Book Review - The Art Of Group Talk: How To Lead Better Conversations with Kids

"In small group, your destination isn't KNOWLEDGE. That's what the teaching is for.  In small group, your destination is APPLICATION. That's what your conversation is for."

"In small group, your destination isn't KNOWLEDGE. That's what the teaching is for.

In small group, your destination is APPLICATION. That's what your conversation is for."

Because before a kid can know God, they may need to be known by someone who knows God.
— The Art of Group Talk pg. 76

I just finished The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations With Kids after returning from #OC17 (Orange Conference) and I could not be more satisfied with what the book had to offer. If you have been a follower of the Orange strategy regarding small groups, which they call Tribes, then the content will be very familiar to you and almost sound like a repeating voice. This is what I have come to really appreciate from the Lead Small material, the content and strategy when it comes to implementing a small group mentality in your ministry.

Their first offering was Lead Small and it was the core content of the small group strategy that was considered essential in reaching kids and students not just with Biblical content, but by growing meaningful relationships with those in your small group.

The second book was Creating a Lead Small Culture and this took the core strategy and broke it down so a leader could see how to make the necessary tweaks to their ministry to implement the strategy. It was a great resource to use with core leaders who help shape the culture of your ministry. There was a great reading group and discussion guide that also helped take the content and personalize it for your ministry. I posted about this discussion guide here:

Book Study: Starting Over

The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations With Kids, shares with small group leaders how the strategy plays out in the conversations and the culture of your small group. It points to the importance of knowing your tribe so that life is shared and kids feel safe. It is a quick read, but the resulting change and comfort for small group leaders is worth the time.

Because before a kid can ENGAGE in a life of authentic faith, they may need you to ENGAGE them in a conversation about authentic faith.
— The Art Of Group Talk pg. 85

What I enjoyed about the book is that it states that the current phase of a child is just a piece in their development and that leaders need to be aware that development and growth in a child must be viewed from a larger context. Yes, what you do each week matters but it is what all these weeks add up to over time that shapes who a child becomes.

You’re a small group leader. So your destination isn’t just to help them learn or remember what they’ve heard from the stage. Your destination is to help your few personalize and apply what they’ve heard.
— The Art Of Group Talk pg. 101

Another great practical piece to The Art of Group Talk is the quiz section at the end of each chapter. These are practical questions to allow the reader to look at how they lead and how they can make small shifts to lead their few well.

Anyone who leads a small group would benefit from this book and its practical tips for having meaningful conversations with the kids and students that are in their tribe.

Lead Small
By Reggie Joiner, Tom Shefchunas

Notes from #OC16 - How To Tell A Story Beyond Sunday


Below are the notes I took from Dan Scott's session at #OC16. This year we hope to develop our Storytelling team with many of these points in mind as we look to engage kids on a Sunday, so that our kids are more equipped to live in their Monday's. 

As children’s ministry leaders, we are telling the greatest story ever told. No only is it true, it is life changing—forever changing. And through that story, kids encounter the love of God who sent Jesus to rescue us.
— Dan Scott

Stories are what captures imagination.
We have stories that shape our everyday and our everyday can become a great story.
Today those stories are published on a phone even before the consequences are thought out.

YouTube – 300 hrs of footage uploaded every minute.
Vine – 6 second videos that are played on average 1.5 billion times a day.
Snapchat – 500 million uploads a day.
Stories are available every day and are changing every minute.

Storyteller: A human created in the image of God.
Role of a Storyteller: Awaken imagination of the audience.

As storytellers of the Gospel we are not always doing all that we can to present that story as best we can.

What are some ways that you are missing the mark in your storytelling of the Gospel?

The question that we need to ask ourselves is: How are we using our skills as a storyteller to present the Gospel in ways that awaken the imagination and pull kids towards the life change that is found within the Truth of the Gospel?    

We need to help kids become engaged in the big story of the Bible and make it memorable.

Two ways that we can engage kids are:
1) Passive – see, hear and read
2) Active – Hands-on learning

Percentage of learning intake for kids.
               10% Reading
               20% Hearing
               30% Seeing
               50% Seeing & Hearing

               70% Speaking & Writing
               90% Doing

If this is the case for how kids learn do we need to change up how we lead large groups?
               Generally speaking, our Large Group times are set up for kids to learn passively, but if our small groups are set up in the correct ways kids will have the opportunity to learn actively and engage the same story in a new and exciting way.

