Click on the image for more information or a link to the site for instructions.
Looking for some simple but creative craft activities? Check out the gallery of crafts below.
Click on the image for more information or a link to the site for instructions.
Christmas gifts feature prominently in everyone's thoughts with Christmas just around the corner: gifts for family, friends and neighbours, gifts for collegues, thank you gifts for teachers, encouragement gifts for volunteers, gifts of appreciation for church leaders.
It might also be a good time to think about other gifts, the spiritual gifts of those within your church family and your kidmin team.
Help your ministry and team unwrap their spiritual gifts with an online assessment from Group's assessment tool. It's a great way to plan to start the New Year.
'With the easy-to-use online assessment, your volunteers and entire church will discover their own spiritual gifts and better understand how God has uniquely wired them to serve. Plus, you’ll know their gifts, too, so you can equip them and plug them in where you need their gifts. The assessment is mobile friendly, too!' - Group
Everything you need to present a spiritual gifts workshop is also included in the one-off price plus unlimited online assessment with management and tracking tools. Images are provided to make it easy to add to your church or ministry website and link through to the assessment. Access the assessment online using computer or mobile devices or, if you prefer, download and print the assessment. Each person can also print off information overview about their spiritual gifts following the assessment.
Currently, this assessment tool is available for a special introductory price of $49.99. Take a few moments to check it out here.
Yesterday, at the tail end of a very busy day, I drove 45 minutes to the closest Christian book store to buy gifts for children's church, only to find it closed. Mmmm... it was very frustrating. I had also planned to purchase presentation labels but when I arrived home, minus gifts and labels, I decided I would create my own, more individual labels. You're more than welcome to use them yourself if you'd like to download them below.
End of year gifts
Do you give gifts or prizes at the end of the year for your kidmin? I know many churches have discontinued the practice but we still take this opportunity to provide them with a great resource while thanking them for coming along each week. After all, many of the kids turn up each week on their own, and without the encouragement of family.
Traditionally, books or Bibles have been presented but increasingly, and especially with the younger ones, we've provided quality dvds like the VeggieTales or AutoBGood series. At least we know that they will watch these stories and we've found that they frequently share them around with their mates. All the kids receive a similar gift but we do provide quality children's Bibles for those children that don't have one.
Add a special note
Including a presentation label with each gift provides the opportunity to personalise each gift and add a special note or encouragement for each child. You can include notes like: 'Thanks for always helping to clean up after kids' church,' or 'You are a great listener.' It's also a reminder that they received the gift from the church.
Just a practical note in closing...
I've found it is helpful not to glue the presentation label to the book, dvd or Bible. There will be times when a child will receive a gift that they already own. So slip the label inside the book cover or use removable glue-dots so that the gift can be changed if necessary.
Well... at least I have the presentation labels organised... and I'd better plan another shopping trip for gifts.
Advent calendars, whether online, app, handmade or bought versions, are very popular and a helpful, visual countdown to Christmas. They're especially appealing for families and children who love the anticipation of opening a new window, box or package each day.
But, in your preparations for your family and for your kidmin programs, don't forget yourself. This might be the perfect time to begin your own advent Bible reading plan. There are many to choose and online or app YouVersion Bible with their choice of reading plans is a great place to start. You can find them here.
Reading plan with music
Another option is this advent reading plan from She Reads Truth. Each daily reading includes a Scripture passage, short devotion, prayer, and advent action. It also includes a suggested song or Christmas carol to listen to while reading each devotion with a Spotify link to the music. However, some of these are not available in Australia and you may find it similar in your region. But you can always find a substitute on Spotify to listen to. So, whether it's through YouVersion or the Emmanuel reading plan from She Reads Truth site, it's certainly worth checking out and reminding yourself once agi .
Faith Village has put together a list of Advent readings and devotions that you also might like to check out.
Reading plan for kids and families
If you're looking for a Advent Bible reading plan for your kids and family, then check out this reading plan using the Jesus Storybook Bible. (see here) You'll find a downloadable reading plan with notes that you can cut up and slip inside your advent calendar pockets.
Traditionally, it's the time of year to prepare and present a special 'thank you' gift for your leaders and volunteers. But I know that you'll also be wanting to present something to these priceless kidmin leaders that will truly express your real appreciation and thankfulness for their ongoing commitment and dedication.
So, although it takes more time, a unique, handcrafted gift says more than a mass-produced item of the value you place on their involvement in your kidmin programs.
Fortunately, there are many wonderful and imaginative people willing to share their ideas and creative ability and I've been checking out some of their great ideas on Pinterest.
Have you had a chance to take a look yourself? Many of the ideas are not only attractive but easy to prepare. And some include printables- always a big plus! I've listed some images below of these gift ideas and you can find more information plus a link to the website by clicking on the image.
Decorating kidmin areas creates high-interest and excitement for children and families and generates a lot of questions from the kids if the decorations relate to the lessons or theme of your program. I'm often amazed by how much the children will notice and think through from the decorations and posters that we display.
But it takes a lot of time and can be expensive. You can create and print your own posters if you plan to change your decorations regularly and this is a more affordable option. Yes, it's not quite such a professional result but you'll be surprised how effective these posters can be.
