Team's Creativity Makes Children’s Church Fun Place to Get to Know God
Bible Barn, The Love Sub, Bonsai Brothers, High Seas Adventures, King City Chronicles, Caribbean Queen and Commander Cosmos. It might sound like a Thursday night lineup for cable TV, but these are actually the names of some of the awesome Children’s Church series we offer every week in kids church.
As creative as the titles are, even more creativity lies within the team that leads Children’s Church. Made up of a small group of volunteers and staff, the Children’s Ministries worship team takes worship and learning the Bible to another level. Gone are the days of felt figures on flannel boards. Robert and David, the two main actors for kids church, teach the important lessons from the Bible wearing all kinds of wigs, hats and costumes that include bell bottoms and space suits, monocles and mustaches.
Inspired by Robert’s love of acting and extensive career as a professional actor, the characters are developed and their scripts are written with a specific set of characteristics in mind. When my daughter spent a season on “The Love Sub” series, I got to tag along on a trip to Goodwill. Robert meticulously searched for the right costume pieces for Azalea, a Jesus-loving hippie with a blonde Afro. He puts that same kind of care and attention into every role that he and David play, ensuring the characters and the skits bring the Bible to life for every kid who walks into church.
Helping them do that is Marisol, our kids worship producer. Marisol, David and Robert work together to build a fun worship experience for the kids. Marisol’s work is focused on the worship time for kids church. She manages and schedules volunteer musicians and singers who lead worship and praise, including dance moves, hand motions and sign language. She’s intentional about choosing songs that reinforce the weekly Scripture focus and are easy to memorize so as the kids grow up and move on to middle school, the lessons they learned in kids church stay with them.
Let’s meet David, Marisol and Robert now and hear the passion behind what they do as they serve our kids every weekend in kids church.
David’s Gift of Acting
David was born and raised in Kansas City until four years ago, when he moved to Orlando for a job opportunity. He loves Kansas City almost as much as he loves Jesus. When not in costume during weekend worship, he walks the foyer, and you can easily spot him because he always has his kids church gear on. David has always loved acting, and after responding to an ad in the church newspaper, he joined an improv team at his church back home in Kansas City. The team members had so much fun that they were pulled from that and asked to be children’s ministry teachers. They were the perfect fit! David said it was a bit of an experiment, and it paid off. It also solidified his love to serve kids through his acting gift.
David’s children are part of kid’s church every weekend. It provides him a unique opportunity to gauge how well the message of the lesson came through. He says, “It makes it a lot more fun for me, and I get to hear about it from their side. If something’s gone really well, then they’re repeating it or talking about it on the ride home from church.
“Sometimes this ministry can be frustrating because it’s hard to gauge how effective you really are. You put your message out there, and you don’t see these kids for another week. In any other job, you get the instant gratification of knowing what you accomplished. … It’s good to hear them playing the characters and talking about the Bible lessons they learned. It reinforces that we’re making an impact and the message is getting through to the kids.”
David also shared that his kids are part of the family “back here,” the backstage room where the worship and acting teams gather on the weekends. They come to rehearsal with David, run lines with him, and share in the community that he and the others have cultivated.
Marisol’s Love of Music
I remember meeting Marisol in The Hub one weekend several years ago. She was in a full-time job performing in a show at Disney. She had been attending Northland for over a year after “church hopping” and was looking for a place to serve. She wanted to serve, but not as a teacher. She was told there was a worship team for both grade school and early childhood, so she auditioned for a volunteer spot with the leaders at the time, including Robert.
“I auditioned with Robert, and he made me audition for the job in a British accent. That’s not easy when you’re a Puerto Rican from Brooklyn,” she laughs.
After auditioning and connecting with our kids worship team and Debbie Blahnik, our Children’s Ministries director, she began serving in early childhood, leading Praise Time and reading the Bible lessons to the kids as Aunt Birdie, a character who helps the lesson resonate with the younger kids through storytelling.
After several years in that role, she got a call from Debbie asking her if she’d be interested in coming on as the grade school worship producer. On January 1, 2018, she became the official children’s worship producer and started her partnership with Robert and David leading worship for our grade school kids.
The role of worship leader and producer fit Marisol well. Her previous experiences center around children and music, and she continues to work part time at Kindermusik, an early childhood educational music and movement program for infants through 7-year-olds. While she definitely wants the kids to have fun, her desire also centers around helping them understand the idea of worship as a very important way to connect with and respond to God.
“Our roles are as worship leaders. We’re all worship leaders. Our job is to really teach the children what worship is all about, what it means, the act of worship, that it’s not just what God is doing for us but what we’re offering to Him … offering our hearts, offering our whole selves to Him in worship.”
When you get feedback from parents like this: “Thanks for following up! Our kids really enjoyed it! Our 7-year-old said, ‘Mom, there were several songs in worship where I felt like God was holding me,’” you know you’re making an impact.
