i love the etch conference. i am grieved i want be able to gather in person with ministry friends that are like family, but i am excited they have creatively worked out an online solution. below i have posted the breakouts i am leading. i sure would love to “see” you there. register here.

Teams that Grow

Discover what is needed for your team to grow (ministry teams, volunteer teams, and seasonal teams)—from the invitation, to the follow through and care—this one is all about relationships.

Digital Ideas in a Quarantined World

Unique times call for creative responses. In this session, we’ll talk about Google Classroom, Google sites, apps, social media, and more as we strive to remotely equip families with the gospel during uncertain times.

okay y’all in just a little over a week i will be hanging in one of my favorite cities with my favorite group of people, kidmin leaders. i am super excited to be bak and a part of the etch conference this year.

here’s the breakouts and times i will be teaching. i would love to connect with you. comment below and let me know i you are coming.

The Preteen Bubble
They really don’t fit in the kids ministry, but are far from finding their place in student ministry. Preteens/tweens teeter on the bubble of in-between which requires specific ministry to meet them right where they are. Together we will discuss this group’s special needs and creative ways to not only equip them with faith, but to creatively engage them to grapple with truth during this special time. You’ll leave not only with info, but ideas to immediately apply back home.

Gospel-Centered Family Experiences 
From family worship to outside-the-building family experiences, we will explore creative ideas for being intentional about partnering with parents to help make the Gospel the center of the family and church. We won’t just sit, but we will experience some of these ideas that you can easily apply back in your church setting.

A Discipleship Strategy for Kids and Families
Patterned after a university 101, 201, and 301 class series we will discover a strategy to offer classes where kids can seek Jesus (Gospel class), give them a strong foundation after receiving the Savior (new Christian class) and then study God’s Word for themselves. Not only will these classes impact kid’s lives, but with parent involvement they will build a bridge between church and home.

i have had such a joy being surrounded by some of the most passionate, humble, and Christ-centered kidmin leaders this week at the annual apcmo (alabama preschool and children’s ministry organization) retreat. what a gift to serve in a state that is intentional about networking and growing together as ministry leaders. i promised that i would share some of my links and notes from our four sessions together so here they are.

session one – your story

Psalm 78:1-8″My people, hear my instruction; listen to what I say. I will declare wise sayings; I will speak mysteries from the past— things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us. We must not hide them from their children, but must tell a future generation the praises of the LordHis might, and the wonderful works He has performed. He established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers
to teach to their children so that a future generation— children yet to be born—might know. They were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands. Then they would not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not loyal and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

stories matter. ad agencies get it. the olympic networks get it, filmmakers get it. no one gets it more than God.

each participant was given a file folder and asked to draw a timeline of their life on the inside. then, they were instructed to travel through the following stations. some of these stations were taken from an adult activity from centrikid in 2010, others were written especially for this event. download station instructions here.

the apple commercial
the jessie diggins commercial

session two – equipping volunteers to tell the story


“The Bible is not a story about heroes we should emulate, but about a Savior we are to adore.” J.D. Greer

what do people leave your ministry remembering? you? fun activities? or the Gospel?

have we ever thought of doing an exit poll with kids, asking what is their take home for the day?

what is your ministry’s mission statement? does your mission statement have the Gospel as the goal? you have to set the end in mind so people know where they are going.

do you volunteers know the mission of your ministry? do you share with volunteers how their service supports the mission?

getting them on board

  • title matters – we call our’s investors – we believe they are doing more than filling a volunteer role – they are investing in eternity.
  • recruit with the Gospel in mind. don’t beg.
  • invite people to serve in your ministry.


  • do they know what is expected?
  • don’t allow policy & procedures to take priority over training.
  • have you helped them be confident in sharing the Gospel?
  • permission for lessons to fail – a successful lesson isn’t a lesson where every craft and activity is completed, but where the Holy Spirit is present and the Gospel is shared.


