  It will take some time for your team to think about dads in your context and what kind of an event would draw their attention.  With that said, your most effective Family Ministry events will be ones where dads are excited about bringing their families.

When marketing a Family Ministry event, keep in mind that you’re often not marketing to the children in the family – they’re not the ones who will be driving the family there anyways.  Instead, parents are your primary audience and churches tend to struggle at creating events that husbands and fathers want to attend.  If you’re planning an event that you want the entire family to show up at and you cannot name why a dad would want to attend, you should start your planning over.

2. Why would a Family Bring a Friend to this Event?

Our churches should never be just for those who are already in attendance and our Family Ministry events should keep that idea in mind as well. Aside from thinking through how you’re going to equip families to invite their friends to your events, you should also be asking yourself why a family would want to invite their friends to attend with them.  If your events are announced in front of the congregation during your weekend services, consider naming this during that time – “This is a great event to bring your friends to because…”

If you’re unable to name why a family would want to invite a friend to your event, the answer might be closer than you think.  For some churches, large events provide a chance for visitors to spend some time at the church outside of a worship service as a first step into church life – attending a Back-to-School carnival is less intimidating for some neighbors than attending services on a weekend.  For others, Family Ministry events feature inspirational bands or speakers who can craft a message that offer families an encouraging word in the midst of busy and hectic lives.  Whatever your answer is – make sure that you can name why a family would want to invite a friend to your next event.  If they don’t know why they’d invite a friend, chances are that they won’t.

3. What’s the Next Step for a Family who Attends?

It’s easy for those of us in church work to feel as though we’re becoming cruise directors at times – we run so many events that it’s easy to forget that we’re actually in the business of seeing lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus.  So, before you plan your next event, consider what the next steps are for a family who attends.  Are you creating a clear path from that event into your next weekend worship gathering?  Do you have clear invitations available for parenting classes or small groups that you want to direct parents toward?

Every event that you host at your church should lead a family toward a next step in their journey of faith – even if that next step is simply to go home and have a discussion at bedtime that night about where they’ve seen God at work in their lives during the week.  However – families won’t know that’s your objective unless you’re intentional about what your goal is for each event that you host and what you want a family to do next after attending.

Though Family Ministry is SO MUCH MORE than running events, there is an expectation in many of our churches that we’ll run events for families during the year.  Because of that, it’s up to you to make sure that you’re answering the three questions you need to be asking in order for those events to be successful.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Thoughts

 

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Lockdowns, Medical Teams & The Mom Squad

I care about safety.

And… anyone who knows me knows that that’s an understatement.  I live a life that’s built on rules, strategies, formulas and procedures.  So, for better or for worse, I bring my crazy-love for safety to the kidmin world that I work and live in.

While visiting a nearby VBS recently, I was once again reminded that not everyone in kidmin shares my same passion for keeping kids safe (it’s not that they want kids to be “unsafe” – I’m just pretty sure that they are living in a world where nothing bad ever happens, so they don’t plan for worst-case scenarios).

I had tried to contact the church for weeks to set up a time to observe one of their programs, but never received a reply.  So, I decided I’d swing by and try to meet someone during the program who could walk me around and give me a behind the scenes look at things (annually, we offer campus tours during VBS for parents and church leaders who want to hear what goes into putting together our camp… I was hoping for something similar from them).

During my hour-long visit, without any identification or uniform, I was able to walk freely across a church campus while programs were running. I was next to children during their opening worship time, I spoke with children and gave high-fives, I walked to and through small group rooms where pictures and names of children in those rooms were plastered on the windows, I took pictures and even walked past check in teams that were supposed to stop random guys like me who are walking onto the church campus. I know, that’s a long sentence and I’m pretty sure the grammar is pretty weak – but, you get the point.  I did all of that – and I was never once stopped.  Nobody said a word to me.

Now, I don’t bring that up to say that our church and our programs are perfect.  I bring it up because many people in kidmin don’t think through safety procedures unless you make them… and, many don’t know where to start.  So, today, I want to share with you 3 things that you can do to begin taking safety seriously during large programs that you run.  You can plug these into your next camp, VBS, whatever – with little effort and HUGE reward (in my world, keeping kids safe is a big deal – in fact, I’d say it’s priceless).

The Lowdown on the Lockdown

During our large events, we have Lockdown procedures for a variety of incidents that might happen while kids are at church.  Because we go out of our way to train our team on the methods and reasons behind lockdowns, we’ve been able to successfully lock down our church campus on multiple occasions over the course of the last few years.

