A Nervous Choreographer

I feel like one of the choreographers on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

As the Designer of Children’s Outreach and Special Events I just finished the week spearheading our largest outreach event of year. This past week we hosted 1300 kids on campus and 450 volunteers for our annual Summer Blast (VBS) week of fun.

It was an amazing week, but like any event had it’s ups and downs, some brilliant moments and yes, many glitches.

I just finished sending an e-mail to all the parents and all the volunteers asking for their feedback. What they liked, disliked, their ideas and suggestions. It’s almost like getting voted on. Do you love it, or do you not.

Crazy thing is, I really want to know what they think. I want the specifics. I can only improve our event when I have an opportunity to see it through other’s peoples eyes and experiences.

I’m sure some of the feedback will bring much joy, and some much frustration, but each piece is important and I’m ready for honesty.

Bring it all on, I’m ready to hit the ground running for next year.

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One Topic

Two weeks ago, I planned to send out an e-mail to our volunteers and families seeking extra help for our Easter services. But, by the time I left our staff meeting the list of information to include in the e-mail had grown to include all of this:

  • Children’s Easter Programs
  • Serving Opportunities for the Easter Programs
  • AWANA Grand Prix – Get your cars now!
  • Indian Hills Summer Camp – Watch for registration soon!
  • Summer Blast (VBS) – Mark you calendar for this fun week!

I included graphics for each area, bulleted all the right items, put the headers in bold and made it very readable considering all the info that it contained. As pretty as I made it, I didn’t get one single response for people to come serve. 

This week I sent out an e-mail and focused only on the serving opportunites for Easter. I highlighted six areas we needed help in, and included the time slots when the help was needed. So far I’ve gotten at least 20 responses of people stepping up to serve.

Our people sent me a pretty strong message this Easter.
“If you want to communicate with me, make it clear, make it concise, and keep it to ONE TOPIC. Especially if you’re expecting me to communicate back with you.”

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Since posting this message 3 days ago, I have now gotten another 8 responses for help. Really, keep it short, cover one-topic at a time. It works.

Save Money – Buy in Bulk

Money Saving Tips for Ministry Purchases

As the Designer of Children’s Outreach, my role involves finding and purchasing most of the items for our special events and programs. Sometimes I’m purchasing supplies for 100 or so kids, and other times, closer to 1,500. I’ve compiled a list of great places to buy in bulk (or smaller quantities at great prices) and also offer up some other money saving tips that you’ll find useful.

Here are few helpful tips as you search for the best deals:

  • Compare prices – I usually check at least 3 places before buying.
  • Shipping Costs – Don’t forget to check shipping costs when comparing. Sometimes it’s a deal breaker.
  • Varied Keywords – Try using different keywords to locate different brands or widen product options.
  • Order Early – You won’t feel the urge to pay extra for quick shipping if you order early.
  • Piece Out Crafts – Find a craft kit you like? Try piecing out the cost and see if you can save by doing some of the prep work with volunteers.
  • Use coupon codes – Do a google search for coupon codes. You can save up to 20% by finding current codes online. 
  • Call the Company – If you’re placing large orders, call the company and negotiate free shipping or bigger discounts. 

 

Craft & General Hobby Supplies

Oriental Trading
Lots of craft kits, novelty toys, and even some imprinted promotional items.

S & S Worldwide
Some craft kits, lots of miscellaneous class supplies and playground/game equipment.

Guildcraft
A good variety of unique crafts and a special section with Christian themes.

Blick Art Materials
Anything specialty can be found here from glues, to paper to markers to paint.

Discount School Supply
Lots and lots of general classroom supply items. 

 

Candy

Candy Warehouse
I think they sell just about any kind of candy you can imagine at rock bottom prices. 

Sandy Candy
This is the original maker of Sandy Candy. A Christian company run by fun people. 

