Church Workers Handbook -- Chapter 14: Planning a Children's Program

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The Church Workers Handbook is filled with practical information that you may not have learned in Bible college or seminary. If you haven't already learned this information in the school of hard knocks, you need this series of blogs. This will be information for anyone who serves in any capacity in a church (from senior pastor up to janitor).

Ed and Nancy Lint

G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA
Bachelor of Science in Bible, Bachelor of Theology, Master of Education Administration and Supervision.

Much of the Drawbridge content is political in general and anti-Obama in particular.

I am still convinced that Obama is America's worst president, bar none. However, I have decided to give Obama a rest on the Sundays of 2012 and concentrate on spiritual and/or educational content, only.

If you wish to download the entire pdf file of 205 pages, click this link: Church Workers Handbook

The individual chapters are shown in the Table of Contents: [html format]

Children's Programs

This chapter is written about Christmas programs for children because I wrote it in December 1999. However, it may apply equally for programs during other times of the year, such as: Easter, VBS [vacation Bible school], Thanksgiving.

You can augment this chapter with other chapters in Church Workers Handbook, such as: 2. You Can Be a Teacher, Too
3. Church Music
9: Using Mikes and Sound System
10. Making a Broadcast-Quality Recording of Your Church Service

1. Plan ahead It's generally true that parents and extended family members love to see their own children up front. However, they will love it even more if there's evidence of a little planning and some attention to a program that is designed to give glory to God.

Make sure the designated program director and his/her helpers get a copy of this chapter or something similar before any work is done on planning or preparing the program. It will be better if the leader and helpers read this kind of information before work is started on the program, After it is all over, they may be smart enough to sense that it could have been better with some careful planning but by then, it's too late.

2. Pick the program director with great care. Never select the director by default, just because this person is the youth/children's pastor, Sunday school superintendent, a school teacher, or the pastor's wife. The following characteristics should govern the selection of the leader, regardless of the job description for the rest of the year. "

Pick a woman: Music will play a major role in the program and it's a known fact that a woman can teach young children to sing a new song better than a man. Boys whose voices have not started to change don't respond as well to a man as a woman. "

Pick a woman with successful experience working with young children: This experience can come from a variety of sources; mother, Sunday school teacher, school teacher, or all of the above. "

Pick a woman who is musically inclined: She may not be a fantastic musician but she should be able to carry a tune.

3. Give all the children a role. Each child should be in the program in some capacity or another: One church program I saw recently even had all the nursery children in the program; their parents were invited onto the platform and each parent introduced themselves and their babies.

4. Try to make the program interesting and informative. Resist the temptation to pass out numerous little ditties with the children parading up to recite them. One retired program director I know real well [my wife, Nancy] wrote Christmas programs that I feel were interesting, informative, and inspirational. Two that come to mind are The Great Census and From the Manger to the Cross. Or, you can incorporate little-known Biblical Christmas facts such as those found at the following link: Christmas Meditation Moments.

5. Pick singable songs for soloists and groups to sing. Remember, your most valuable assistants in your program are the parents [probably the mothers] of the children in it. If you're using a published program, chances are there will be some songs that are new to everyone, including the director. If you have the opportunity to pick the songs, pick some that are familiar. By the way, not all Christmas carols are especially singable.

Not so long ago, I heard a preschool choir try to sing Some Children See Him. While the words of this carol are absolutely appropriate for a preschool choir, the melody will require both singers of unusual ability and a leader of unusual skill in teaching young children to sing on pitch. It would help if she was a music major from Houghton College, too! Sadly, this group of young singers lacked both.

6. Make sure instruments have been tuned right before the performance begins. Last Christmas, I attended a rather extravagant Christmas program in a large evangelical church. Admission was by ticket only [the place was packed to the rafters], there was a Christmas drama with live animals, and there was a fairly large orchestra comprised of adults and some high school students, directed by a full-time employee of the church. But, when the overture began, it was immediately evident that the orchestra was out of tune.

Ouch! No competent public high school band director would ever give the downbeat to a stage full of untuned instruments. Let's be sure we give Jesus our best, especially on His birthday, of all days!

7. Make it easy for children to practice new songs. If you are using a program with a recorded sound track, duplicate some tapes for the families to use in learning new songs. Collect the tapes after the program for making practice tapes another time. If you're worried about copyright violations, most publishers won't consider it a copyright violation unless what you have done keeps them from making a sale. When you buy a sound track, never make a copy for another group to use in their program.

8. Make sure young children use the restroom right before the service. [See section 9 below]

9. Put the children on first [not after the worship leader has led the congregation in four verses of four carols.]

The children are the main attraction, not carol singing by the congregation. Start the program with one verse and chorus of Joy to the World or Oh Come, All Ye Faithful. Then, get out of the way and let the children do their thing. If you feel a need for a carol sing, do that after the children are finished with their program.

10. Position mikes out of reach of all but featured performers. You can count on one thing: children who can't carry a tune in a bucket [often boys] will grab a mike or stand right in front of it and drown out everyone else. No one thinks this is really funny except the family of the chief offenders. If you want to amplify a group of children, position the mikes on high stands above their heads and pointed down at them. Or, suspend omnidirectional mikes from the ceiling but out of reach of the children.

Instruct soloists to hold a hand held mike about 6 inches below the chin.

11. Dismissing children to parents or approved guardian's custody. Your church should have a written policy for the security and custody of minor children. Make sure that in the excitement and confusion of a Christmas program, this policy is not violated.

These guidelines may be too late to use this Christmas. File them away and use them next year or any time you have a special children's program.

G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA, -- Editor

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