Your Small Group time needs to be a direct extension of the story that is told from the stage. That time needs to be two things:
1) Fun
2) Engaging

Small Group time needs to be fun and engaging because how we communicate TRUTH matters and we need to know all aspects of the story being presented on Sunday. We need to treat the story with the utmost respect because of the life changing power of the story we are communicating to kids.

Too much is at stake for a kid if we present a bad story on a Sunday.

If we head into a Sunday with the mindset that too much is at stake for a kid if we present a bad story we need to KNOW the story inside and out. Read the story, live the story, and engage in the content that you will need to pull out for the kids to learn the Bottom Line. In the end it is the big concept of the story that matters and not the memorizing of the text that will stick with the kids. If they know the Bottom Line the kids can learn to live out the key concept of the story on a Monday.

Tools for Storytellers to keep in mind as the lead.

1)      Vocal Dynamics.
This is a great tool as you establish different characters on stage and help kids differentiate between these characters as you present the whole story. It helps you develop the character traits found in the characters in the story and the easiest way to show kids which traits are important is to change how you speak.

Pace of story is also established through how you use your voice and can help kids lean into the story at the times that are really important (i.e. Bottom Line).

The key is that through your voice you can bring to life the story and the characters found within the Bible.

2)      Planned Movement/Blocking.
This is something that I need to be more aware of because I walk as I talk and use my hands a lot. As you prep and read the story ahead of time begin to think about the specific spots on the stage that you want to use to LAND certain points of the story.

a.      Start in the middle of the stage with the Big Idea.

b.      Use stage right for point one (move across the stage in the way people read naturally).

c.      Use the middle again for the central point.

d.      End at stage left.

e.      Come back to the middle as you lean into the Bottom Line and what concept you want the kids to leave with.

3)      Connect it to life.

a.      Bottom Line – What is the point the Bible story is trying to make?

b.    What is it that we want kids to DO as a result of what they have learned?  

Check out some great Storytelling tools from Dan by clicking the graphic below. I am super excited for what is coming from Dan because he is an unbelievable communicator and he will be able to help your ministry in numerous ways. 


Session 1 Notes from #OC16 (Redefining The Role Of The Elementary Pastor)

Below are the notes that I took during Mike Clear's opening session at #OC16. Redefining The Role Of The Elementary Pastor was an awesome way to kick off the week and gave a great framework for a lot of the themes that many of my other breakout sessions would cover. 


1)      What are we doing?

a.      This needs to be defined by your mission statement.  We show up to help our kids become motivated by the Gospel to live out their faith every day.

1.      Know – know who Jesus is and establish an understanding of faith.

2.      Love – Jesus loves you and you need to show others the same love. This is where kids understand the character of Jesus and how moral behaviour is a way that Christ works through them to be light in their world.

3.      Share – Creating opportunities for kids and families to share their faith whether through word or action. 

2)      Why are we doing it?

a.      What is at stake if we go away? What would change in a kid’s life without the light of the local church?

b.      What has God called you (the leader) to in your life? Ministry will take courage and patience.

3)      Where do I fit in?

a.      What are your core responsibilities? 

1) Maximize your strengths and minimize your weakness.
2) Lack of skill does not eliminate responsibility.

Most of your job as an Elementary Pastor will fit itself into two key categories and it is your job as the leader to be able to recognize what area you are currently living in.

1)      Production – The environments we create for our kids

2)    People – Dealing with individuals who are created in the image of God. No matter how we feel at the present moment everyone deserves the best from you at any given moment.

A)     Align your whole team.

a.      How are you repeating your core values to volunteers and staff so that they become the walking DNA of your ministry? Everyone should be able to answer the question of why do I show up/why do I do what I do. TPCKidmin – We want our kids to become motivated by the Gospel to live out their faith every day.

1.      Know Jesus

2.      Love Jesus and others

3.      Share Jesus with the world

                                                   ii.     These core values cannot be talked about enough.            

1.      Face-to-face coffee conversations

2.      Training

3.      Played out in how we plan

                                                  iii.     How are some ways that you can visually reproduce some of these values?