We teach our lockdown procedures through story and examples and spend about half an hour of our VBS training talking through our expectations of our leaders and staff during an emergency.  We cover examples of what to do in the event that a camper is separated from their group (Level 1), what to do if an unescorted adult comes on campus (level 2) or if wildlife or another dangerous threat is within the immediate surroundings (level 3).

You can download the PDF of our emergency procedures (Lockdowns are on page 2) by clicking HERE.

Putting a lockdown procedure into place isn’t something that takes a lot of effort or money, but it saves you time and energy when everyone is on the same page during an emergency.

We need a Medic!

One of the major upgrades we made to our VBS program last year was the addition of a volunteer medical team and a medic station.  I actually stole the idea from another church who had done something similar – and… now you can steal it from me!

As a church, we have a pretty good sense of who our medical, fire and law enforcement personnel are in our congregation.  We have an idea of where they sit in church and what service they attend.  We know which officers are required to carry firearms while off duty and which ones have kids in our program.  So, building a medical team to be present during our large programs became as easy as phone calls.  In fact, that’s all it took!  We had nurses, doctors and firemen spend their days off with us in the church office tending to injuries that a bandaid and a hug couldn’t quite fix.

Parents LOVED the fact that we had trained professionals looking after kids with bumps and bruises and I loved the fact that I didn’t have to be the only qualified first responder on campus.  A week before VBS, we asked for a shopping list from one of the nurses so that we could have any supplies our team would need during the week.  We made one more trip on Monday to get some last minute items – and, from there, the process worked without a lot of intervention from me.  Kids were safe and their parents knew it – there aren’t many bigger “wins” in my book.

The Mom Squad. It’s like an Easy Button.
But Better.

Do you have moms who just kind of “hang around” during an event?  Give them a role!  A few of my favorite moms have figured out that, by the time they drop off their kids and get settled in back at their house, they’ll need to start getting ready to come pick them up again.  So – they became our Mom Squad.

Our Mom Squad patrols our campus during an event and serves as extra hands, feet and voices for the staff running the event.  Random guy walking on campus?  The Mom Squad knows to intercept him and walk him to the front office to check in.  Child wandering away from his group?  The Mom Squad can call in a lockdown until we reunite him with his team.  Parents trying to force their way in to see our closing ceremonies?  The Mom Squad has that covered and might even recruit a couple volunteers in the process.

I joke around that having a Mom Squad is like having an Easy Button.  Our programs flow better when I don’t have to be everything and everywhere at once.  Having a group of moms who are patrolling our campus to watch for and care about the safety of our kids frees me up to give guided tours to other kidmin leaders in the area while we have 1400 minors on campus.  They require very little training, cost nothing and make our program 100 x’s better.

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Some might say that 1200 words about safety is a little much.  I could write a short novel – there’s so much more to say.  However, I’ll end with this – all 3 of these ideas were things I’ve picked up along the way because I visited other churches, met with other church leaders and constantly take the brilliant ideas of others and make the best ones fit our setting.  If you have questions or ideas you’d like to share, please use the comments section below.  Without your voice in the conversation, we are all at a disadvantage.

I think safety matters – what do you think?

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

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Recharging the Family

http://www.addletters.com/pictures/disneyland-sign-generator/disneyland-sign-generator.php?sign=We%20care%20about%20families%20more%20than%20your%20church%20does!&icon=

(This sign was created at http://www.addletters.com/disneyland-sign-generator.htm)

I had the joy of speaking at our church’s Homebuilders* group this weekend… and it got me thinking.  I shared a story of our adorable 3 year old son and how he loves going to church because he and his sister play in different rooms (baby Kate just turned 1 a few months ago… so she’s still down in our church’s nursery).  You see, Carter loves building towers with blocks and Kate LOVES knocking them down… but, at church, Carter can build towers and play with toys without “the Destroyer” coming by and wrecking his masterpiece.

After sharing that story, I wrestled with what we’ve done with church.  Church, in many ways, has become a place where a family goes to spend time away from each other.  Parents head off to classes or worship services, youth attend their own programming, while children spend time in a completely separate part of the church.  It comes to mind that a family who is struggling to find balance in their lives might decide to skip church altogether to spend family time at the beach or Disneyland (which, for us, is a 30 minute drive down the freeway) rather than “waste” a morning apart at church.

But, here’s where I think the church has an edge on those other family outings – a trip to Disneyland or the beach ends when everyone piles back into the car at the end of the day.  The time a family spends at church has the potential to change the way that family spends the next week together.

