Sep 21, 2018

The Return of the Most Engaging Kids' Show Ever

Last year, I wrote about the most engaging kids' show ever made for preschoolers.

What was the show?  Can you guess it?

The most engaging show ever created for preschoolers was Blue's Clues.  

Blue's Clues first aired on the Nickelodeon channel in September of 1996. 

Blue was an animated blue dog and Steve Burns was the host.  The show allowed kids to be involved in the story as they helped figure out what plans Blue had for the day.  Blue would leave a trail of clues for kids to follow and Steve would help them.  The story format drew kids in. 

The producers combined key findings from child development and early-childhood education to make the show irresistible for preschoolers.  

It was the highest rated show for preschoolers in the U.S. and has been called one of the most successful, critically acclaimed and ground-breaking preschool series of all time.  It has been nominated for 9 Emmy Awards.  It was on TV through 2011. 

The producers also used a genius idea to make the show even more engaging.  They brought in groups of kids to watch the episodes before they went to TV.  They watched for times when the kids looked away.  This meant they were bored with that part of the show and their attention had disengaged.  The producers then went back and tweaked or changed those parts before the episode aired. 

The show was so engaging and popular, that it is being brought back to TV this year.  It will be interesting to see how today's kids will interact and engage with it.  

There are many valuable tips we can get from Blue's Clues.  

Make your lessons interactive.  Create opportunities for kids to verbally converse with your lesson.  Take a tip from Blue's Clues and initiate questions rather than demanding kids sit still and quiet. 

Here is a great idea. Watch the clip below from Blue's Clues.  See how they talk to preschoolers.  See how they draw kids into the story.  See how they ask key questions to keep kids engaged.  

Another great idea.  Watch the preschoolers during your lesson.   Make notes about when they are engaged.  When they are not engaged.  When the participate.  When they don't want to participate.  Go back and tweak or drop those parts of the lesson or service.

And check out the new Blue's Clues shows that will air later this year. There's a lot you can learn from the most engaging kids' show ever.

Sep 20, 2018

Show Your Volunteers How Much You Value Them

Volunteers.  Who they are and what they do to reach kids and families is amazing.  Each week, they give of their time, talents and treasures to help the next generation know and live out the truth.

Ministry is busy.  So busy, that at times, you can forget to let your volunteers know how much you value them.

But it is critical that we show volunteers how much we value them.
Volunteers that are not valued will vacate. 
Let's think about a few ways we can show volunteers how much we value them.

I think the starting point is verbally telling them that you value them.  They need to know on a regular basis that you appreciate them and value their ministry.

A handwritten note is another great way to tell your volunteers that you value them.  In the note, bring up something specific that the volunteer does that you appreciate.  Here's a sample letter I would write to a volunteer.

Hey Jim, 
This morning I was thinking about what a great day we had yesterday in children's ministry.  I was also thinking about you and the part you play in the ministry.  Yesterday, I noticed how you made the new little boy feel welcome.  You brought him into your group and made him feel right at home.  It was a great reflection of your heart for the kids in our community.  Have a great week and know that you matter and your ministry matters.  Thanks for being a difference maker.

A small gift can express your appreciation for volunteers.  Especially when a volunteer realizes you went the second mile to make the gift personal.  One way to do this is have each volunteer tell you their favorites.  You can have them fill out a simple paper that asks what their favorite candy, movie, drink, coffee, restaurant, etc. is.  Then, on their birthday, you can pick something from the person's list to give them.  You can also do this on a normal weekend and let them know you value them and wanted to show them in a small way how much they mean to you and the team.

A cookout, dinner, party or other appreciation event is a great way to show your volunteers you value them.  The end of the school year is a great time to do an appreciation cookout for volunteers.  Christmas is also a great time to have a party or event for your volunteers.  One year, I gave each of our volunteers a Christmas ornament.  15 years later many of them still have the ornament and put it on their tree every year.

The more valued a volunteer feels, the more they will enjoy serving on your team.  We've all heard the statement, "people don't quit a job, they quit on a boss."  The same applies to volunteers.  They don't quit a role, they quit because they don't feel valued or cared for by leadership.

Valuing volunteers is one of the most important things you can do.  Once they know you value them, they will support you, follow you and go the second mile for you. 

Take a close look at any ministry that is thriving and you'll see volunteers who are serving with a smile on their face because they know they are valued.

Have you gotten too busy to show your volunteers you value them?  Have you stopped saying "thank you.  I appreciate you?"

You can change that starting now.  Grab your cell phone and text one of your volunteers that you haven't connected with lately.  Tell them how much they mean to you and the ministry.  It may be the most important thing you do today.  I can promise you this - it will make a difference.

