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Kidamazoo Studios

2500 Vincent Ave | Kalamazoo, MI 49024 | 269.324.5599

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2500 Vincent Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49024
United States

269.324.5599

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Kidamazoo Studios is the Kids Ministry Department at Valley Family Church. Simply put, We Exist so Kids Get It! And we want to help your kids get it as well, which is why we've launched our own Kidamazoo Studios curriculum and this Producers Notes training blog to share some insights about producing successful weekend services, organizing events for kids and families and equipping volunteers. We certainly don’t know everything, but here are some snapshots of what we've learned along the way! 

Where is your focus?

Madeline Murphy

Have you ever been in a season where it all just feels intense? Where there are a lot of lists, meetings & events - all great things of course, but it seems that you have just lost sight? I know I have. Ministry is work, and sometimes I totally lose focus of why I do what I do.

Recently, I was in a season where I felt like I had lost the focus. Right in the middle of that season, as I was hanging out in the game room before Sunday service with the kids and I started talking to a little girl. The Holy Spirit told me to ask her a question that kind of confused me, but obedience, right? So I got down on my knees and looked at her and said “Sweetie, what would you do if you got to see Jesus?” Her whole countenance changed. Her eyes opened up really wide. And her voice became high pitched and a bit squeaky. “Ms. Madeline! I would run up to Him and give Him the biggest hug ever!” As she said that she closed her eyes and hugged herself so tightly. As if to imagine His face and feel Him hugging her back. Tears filled my eyes as she shared this with me, and as she spoke the Holy Spirit spoke too “This is why you do every single thing you do.”

So that kids get it. So that the face of Jesus is real & encountering Him is something each kid that walks through the church doors has the assurance of being able to do. Everything each of us does, week in and week out, even the mundane and little tasks - create an atmosphere where God can move.  And beyond that, where kids can hear the gospel, where the seed of faith can take root in the hearts of children. Children who will grow up to be Pastors, missionaries, businessmen, inventors, writers and teachers, moms and dads. That is why you do every bit of what you do - so that the next generation is fully equipped to be followers of Jesus & leaders in the world.

No matter where you are in Ministry, what events you have coming up, what things on your to do list - our priority should always be Jesus. Sharing Jesus through our words & actions. Remembering to always fix our eyes on Him throughout our busy days - because the end “goal” is not to have everything on our to-do list crossed out, our goal is that just like the little girl in the game room, kids can know Jesus and love Him deeply.


So keep your eyes, heart and focus set on Him -- He’s got it!

The Rubric - Part 1 - Be!

Richard Pilger

The Rubric – Part1 – Be!

Remember Freshman Comp 101? It is the one course that every first-year college student in every university is required to take. In this class, students focus on the three stages of writing: Prewriting, writing and rewriting. It’s a class that most college students are pretty passionate about…they either hate it or love it. One of the tools commonly used in Freshman Comp 101 is the rubric, which is basically a set of printed instructions.

The rubric serves as the basic framework for the assignment, a checklist of sorts that outlines the objectives for the assignment at hand. Rubrics also have a measurement component that serves as a tool for self-assessment and reflection. They force you to pull out the magnifying glass and take a long hard look at your work. I always loved receiving a rubric; it was a trusted friend. The rubric told me exactly what was expected and provided the insight necessary to get there.

This weeks blog posts are a rubric of sorts as it relates to Leadership 101. The three objectives we’ll look at are the foundational building blocks that I’ve used throughout the years as I’ve had the opportunity to serve in various leadership positions. I’m sure that none of it is original to me; rather it is a conglomerate of principles that I have gleaned from those who have paved the way before me. This accumulation of knowledge and best practices has enabled me to follow in the footsteps of the leaders who have gone before me…people like Tony Cooke, Denise Burns, Ken & Lynnette Hagin, Jeff & Beth Jones, Dean Radtke, and many more. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have been mentored and invested in by these men and women of character. Their examples have challenged me time and time again to be the very best that I can be.

So, without further ado, lets check out the first objective:

Objective One: Be

The concept of “being” is paramount. There are many important characteristics that a leader should embody…discipline, dedication, faithfulness, humility, confidence, responsibility, openness, creativity…the list goes on an on. While all of these traits are vital, they’re all rooted in one word…character. It’s square one for all the other “be’s.”