So the question to us and our ministry teams is this – is the time that a family spends with us on a Sunday (or a Wednesday night… or during large events that we run)  impacting the way they live out their lives together that week?  If we can point to tangible ways that the time they spend at church is shaping the way their family time looks in their living room that week, then we’re on the right track.  If we treat out ministries and programs as an end to themselves, then we have to compete with Disneyland – and we will always lose that battle.

*Homebuilders is a weekly gathering of parents at our church.  We discuss parenting, marriage and family life topics.  Homebuilders, for Glenkirk, is a community that’s smaller than a church service, but bigger than a small group – allowing parents a next-step into community with other believers who seek to raise up Christ-following kids.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2010 in Orange

 

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The Bus Test

https://i0.wp.com/your-billboards.values.com/809/small/imgSchoolBus.jpg

We have a slightly morbid checks and balances litmus test that we ask in our family ministry team meetings.  It’s called the Bus Test.

Initially, the Bus Test started out as a joke between friends.  It’s now a question that we ask before every event, large or small, to make sure that no one person is placing the full responsibility of an event on their shoulders.  But, to understand the Bus Test, you have to understand our team dynamic.

As a family staff, we all have primary and secondary responsibilities.

We have a fairly traditional org chart.  Our family ministry director (myself) has multiple part-time assistant directors who’s primary responsibilities are defined by the age group that they minister best to.  Our team has an assistant director for Early Childhood (Delfa Matic), Elementary (Staci Travisano), Jr. High (Scott Boss) and a ministry intern coordinating High School (Johnny Lambert).

Our secondary responsibilities help define our rolls in the day to day planning and execution of events and programs.  Our EC director is amazing when it comes to volunteer recruitment and support – so, she’s my go-to when it comes to all things volunteer related.  Our Elem director throws an amazing party – so she coordinates and executes our large events and parties.  Our Jr. High guy is an amazing idea guy – when I need to dream, he’s the guy I go to if I want to think out of the box.  In fact, I love our secondary rolls so much that I’d almost rather have “Director of Volunteers”, “Director of Special Events” and “Idea Specialist” on their job titles than what they currently have.

Because we have multiple tiers of responsibilities, our staff cross-pollinates when it comes to events and programs.  We share the burden of event planning because we all have a say in the lead up and execution of our events and programs.  Nobody has their own program or event – our church’s name is on the line every time a team member steps into ministry… so, we all make sure to care deeply about areas outside of our job title.

So… back to the Bus Test.

The Bus Test is simple: A month before an event or program launches, and each week during the lead up, we ask each other this question, “If I got hit by a bus tomorrow, would you know what to do?”  The answer isn’t “call 911″… well, it IS that… but it’s also a way for us to consider the fact that an event or program will fail if only one person holds all of the information leading up to that event in their head.  Asking this question FORCES us to share information and delegate.  It also has forced us to watch out for buses when we’re out and about… but the paranoia is a reasonable side effect from constantly reminding each other of our mortality.

We might not get hit by actual buses while we’re out and about, but life does hit us at some pretty crazy times.  Recently, the Bus Test has proven priceless for our team.  Last week, as we were gearing up for our church’s annual Halloween Festival, one of our team members was summoned for jury duty (we were able to pull strings and get her dates changed… but it was a close one!).  This week, one of our team members (currently working on graduate work at Fuller Seminary) is in the midst of midterms… as if the seminary didn’t even care that one of our largest Student Ministry’s outreach events, Glenkirk’s Great Gorilla Hunt, is this Saturday.
I suffer from frequent migraines (they rarely call ahead and ask if I’m busy before they decide to come around) and our teams, paid and volunteer, have learned to share the load in case I’m not able to see an event through from beginning to end.  But, because the Bus Test is part of the culture of our team, we’re able to cover for each other and carry on in the midst of momentary crisis.

I’d encourage you, even if you don’t want to use something as frightening as the Bus Test in your ministry area, to consider asking the team around you if they know enough to execute the programs and ministries you’re a part of in your absence.  It’s a good habit to get into… even if it’s a hard one to start.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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my favorite things: #31 Good News Clubs

One of my favorite things that we do as a ministry is a little thing we like to call Good News Clubs.

My assistant, Staci Travisano (@Stacitrav) and I put together a little video that we’ve been sending out to potential volunteers for this booming ministry.  Could we have done a better quality video for this?  Absolutely!  But, after multiple takes, and taking into account that we both hate being on camera, we felt like the people watching this already like us – so, it was more about giving them a head’s up for what Good News Clubs are like in our community.

Currently, we provide support for 4 clubs in Glendora (3 directly and 1 in partnership with another amazing church down the road from us) and I’m starting conversations today to launch a 5th club at the only public school left in our city that doesn’t have a GNC on campus.

