Today’s post is by Jayson Bradley. Jayson D. Bradley is a writer and pastor in Bellingham, WA. He’s a regular contributor to Relevant Magazine, and his blog JaysonDBradley.com has been voted one of the 25 Christian blogs you should be reading. He is also the content strategist for GradLime: a content marketing agency that equips faith-based organizations to reach more of the right people.
For many churches, kids’ ministry demands energy and attention at least 52 weeks a year. This doesn’t include VBS programs or any other supplementary kidmin gatherings. It takes a lot of administrative work to keep the machine going.
What’s amazing is how many churches I visit where a lot of this work is still being done like it was in the 90s: handwritten calendars with volunteers, the same curriculum book being passed around from teacher to teacher, inefficient resources, and lots of meetings without adequate, outside-the-box brainstorming.
Finding tools to make the work easier, to automate elements of it, and to allow us to focus on our kids is critical. Ultimately, we get involved in kid’s ministry because we want to give our children a solid biblical foundation—everything else should be facilitating, and streamlining that work.
Here are some of my favorite tools for children’s ministry:
Most people reading this will probably say, “Well, yes. That’s obvious.” Planning Center has become a standard across many churches, mostly because it syncs up across most ministries: children’s ministry, worship planning, youth, and many church administration functions.
The great thing about Planning Center for me is that, with every iteration, it just keeps getting more robust and useful.
If you’re in children’s ministry, Planning Center provides a simple solution for scheduling volunteers. You can can set it up to automatically set schedules and send reminders and requests via email or text—and then it keeps track of the responses. It also allows for volunteers to block out times they plan to be unavailable.
As if that’s not enough, you can use it to get kids registered for camps, VBS, and other events, and even use it take payments for those events.
It also is a good tool for check-ins, and with the addition of a label maker, will spit out a tag for the child with their name and any health information. Then it will collate all the information you need for attendee reports.
The real strength is that all of these services are bundled under one roof and, when factored in with the other services it offers a church, it’s a pretty powerful tool.
If you don’t need all Planning Center’s bells and whistles and you just need a great check-in tool, KidCheck is for you. With three different tiers of service, you can get exactly what you need to make reception a breeze.
Every level offers tons of great uses like unlimited signups, individual text messaging for parents, and mobile check-ins. One of my favorite elements for all three tiers is that parents take care of the information and save one administrator from having to do all the work of maintaining that database.
You can use a service like MailChimp with the email integration (available at all subscription levels) and generate emails to parents and keep them abreast of what’s their kids learned so they can follow up and reinforce it from home.
Finding and ordering the right teaching materials for multiple classes and grades, and then ensuring they make it into the right hands, can be a pain. Disciplr is a lifesaver for every director and teacher in children’s ministry (or anyone teaching Sunday school classes of all ages).
Disciplr brings all of the various elements of teaching into one place. You can search through curriculums from various vendors, and teach from any device where your lesson is seamlessly optimized.
It gives you all of the resources you’ll need for the lessons in one place within the lessons, and then builds a shopping list for you (from which you can check off items you have and amend with new items). Adding teachers to the specific lessons they’ll be teaching is simple.
Need the lesson in print? No problem. Disciplr perfectly formats and styles the lessons into perfect handouts and lessons.
Want to unlock your team’s creativity and look at kidmin (or any other ministry) from entirely new perspectives? Mind mapping allows you to brainstorm in ways you may not have previously dreamed of. Your team will ask interesting questions, generate and visually connect ideas that you might not have seen as connected in the past.
MindMeister is made for collaboration. Not only can you share your maps as they’re made, collaborators can contribute in real time—like they were contributing to a Google doc. You can even go back and rewatch the process and changes to your mind map to be reminded of the process of discovery that occurred in its creation.
It works on multiple devices and is a cinch to share with others through social media, email, and live mapping.
Kid’s ministry doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You want parents on who are on board with your vision, talking about and reinforcing your ministry strategy. It might be the most important thing you can do to make your ministry more effective.
And with social media, it isn’t hard to do. If done right, your ministry’s social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.) can be a simple way to let parents know what you work on, share memory verses, update them on upcoming lessons, and give little suggestions for discussions and readings they can do with their kids.
The difficulty is, where do you find the time to do all that?
With Buffer, you can sit down for 90 minutes on a Monday morning, look at yesterday’s classes and the calendar of upcoming events, and draft schedule updates for the weeks at a time. Once it’s automated, you can walk away and that element is done—but its effectiveness is ongoing.
Hacking your ministry
It’s no question that ministry is about people and connection. Technology should never undermine our ability to connect with the kids we’re ministering to.
But there are a lot of areas where it can actually increase our performance. It can make us more effective and help us to get more done with less effort—freeing us up to be more involved in children’s lives.
And that’s a good thing.