1.      Facebook banners

2.      Interview notes

3.      Murals in kidmin wing

4.      Stage design

                                                  iv.     Do your staff/volunteers understand what the win is for your ministry?

1.      Tell them that the win is found when we answer the question why we do what we do.

2.      The win is when faith becomes when our kids become motivated by their faith to live it out every day. When their character reveals Christ and Christ works through them to change the world around them. 

B)     Recruit for growth.

a.      Attract the right leader

                                                    i.     Go after the owners not the renters (Not Normal book)

b.      How are you perusing the new and quality leader so they invest in your ministry?

                                                    i.     Hoping they come to you will not work

                                                   ii.     Create easy avenues for them to establish involvement

                                                  iii.     Inspire your current leaders to find the next leader

1.      Likes attract Likes – The owners in your ministry will attract others who have similar traits and morals.

                                                  iv.     Mine for talent

1.      What avenues do you have for your current leaders/volunteers to grow?

2.      Do you have a structure that inspires leadership development?

3.      As leaders develop they can carry the vision forward because they want to stay.


1)      Think vertically

a.      How do you transition the kids into and out of your ministry?

                                                              i.     Newborn – Toddler

                                                             ii.     Toddler – Preschool

                                                            iii.     Preschool – Elementary

                                                            iv.     Elementary – Sunday Morning Jr. High

                                                             v.     Elementary – Friday Night Youth

b.      How do you ease the transition for parents?

                                                              i.     What does your transition Sunday look like?

2)      Think Systems (Refine)

a.      What foreseeable challenges currently have no systems?

                                                              i.     What happens when check-in goes down?

                                                             ii.     Bathroom Policy

                                                            iii.     Visitors

b.      Fix the systems that are not functioning 

3)      Think Message

a.      Elevate TRUTH at all times

                                                              i.     How do you apply truth to your audience’s reality? Do you KNOW your audience and the reality that they live in?

b.      Kids at every age are created uniquely to understand God (It’s Just A Phase)

                                                              i.     Kids change but God doesn’t – you have to adjust your message

                                                             ii.     How do you connect kids to God as they transition through the phases?

c.      Elementary kids think like scientists but love stories - so how do you teach a story?

                                                              i.     What is the ONE thing you want a kid to never forget?

                                                             ii.     What scriptures align with that ONE thing

                                                            iii.     How will you recycle that ONE thing so they will remember it?

d.      Prioritize TRUTH and what is relevant to a child in the current phase they are in.

4)      Think Horizontally

a.      What is your strategy to recycle core truths?

                                                              i.     What is your scope and cycle for curriculum?

1.      Three year rotation – one year is a chronological journey through the Bible

2.      What do you want them to remember?

b.      How do you help kids recycle the lessons?

                                                              i.     Add more voices

1.      Storytellers are unique in their delivery and can help kids remember in different ways.

2.      Also multiple leaders that say the same thing in different ways on a Sunday will help a kid remember

c.      More understanding

                                                              i.     The goal of teaching is for kids to understand the ONE truth and not the amount of content. Content does not equal knowledge.

                                                             ii.     The goal is to help a kid master a concept of God

d.      Teach more relevant material

                                                              i.     Help kids understand how to connect their faith with what is happening around them

e.      Adults share how they feel and think about your ministry

                                                              i.     Do not prioritize your content around adult feelings. Prioritize your content around what a child needs to understand God in the phase they are currently in.

5)      Think program improvement

a.      Ask the question what lessons from last week can be applied to this week.

b.      How are we evaluating our ministry so that improvements that can be made are recorded and acted upon?

                                                              i.     Who are you serving?

                                                             ii.     What areas of our ministry need evaluating?

1.      Transition points

2.      Relationships and how they are formed

3.      New family experiences

                                                            iii.     Get a set of fresh eyes that can walk through your ministry if you need them.

                                                            iv.     Always be on the lookout for an answer to the question – How can it be improved?

1.      We work in our ministry daily and quite often we do not have the time to work on it

                                                             v.     What is working well and needs to be celebrated?

1.      New Christians

2.      Great relationships

                                                            vi.     How are you improving the environment?