 So, what exactly is character?

Well, the definition of character is sometimes hard to nail down. We all have an idea of what is meant by the word character but it’s not always that easy to define…yet we all know character when we see it.

William Wilimons is quoted as saying this about character:

It is the basic moral orientation that gives unity, definition, and direction to our lives by forming our habits and intentions into meaningful and predictable patterns that have been determined by our dominant convictions.

 I love that definition! It’s a black and white quote in a grey world.

Simply put, character is who we really are. It’s what we do when no one is looking. It refers to the kind of person who acts in a certain way on a consistent basis. Character is the inner realities of the self...it’s an accumulation of our thoughts, values, words and actions. It’s our motives, intentions, attitudes, beliefs, disposition's, all rooted and grounded by our moral convictions.

Character remains the single most important factor in leadership. A person must BE something before he or she can DO anything. A person of character not only tells the truth, but also is truthful. They have a strong moral inner compass that leads and guides them in every decision. A leader possessing character is a force to be reckoned with and are positioned for success. Charisma may get you to the top but it is character that sustains you.

So, just as any good college prof would do, today I challenge you to do a self-assessment. Pull out the rubric, look at the character objective, and if need be, edit your life.

Choices

Emilly Hickmott

Have you ever been asked to do something by your pastor that you just aren’t sure you’re capable of doing? Developing an execution plan to move the ministry forward can be daunting. Maybe thinking about what might be required of you is overwhelming and the next step is blurry at best.

I recently found myself in this exact place as I’m settling into a new role in preschool ministry. Perhaps you too have found yourself in a similar position during a role transition or a season shift in the ministry.

As my mind was racing while thinking about all that could be asked of me, the Great Comforter and Strengthener whispered, "Stay close to Me. I will make your path straight. I will reveal to you what you need to know, when you need to know it.”

I realized that as I stick close to and spend time with the Holy Spirit, He will tell me the pieces of the vision that I will need to serve this house well. When I have a decision to make, He will make the correct choice clear. When I have proposals due, He will give me creative ideas. A lot of the time, He will lead me to ask my leaders the right questions so that I can more effectively do what I’ve been asked to do. And He will do the same for you!

Not only do we need to be submitted to the Lord to hear His voice and do His will, but we must be submitted to our leaders as well. In the Voice, Galatians 5:25 reads: “Now since we have chosen to walk with the Spirit, let’s keep each step in perfect sync with God’s spirit. This will happen when we set aside our self-interests and work together to create true community instead of a culture consumed by provocation, pride, and envy.”

We choose. I love that God chooses us before we have chosen Him, but He still asks us to choose Him. We get that choice every moment of everyday. I am continually being challenged to choose God by choosing to submit to His will and walk in peace and unity with my fellow believers, my leaders and my peers. As I do, I find that the work day is smoother, ideas come more quickly, and I’m not frustrated or overwhelmed as easily.


Proverbs 3:6 tells us that He will make our paths straight as we acknowledge Him in all our ways. So, I encourage you to choose Him in every situation. Do not neglect to remember that in verse 5 the Word first tells us to lean on Him and rely not on our own understanding. When you remember this, it makes it easier to choose His will. Rely on Him, choose Him, and He will provide all that you need to do all that has been asked of you and do it joyfully.

The Authentic You

Matt Giesow

Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of kids ministry but one of the things that stands out is probably one that gets overlooked the most - authenticity.

Many times in kids ministry, there is the temptation to be someone you’re not. Allow me to explain. It’s easy to look to other kids ministries around the country and then try to copy what works for them, assuming that it will work for you as well. Now, I am not opposed to researching new methods to implement during the weekend services. In fact, quite the opposite. We believe there are many benefits that accompany ideas from other ministries.

However, no one does a better job of BEING YOU than you! God created you to impact those in your sphere of influence and no one can do that better. Asking God to help spark creativity to build an authentic kids ministry is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. Authenticity attracts people. People want to be around someone that is “real”. You may hear things like “they are so down to earth,” or “I can totally relate to them”. Authenticity is exciting, and it’s the very thing that Jesus conveyed.

