Discovery Land Blog

Creating a No Show Culture in Four Easy Steps

Discovery Land - Saturday, August 11, 2018
By Kris Smoll

If you desire to create a ​ministry ​culture of ​last-minute emergencies, closed rooms, ​​frustrated leaders, ​and ​irritated parents​, here​'s how you can achieve it in just four easy steps:

1) ​Arrive with a negative attitude​;​ very little effort will be needed to spread it to others as it​ is generally pretty contagious.​

2) If a ​volunteer doesn't arrive as scheduled, DO NOT follow up​. Do not text, or call, or show any concern for why they're not there.​
3) If a ​volunteer​ is not​ serving​ in their sweet spot, ​keep them in that position for as long as possible.​ Don't give them ​an opportunity to serve in a way that they are better suited for.
4) Reduce ​the ​structure ​in your children's ministry ​so the time spent with the kids is ​a taste of ​pure craziness.

If th​at's not what you're aiming for, instead:
1) Have a joyful​,​ positive attitude as you serve the Lord.​ Set the tone even before your program begins by send​ing ​out short​,​ weekly emails to set the vision, share God at work stories and ​give​ any important updates.
​2​) If ​a volunteer​ does not ​arrive as scheduled​, immediately follow up to make sure they are safe or ​check ​if ​you've ​miscommunicated with them. This show​s​ they are ​very valuable to the team.
​3​) Place people ​in ministry positions ​according to their gifts​,​ talents​, and interests​.
​4​) Follow your schedule, curriculum and expect optimum learning.

​Leaders can create a culture where volunteers ​feel honored and valued, and come ready to serve!

I Thought This Was Obvious: A Lesson In Training Others

Discovery Land - Thursday, July 26, 2018

As I was standing in line at the Sacramento Airport, I noticed this safety sign posted in a prominent place so everyone could see it. I thought was, "Isn't that obvious? No guns, no smoking, no explosives, no in incendiary devices. Did you really need to post this? Haven't we all heard this a million times?"

After shaking my head, I paused and realized that this was my perspective, as someone who travels regularly. For others, this may be the first time they've ever flown, or maybe they haven't flown in a very long time. I also remembered that one time a mission trip colleague, also a seasoned traveler, inadvertently packed a very long knife in her carry on bag for a trip to the jungle, which is obviously not allows. Whoops!

So I guess the obvious isn't always so...obvious! This is a principle to remember as we prepare to train our volunteers for a new season of ministry. As leaders, we eat, sleep, and breathe children's ministry, but that is not the case for our most of our volunteers.

So let's remember:
1) Repetition is key. Do no assume that volunteers fully understood an idea or instruction the first time.

2) Make your key points big, simple and obvious. Be bold and just say what you need to say. For example: "We expect our kids to listen and obey while in class because we value them learning and living out the Word of God."

3) Avoid big words. What does incendiary even mean? It means "(of a device or attack) designed to cause fires" by the way. If you want to make your point clear, use words that the average person can readily understand and apply.

Your whole ministry will benefit when you look at your training through the lens of others!

Unseen Wounds

Discovery Land - Friday, October 13, 2017
by Kris Smoll
Today I toured a beautiful hospital in Connecticut. The decor and friendly staff were amazing. It was clear they truly cared for their patients, who they treated like guests in their home. I felt compelled to pray for those who were being wheeled from location to location and for those who were dropped off at the front door and escorted in with great care. 

My thoughts turned to our children's ministry; does my heart break for the children and parents who walk through our doors with "unseen" spiritual diseases or injuries that cause deep pain? Do I go to the front doors with a caring heart and greet each person as a guest rather than another kid who needs a chair in our rooms? I wonder if our children's and parents' spiritual wounds were "seen" how our ministry would change. Would we be more caring? Would we prepare and pray differently?

For the past couple of weeks in Discovery Land, we have taught the kids about the fall of man, and the disease -- sin -- that we are all afflicted with. We live in a broken world; it is a high calling and privilege to point children to the Great Physician. 

Mark 2:17 NLT
When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."