1.      How do we visually reengage our kids?

2.      The look of the environments can undermine the relationships that you want to make with kids. They feel undervalued and disengaged.

3.      Show care through the visual appeal of your environments

4.      Make it welcoming

a.      It is always someone’s first week.

5.      Know your audience and how they engage with your space

6.      Equip your leaders

a.      Supplies need to be available and easy to find.


6)      Think community

a.      Evaluate the connections that are being made in small group time.

                                                              i.     How do you monitor the relational impact of your leaders?

b.      Numbers matter

                                                              i.     Who is coming

                                                             ii.     Who are new Christians? 

                                                            iii.     Baptisms

                                                            iv.     New to our church

c.      Your ministry has three crowds

                                                              i.     Kids

                                                             ii.     Parents

                                                            iii.     Small Group Leaders

1.      How do you ask questions that prompt responses?

2.      What are the home runs in those three areas?

3.      Generate questions by asking how you can do better.

7)      Think family

a.      How can we help families win at home?

                                                              i.     Do they know the win when it comes to your ministry?

b.      What happens on Monday at home is more important than what happens on Sunday

                                                              i.     Leaders who plan for that see growth in the areas that matter i.e. baptism

c.      When parents come:

                                                              i.     Give them a plan.

1.      Parents want to be proactive and not reactive when it comes to the faith of their child

                                                             ii.     Show them how it works.

1.      What is your family ministry plan? Show them how their kids will be cared for at each phase.

                                                            iii.     What they can do today.

1.      Tell them the lesson so they can recap and follow up at home

2.      Cue the parent

3.      Parents have a vision on what they want their kids faith to look like we just need to help them achieve it.

8)      Think Influence

a.      Set up the kids so they can serve both inside and outside the church

b.      How are you giving kids opportunities to experience ministry?

c.      Kids faith grows when they serve.

Thoughts from #OC16 - Share the WHY

Your ministry will only be effective when your leaders, volunteers and parents know the mission and vision of that ministry. I feel like we have said what our mission is quite frequently. It is that we want to see kids and students motivated by the Gospel to live out their faith everyday. 

We hope that in our kids ministry our kids learn to do this by: 

  1. Knowing Jesus
  2. Loving others like Jesus loves them
  3. Sharing Jesus with those around them

So, what I have come to realize at #OC16 (Orange Conference) is simply this:

"0nce you think you have shared your vision too much you are only getting started." -Rebekah Bullard  

Another leader put it like this: 

"As a leader you constantly have to fill your bucket because vision always leaks out." - Sue Miller  

No matter how good of a communicator you are everyone needs to be reminded why you do what you do because you can't always see the results.  

One key thing for me so far this week has been that we cannot stop telling everybody why we show up every Sunday. We show up at TPCKidmin to motivate students and kids to live out their faith by teaching them the Gospel and the Truth contained in scripture.  

"We don't want people to show up to our church just to show up. We want to connect them to a growing relationship with Christ." - Dan Scott  

My brain is in hyperdrive after two days of learning, dreaming and vision casting for the future generations of our church, but none of those thoughts will make an impact on our ministry if we do not share the WHY we do what we do with everybody.        

Start Here

Accepting Christ as your Savior is always a moment for celebration, but when we see our kids wanting to make this decision, it’s a wonderful thing! However, it is something that usually happens away from mom and dad (in Sunday school or during summer camp) and it is our goal to not only have the conversation with the parents, but to help them to make it a family celebration. We don’t want them to miss out. There are so many family discussions and moments that can take place during this “process of discovery” for a child. To also note, there are some circumstances whereby the child might not be celebrated at home for their decision and, in those instances, our goal is that the child's small group leader will walk with them as they process what having a Saviour means to them. 

One parent described the process of discussing the decision of accepting Christ as Savior:

Sometimes I get stuck in my own head as I talked with my kids about accepting Christ. It is such an important decision that I want them to make for themselves. When my kids asks my about Jesus and how to accept Him as their Saviour and I am caught off guard, or distracted I get flustered and begin to over-spiritualize the conversation to a point that my kids do not understand. I start using church language instead of having an age appropriate and child-friendly conversation.

How do I make sure that my child understands the importance of this decision and at the same time talk to them in a way they understand?

