Archives For Children’s Ministry

Free Church Resources by Church on the Move

Kent Shaffer —  June 27, 2010

Like free church resources? Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK) is now offering free creative resources to download from their new site, Seeds.

The church resources include artwork, motion graphics, background music, promo videos, opener videos, mini-movies, drama scripts, slides, banners, worship guides, sermon series kits, and more. There’s something for kid’s ministry, student ministry, and plenty for regular worship services, too!

Best of all, the production quality is outstanding. Church on the Move has been winning ADDY Awards and producing mainstream quality content for years. Now you can have that same quality for free! Samples include:


Please Turn Off Your Phone – Slide

Free Church Resources

Communion Instructions – Slide

Free Church Resources

FREE VIDEOS (RSS readers must visit post to see videos)

Dad Life – Father’s Day Video

Why Worry – Drama Skit

Mommy Rhapsody – Mother’s Day Performance

FREE SERMON SERIES (RSS readers must visit post to see videos)

This or That – Student Ministries Sermon Series Artwork

Free Sermon Series

I Love My Bible – Kidmin Sermon Series Artwork

Free Sermon Series

To start downloading free church resources, visit

Related Reading:
Free Church Graphics and Resources Toolbox

Kids + Parents = Faith Involvement?

Kent Shaffer —  June 2, 2010

Recently the Barna Group and the reThink Group teamed up to explore how having a child influences a parent’s connection to a church or faith community. Here are some highlights:

How parents say having kids affects their connection to a faith community:

  • 50% did not change involvement
    >> Most common among Northeast and West USA, atheists/agnostics (90%), non-Christian religions (70%), and among college graduates
  • 20% increased already active involvement
    >> Most common among lower income homes and Hispanics
  • 17% began attending after a long period of not going
    >> Most common among Republicans and political conservatives
  • 5% became active in a faith community for the first time
    >> Most common among Midwest USA, Catholics, and Hispanics
  • 4% became less active
    >> Most common among single parents, never married parents, and Asians

For full analysis on the study, read the Barna Group’s full report.

What I love about this study is it is a great example of why we can’t assume all people are alike or even that all subcultures are alike. Not every parent is affected the same way by having kids. And what is probable for college-educated atheist parents in the Northeast isn’t necessarily probable for a lower-income Hispanic parent in the Midwest.

Statistics like these are incredibly useful in letting us compare our sociological observations with scientific trends. They are a sounding board. However, one of the most important things you can do is learn the unique probability of the community that you are called to reach. Rather than surveys and polls, the best way to do this is listen, ask questions, get out into your community’s different cultures, and listen some more.

If you can understand the microstatistics of your community’s niche, then you can better understand how you can turn the bad statistics into good statistics.

For Discussion:
- Describe the types of cultures that your ministry reaches.
- What do you do to better understand these cultures?

Top 100 Kids’ Online Search Words for 2009

Kent Shaffer —  December 30, 2009

Earlier this month, Symantec published a list of the top 100 kids’ online search words for 2009 (ages 18 & under). The data comes from a free search monitoring service for parents called OnlineFamily.Norton.

As expected with a sample group including teenagers, some of the online search words are anything but innocent. However, what is shocking is that “porn” is the 4th most popular search word among kids ages 7 and younger.

Amusingly, “Norton Safety Minder” is the 46th most searched for phrase among kids 18 and under. Search results include instructions on how to temporarily disable OnlineFamily.Norton.

by boys and girls (ages 18 & under)

#4 – Sex (#4 for boys & #5 for girls)
#5 – Porn (#5 for boys & #24 for girls)
#32 – Boobs (#17 for boys)
#82 – Pussy

segmented by age groups

Top 25 Kids' Online Search Words for 2009

You can learn a lot about someone by what they search for online. These top search results paint a pretty clear psychographic picture of the priorities, preferences, and habits of online youth.