  • Gospel God’s Plan for Me – my favorite booklet. it is in every investors binder, kidlife teacher binder, camp leader bag, etc. Lifeway has these videos for free.
  • the story (link below)

Gospel- centered programs

  • Gospel class
  • sunday morning
  • mid week

Gospel -centered curriculum – if it can be taught at character club at school or be on a Chick-fil-a bag – it isn’t deep enough. the Gospel is the complete story.

Gospel-centered events

  • less is more – i do less in ministry now than i did 21 years ago, but i am way more intentional now.
  • we aren’t in this to entertain.. we have to get to the Gospel.

list the events you were in charge of the last 6 months. circle ones that the Gospel were the goal. don’t wear yourself and volunteers out for the non-eternal

dear mrs. donna video
Gospel-centered ministry training videos (free)
dale hudson’s article “are your cute lessons turning kids into atheists”
what you do matters video
the story Gospel presentation
Gospel God’s plan for me booklets
Lifeway Gospel presentation videos

session three – partnering with partners for the sake of the story

you can find a complete blog post on this topic with my notes here – partnering with parents

session four – the Gospel the goal in all spiritual markers

you can find a complete post on this topic with my notes here – making the Gospel the goal in all spiritual markers

apcmo ideas for spiritual markers are listed below:


  • cradle roll prayer list, pass along article, etc. to parents
  • baby blessings
  • contact, prayer, encourage
  • devotion for expectant parents
  • look who’s new & look who’s due in a newsletter


  • parenting partner
  • parent/child dedication classes
  • hospital visit, meal to home, gifts
  • spoon with name, ms pattycake dvd, book, etc.
  • mandatory meeting before dedication, talk about it on home visit
  • hospital visit, special gift
  • home visit, gift
  • parent/child commitment
  • 1st-time parents – policy/procedures and guidelines for nursery

baby dedication:

  • change the name to family dedication to not limit it to just small babies. we do a ceremony/brunch in a separate venue on sunday morning with families coming together for an intimate time. they write a family covenant, letter to their child& read it privately with their family. then, on stage in big church, they are recognized and do congregational portion.
  • a great resource we give parents is faith box (lakepoint church)
  • minister to those who miscarry/stillborn – ladies in the church knot small blankets and put it in a nice box with literature on clinging to Christ, etc. recognize that this child was real and values.
  • renamed family dedication – do a slide show, give out & explain lakepointe’s my faith box.
  • parent covenant, church covenant, meet with parents in advance
  • parent/child dedication – anointing and meaning
  • meet with parents individually befoe parents/child dedication. share what God calls us to do as spiritual leaders, share my testimony and ask for theirs. (had a mom accept Christ) give resources like my faith box from lakepoint church.
  • sent out invitations to parents/families of newborns and new mothers with children two months before mother’s day – baby dedication during morning service – charge to parents and congregation – new testament Bibles and certificates. also a slideshow with audible prayer form pastor.
  • family meal the night before (extended family invited) with programming by kids min & senior pastor based on parent commissioning that happens in the service. challenge parents to “begin with the end in mind” and choose two words/scripture for their baby. gifts/flowers for mom, baby, certificate with a picture.

seeking Jesus

  • moms Bible studies
  • talk with parents – book “faith of a child”

new believer/baptism

  • i’m a Christian now workbook
  • Bible if the child does not have one
  • i’m a Christian now what? devotional
  • letter to those who make a decision and sit down follow-up with child and parents
  • dvd of baptism
  • baptism certificate
  • i’m a Christian now retreat
  • devotion book and Bible to help them start growing and nurturing their relationship with Christ

new Bible

  • 3-year-olds group Bible on Easter
  • another great time to receive a Bible is 5th grade, just before they enter youth group. ask your youth pastor what version he teachers from and purchase that for them. (for example – esv study Bible) you, their children’s minister, can write a note in it & favorite verse, pastor, sunday school teacher, also perhaps.
  • at baptism
  • 1st grade Bible distribution – parent/child commitment
  • 1st grade – family approach: meet with parents before, parent note in Bible, parents give Bible to children through words spoken to child. child receives Bible and the child says some things to parents.
  • baby dedication (new testament)
  • 1st grade – one week before school starts