Let's walk into ministry this weekend ready prepared and ready to care for those unseen wounds.   

How Do Our Kids View The World?

Discovery Land - Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Why do we focus so heavily in Discovery Land on grounding kids in the Word of God and giving them a Biblical worldview?

The research in this recent article is alarming. But as followers of Christ, we are not people of despair...we are people of hope! Let's commit to holding God's Word in high regard, praying for our kids, teaching God's Word with passion and excellence, and then trusting God to work in big ways!

I Corinthians 15:58 - STAND FIRM!

Getting the Most Out of Your Market

Discovery Land - Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tracker Tickets and Discover Market are tools to encourage kids to attend Discovery Land, bring their Bibles, fully participate, and work with their parents on Tracker's Treasures at home. These are important outcomes, but they are just the start of how these tools can help kids grow in their faith.

As an example, these 4th graders at Appleton Alliance were given an opportunity to donate a portion of their tracker tickets each week. They saved over 900 tickets!. Last week, they traded them in for two backpacks filled with gifts, which were then donated to kids in need at The Harbor House, a local shelter for women and children hurt by domestic abuse. The students also signed a greeting card and prayed for the future recipients of the gifts--that they will seek Jesus in their time of need.

How can you more fully utilize Tracker Tickets and Discover Market as discipleship tools? Can you send gifts to kids of missionary families that are supported by your church? Can you do a "giving day" where the only things purchased at the Market are gifts for others?

Everything -- including Tracker Tickets-- belongs to the Lord. Encourage your kids to be wise stewards of what God has given them by thinking of others and giving generously.

S is for Scrolls, Spinners, and Serious Organization

Discovery Land - Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Are you a Type-A person who loves organization? Or are you a creative type who loves new ideas? Either way, this up-close-and-personal look at Appleton Alliance's Resource Room is for you!

You won't find word searches or fill-in-the-blank worksheets in the Discovery Land program. Instead, we encourage teachers to bring the Bible to life using the ideas listed in the curriculum. These ideas often include things like using props, drawing comic strips right in the classroom, or putting on some simple costumes and acting it out.

At AAC, we stock a resource room for our teachers and we encourage teachers to check out and use what's in it before purchasing anything. But how do our teachers know what is available? And with three services and lots of volunteers and kids, how do we keep track of it all? Enter Jenny...a fabulous volunteer who has cleaned, organized, and created an amazing system. You can click the picture to see exactly what's in our resource room and how it's organized (this pdf was sent to our teachers, so they know what's in it).

Click Here to Download PDF

BUT WAIT! Before you click, maybe you're thinking "But I don't have a resource room. Or money to stock a resource room. Or Jenny." Don't be discouraged! Instead, use this to inspire you to take the next step for your children's ministry. You can start with a resource closet, shelf or tub. Choose a few key items that you think will be the most useful for your teachers and ask for donations (someone in your church might have what you're looking for sitting around at home!). And then come up with a simple organizational system that works for you and your volunteers. The final step is to remind your teachers often that the resources are available, and encourage them to use those resources to have fun BRINGING THE BIBLE TO LIFE for kids!

Survey Says...

Discovery Land - Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Jump start your Sunday's "Do Right" point by creating a quick, kid-friendly survey that students can respond to as they enter your Discovery Land. All you need are pit balls and two containers for students to vote their opinion. In the second picture, you can see that the question is actually hung from the ceiling.

Sorry for the blurry pictures...Discovery Land is a busy place on Sunday mornings and they were taken on the run!

Sample questions:
Do you believe in Miracles?
Was Jesus really perfect his whole life?
Is the Bible 100% true?
Do all people believe in Jesus?

I’d like a double portion, please

Discovery Land - Thursday, November 17, 2016

With the holidays upon us, we might think: I’d like an extra portion of mashed potatoes or the extra big piece of pie. Keep heaping it on there! Wouldn’t it be rude to be so bold to ask anyone, even our own parents, if we could have double what they had? Please give me my share plus!

