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Article Links for Technology and Trends in Preteen Ministry

I recently wrote an article for K! Magazine about Technology and Trends related to Preteen Ministry. Because of the subject matter, there were a ton of links to online resources. So, here is the list of links. As soon as the magazine issue is published, I’ll link to it here so you can read the article that goes with these links.

Video Resources

Worship Videos

Bible Apps

Mirror Content to Projector

Email

Backup

Learn from the Schools

Mobile

Virtual Assistants

Rain

Autumn Rain

Photo is Rain Water Drops on Car Glass Windscreen Grass by Iwan Gabovitch • Use under Creative Commons License • https://flic.kr/p/oe976y

NERF Wars: Tips and Resources for parties at home to big youth events

One of the most popular events we have for our 5th-6th graders is our NERF WARS nights.  We hold them once in the fall and once in the late winter/early spring.  I’ve seen a ton of other churches doing these nights for their students, as well as families doing this in a smaller scale for a birthday party or just fun time for their kids with friends.

Since I have benefitted so much from others, I’d like to pull back the curtain and reveal some of my favorite resources as well as a few tips if you are interested in having a NERF War event.

4EY97_AS01Tip #1: Safety Glasses

Whenever you are playing NERF, require students to wear safety glasses.  You are shooting darts.  At least one person will get shot in the face – even if it’s by accident.  Safety glasses are a must.  But you don’t have to spend a fortune.  We found these for about $2 each and bought a bulk amount.  We have been reusing them for years.

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Tip #2: Learn from others

Kenny Campbell has a great NERF Wars event kit that he has used in his own ministry.  As well as a NERF cup shootout game that you could use anytime, not just at a big event.  Check out his resources and then do an online search or ask around.  You might be surprised who locally has done one of these events and may have some wisdom for you.  For example, I found this NERF wiki with a ton of great tips and suggestions for variations on NERF Wars.

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Tip #3: Go to the Source

NERF wants kids to have fun with their products and buy more.  So they have put a fun, digital playbook online.  You can click through here and choose which type of blaster and whether you want to play with one person or a group.  Then it gives you a quick explanation video followed by a bulleted list of instructions.  Use these as-is or modify them, whether you are using these at your house or a big event in tournament or station form.

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Tip #4: Promotion

I found this great FREE logo online that you can download and customize for your event.

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Tip #5: Perfect Videos

If you haven’t heard of Dude Perfect yet, you should check them out.  When it comes to NERF Wars, whether you simply build up some excitement with their NERF Blaster video, NERF Blasters Battle video or challenge students to recreate their own Dude Perfect NERF moment, you can’t beat the hype they bring.

Referee

Tip #6: Tournament Refs on the Same Page

We learned the hard way what happens when you have a NERF War tournament going on in multiple zones and the referees have different “house rules.”  So, learn from my mistake and save yourself some upset preteens!  Make sure that the rules are simple and that everyone operating as a referee understands them.  It’s best to send them a copy of the rules and their responsibilities ahead of time.  Then, meet with them before the event to talk through the rules and be clear about any hypothetical situations.

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Tip #7: Provide All the Ammo

Nothing ruins a great NERF War more than all the whining and complaining when everyone can’t find exactly each and every dart they came with to the event.  So, do yourself a favor and provide all the ammo.  You can buy regular darts from NERF in packs of 75 for about $13.  The Mega darts come in packs of 10 for $5.  This is why we charge students $5 for our NERF Wars.  It covers two slices of pizza and restocking of ammo.  I also suggest picking up a few blasters for the kids who have one that breaks, don’t bring one, or bring one that doesn’t work with your ammo.

I hope this helps you whether you are planning a birthday party at your house or a big event at your church.  Make sure you take notes after you have your event so you’ll know what to adapt, change and improve for your next one.  This is definitely one event you can repeat and the excitement will still be there!

They Do Remember and It Does Matter

“They don’t remember what you teach them.  They remember how you made them feel.”

“They don’t remember content.  They remember relationships.”

“It doesn’t matter so much what you say, but more how you treat them.”

These phrases and so many more like them make their rounds in-person and on various social media platforms.  They are expressed with the intent of reminding people the value of relationships.  However, what they subtly communicate is the low value of content.