Kids and teens are obviously learning and experimenting with adult content much sooner than many parents, kids’ ministries, and youth ministries realize. As Time magazine reported early this month, 40% of adolescents have intercourse before ever talking to their parents about safe sex, birth control, or sexually transmitted diseases. Parents often dread giving their kids the sex talk(s), but studies show that kids want to learn from their parents. Instead, many kids learn about sex through friends, the Internet, and experimentation.

Parents sometimes say things more vaguely because they are uncomfortable and they think they’ve addressed something, but the kids don’t hear the topic at all.
- Dr. Karen Soren :: New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

From a children’s ministry perspective, it is important to realize that statistically quite a few 7-year-olds in your class are searching for porn and exposing themselves to things much more serious than what traditional lessons cover. Obviously, children’s ministries cannot be straightforward about sex, but being too vague doesn’t work either.

Perhaps there are subtle ways to layer lessons with mature spiritual principles. Ideally, children’s ministry lessons should clearly yet subtly word things in a way that trains, helps, and ministers to the kids who are hurting and/or have picked up bad habits while simultaneously “going over the heads” and still teaching the kids who still have their innocence. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

For Discussion:
- What do you think about these online trends?
- How can churches help?

(via Mashable & CNET)

Are Kids TV Shows Harmful? (depends on the age and content)

Kent Shaffer —  December 3, 2009

The Walt Disney Company is giving refunds on Baby Einstein DVDs after acknowledging that they do not enhance infant brain development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time under age 2 and <2 hours of screen time for over age 2 (screen time:  TV, DVDs, computers, & electronic games).

For Infants: videos only teach infants to watch TV, which causes increased risks for obesity, attention problems, school difficulties, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.

For Preschoolers: well-designed educational screen media can improve language skills, reading, math, and school readiness. High school seniors who watched educational TV during their preschool years experienced higher grades, greater creativity, more reading, placing higher value on achievement, and less anxiety and aggression during high school.

The most important time in a child’s intellectual development is the first 3 years and in the womb. Babies begin to learn languages in the womb, and during 6-12 months, infants focus on learning the sounds of their native language and lose their ability to distinguish the phonetic sounds of other languages.

This loss of ability is because at birth, an infants brain has roughly 100 billion unconnected brain cells that immediately begin wiring the circuitry of the brain and learning. This wiring during infancy and early childhood actually overproduces neural connections (pruned later in life) for learning in a state of hyperawareness.  Think of a child’s brain like wet concrete that is far more impressionable in the early stages and less and less impressionable with time (as the brain wires and prunes itself).


  • Nothing Learned (a few exceptions for preschoolers)
    Studies show children cannot reliably learn anything from an electronic screen until about 30 months. TV viewing before the age of 2 does not improve a child’s language and visual motor skills. However, there are a few very rare TV exceptions that have a positive effect for children ages 2-3. (via / via)
  • Stunted Language Development
    Children need human social interaction to learn languages, which is why educational audio and screen resources have proved ineffective. Screen media replaces social interaction with humans or at least reduces verbal interaction, which causes babies to miss crucial developmental experiences. For 2-48 month olds, each additional hour of TV exposure is associated with a decrease of 7% (770 words) that the child hears from an adult. For every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs, 8-16 month olds understand an average of 6 to 8 fewer words than children who did not watch television.  (via / via / via)
  • Stunted Eye Development
    Staring a the small parameters of a screen may affect the development of a full range of eye movement. (via)
  • Decreased Focus & Increased ADHD
    Watching screen media may reduce the length of time kids can stay focused. Each hour of television viewed daily between ages 1-3 increased the likelihood of disorders like ADHD by nearly 10% at age 7. (via / via)
  • Increased Aggression
    98%+ of pediatricians say that media violence affects childhood aggression. 10 percent of real-life violence may be attributed to media violence. (via)
  • Increased Weight
    Children who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight. (via)
  • Increased Consumerism
    U.S. kids see 40,000 commercials a year. Research shows a single exposure to a television advertisement affected preschool children’s brand preferences. A taste-testing study showed 60% of kids (ages 3-5) thought an identical burger in a McDonalds wrapper tasted better than an identical burger in a plan wrapper. (via)

Researcher Aric Sigman goes as far as claiming that TV is bad for both kids and adults in 15 ways: obesity, healing, heart trouble, metabolism, eyesight, Alzheimer’s, attention span, hormones, cancer, early puberty, autism, sleep, hunger, brain growth, and diabetes.