Elisha did just that, though. When Elijah asked, “What is it I can leave you with?” Elisha answered, “Please, let there be a double portion of your spirit upon me.” Elisha didn’t want a cloak, a new staff, or a promise that everything would be ok. Elisha knew what the most important thing of all was: the spirit of the Lord, which had been with Elijah. Elisha wanted that, in double portion! 

It has me thinking: When was the last time I thought I can’t, I’m not strong enough, I don’t know enough, I need to know more, I need to be more ….? Unfortunately, the answer to that is: all too often.

Elisha has reminded me this morning, as I have prepared my DL lesson for the coming week, to start my morning with a simple, bold prayer:
Dear Lord, remind me that you are always with me and Father. Give me a double portion of your Spirit so that I might accomplish all you have for me today in boldness, and faith. Let me finish strong. Amen.

Reading and preparing my lessons each week, from Sunday to Sunday, allows me the time to think on and process all God has for me in His Word this week. What has God taught you this week in preparing for your Discovery Land lesson of the week?

Recruiting with Purpose!

Discovery Land - Friday, November 11, 2016

By Kris Smoll

How do you recruit? This email recently came past my desk:

"We are in dire need of a lunchroom helper tomorrow, Thursday, November 10th and a lunchroom helper for EVERY day next week. If you are able to help in this area, please contact the office and let us know! Thank you in advance for your volunteer help, it is appreciated!"

Do you hear the stress and desperation in this email or do you hear the joy and value found in serving? What kind of response might they have gotten if they would have instead said, "Take time to meet your student’s best friends while serving lunch tomorrow. It will be one hour of smiles, great food and the ability to role model to your child a servant’s heart." Wouldn’t this make you as a parent catch a bigger picture of this great experience rather than just hearing this request as a desperate need?

How do you recruit for CM mid-year when you are short volunteers?

Here a few tips:

1) Explain the "why" behind the ministry.

2) Share how they will bless others and how they will gain from this opportunity.

3) Cheer for the ministry, rather than highlight how desperate you are.

4) Give clear instructions on how to sign up and how many people you need.

5) Share a short testimony (phrase) from a current leader: "Best part of my day!"

6) Include pictures as much as possible of the ministry blessing others.

7) Have a team of people pray specifically for each position needed.

8) Ask volunteers to recruit for you!

We never need to recruit out of frustration or desperation. Instead, we get to invite people to join the work of the living God!

The Know, Do, Think and Feel Right of Leadership

Discovery Land - Friday, September 23, 2016
By: Amanda Alberts

With the start of a new year of Discovery Land, it is a great time to talk about the Do Right point of being a great leader. Whether you are a leader in a classroom, a service leader, a department leader or leader of the ministry, it is important to Do leadership Right!

In Discovery Land, it is always important to Know why we do what is Right. We lead Right because we serve an awesome God who brought all things into being by the power of His word, appointed each one of us to this particular time and place to do the work He has called us to do, equips us, perfects us, molds us and uses all we are and offer to Him for His great glory. He is perfect, He is almighty, and He could have done all the work alone, but He has invited us to serve Him and be a part of the amazing work He is doing in His Kingdom on earth and into eternity. Isn’t it worthwhile to serve such a God-- a God who keeps the hailstones, who gives borders to the waves and who tells the sun to rise and set--with excellence?

Let’s Think about 1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. As we give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, right leadership:

  • Finds answers rather than excuses
  • Apologizes and doesn’t blame
  • Finds new ways to assist others and make their jobs easier
  • Delegates responsibilities and then allows new leaders to flourish
  • Is humble and welcomes constructive criticism 
  • Chooses to serve alongside those on their team 
  • Says ‘thank you’ and is sincere 
  • Is passionate and shares that passion with others
  • Keeps your personal relationship with Christ number one 
  • Prays for the ministry
  • Studies their Bible lesson from the Bible
  • Reads and knows the curriculum each week
  • Has a teachable spirit

When we Know why we lead with excellence, we Think of 1 Corinthians 15:58, and then we lead Right, we can Feel good about a job well done, grateful for the opportunity to be part of God’s work and excited about what comes next.