 

Random Items

(I’ve ordered flip flops, UV face paint, blankets, socks, ornaments, dolls, invisible ink pens, secret compartment boxes) 

Deal Extreme
Order from 1 to 1000+ of anything. It’s shipped directly from China, so give yourself 2-3 week shipping time. 

Dollar Days
You have order in set quantities, like 12, 24, 96, depending on the item, but you can’t beat the prices. 

eBay
You can’t find it on eBay, it probably doesn’t exist. 

Silly Farm
Face paint, balloons & clown supplies.

Creative Arts Store
Lots of fun magic tricks, face paint supplies, chalk talk books and more. All with a Christian spin. 

Windy City Novelties
Every kind of glow stick and novelty imaginable. They also have great selection of fun hats and novelty toys.

Shindigz
Lots of fun decorating supplies and ideas. If you haven’t used gossamer before, you’ve got to try it. 

Bulk Balloons
We like to buy the mylar balloons and reuse them. You can get great prices here. 

Paper Mart
Boxes, bags and random gift supplies 

ID Supply
Where we get our badge clips and name tag holders.

* * * * * 

If you need this information 3 months from now and forget to bookmark this page, you can find all these links in my sidebar under Favorite Places to Buy in Bulk.

If you have some favorites, send them my way and I’ll add them to my sidebar links.

A Different Way to Rotate

Conquer and Divide is a theory I practice often when hosting children’s events. I believe kids learn better in smaller more intimate environments than they do sitting in large groups of 100+ kids.

We group them as they arrive and include a traditional rotation schedule in the programming. In the past we’ve planned 3-4 lessons for kids to experience and recruited one teacher for each lesson. That teacher then repeats the same lesson for each group in the rotation.

In the past it has worked well and some of the benefits include:

  • Teachers only learn one lesson, repeating it for each group
  • All the kids get exactly the same teaching from the same teacher at each learning station.

The downside to this system is:

  • All lessons must be equal in length to keep all the groups on schedule.
  • All the kids (no matter the grade) get exactly the same teaching from the same teacher at each learning station.

 

This year, we mixed it up a bit. Instead of having the kids rotate to the teachers, the teachers rotated with the kids. Each teacher traveled with the same group, from station to station, as their personal Expedition Guide, teaching them as they went.

What I love about this method:

  • The kids met the teachers as soon as they arrived and developed an immediate connection with them.
  • The lessons were adapted to fit each age group.
  • Each lessons timing was independent of the others. (ie: The first two were longer and the last one shorter.)
  • If a teacher needed to spend more time on one lesson they had the freedom to make that call because another group was not waiting on them to finish.
  • The teachers had the same assistants all evening and thus were able to utilize their help better.

 

What this looked like for our Stewardship Program:

 GROUPS

  • We broke our kids into groups based on grade
  • Each group had 4 adult Expedition Assistants and 1 Expedition Teacher
  • The Expedition Assistants and Teacher greeted welcomed each of the children in their group as they arrived.
  • It was great to see how the groups bonded so quickly at the beginning and maintained this sort of “hoorah!! Spirit” throughout the night.

LESSONS & ROTATIONS

  • Each of the five grade groups rotated to different rooms on the campus
  • No groups used the same room back-to-back.
  • This made each groups travel plans unique and non-dependant on other groups progress. They could move more quickly or slowly through each lesson as the kids learning dictated.
  • Each lesson was tweaked to be age appropriate for the group
  • We provided simple fill-in journals for the 1st & 2nd grades with easier puzzles and games to work on.
  • The 3rd -5th grade journal required more fill-in work and the puzzles were more challenging.

Our team of volunteers embraced the changes we made to this year’s Stewardship program wholeheartedly. Even though the teachers were required to learn 3 lessons, they loved being with the same kids throughout the night and felt that they were much more effective this way.

 

In a nutshell . . .

The teaching was dictated by learning pace of the kids and not by the ticking of the clock.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

What can you change about the way you do your big group events this year? Think about what matters most and move to make that happen.