Another parent asked us:

How often should I talk to my kids about accepting Christ? I see that they are asking good questions, but I do not want them to feel like I am pressuring them, or have them start to ignore me because I have asked them too often.

I love the simplicity and clarity of the “Start Here” program as it guides parents through this process. The “Start Here” program is a tangible, simple brochure that helps the parent walk with the child in their decision, and it’s all centered around a verse that many of us know and teach our kids.

We even have parents who wonder if they ask too much about their child’s walk – or lack thereof – with Christ. Our curriculum 252 Basics uses an easy to read and understand version of this message, and this is the basis of the “Start Here” program: 

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.
— John 3:16 NIrV

The parent literature that comes with “Start Here” is fully customizable and editable, and is a wonderful starting point for your ministry to equip parents. It also addresses a family Q&A to guide and direct the conversation towards the end goal. Our leaders will soon be equipped with this material to ensure that conversations happening in our small-group time, that the messaging is consistent, and that the parental until is provided with easy follow-up. 

In the end, how well parents, volunteers and leaders are equipped to have important conversations is essential in how the Gospel message is clearly shared. “Start Here” covers all of these and we can’t wait to see how our ministry and families benefit from the conversations that are encouraged through it. 


Parenting Beyond Your Capacity

by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Oftentimes, parenting can be a struggle full of love. Rather than being another “how-to be a better parent” book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity focuses on how parents can fortify their parenting capacity by engaging their family in God’s story to the world. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity also has a wealth of helpful insights for those who are hoping to be parents one day, those who are preparing to soon be parents, for grand-parents, those who work with parents, have friends that are parents, or for those that are influencers in children’s lives.

The core of the book is divided into five key family values.

1) Widen the circle

2) Imagine the end

3) Fight for the heart

4) Create a rhythm

5) Make it personal

Biblically based from Deuteronomy 6, the values and verses work hand-in-hand. Moses discusses in Deuteronomy 6 that God intended for family and faith-community alike that it takes a village mentality to raise spiritually-healthy children. Through this partnership of family and community mentors, God’s bigger story begins to unfold:

“Your children one day will seek affirmation and approval from adults other than you. Either you can become intentional about enlisting other trusted adults to influence your kids, or you can depend only on your limited capacity. You can leave them alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them protectively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.”

If our kids engage Christ with genuine and excited hearts, there is an even better chance that the family relationship can be used to witness to other friends and family – to a world that yearns to be restored. Honorable mention: There is no guilt trip regarding your parenting skills. The authors’ hope is to share the concept that the goal of parenting is not to impress others with your amazing parenting skills, but it is to instill within your children the love and nature of God.

Someone & Somewhere

Kids need TWO important NOUNS so they can anchor their lives to something solid.

They need a PERSON.

They need a PLACE.
— Creating A Lead Small Culture

This year, we have made a big push toward making sure all our leaders are oriented toward the same goal for all the children and youth that come into our church. We want them to be "Motivated by the Gospel to live out their faith everyday." This gives our leaders a sense of an end-goal and shows us where we want our kids to end up. How our leaders help our kids get to this end-goal will be determined by who that individual leader, as well as how they demonstrate that Jesus is working through them to influence the world around them. By giving our kids someone who is passionate about living for Christ, they become a witness to how Christ is at work in the lives of caring adults who serve within the church. 

In everyone’s story of faith, there are people who have shown up and become catalysts for their spiritual growth.
— Creating A Lead Small Culture

The interesting part that I have been thinking about is that our students have many other "someones" in their lives, and I have the awesome opportunity to speak to parents about the influence these other adults have in the lives of their children. I am a huge believer in mentors and how key people in your life can change the outcome of who you become. I see a direct link between my mentors and the decisions I make everyday. This fall, I can't wait to talk about the role of mentors for kids with the parents of our church, and I hope that I can help them leverage the influencers around their children so that these kids get motivated to live out their faith everyday. 

Once leaders embrace their role as a "someone" in a child's life we, need to emphasize the importance of a "somewhere." Contextually, a "somewhere" needs a few key elements to work well in children's ministry. It needs to be consistent with who the leaders are and where the teaching take place. Structure needs to be put in place so that relationships can thrive especially within children's ministry. Creating A Lead Small Culture puts it this way:

Belief influences behavior and behavior influences belief. They are the most important characteristics to understand when you are trying to shape a culture in your church.