The Gospel is for EVERYONE. That includes children. I believe when we spend so much time trying to figure out how to make our ministry like so and so’s, we miss out on the creative ideas that the Holy Spirit has in mind for us to be authentic. Trust that since God has placed you in this position of leadership, He will also anoint you to be successful. Let’s not push away what God is trying to speak by our own rationalization or by what someone else is doing. If God wanted another YOU, then He would have created one. Be authentic. No one else does it better than YOU!

Not Cut Out For This

Matt Giesow

Do you ever find yourself preparing a message or a lesson that the Lord has put in your heart to share, only to battle with the thoughts of “how do I dumb this down so it’s easy for a child to understand?” If you have ever come from speaking to an older audience, and now find yourself in kid’s ministry, you have probably asked yourself this same question.

This struggle was real for me. I had been serving and speaking in our high school and middle school aged services for roughly 3 years before the Lord moved me to Kids’ Ministry. Most of what I had learned up to that point about what a high schooler thought was “cool” was useless. I now entered elementary land where the kids and attention spans are shorter, candy is like gold, and every kid thinks you are way older than you are! I needed help, and I needed it fast! During my messages, I would panic and think to myself, “This is way over a kid’s head!” or “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.”

But then one day the Lord spoke to me. He said, “Your job is to be My vessel and mouthpiece - My job is to connect the dots for the kids.” Hearing that relieved so much self-inflicted pressure to be the “perfect” kids communicator and just be me. Jesus knew how to speak to kids, and I have Him living on the inside of me! After I received that personal revelation, it seemed like messages came to me so much easier and not only that. I was also seeing major fruit and life change in our kids. Just for the record, I’m not saying it isn't important to know your audience and prepare your message or lesson with them in mind, because you should.  What I am saying is don’t allow yourself to turn your message into something that the Lord never intended it to be. God has you in that position for a reason.

If God has placed you in a specific role that you feel “out of place” in, take it as an opportunity and challenge from the Lord to be stretched in new ways. Remember, God will never appoint you to a specific position or role without anointing you to make an impact there.

Kids Worship - Which song is the right one?

Matt Giesow

Choosing songs for praise and worship can mean the difference between having kids who love worship time, and kids who are bored out of their mind staring at the wall. Here are a few basic guidelines to help you in making your decision on what songs to do.

  • Choose songs that aren’t wordy - A lesson we have learned over the years is not choosing songs that have too many words in them. The song may be excellent, but if there are too many words, the kids won’t get it. They will spend more trying to figure out what the lyrics mean than they will worshipping. Think, simple is better. There are many well-known music companies that put out great children’s worship, but the songs can sometimes be too wordy. When making your music selection, make sure you listen to the song with the ears and mind of a child asking yourself, “Would a third grader understand this?” Popular songs that are big on the radio may not always be the best song to choose if the lyrics are difficult to understand. The key to worship is expressing yourself to God and no one can express their love by using words they heard on the radio once but don’t actually know what they mean. If you do choose a song that is wordy, make sure you take plenty of time explaining what the words mean to the kids, otherwise you’ve lost them.
  • Choose songs that reflect your church - If your church is big on southern gospel, then Hillsong might not work the best for the children in your church. If your church is big on traditional hymns, then Jesus Culture might not be the best fit for for your kids. Children will pick up on the music that the adults listen to, whether that’s at home or in the car. Many times, kids will want to emulate what they have heard from their parents during their own praise and worship time so it’s important to stay consistent with what style your church is.
  • Incorporate new songs slowly - When adding a song to your order of service that you have not done before, it’s important to introduce the song to the kids as a new song. Don’t expect the kids the pick up on it right away. Encourage them to look at the words on the screen to follow along with the lyrics. It will take doing the song a few times for it to stick, but repetition is important. The more a child hears the song, the deeper in their heart the lyrics go. It may take a few times for the kids to get a particular song, but when they do it could be your kids ministry’s new anthem!
  • Get the kids opinion - Many times when we are on the hunt for some new material for worship, we will consult with our 5th graders. Grab a group, both guys and girls, full of some of your most passionate worshippers, and ask them about certain songs. They will be brutally honest with you, and as a leader, that is what you need. Remember, you aren’t trying to reach the thirty-plus crowd. You are reaching kids, and who better to help you in making the right choice than a kid?

If you can do a good job at creating a worship culture among your young ones, then the sky's the limit as they grow up in the local church and use those passions and gifts to lead the congregation as a whole. Remember, the key is to build a movement, not a monument.

