Archives For KidMin Programming

Today, I’m excited to share excerpts from a conversation I had recently with Ken Neff, Children’s Pastor at Christ Central in Lake City, Florida.  I ‘met’ Ken through a Facebook group for kidmin leaders.  He posted this picture of a set he designed for his kidmin and I wanted to talk to him and see why and how he does this.

Photo Credit: Ken Neff

Photo Credit: Ken Neff


Ken has been featured on and is highly sought-after to help design sets for kidmin environments. What I found fascinating is that Ken has NO construction background.  Prior to becoming a Children’s Pastor, he was in retail for 12 1/2 years – where he picked up marketing and art skills – and was a deputy sheriff for 10 years.

Kathie Phillips (KP):  Why do you do what you do [take time to design and build sets]?

Ken Neff: (KN):  “To me, it’s more than stage design.  It’s the whole atmosphere.  Not only are kids visually stimulated, but there is usually something else going on.”  For example, Ken’s church ties music into the monthly theme.  When they did a baseball theme, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was played.  Costumes are also integrated along with the set design.  For the baseball theme, volunteers wore baseball uniforms and hats.  Ken also mentioned that prayer and God-given ideas inspire his creativity.

KP:  What set design ideas do you have for churches on a budget?

KN:  “I often hear, ‘I want to do something but I don’t have a budget for it.’  However, if you plan ahead, you can do something.  Planning ahead makes preparing a lot easier.  An added benefit of that is you can purchase items for a good price or get them donated for free.  You can’t do that if you wait until the last-minute.”  Ken’s ministry has a different teaching series each month but he plans out the year in advance.  In fact, he’s already working on ideas for 2016!

KP:  I’m curious about what curriculum you use that inspires these great sets.  Do you write your own curriculum?

KN:  “Yes.  We write it all.  It’s God-inspired but even if you use published curriculum, there’s no reason you can’t still build a stage and have props that engage the kids.”

KP:  Are you the only one constructing these fabulous sets?  Do you have any help?

KN:  “I am the primarily one responsible, but there’s a lady in our church who comes in about a week before I change the set to help paint things.  She’s an artist, so that’s helped a great deal.”  Ken mentioned that he has picked up artistic skills from this sweet lady.

KP:  Changing out your set every month must mean that you need a great deal of storage space.  What kind of storage do you have?

KN:  “We have a 30 x 50 ft storage space at our church.”  Ken also recycles and repurposes quite a bit, so this helps to keep clutter to a minimum.

KP:  What storage options would you suggest for those in portable churches?

KN:  “You have to get creative if you’re in a portable church, but it can be done.”  Some suggestions might include renting a storage space, storing items in someone’s garage, or asking your portable church location if you could store things there.

KP:  What advice would you give to churches who share space with another group or ministry?

KN:  “If you can make just three (3) props that go along with your theme, I would make them out of something like styrofoam.  That would help it to be lightweight and make transporting to a storage area manageable.  You could also get with other ministry leaders who share your space to see if they could incorporate the same theme so that props could be left up during the week.”  It should be noted that Ken’s ministry shares space with their church’s weekday preschool, run by his wife, Andrea.  That makes leaving his set in place a lot easier!

Quotables from our conversation:

“It’s a good feeling that we, the church, can have a huge impact on kids like Disney does and not have to spend millions of dollars to do it.”

“We need to make Jesus exciting!”

Here are a few other tips Ken suggested:

  • Build/group things in odd numbers.  It’s easier on the eyes.
  • Look for resources all around you.  Things like paint, wood pieces, and empty carpet tubes can be donated by people in your church.  You can also find inexpensive pieces from flea markets or second-hand stores.

Check out more of Ken’s work here.  If you’d like to contact Ken, you can email him at

Ken Neff headshotKen & Andrea Neff are the Families & Children’s Pastors at Christ Central located in Lake City,Florida. They minister on a weekly bases to 300 children. Through the creative anointing that God has placed on Ken’s life, he brings the Bible stories alive for the children by creating a monthly stage design that goes with the curriculum that he and Andrea and write. They believe in equipping other leaders and pastors to advance the Kingdom of God.

What About the Tweens?

February 10, 2015 — 17 Comments

I am so excited to have my friend, Andrea Hopgood, share about her recent experience at the Children’s Pastors’ Conference.  Andrea and I connected through another national conference a few years ago and I count her as one of my trusted kidmin sisters.  Thank you for sharing your story with us, Andrea!

What about the tweens

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Children’s Pastors’ Conference (CPC15).  The four days of sitting and learning from experts in their field started with a long, daily look into, “What Matters Most in Ministry to Tweens”. Kids are considered a “tween” when they are between 9-12 years old. I will share with you highlights and AHA moments that were both confirming and convicting to me.

According to Daniel Nott with Tween Gospel Alliance, the average:

  • family time is 36 minutes per day
  • church time is 3 hours per week
  • media/digital time is 8-10 hours per day

These statistics show that media is forming and shaping the minds of our tweens. Our teens are buying into these thoughts:

There isn’t any absolute truth. They believe it’s ok to believe what you want.