Using screen media in children’s ministry should be done with educated caution. Researchers agree that well-designed educational media can be effective for kids ages 2+.

Screen media has teaching challenges which can be overcome, but not everyone can achieve such a feat.

Blue’s Clues is perhaps the best example of what rigorous research, creativity, talent, and testing can achieve. Blue’s Clues tested and tweaked all episodes at least 3 times before going on air, and that investment paid off. On a 60-item test where Blue’s Clues watchers could correctly identify 50 items, the control group could only identify 35 items. (via)

Effective teaching, particularly with screen media, isn’t easy. If you want an effective children’s ministry, you need to do your homework and invest, invest, invest.

Half of U.S. Kids Use Food Stamps Before Age 20

Kent Shaffer —  November 4, 2009

Mark R. Rank of the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis co-authored a study analyzing the financial circumstances of U.S. kids (ages 1-20) over a period of 30 years. Key findings include:

  • 49% of all U.S. kids will be in a household that uses food stamps at some point during their childhood.
    >> 90% of black kids
    >> 37% of white kids
    >> 91% of kids in single-parent homes
    >> 37% of kids in married homes
  • Nearly 25% of all U.S. kids will be in households that use food stamps for 5+ years during childhood.
  • 97% of U.S. kids by age 10 who are black and whose head of household is not married with less than 12 years of education reside in a food stamp household.

Even limited exposure to poverty can have detrimental effects upon a child’s overall quality of health and well-being.
- Mark R. Rank :: George Warren Brown School of Social Work

While these findings encompass decades of ups and downs, do not forget that current food stamp usage is at record levels (10%+ of the total U.S. population). Simultaneously, 80% of food banks can not meet demand (based on May ’09 research).

Churches can help fight this hunger.

(via USA Today)

Reggie Joiner on Influencing Family

Kent Shaffer —  October 7, 2009

Reggie Joiner

Reggie Joiner of The reThink Group discussed the importance of family at Catalyst’s second pre-lab. Here is what he said:

Most of us (attending Catalyst) have been influenced by the church. Yet although some of us have been influenced by the church, we have all been influenced by our family.

God uses 2 entities – church and family – to teach the gospel to a child. If you can influence a family, you can influence in an exponential way.

  1. We are influenced by family.
  2. Somewhere along the way we develop a picture of what we think family looks like.
    A church may use a stock photo of a family, but it likely is an unrealistic representation of a family.
  3. If we hold to tightly to an ideal picture of family, we set families up to be disillusioned.
    Things don’t work out the way we thought they would.
  4. God never gives s a picture of an ideal family in the Bible.
    God isn’t trying to give you an ideal picture. He is trying to tell a story through your family and my family. God is trying to unpack something that is much more bigger than family, bugger than church, and much, much bigger than a nation. Your calling as a leader should not e to get families to conform to a common picture. Your calling is not to build better families. Your calling is not to build a bigger church. Your calling is to lead people into a relationship with Christ. Our purpose is not to build better families but to use that family to influence the world.

Two ways to influence families:

  1. Present an ideal, “better” picture of how families should be.
  2. Encourage families to cooperate with the story God wants to tell in their lives regardless of their mistakes.

Parents don’t need a better picture; they need a bigger story. Never forget that the approach and mindset we have in ministry towards the family can disillusion them or give them hope. An ideal picture can make you feel like a failure. But reality is God has chosen to use us.

