lifeway kids


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.

click here to read the first post in this series.

read part two in this blog series here.
click here to learn more about and purchase “the Gospel God’s plan for me”

God provided
experience it:
supplies: big bag of candy for the winner
impossible task – get a child volunteer and tell them you have a reward (candy) for them if they complete the task you have for them. make sure to pick a task you know the child cannot do, but an adult can do. (i.e. move a big stack of chairs.) give the child the opportunity to complete the task. after they cannot complete it, select an adult to complete the task. when the adult completes the task, still reward the child with the candy.

discuss it:
kids discuss these questions with their parent/guardian:
– does the child deserve this reward?
– how is this like what God did for us?

teach it:
explain what grace is – getting something we do not deserve.

John 3:16
Ephesians 2:8-9
how did God’s word help you understand that God provided?


Jesus gives
experience it:
supplies: backpack with a sign on it that says “sin”. collect many heavy items (books) to add to the backpack several at a time. other signs that read “death”, “Jesus”, “life”.
select a child to be a volunteer. put the backpack on their back and have them hold the “death” sign in front of them. put several books in the backpack and have them walk in a circle around the room. ask them how that feels. then add more books to the backpack. have them walk around the circle again. continue this until the child can no longer hold up the backpack and asks for help.
select an adult in the class to be Jesus. they will wear the “Jesus” sign. after the child admits that they need help, have Jesus come over and take the heavy backpack of sin from them. he will give them the “life” sign in exchange for the sin backpack and the “death” sign.

discuss it:
kids discuss these questions with their parent/guardian:
how did the backpack activity show us how great a gift Jesus gave us?
read and discuss Romans 5:8 as a family.

teach it:
explain what mercy is to the children – no getting something we do deserve.
our punishment for sin was death, but Jesus gave His life and through His sacrifice we can exchange sin/death for life.

discuss it:
kids discuss these questions with their parent/guardian:
did we do anything to deserve such a gift?
review Ephesians 2:8-9 as a family.
what does the gift of Jesus mean to you?

Romans 5:8
2 Corinthians 5:21
1 Peter 3:18
Ephesians 2:8-9
how did God’s Word help you understand that Jesus gives?


werespondWe respond
teach it:
Jesus alone is our way to salvation.

experience it:Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.28.43 AM
supplies: a wrapped gift
tell the children to pretend that in this gift is the greatest present they could ever receive. (for boys i usually
say a new video gaming system with a gift card for every game made for that system. for girls i usually say the brand new american doll with a gift certificate for all the clothes they could want for that doll.) walk around the room holding out the gift and say, here, i have this gift for you, what do you have to do to make it your’s? (wait for a child to simply say, “take it”, “receive it”)
share that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save and rescue us from our sins. this is truly the greatest gift we will ever receive, but we must respond to the gift of salvation.

discuss it:
kids discuss these questions with their parent/guardian:
why do you think some people don’t respond to this gift?

John 14:6
Romans 10:9-10, 13
how did God’s word help you understand that we have to respond?

discuss it:
in your own words, explain the Gospel to the adult that came with you.


*** i would love to hear any other idea you have for sharing the Gospel with children. i love the creativity of kid ministry leaders. 🙂

click here to read the first post in this series.
click here to learn more about and purchase “the Gospel God’s plan for me”



God rules
experience it:
supplies: play dough
each child and adult are given some play dough. they are told to talk about what they would like to create with their play dough. they share their idea with the class and then are instructed to start modeling their creation. after about a minute, i pretend the play dough is speaking to me and i inform the class that the play dough does not like what they have decided toplay-doh-4-pack(1) create. i then share what the play dough said it would like to be. (i make up something and instruct the class to begin creating again.) again, after about a minute or two, i tell them the play dough decided it wanted to be something else and give them a new assignment. i do this several times, much to their frustration, and they think i have lost my mind talking to the play dough. 🙂  when they complete their last assigned creation, i have them turn and talk with their parent/guardian.

discuss it:
kids discuss these questions with their parent/guardian:
– should the play dough decide what the creation should be or the one modeling the playdough?
– how is this like us trying to tell our Creator what to do?