The Power of the Ask

Richard Pilger

Do you ever find yourself staring down a “to do” list that’s a mile long? Ever feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day? Have you ever started the day with the best intentions in the world to get a lot accomplished only to look at the clock at 8:00pm and realize that you didn’t even make a dent? Does it feel like you need a small army to get everything accomplished that you need to get done?

Perhaps you do…but the only way to ever get the help you need is to ask. Unfortunately, for some of us, asking is hard but as a leader, it’s something we have to do if we ever want to be truly effective.

I used to struggle with the idea of asking people for help; after all, I didn’t want to burden them. My mindset was this:

“The volunteers I lead are busy people, they have jobs and families…their time is premium and who am I to ask them to give away this precious and limited resource?”

Fortunately, I realized I had it all wrong. In fact, one day I had an epiphany that not only should I ask people to help…but God desires for us to ask people to help. As I was reading my Bible, it was as if Ephesians 4:11-12 jumped off the page:

V11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. V12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. NLT

As I read these verses, I realized that as a leader my responsibility was to help God’s people do the work of HIS ministry. My primary focus needed to shift from being so task-focused to identifying the gifts of the volunteers under my oversight and then to train, equip, coach and mentor them. Once that was accomplished, they could be empowered and released to advance the Kingdom.

With these things in mind, I flipped a switch in my heart and made the commitment from that point forward that I would never again rob God’s people from the opportunity to discover their gifts and talents and use them for His ministry. As a result, my leadership quotient went to a whole new level. I found myself less stressed, more fulfilled, leading a team of motivated, inspired and happy volunteers.

So leader, what are you waiting for? Step up to the plate and just ask.

Are You Thankful?

Tori Pilger

As fall winds down and Thanksgiving approaches, we often begin to think about all the things we are thankful for. We probably begin our list with something like this: God, family, friends, health, etc. Those are all important things to be thankful for and deserve to be at the top of the list! But as Kids’ Ministry leaders, we should include something else on this list - VOLUNTEERS! We couldn’t do what we do without them!

I bet if you were asked if you were thankful for what your volunteers do, you would say “Absolutely! I couldn’t do it without them!” My next questions would be, “How do they know that you’re thankful?”

You can feel thankful all day long but until you express it, no one knows. Unfortunately, sometimes when we fail to express our thankfulness, people fill in the gap and believe that we’re not thankful.

In Kidamazoo Studios, we are very intentional on how we thank our volunteers. Our Kids’ Ministry staff will sit down each year to brainstorm ideas about how we can thank our volunteers for all they do. We create an annual plan to let our volunteers know how thankful we are to have them on our team. The plan doesn’t have to be expensive or complex, that’s not what it’s all about. The bottom line is that we have a plan. We put it on the calendar. We include it the budget. We say thank you! You’d be surprised just how powerful those two little words are!

Here are a few ideas of things we’ve done in the past:

  1. Treat’em Rights: We usually do these quarterly. We deck out a room and invite all of the kids volunteers to come in either before or after they serve to get a special treat. We went all out on our last Treat’em Right and hosted what we called “Malt Shop Mania” We decorated the room as a 50’s malt shop and served our volunteers ice cream sundaes before and after service!

  2. Handwritten Thank You Notes: Words can go a long way! We strive to write at least 10 thank you notes to different volunteers every week. We’re specific and always reference something that we noticed that a volunteer did to go the extra mile. General is good, but specific is best!

  3. Surprise a Volunteer With Their Favorites: When we have a new kids ministry volunteer, we have them fill out a sheet called “Getting to Know You”. On this sheet, we ask them many of their “favorites”. We look at those sheets regularly and love to surprise our volunteers with their favorite sweet treat or a gift card to their favorite restaurant!

  4. Plan a Group Outing: We have had picnics in the park where volunteers and their families can come and have fun with other volunteers!

  5. Celebrate Their Birthday: We, as a staff, send our volunteers a birthday card in the mail! We also are diligent to show them some social media love if they are on Facebook or Twitter!

We’ve learned that the most important thing that we can do is to thank our volunteers and express our love and appreciation for them in tangible and heartfelt ways. At the end of the day, I believe that God honors that and that is one of the reasons he continues to entrust us with His people who are so willing to serve His children!

