Up close with a praying mantis

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This is the first, and so far only, time I have caught a praying mantis in the wild on camera. It’s also only the third time in my life that I have seen one outside of a zoo or county fair exhibit. I’ve never discovered one on my own.

This last time my daughters spotted it as I picked them up from school. A handful of students shrieked with joy as I laid down in front of the mantis to take shots.

I commanded the children to leave it alone to go on his merry way, and they did. Shot with Hipstamatic on iPhone 4.

Are the kids listening?

Are the kids listening in your children’s ministry? You are communicating, but are they listening? I found this note a child left behind. She apparently was taking notes during our church service time. I had to ask myself, “Shouldn’t finding notes like this be the norm?”

There’s always going to be a number of children who are not coming into your church doors by choice. There will be plenty who do. We are competing for their attention. Here are 3 keys to guide your programming choices and tweaks to your children’s ministry.

  • Make it fun. Our goal is not to entertain children. The message is sacred, but be strategic in how you deliver that message. Games, skits, challenges, big group, small group, more games, more skits… whatever it takes to bring the message at a different angle.
  • Center your message around Jesus. Sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes are curriculum choices we make end up being more about being better citizens than helping children grow their faith in Christ.
  • Care about kids. The children know when you care about them. When children feel valued they tend to want to be a part of what you are doing. Train your leaders to connect with children.

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but just some simple keys to use a mini-checklist for your ministry to children to be awesome and a time and place where children want to be.

Coloring Page of the Week

Photo on 5-31-13 at 10.29 AM
We do video announcements in our kids church time, so that our volunteer leaders don’t have to remember every event or have to read off of notes. This weekend, I am bringing back coloring pages of the week. The children have the option of going to the coloring page table during free time before and after the church program. It is very interesting how the children get into “Coloring Page of the Week” knowing that they have a chance to be highlighted. Maybe I should make a mobile app, where kids can show off their artwork. I typically just take a picture of the coloring page and flash it on the screen during announcements time. This time I threw in some selfies. Thanks Olivia for sharing your coloring page.

Children On Social Media

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Social Media and kids

Would you let your child freely interact with strangers? That question is the basis for my thoughts and opinions on children using social media. It is hard to have a simplistic grasp of the explosion of social media. We can share our lives via photo, video, sentences, and a song in an instant. We are interacting in ways that we couldn’t imagine years ago. Even my 75-year old low-tech dad is FaceBooking now. Times have changed. Social media has opened avenues of communication that allows the participant to access dozens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people. Where do our children fit in the social media picture that is increasingly becoming an integral part of our daily lives.
That brings me back to the first question. Would you let your children freely interact with strangers? The answer for my children is no. In public situations, when strangers approach my children, I make sure I redirect the interaction between me and the stranger. When I’m shopping, I don’t let my children leave my side to interact with people I don’t know. Why would I allow my children to do that on the internet?
Things to think about…
    • Predators are rampant on the internet. They are all over the internet in every social media platform: FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
    • Personal profiles can be easily be created to misrepresent the user. A predator wouldn’t typically identify himself as one on his profile. People aren’t who they say they are. As I type, I’m looking at a spam account on my Instagram. It’s a stock photo of a model. Who knows who the real person is behind the account? I don’t. Neither does your child.
    • Peer pressure to post things for shock value. We are a “like” hungry society. The more likes and reposts on a post, then the better. People pay money to buy Twitter followers. “Likes,” “Favorites,” “Repins,” and “Reposts,” are the fuel that make social media go. That pressure is on our children to fit in their digital world as well as their physical world. One easy way to get attention to internet activity is to promote sex and vulgarity. The pressure is on our children to promote the same things.
So when can my kid join in?
I’m going back to my theme. The permissions I allow my children to be in the physical world is similar to the interaction I would allow my children to have on the internet. If I allow my son to work at the local movie theater, where the bulk of his interaction is with people he doesn’t know, then yes, I would allow that in his digital world as well. With boundaries? Oh yes, and I will set them. Freedom without responsibilities and accountability is not freedom. The process is all about trust, and trust is earned, not given.
What is your involvement?
Parenting is active. Anytime, you don’t interact with your children or you don’t actively supervise your children’s activities, it is very likely that your children will go beyond the boundaries. Street signs remind me about the rules while I drive to keep me and others around me safe. Those road signs aren’t consistent on the internet. The parent must be guiding their children, and that includes setting limits on time, content, and interaction. I can and will tell my child, who can and cannot be his internet friends.
Our children need boundaries the same way a river needs banks. When there are banks, the river is a source of life. When the banks are gone the river becomes a flood. I believe in saying no with purpose. I believe that setting boundaries for your children will help them create boundaries for their own lives.