If you are a teacher, parent, or ministry leader – this should frustrate you.  It does me.

I’ve been told by people from small group conversations to main stage speakers at a conference that it doesn’t really matter what you teach students because they won’t remember most of it anyway.  I’m usually challenged to just ask a student what I taught the previous week and see if they remember.  Then that is usually followed up with asking them about an experience or a feeling and see how they remember that.  I know there is a lot of research and science behind how we remember and why experiences and emotions tie so strongly into that.  I’m not arguing with that.

My frustration is that people have pushed so strongly for the relational, experiential and emotional, that too often the content gets left behind.  Maybe when someone says, “They won’t remember what you teach.  It doesn’t matter.”, what they need someone to say to them is: “They do remember and it does matter.  If students don’t remember what you teach, you may need to teach differently.”

We could talk about learning styles and becoming an effective teacher.  However, there are people far more qualified than me to speak on these issues.  (Which is why I have linked a couple articles here.)

My point in writing today is simple: encouragement.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, small group leader, youth pastor, or a variation or combination of these roles, you need some encouragement.  Whether you are paid for your role in the lives of young people or you do so as a volunteer, you need some encouragement.  And whether you have a few weeks left of summer vacation or have already started a new school year, you need some encouragement.

So let me share some with you.

I don’t remember much about my Kindergarten class or the content I was taught by Mrs. Searl.  I do remember holding a colored piece of construction paper and following instructions while the color song played on a record player, the smell of paste and bringing a toy fire truck for show and tell.  And when it comes to elementary school, I have similar memories, mostly of class parties, recess, friends and some current events.

However, I am able to read and write English.  I don’t remember the lessons teaching me about each vowel and consonant.  I remember a little about diagramming sentences and grammar in junior high.  The skills and abilities I have in reading and writing today are built upon the foundational bricks that started with teaching me letters – even though I don’t remember those lessons decades later.

I was around church a lot during my childhood, but not consistently until I was a junior in high school.  So my memory of Bible-teaching is a combination of typical children’s stories and a few memorization challenges about the names of the disciples and children’s worship songs.  Yet those lessons provided a foundation for the more extensive and deeper learning I have done over the last twenty years!

So I’d like to take this moment to encourage you.  Hopefully this post has caused you to think back and re-live some fun childhood memories.  But more significantly, I want to encourage you that what you teach children will remember.  What you teach does matter.

Whether you are a teacher setting up a formal classroom to instruct children in basic knowledge about the world around us; a parent trying your best to raise children in this crazy world;  a volunteer who prepares games and lessons for a small group of students at your church or club; a professor or lecturer who instructs young adults at a college or university; or are the Children’s or Youth Pastor at your church; they do remember and it does matter.

We all need to be life-long learners so that we do the most effective job possible at our teaching.  There are good and bad ways to communicate no matter how important the content is.  And there are ways to become a better teacher no matter the age with which you work or the context in which you teach.

At the end of the day, it is about the content and all the emotional, experiential and relational elements.

So don’t be too hard on yourself if your 2nd grade student forgets what they learned today as you meet with their parents for a parent-teacher conference.  And don’t feel bad when a child from your Sunday school class, weekend program or small group only tells their parent about the game you played or the crazy thing someone else said instead of the important truth you taught from the Bible.  And don’t give up on choosing and developing quality content for your children’s or youth/student ministry because that doesn’t seem to stick.

You are making a difference in the lives of young people.  They’ll look back and remember at least some of this down the road.  But just because they don’t remember all of it, doesn’t make it significant and important.  After all, just because I don’t remember learning my letters in Kindergarten doesn’t mean I forgot that skill.  I’m extremely thankful to be literate today in part because decades ago Mrs. Searl took the time to teach me my ABC’s.  Even if I don’t remember her lessons.  My life has been impacted by them forever.  I do remember.  It does matter.

(Letter board picture by Dan Klimke • Used under Creative Commons License from https://flic.kr/p/5j1xwm)

Technology and Ministry

I was recently invited to be interviewed for a podcast at Ministry to Youth.  They talked with me about two of my favorite subjects: technology and student ministry! Check out the link by clicking on the image below.  This also goes well with my page of “Apps for Spring 2015.”

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