They’re asking the question, “Is church relevant for me?”

Partying is good and being skinny is the key to happiness.  Anorexia is starting between ages 9-11.

Divorce and living together is okay.

They are being mentored by media.

Having sex is normal because it’s on TV regularly. According to Dannah Gresch, founder of Secret Keeper Girl, kids as young as 11 have been exposed to pornography.

 As parents and Christian leaders, it is our responsibility to nurture the tweens in our lives so they will not build their moral compass on a shaky (worldly) foundation. Instead, we need to guide them in creating a Biblical perspective that will be a firm foundation for their lives.

Moral Development Phases

3 to 6 year olds – This is the “copycat” phase. They want to be like mom or dad. At this age, they have the play kitchen sets and pretend tool boxes and they mimic what they see mom and dad do.

 7 to 12 year olds – This is referred to as the “counseling” phase because they are forming their spiritual beliefs. No longer can we say “Because I said so”, they want to know “why”. This is always a spiritual question. This gives us the opportunity to give an answer from a Biblical perspective. If we aren’t ready to answer their questions, the world is definitely ready.


The battle for the mind and hearts of people are largely won or lost by age 13. According to studies conducted by Barna, 80% of tweens say the Bible, Qur’an and Book of Mormon teach the same truth.

1% of tweens have a Biblical world view.

Social Peers

Tweens tend to detach from face to face communication and prefer to engage in social media. This detachment causes a decrease in empathy. To grab their attention in the church setting, we must provide experiences that will grasp their attention and apply the lesson directly to their lives, followed by time for them to verbally process how the lesson (for example) applies to their life. Many tweens are the 4th-5th graders in our ministries. They are bored being with the 1st-3rd graders, but they aren’t ready to be with the older kids. This is a golden opportunity for us to create a transitional ministry.

When they were asked, “Who is the biggest influencer in your life?”, the #1 answer was their parents. This is confirmation that we must provide opportunities for parents to be in the driver’s seat for spiritual encounters and spiritual formation.  How can we do that?

  • Provide a parent/child baptism and/or communion class. This class will allow families to attend together as a ministry leader facilitates conversation. Parents will have an opportunity to share their faith story with their child or begin a conversation letting the child know that they are beginning this journey together.  This will start heart conversations that can continue even after the class is complete.
  • Host date nights for fathers and daughters or mothers and sons.
  • Organize a parent/child purity retreat to guide conversations so parents are teaching their kids the Biblical perspective of modesty and truth about sexuality.

As you ponder what God would like your next steps to be, I pray that you receive the clarity and courage you need in order to walk out the next steps He has for you.


Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl by Dannah Gresch

Six Ways to Keep the “Good” in Your Boy by Dannah Gresch

Keep the conversation going!  Are you the parent or leader of a tween?  Do you feel equipped to navigate these years?  What resources have you found helpful?  Share a comment here or on our Facebook page!

Andrea has a passion for equipping ministry leaders with tools needed to lead children and families to have a relationship with our Savior.  During her 17 year career, she has served as a Children’s Pastor, a consultant, and a Presenter at various conferences.  Currently, she is the Director of Elementary Ministry at Elmbrook Church.

Newsflash: kids LOVE to play games!  The beauty of children’s games is that they don’t have to be fancy or complicated, just fun!

I’ve scoured Pinterest and found a few Valentine’s Day games that would be great to use in your ministry before service, between services or as an extra-time activity.  Of course, these games would also work for academic classrooms, homeschooling environments or Valentine’s parties.

Here are a few of my favorites:


Minute to Win It games are always a hit! The games are usually high energy (because you only have 60 seconds) and easy to prepare, as the supplies are usually ones you already have on hand.  What I love about these is that you can set up several different games in a large, open space and have the kids rotate through them.  And the good news is that these 10 games are absolutely FREE to download!  You can also find other minute to win it ideas here.

Valentine Games - Minute to Win It


This game is awesome for several reasons.  (1) It is very easy to set up.  You can use foam hearts (as mentioned in the post) or you can cut large hearts from cardstock or construction paper and laminate them for durability.  (2) You can adapt it for toddlers, preschoolers, or elementary-age children.

The hearts can include active movements (as mentioned in the post), reflective actions (i.e. “Name someone you could say, ‘God loves you and so do I?'”), Bible story/verse review questions, or icebreaker questions.  There are many options.

Valentine Game - Musical Hearts

From Seven Thirty Three

Who doesn’t love the classic game of Tic Tac Toe?  Playing it with x’s and o’s is good but playing with chocolate candies is even better!  If food allergies are a concern, you could also play with red and pink Starbursts© or Skittles©.

Valentine Game - Tic Tac Toe


Another classic game – BINGO!  Again, you can download the free game boards here or be creative and make your own and adapt them for preschoolers & non-readers or include Bible verse words, names of people God loves…the possibilities are endless.

Valentine Game - Bingo


For more fun ideas, be sure to check out my Valentine’s Pinterest Board!

What fun games do you have planned for Valentine’s Day?  Let me know by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page!