Turn it into a weekly habit and you'll see new energy and excitement rise among your volunteers.

Thanks for reading this post today.  I appreciate you and your commitment to grow as a leader.  You are the reason I am writing this.  I value you and your friendship in ministry.

You can get more great ideas for leading and valuing your volunteer team in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."  It has been called the best book on the subject of volunteers. You can get more info. and get it at this link.  It's available in both paper back and ebook formats.

Sep 19, 2018

How to Avoid Emotional Exhaustion in Ministry

Do you ever feel emotionally exhausted?  So emotionally zapped that you feel like quitting?  So emotionally exhausted that you have nothing left to give?  So tired that you don't care what happens.

You are not alone.  We all feel that way at times.  The list of needs gets so large that it overwhelms us.

Call it what you will...exhaustion...burn is not a place you want to be.

Believe me...I know...a few years ago, I became so emotionally exhausted that I slipped into depression.  It got to the point where I thought I would have to walk away from ministry.  Thankfully with the help of God, family, friends and an excellent doctor, I was able to get back to an emotionally healthy place.

How does emotional exhaustion happen?  Most often it happens because of prolonged periods of stress.  After prolonged stress, your body gets to the point where it says "we're not doing this anymore!"

Can you relate with what I'm saying?  Are you at the end of your rope?  Ready to quit?  Tired beyond words?

Don't give up.  Help is on the way.  Keep reading and let's talk about how to avoid becoming emotionally exhausted.
Identify what's causing the exhaustion. 
You have to face it and acknowledge it before you can overcome it.  What is causing you the most stress?  Write it down.  If it's several things, then write them down in the order they stress you.  Now write down some ways you can stop or lessen those high stress points.

Put a boundary around how long you're going to work.  Put a boundary around your day off.  Put a boundary around your vacation time.  Put a boundary around the time you spend with your family. 

Care for yourself each day. 
Read your Bible and spend time with God each day.  Get 8 hours of sleep.  Eat healthy.  Exercise.  Take breaks at work and rest yourself.

Surround yourself with the right people.  
Make sure the people closest to you are positive people.  People that will fill you up rather than constantly drain you. 

Realize that you are not alone.
First and foremost, your Heavenly Father is with you.  Next make a short list of people that you can depend on.  You can also enlist a person you trust to be your mentor. 
Remember Elijah?  He had a great victory over Jezebel and her prophets.  He should have been throwing a big celebration.  But no, we find him cowered down in a mountainside.  Saying he is the only one serving God.  Saying he wants to die.  

As part of the coaching program I offer (click for more information), I ask each person this question.

Can you go the distance at your current pace?

What would your answer to this question be?   
Please, please, please....take care of yourself.  Get to a place where you can enjoy the ministry you serve in.,,,keep a smile on your are a difference maker!

Sep 18, 2018

Children Are Your Customer

Recently Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, announced that he is starting a new network of preschools.  

The preschools will be located in underprivileged areas.   

Jeff said that he will use the same strategies and core values that have guided the Amazon company.  

What he went on to say is amazing. He said, "Most important among those will be the genuine, intense costumer obsession.  The child will be the costumer."

I love that mindset.  

It says we're going to focus on the needs of the children we are serving. 

It says it's going to be about the children first and foremost. 

It says children are worth investing in. 

Let me ask you.  How do you see the children you minister to?  

If you see children as a customer,  you will...
  • Make sure you are on time, so you don't keep them waiting.
  • See each child as a VIP.  Treat them with respect and dignity. 
  • Be available to meet their needs.
  • Personally greet them with a smile.
  • See yourself as a host rather than a controller.
  • Design your lessons with how they learn best, instead of how you were taught growing up.
  • Listen, really listen to them.
  • Make each child feel important. 
  • Let them know you missed them, when they are absent.
  • Focus not on what they can give you, but rather what you can give them. 

  • Thank them for being part of your class. 
  • Know what they like.  What kind of candy?  What sport?  What video game?  What movie? What TV show?  What song?  What color?  What phone?  What Bible story?  What ice cream?
Often companies will give you a quick survey to see how they are doing.  Either by phone or by email.  What would your customer, the children you minister to, say if they took a survey of you as a teacher or leader?  

Look at the list above and focus on improving in some of those areas.   Become an expert at providing your "costumer" with a great experience and they will return and bring other people with them.  

p.s. Also remember - your "competition" for customer service is not other churches, but rather businesses, restaurants, banks and other stores.  Parents and kids will be comparing how you treat them in relation to those places. 

So shine...shine...shine!