Want to know more about running gospel-centered programs on public school campuses in your neck of the woods?  Drop me a line in the comment section and I’d love to follow up with you!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2010 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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Orange Week: Don’t Just Paint Stuff Orange

In reading through the last couple days worth of Orange Week posts, I’ve decided something: Calling something Orange doesn’t make it Orange.  In fact, trying to make something look Orange that isn’t actually Orange doesn’t help anyone.

In fact, it’s kind of like this:

2009-07-28

2009-11-30

I found this on my buddy’s blog ( Tim Scheidler posted this at tscheidler.posterous.com/yo-joe-0)… and I had to find an excuse to share it.  Orange Week should have a little “funny” involved, right?

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Kidmin, Orange

 

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Orange Week: What Red Looks Like

(my favorite 3D view master reel growing up was a Transformers slide show.  thanks for asking!)

We’re still at the front end of Orange Week and plowing ahead with some practical looks at the Red side of Orange.
If you want a quick read of what it means to “see Red” check out this awesome post from Gina McClain: I See Red People.

Previously, I quickly referred to our church’s 1:1 Family Events that we’re trying this year as one of our Red Initiatives.  I received a number of DM’s through Twitter (a great way to get a hold of me, btw) and enough messages via email and Facebook that I thought I’d post a more in-depth look at our most recent 1:1 event.

Mother/Son BMX Stunt Show

I was sitting down with my friend and ministry assistant, Staci Travisano (@stacitrav), at the beginning of the year, dreaming about what events parents in our community would want to enjoy with their kids, when Staci informed me that the one event we had to do was a Mother/Son BMX Stunt Show.  One of the things I dig most about Staci is her knack for having a pulse on what is relevant to families in our community – so… the Stunt Show was inked in as our follow-up Family Event to this year’s VBS.  No questions asked (well… a couple questions.  But, that’s mostly because I have trust issues…).

In preparation for the event, here was the information we sent out to families who signed up in advance (we posted this on our church’s website and facebook page for extra publicity): EVENT INFO

The wins for our 1:1 events are simple.  We want to provide a space for parents to spend quality time with their kids.  We want to provide a space for families (churched AND unchurched) with shared interests and stories to connect with each other.  We want to provide tools that will facilitate a conversation that will happen at home.  We don’t want to lose a lot of money (okay… that one’s my bonus win.  but, it’s budget season and that’s where my head is.  just being honest).

Because she planned most of the event and LOVED the heck out of it (I’ll admit, it was one of the cooler things we’ve recently done as a ministry team), I asked Staci to recap the event for you.

Here are her words:

A little over a month ago, we hosted an event at our church that I was so humbled and proud to be a part of in so many ways.  For our Mother/Son event night our team produced a BMX stunt show with a Corn Dog catering truck – families even brought blankets and chairs for seating!  We planned to host the event on the first Friday that our schools would be back in session so that (a) family schedules would not yet be full and (b) daylight and weather would be optimal.

The result – rocktacular success!

The kids (most of whom measure entertainment on a Disney level since we live 30 minutes from the Disneyland Resort and our city hosts the X Games) in attendance were absolutely entertained and inspired by the legitimate world class performance of the BMX stunt team, while the parents marveled at the sheer joy of their children.

The idea was simple and reaped a harvest of rewards in the following ways.
(1) The event created a sense of community as moms compared notes about all things “back to school” and rasing boys. (2) this gave moms and sons a platform for creating memories (3) The stunt team performed their show on the patio,the same spot that leads to our worship center, which creates a sense of “this church is fun and let’s us be who we are!” (4) we were able to publicize fall programs and introduce staff from an exciting and non “church” manner to the unchurched families in attendance.

I look forward to our next event – Father/Daughter bowling on 10.10.10!  Check back for that recap on (or shortly after) October 11th!

Seriously, if you can’t tell, Staci LOVED this event.  And, the cool thing is, so did the other moms in attendance.  Personally, I loved lingering in the background during the event (I didn’t pick up the microphone once!) – watching moms connect with other moms, little guys (my own son included) in awe of the stunts being done in front of them, and seeing families reconnect after what was already a busy and stressful first week of school.  The event wasn’t crazy expensive for families ($10 for adults, $5 for kids) and we provided assistance and scholarships to families who are struggling financially.

All in all, it was a great event for Glenkirk and a great event for families in our community.  There are even a couple families who used this event as a gateway into life at our church.

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Still have questions about our 1:1 events?  Want a PDF copy of the Table Talk we sent home with families?
Contact me – I’m more than willing to share!

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Posted by on September 29, 2010 in Kidmin, Orange

 

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