tween transition

  • second-semester 6th graders participate in youth group events – summer they move into wednesday night programs – full promotion in august
  • VBX – transitional
  • celebrate me! retreat major transition/preparation time
  • 7up party with 6th graders and families (special elements to this)
  • allow 6th graders to participate with students in summer activities one month prior to promotion. allows nervousness and tension to be a minimum.
  • separate 5th & 6th-grade ministry that has its own worship and large group environment and different small group material. also have separate vbs.
  • 6th-grade pool party
  • teen retreat in conjunction with youth pastor
  • 5th-grade summer transition: service, leadership, late night events, student pastor is their vbs Bible study leader in youth environment.
  • year-long group called crossover for 6th graders. special events, life skills, vbs mission project.

if you’ve been in ministry for even just 5 years, that adds up to 1,825 days. how many of those days have been spent on going through curriculum? volunteer training? vbs planning? shopping for crafts or object lesson supplies? haven’t we all been there. the math only goes higher the more years you have been in ministry. (don’t do the math, it only make syou feel old. 😉 )


here’s another question. how many of those days have been spent on investing in YOU as the leader? as the one who is championing the discipleship of kids and families in your church community?


because in the scope of 1,825 days (or however many days are under your belt), 3 days is worth it.


these 3 days could mean you return home for the next 365 with a renewed vision for discipleship, a firm confidence in your calling, and new skills and tools that will help you push past the roadblocks in your way. these 3 days could mean you return home with a bunch of new friends who know exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes… friends who will be there to share ideas, hear you out, call you out, and encourage you in your leadership.


that’s what could happen if you join me at #CPC18 in Orlando on january 16-18. the children’s pastors conference is a national event for anyone who serves in children’s and family ministry. this year, the theme is “made for this”. speakers like louie giglio, lisa harper, john ortberg, christine yount jones, beth guckenberger and more will be guiding us deep into psalm 139… a common passage that we often fail to believe the truths of for ourselves.


not only will you experience inspiring general sessions and dynamic worship, but you’re going to have over 130 breakouts to choose from! i’m excited to share that i will be presenting the following breakouts at CPC18 with my dear friend christine yount jones. 


Branding a Christ-Centered KidMin Why does your children’s ministry exist? If everyone on your team isn’t sure, it’s time for a new direction. In this session, we will look at ministry’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, in making Jesus the center of all you do. We will dream and develop a unique signature for your ministry and help you strategically brand, filter, and cast vision for your ministry. Great for your entire team! Speaker: Christine Yount Jones and Danielle Bell Category: Leadership


The Gospel in Every Spiritual Marker There are many spiritual markers that dot the timeline during the 18 years a child is in the family’s immediate care. Let’s discover how to be intentional about applying a Gospel-centered approach during special times from birth to high school graduation. Speaker: Christine Yount Jones and Danielle Bell Category: Spiritual Formation


in addition, you have the opportunity to get free coaching, and you have access to an incredible resource center (it’s like a giant candy store for children’s ministry leaders).

the future of your ministry is worth 3 days. i hope to see you there! Learn more here

i am honored and excited to be included as a speaker at the new etch ministry conference in nashville this fall. here are my breakout topics and descriptions.

20 lessons learned in 20 years
some of the most effective ministry lessons are learned from mistakes and in-the-trenches ministry experience. if you are new in ministry, come hear from someone with 20 full-time years of kids ministry experience to help you avoid pitfalls and burn-out in ministry. we will have some hands-on fun, too.

making the Gospel center in every spiritual marker
there are many spiritual markers that dot the timeline during the the 18 years a child is in the family’s immediate care. let’s discover how to be intentional about applying a Gospel-centered approach during special times from birth to high school graduation.

etch2i would love to see you there and meet some new ministry friends. find out more about the conference here. comment and let me know if you are coming.

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