It's helpful if you have access to Microsoft Publisher. When you open the program and select 'new', choose 'banner' or 'poster' setting. Many sizes and options are available so decide what size poster you want.
Christmas banner idea
Just as an added extra, check out this idea for a Christmas display that could be used with other lettering to spell out any message you require.
You'll find the instructions for this design here.
It seems a little incongruous to find Lego Star Wars, Angry Birds and even Princess Wedding advent calendars on the shop shelves loaded with Christmas gifts and decorations.
Every year, it seems increasingly difficult to find Advent calendars that focus on the real meaning of Christmas while helping kids count down the days until Christmas.
Advent calendar app
So, it's encouraging to note that Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey has produced an Advent app for families to help you focus on Jesus' birth and to provide your family with plenty of holiday crafts and activities to keep everyone busy.
You'll find a daily calendar with a picture to open for each day, daily Bible verses, Christmas crafts, downloadable, printable Odyssey town, discussion questions and a podcast of 22 Odyssey episodes that you can stream.
Download the new 'Thriving Family' app from the App Store to access the Adventures is Odyssey Advent Calendar. Once you download the app, you'll find it in in your iPad Newsstand. The library of Thriving Family will list a number of free editions of the Thriving Family magazine that you can download and read but also, the 2013 Advent sample. Click on the sample to read, but for full access to all the activities and content resources, you will need to purchase the full version.
Clicking on 'Purchase Full Version' will also take you back to the Thriving Family library. (See screen shot on the right.) Read morehere...
YouVersion Bible has already been downloaded 100 million times and now, it's coming for kids. YouVersion Bible app, in partnership with One Hope (God's Word. Every Child), is working to produce 'The Bible App for Kids'.
This storybook app will include colourful illustrations with touch animated animations to help your child fall in love with God's Word.
Due late 2013, this app will encourage kids to interact with stories and see them come alive through the animations. Kids-friendly navigation is included along with games and activities to encourage learning.
You can find more information here and you can also be notified when this app is released.
Check out the YouTube clip below for further information about this upcoming app.
You'll often hear the advice, 'Don't work with children or animals'. As a kidmin leader, I often find that we're doing both- working with children and animals. And yes, it can be interesting.
We've had visiting camels, deer, reptiles, and birds. We've visited dairy farms, goat farms and sheep farms. We've created our own beach with sand, shells and crabs and gone fishing in a super-sized water tank. Mmmm... yes, it's been fun.
But 'safety' is paramount when you're working with kids and especially when animals are a big part of these activities. So.. if you're considering a petting zoo for your Christmas celebration, then please make sure you consider the following recommendations. (Please add any other suggestions you may think of below.)
Children & animals
Children love animals and a petting zoo allows them to gain a greater understanding of the conditions surrounding Jesus' birth. Kids will often make comments like, 'Yuck! It smells!' Yep.. it does. But when Jesus was born in a stable, it wasn't like a hospital, and those were the kinds of smells you'd find there.
Use a registered, insured petting zoo company
Although it's tempting to cut your costs and bring in some animals from a neighbouring farm, please use a registered, insured petting zoo company. Yes, I know they can be expensive but it's worth it. The animals are used to being handled and are comfortable with kids. They have a well-organised setup with a large, portable enclosure with double gates to allow kids to come in but prevent animals escaping. They usually use a waterproof sheeting to avoid any damage and their staff will quickly clean up messes as they occur. That's particularly important if you're having the petting zoo inside. Let's face it.. animals can make a big mess.
Although the company you're using will have their own rules and guidelines for visitors, it's helpful to provide a printed copy of your safety recommendations to families beforehand. The following are some ideas to consider. Please feel feel to include additional safety rules yourself.
*Require supervision: Under 5s must be accompanied by an adult.
It's also helpful to staff the petting zoo activity with additional volunteers to help with supervision. My experience has been that our own kidmin volunteers are more vigilant and quick to step in and help than any outside company's supervision.
*Prohibit food and drink. Don't let kids feed the animals unless the company allows it and provides approved food. Sometimes, feeding bottles are provided for some of the baby animals and kids will be allowed to feed them. Monitor it carefully. Animals can become frantic for their food and push kids aside, even if they're babies, so keep a careful eye on these activities.
Don't let kids enter the animal enclosure carrying food and remind them to keep their hands away from their mouths while they're with the animals.
*Provide handwashing/sanitising stations. Yes, these companies normally include sanitising solutions but it's best to be prepared and set up a special area nearby for this. Make a big deal of it to ensure all the kids wash their hands after handling the animals. Encourage this by giving them a sticker as they wash their hands- helps you see who has washed their hands,too.
*Do not allow the children to pick up any animals. I know this is very tempting for kids, but please enforce the rule. The animals are used to being handled but they can be upset when they're picked up. And.. we don't want animals hurt. Children take a long time to understand the safe and careful way to pick up and hold animals. Some children like to pick up animals to hear them squeal. Keep an eye on this and remind them repeatedly not to pick up animals.
Children and families love and appreciate these opportunities to interact with animals. And, they provide a wonderful source of family discussion. Provide and encourage some simple safety guidelines and this holiday activity will be a memorable event.