Kidamazoo Studios - Our Story

Richard Pilger

At Valley Family Church, we have spent over two decades helping kids in Southwest Michigan connect with God and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Reaching kids and helping them “get it” has been one of our major priorities. We have learned a few things along the way—things that worked and things that didn’t work. While we don’t claim to have perfected the “secret sauce” for kids ministry, we have created a kids church curriculum that we are confident is engaging, relevant and producing lasting fruit in this generation of kids. That's why we are excited to introduce you to "Kidamazoo Studios"!

Have you spent hours searching for a curriculum that was the right fit? Something that was cutting-edge, current and connected with today’s kids? A curriculum that didn’t water things down so much that the point was lost? Material that communicated the Scriptures in an age-appropriate way? Something that you didn’t have to spend your entire week rewriting? A curriculum that was entertaining, inspiring and held the attention of kids from age six through age eleven? Material where the timeless truths of the Bible were taught in a way where kids could actually remember what they learned in church? A curriculum that was flexible, easy to use, editable and had video supplements? If you answered yes, you’re probably a lot like us because that was our desire too!

This is exactly how our story began and this uncompromising search for the perfect curriculum is what led us to create Kidamazoo Studios. We realize that there’s no curriculum that’s an exact fit for every ministry; however, Kidamazoo Studios has been intentionally designed so that churches of any size in any part of the world can benefit from the easy-to-customize format. Our goal with Kidamazoo Studios is to give you the tools that will enable you to do what you do best - empower volunteers, impact families and minister to kids! Have fun on our site, check out the latest curriculum, and don't hesitate to connect with us if you want to learn more! For more information on Valley Family Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, click here.

5 Common Mistakes Kids Ministers Make

Tori Pilger

Maybe you’re living the dream and landed that Kid’s Ministry Director position you’ve always wanted or maybe you woke up one morning and found yourself in charge and you’re still trying to figure out how it happened. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that on any given weekend you’ve got a small army of volunteers looking to you for direction. Being “in charge” can sometimes feel like a pressure cooker. There’s always a lot to do and it never seems like there’s enough time to get it done. In this scenario, it’s easy to make mistakes...sometimes lots of them! Over the years I’ve learned a couple of things through trial and error that might keep you from making the same mistakes I did. So, without further ado, here are 5 pitfalls to avoid in kids ministry:

  1. Attempting to do everything yourself.  We don’t have to be the one man/woman show. This isn’t good for us as leaders, the volunteers we serve, or the kids. Look for the special gifts in others and give them the chance to grow in their abilities to reach and teach kids. The best leaders always empower others to be successful!

  2. Trying to do too much. You cannot do everything...period. Decide what is most important and be okay with the fact that sometimes, less is more! Trying to do too many things at the same time will produce mediocre results and hinder your effectiveness. Decide what you can do, focus on that and then go hit a grand slam!

  3. Being afraid of asking. There are times when we may need to ask for additional financial resources, more human resources, more space, or get approval to launch a new program. This can be a biggie and might require you to step out of your comfort zone but the truth of the matter is that you’ll rarely have what you don’t ask for. So be bold enough to champion what you believe in but do it with grace, and when you get turned down, and sometimes you will, handle it with maturity.

  4. Talking about the need instead of the vision. My experience has been is that people will commit to a need for a season but they commit to vision for the long haul! True leaders know how to passionately communicate all that God desires to do in and through a particular ministry. For instance, recruiting new volunteers is easier when you share the impact that the giving of their time will make from an eternal perspective as opposed to sharing with them the fact that the infant nursery is short 4 volunteers. Everyone wants to join a winning team, so focus on what you’re doing and where you’re headed, not what you need.

  5. Doing something because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Some people tremble at the mention of the “C” word but the truth of the matter is that change is healthy. Anything that is living is changing. As a leader, one of your most important roles is to help people accept change but in order to do that, you have to be okay with change first! Yes, change is risky and often we fail to change because we fear failure. Don’t be afraid of failure - if anything, be more afraid of sliding into irrelevance. Doing the same thing over and over will get boring quickly and in the end, it will stifle momentum. Embrace change! Celebrate change! In fact be a “change champion” and when you do, you’ll see bigger and better results than you could ever hope for!