Belief: The quality of relationships is linked to the quality of structure.

Behavior: Improve the structure.
— Creating A Lead Small Culture.

Your "somewhere" needs to be as equally important as the "someones" because until your behavior states that your "somewhere" is important it won't build the relationships needed (the ones that grow faith in the lives of the kids).

This year, we have strived to improve the structure of our Sunday mornings. We have functioned on Sundays for a few years with a large group/small group model for a few years, but there always seems to be a tension between what group has what function. The tension exists between who teaches the Bible story and who develops the application of that story, so our kids are equipped to live out their faith and the Bible lesson of that day. It is not a messy tension, but when the tension is not addressed, one of those key elements can be missed (and that applies to every ministry). Our "somewhere" needed to be given a clear directive so that our end-goal for our kids could be achieved. Each ministry needs to adapt their "somewhere" so that it is best suited to the needs of the students.

For us, our large group time is for teaching of biblical content, growth of spiritual disciplines, and time of group worship. Our small groups are set up for the growth of relationships that are stemmed from a consistent community of kids and leaders, the review of the Bible through memory verses, and how to apply the lessons in everyday ways. I am looking forward to a new ministry year because with every start, comes new questions and challenges as a leader.

Here are two questions that I hope you can wrestle through:

  1. How are you equipping parents to leverage the "someones" and their influence in their kids' lives? 
  2. How does your "somewhere" orient your ministry towards the end-goal you have for your kids?



*These are my thoughts from reading pages 1-37 of Creating A Lead Small Culture by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy & Elle Campbell

Creating a Lead Small Culture: Make Your Church a Place Where Kids Belong
By Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, Elle Campbell


+Originally posted on August 25, 2014

This September our #kidmin program is turning Orange and using the 252 Basics curriculum. I have found myself overly excited about this transition since going to the Orange Conference back in May. I am excited for a few reasons:



  1. The amount of content that will be available to our parents and families throughout the week. This will include Parent Cue, 252 Live, and more. It also means that more families will be talking about Jesus throughout the week. A win on all levels.
  2. The added responsibility and content for our tech team. Our tech team is full of students that have wanted more ownership over the content on Sunday mornings. Even though the content is still prepared ahead of time they will have the opportunity to pull it up at home experiment with it and make the visuals their own.
  3. The added role of a host on Sunday mornings. This will allow some of our volunteers the opportunity to use their dramatic skill sets to help the storyteller bring the Bible to life every Sunday.



The one thing I have not enjoyed about implementing Orange has been the constant need to justify our choice to other #kidmin leaders from other churches I come into contact with. Whether it is their preconceived feelings about what Orange brings, or their desire to have full control of the content that they bring to their kids many leaders have asked me the same question in one way or another,


“Are you worried about the lack of Bible content in their lessons?”


I can’t even begin to tell you how often I have heard this in the last three months. In a way I find it heartbreaking and I always feel as though one of our team’s core responsibilities in being questions. That responsibility is presenting the Gospel to our kids and allowing families the opportunities to live out the Gospel in their homes each week. When I get asked that question about Orange I feel as though I am being asked whether or not our team is capable to bring the Gospel message to our kids.



Orange is creative in ways that I could never be, or would take me hours to produce and summon from within myself. Those hours of creativity that this curriculum saves me allows me to add Bible when I need to, (I personally think that Orange provides just as much Bible content as many of the other curriculums out there do) for my volunteers, or for family specific content. I have also gone through Bible college for Biblical Studies and as a leader in a church realize that part of my job is to add in Bible wherever I need to.


So when I hear that question asked to me what I really hear in my head is,



“Are you prepared to do your job and teach those children in your care how to live out the Gospel message of Jesus?”


The answer is of course. I also realize for me the question goes way farther than what curriculum do I use and I probably take it way to personally, but I am always surprised when I get it.



I am excited for September and what 252 Basics will add into our ministry. I truly believe at this point that the benefits of this curriculum choice will be felt in the lives of the children in our ministry for years to come. As a children’s pastor you cannot ask for anything better than impacting the lives of the kids and families in your community.