I used to play pool a lot when I was in high school and college–(I was never very good.) When we played we had the practice of “calling the pocket.” Basically it meant that when you chose the ball you were going to hit, you had to call the pocket it was going to go in–otherwise, it didn’t count. If you hit the ball and it went into another pocket–If you didn’t call it, it didn’t count. This also prevented people from just hitting balls aimlessly hoping something will go in. Our little practice really meant that we had to focus on what were trying to accomplish. And, it helped us improve our pool playing skills.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been working on “calling the pocket” in our children’s ministry environment during weekend services. We have eight services over two locations–so maintaining and evaluating our environments is a prodigious task. We believe that “calling the pocket” accomplishes a few very important things:
- It allows us to more effectively evaluate how successful we were each week.
- It helps us maintain a standard over several services in more than one location.
- It keeps a very large team with several leaders on the same page.
- It helps volunteers understand their roles.
- It gives us several things to celebrate.
- It gets everyone working together as a team
Here is what we developed (I owe Adam Duckworth at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale for the inspiration for this post. He titled each of these elements at the 2013 Orange Tour in Los Angeles. I tinkered with the purpose of each element and added my own win.)
7 Elements of an Effective Environment
#1 Prelude—Everything from the parking lot until the program actually starts.
Purpose: Setting the tone of the experience
Win: When we disarm the skeptic (the 5th grade boy, the dad who has been dragged to church, the overprotective mom who is afraid to drop off her child); When we create suspense or interest in the core message.
#2 Social—the first 10-15 minutes of the program spent in small group before large group starts.
Purpose: A time for relational connection between the small group leader and child and a child and their peers.
Win: When a child feels that there is a leader who has a genuine interest in their life and they are eager to hear the story in large group.
#3 Transitions—the time between each of the elements of the environment
Purpose: to connect what they just experienced with what they are going to experience.
Win: When a child is carried away on the journey from one element to the next en route toward one core message instead of a series of isolated random activities.
#4 Story—the Bible story presentation.
Purpose: to communicate God’s truth in engaging ways.
Win: When the small group leader is set-up for conversation about the core message.
#5 Worship—Music and singing
Purpose: to invite kids to engage in large group and/or respond to God
Win: When a child emotionally connects with the music and becomes open to hearing the Bible story (before the story) when a child responds to the message they heard in large group (after the story).
#6 Group—25-35 minutes spent with a small group of peers and a leader.
Purpose: Activities designed to help a leader build a relational bridge with a child so that they can layer God’s truth into their life in a relevant way.
Win: When a child is open and transparent and a leader is able to connect God’s truth to that child’s experience in a personal way.
#7 Home—the stuff that happens at home during the week.
Purpose: to inspire and equip parents to become active participants in their child’s spiritual formation.
Win: When a parent does something more than they did last week to help their child take their next spiritual step.
How do you “call the pocket” in your ministry?