teach it:
God created everything. God is in charge. He is Holy and the boss of us.
Genesis 1:1
Revelation 4:11
Colossians 1:16-17

discuss it:
how did God’s Word help you understand that God rules?

wesinnedwe sinned
teach it:
Romans 3:23
Romans 6:23

discuss it:
how did God’s Word help you understand that we sin?

teach it:
Sin is:
-going our way instead of God’s way.
-rebellion against God.
Because God is Holy, He must punish sin.

discuss it:
let’s pretend you go home today and discover your brother/sister/friend destroyed your favorite toy.
how would you feel if your parents didn’t punish the sin of your brother/sister/friend?

experience it:
we can’t fix or ignore our sin.
supplies: very burnt popcorn (i usually cook a pack of popcorn for five or six minutes. watch closely, because it can catch burned_popcorn_mediumfire. yes, it messes up my microwave. you should smell my house!!! to preserve the smell, i put it immediately in a rubbermaid container.) 
     get two volunteers who are hungry for a snack. have them come sit up front and give them paper plates and napkins. tell them you are super excited about the snack you made them. after they are seated, pull out your burnt popcorn. i usually walk around the room with it so that everyone gets a good look and smell of the popcorn. pour some on each of your volunteer’s plates. they usually look at you like you are crazy. i tell them to go ahead and eat. when they pause or turn up their nose at the popcorn, i ask them what is  wrong? they usually say “well it is burnt.” or “i can’t eat this.” i tell them “sure you can. you said you were hungry, maybe if you pretend it isn’t burnt you can eat it.” then, after they still will not eat it, i usually pick some of it up and tell them to just try to fix it so it will not be burnt. after a couple more interactions, i let them off the hook and tell them to return to their seats. (yes, i have had a child eat the popcorn before.)
     i end this experience sharing with them that just like it is crazy for us to try to pretend the popcorn isn’t burnt, it is even crazier for us to pretend we do not sin. also trying to fix popcorn, is as crazy as us thinking we can fix our sin. because i have handled the popcorn, i usually smell my hands and talk about how sin stinks and gets all over us. we can’t get rid of it ourselves. the smell in the room is also a great teaching tool for the rest of the class. 🙂

discuss it:
kids discuss these questions with their parent/guardian:
– how is this bag of popcorn like our sin?
i share again, that our sin separates us from God and we are lost without Him.
– do you understand that you are a sinner?
– how does your sin make you feel?
– can you fix your sin?

closing experience
Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 4.14.59 PM      we end the night with a stairwell experience. all the kids and the adults in the class go to the stairwell. the adults stay upstairs and the kids all go to the landing. i have a dad volunteer to be Jesus for me.
i explain to the kids that their goal is to get to the top of the stairs to be with God and Jesus, but the steps, railing, and walls are all very hot lava and they will melt if they touch them. i explain that the stairs are separating them from God and they need to see what they can do to fix the separation. i also inform them that their world ends at the landing of the stairwell, so they can’t run down and come up another way.
i then ask kids for ideas on how to get up. (i have heard it all.) i allow each of them to try their suggestions. (i.e. fly? run up stairs real quick? build a jet pack? this is always fun to watch them try to build this with no supplies. jump to the top of the stairs?)
after they exhaust their suggestions, usually one child will say can “dad Jesus” help us? the answer is that they need to individually ask “dad Jesus” to come down and pick them up and carry them up the stairs. after a couple of children have been carried up, i have a parent ask “dad Jesus” to go rescue their child. “dad Jesus” answers them with a “no.” i use this illustration to drive home the point that it is an individual decision to receive help and their parents/guardians cannot do it for them.
we end this activity with some children still on the landing. we talk about how some people think they can fix their separation on their own and never ask for help.
after this activity, we go back to the room. kids and parent/guardians turn again to romans 3:23 and romans 6:23. they discuss how the activity in the stairwell paints a picture of what it looks like for us to be separated by sin and only Jesus can save us.

stay tuned for part 3 where the second week of classes is explained. 

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