Robert’s Fun Characters
Robert is the bona fide “elder” of the group. He and his family have been at Northland for 27 years. Like most people, he came up through the congregation. His wife, Sharon, whom you may know from our worship team, always had to be here for both services on Sunday mornings. Rather than go home after the early service, he would head to Children’s Church with his kids.
“I just wanted to worship with them and be around them and see what was going on,” he shared.
While he was there, he got the bug and wanted to be a part of the acting and worship team. The director at the time, Cheryl, knew Robert as a professional actor and invited him to join the puppet team. Having never done puppets, he had a bit of trepidation but was convinced that he could do it because of his ability as a voice and character actor. He jumped right in, and shortly thereafter, he looked at the guy he was serving with and said, “This is where I’m supposed to be. This is my mission field.”
A year or so later, he came on staff part time to help Cheryl with managing some of the workload. He began scheduling actors, writing scripts, directing and making the gospel come to life through the skits. Cheryl was freed up to focus more on the worship and caring for the teachers.
When he first began at Northland, kid’s church didn’t include the skits, only puppets. When a new person joined the children’s team and realized Robert was an actor, they worked together to phase out the puppets for the older kids until eventually it was all live actors. “The kids love it because it’s silly characters and very adventure-based.”
Robert also writes all the scripts that align with weekly lessons and overall curriculum, which covers the entire Bible three times over! So if your child starts as a 5-year-old and moves all the way through until middle school, he or she will have gone through the Bible not once, not twice, but three times. And they don’t skip over anything, Robert says.
“Everything from Creation to Revelation--we don’t cut any of it. We even go through the prophets, which is very repetitive, but we’ve found a way to make it fun. We make sure we touch on every aspect of the Bible so they have a holistic view of the Old Testament, the New Testament and how it all connects together.”
These team members and the volunteers who serve with them would tell you they are a family. On Sunday mornings, they serve for five hours. They take the time between services to study the Bible together. They cook breakfast on a griddle and simply enjoy their time together hearing about how everyone’s week went, struggles and joys they can invite one another to pray about or celebrate.
Many of the worship singers and tech volunteers are high school students who cut their teeth in kids church and go on to lead in the high school worship band or move on to the main worship team.
Not only do Robert, Marisol and David pour into your kids, but they help prepare the high school volunteers for bigger ministry opportunities and even life.
“It’s nice generationally seeing a 60-year-old guy jamming on a guitar working alongside a high school girl who plays guitar with him, mentoring her,” Robert says. “It’s fun to watch that and to watch Marisol with the teenage kids, bringing them up and teaching them how to lead worship. Leading worship is more than just singing; it’s teaching them how to engage and how to connect, how to connect to the audience and the Lord at the same time.”
When you drop of your child for church, you’re not dropping him or her off to a daycare-like setting where they sing Bible verses and play games while you’re in the sermon listening, learning and growing in your understanding of who God is. In fact, they are experiencing the same high-level biblical teaching, along with ways they can practically live out what they’ve learned weekend to weekend.
“Some of these kids come out of the program knowing Scripture better than their parents,” says Robert about the curriculum and weekly experience.
David says, “When kids are new to the church, and you meet them out in the foyer when they’re signing in, you can tell the kids are unsure. We bring them back and show them the area, and they’re kind of in awe but still not sure. My favorite part is after they’ve come through here, seeing them leave. … Their faces are excited and lit up. You can hear them telling their parents, ‘Oh, Mom, Dad, I had so much fun. I can’t wait to come back!’”
He adds, “That’s not anything about us. It’s about something we’ve done through the power of God that helped make them feel loved and accepted. … That’s all that counts. If a child comes and enjoys church, even if the parent doesn’t, they are statistically more likely to come back. If we can be a part of getting a kid in church, his family to church and getting involved, and maybe changing the trajectory for that entire lineage of family in Jesus, and if me getting on stage and acting silly somehow helped that family, it’s worth every ounce of energy, time and effort we put into it.”
Robert shared that he used to feel guilty about not being a missionary and going on mission trips until he began working in children’s ministry. He soon realized his mission field is right where he is now. Thousands of kids have come to Christ in kids church on salvation weekends over the years. Knowing they started their lives with Jesus during that time affirms his calling and the hard work that he, David, Marisol and the rest of the team put in every weekend.
Serving in Children’s Church is a labor of love for these three. It is a calling on their lives to pour into our kids in so many fun and meaningful ways. They can’t do it alone, though. Especially in the summer, when some of our regular volunteers take a break, we could use some help. If you’ve ever considered serving in Children’s Ministries but were worried about the commitment, try it out for the summer, and see what you think!
We have a big weekend coming up June 8 and 9. Our fifth-graders are moving on to middle school, and it’s promotion weekend, when all the kids move up. It’s both a nervous and exciting time for our kids. You can be praying for them and their teachers during this transition, and you can learn more about Children’s Ministries in general. We’ll have volunteers and leaders in the foyer highlighting all things Children’s Ministries, everything from your child’s next step to where you might step in and serve with this special team.
Stop by and visit us June 8 and 9 while you’re here for worship, or check out northlandchurch.net/children to learn more.