God is at work telling a story of redemption in your family. Never buy into the myth that your family has to be picture perfect. God doesn’t use perfect pictures. He uses broken people. Give us a generation of leaders who are authentic and broken.

Moses had a bigger story approach in Deuteronomy 6. When you have a bigger story approach, you:

  1. Imagine the end.
  2. Fight for the heart.
  3. Make it personal.
  4. Create a rhythm.
  5. Widen the circle.

Somewhere along the way, the church has to switch from a Sunday mindset to a daily mindset. A church has 40 hours a year to reach a kid, but the parents have 3,000 hours.

Further Reading:
View Upcoming Church Conferences

The Social Contrasts of Teen Boys and Girls

Kent Shaffer —  July 21, 2009

Boys are different than girls. As previously discussed, boys prefer a dramatically different learning environment and style than how girls prefer to learn.

The social preferences of boys and girls are also sharply contrasted according to new brain scan research from the National Institute of Mental Health. TIME summarizes the research nicely. Essentially, girls want one-on-one close friendships, and boys prefer to interact in groups.

As girls progress from early puberty to late adolescence, certain regions of their brains become more active when they face a potential social interaction. Specifically, when an older girl anticipates meeting someone new — someone she believes will be interested in her — her nucleus accumbens (which is associated with reward and motivation), hypothalamus (associated with hormone secretion), hippocampus (associated with social learning) and insula (associated with subjective feelings) all become more active. By contrast, boys in the same situation show no such increase in activity in these areas. In fact, the activity in their insula actually declines.

This research combined with our knowledge of gender learning preferences, gives insight into how we can create youth ministries that maximize both a teen’s learning and social enjoyment.

For Boys:

So when teaching boys, keep the group large but controllable (i.e., 12-24 boys) and in even numbers for team competition. Stand and move around while speaking forcefully and realistically. Allow the boys to occasionally move and keep the room at 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Use cooler colors in your environment and teaching. Play sports and competitive games, so the boys can naturally bond via social competition.

For Girls:

So when teaching girls, keep the group very small and intimate and allow for one-on-one interaction or even mentoring. Sit in a circle with the girls and speak descriptively and in a nurturing tone. Keep the room at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Use lots of colors, particularly warmer colors, and use visual and/or tactile textures. Create a secure yet stimulating environment where they can feel comfortable in taking risks that you encourage them to take.

For Discussion:
- If you teach kids and youth, what has your experience taught you about their preferences?

Sunday School Lessons are Failing

Kent Shaffer —  June 30, 2009

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis commissioned America’s Research Group to investigate why young people leave the church. The findings are published in Ken Ham’s new book Already Gone. Some insights include:

Among 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals

  • 95% attended church regularly during elementary school
  • 95% attended church regularly during middle school
    >> 40%
    first had doubts about the Bible in middle school
  • 55% attended church regularly during high school
    >> 43.7% first had doubts about the Bible in high school
  • 11% attended church regularly during college
    >> 10% first had doubts about the Bible in college

Oddly, the study discovered that those who attended Sunday school (61%) are actually more likely than non-attendees (39%):

  • to not believe that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true
  • to doubt the Bible because it was written by men
  • to defend keeping abortion legal
  • to accept the legalization of gay marriage
  • to believe in evolution
  • to believe that good people don’t need to go to church

Clearly, most children’s ministries are failing at producing long-term disciples. So what will it take to change this?

On the one hand, I believe that every children’s ministry can absolutely improve what they do. There is always room for improvement, but I also think these failed children’s ministries are the byproduct of failed churches.

If you want to reach and disciple children, you must reach and disciple their parents. Church going kids spend only 1% of their time at church, 20% at school, 30% sleeping, and much of the rest watching TV and playing. Children’s ministers can determine the 1%, but it is the parents who have the power to decide what reaches their kids during the other 99%. If you disciple the parents, you disciple the kids.

For Discussion:
- How can children’s ministries better disciple kids in the Sunday school classroom?
- How can churches better train parents to disciple their kids during the rest of the week?