What can kids do? KidZ KaN…

While American churches are doing more than ever before for children, the most important thing we can do for our kids is to help them discover what they can do for others!

In the words of that great philosopher, Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” But just as the Whos needed Horton to stop and listen to them, so do our kids! KidZ KaN…make a difference! And they want to make a difference.

KidZ at Heart International is not a “foreign” missions agency. We are a mission for God’s kids, here and there! And we are passionate about equipping families in North America to reach and teach their own children for Christ.

And that’s why KidZ at Heart International is inviting you and the families of your church to register for our brand new KidZ KaN for Families program. Each month, your family will get easy-to-use tools to help you stop and listen to one another as you tour the world. You’ll receive creative, flexible activities that will help your whole family gain a heart for God’s work around the world!

In their landmark study, Search Institute tells us that “four family practices are particularly important in helping young people grow in faith:

  1. Talking about faith with your mother.
  2. Talking about faith with your father.
  3. Having family devotions or prayer.
  4. Doing family projects to help other people.”

And now your family can explore all four of these faith-formation factors through the creative activities of KidZ at Heart’s KidZ KaN for Families.  Each month, you will receive an electronic newsletter focused on a new country and packed with creative ideas for you to use at your own pace, including:

  • “Make It (create a family memento or do a project together);
  • “Play It” (enjoy a cultural game);
  • “Pray It” (gather to pray for the real needs of real children);
  • “Read It” (explore life in-country through a story);
  • “Taste It” (follow a kid-friendly recipe to make a cultural dish).

KidZ KaN makes a great Christmas gift for your own family, your grandkids or your friends! Subscribe to KidZ KaN today for just $22 for the first year and get age-appropriate activities and discussion ideas that will easily fit into your busy family life. Know that this small investment will help fund ministries to children around the world, through the work of KidZ at Heart International.

KidZ at Heart wants to help you maximize those special moments with your family – and give your kids a heart for the world.

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How do preteens become missionaries? (Part I – Creating an interest)

An incredible trend is developing across our country.  Kids are getting involved in meaningful ways and are seeking to change their worlds.  “It’s easy for typically self-centered [preteens and young teens] to think of no one other than themselves from dawn till dusk – and then dream about themselves at night. Ironically, these most self-centered individuals find huge satisfaction in helping other people. They just need a little nudge.”[1]  Today’s preteens want to make a difference.

Our job is to challenge our students by giving them opportunities to explore missions firsthand. We need to create an interest in missions!

Involve preteens with teen missions projects.  Preteens want to do anything that the teens are doing.  So expose them to good role models by getting them involved in supporting your youth group’s members as they prepare for a missions trip.  One church has the preteen department host a spaghetti dinner in order to raise funds for the high school’s missions trip.  The older youth recognize and thank their preteen supporters in church when they return from their outreach.

Expose preteens to interesting missionaries…and only interesting missionaries.  Not every person called to the field is gifted to work with children.  Don’t bore your students by parading every visiting missionary through your preteens department.  Be selective and help each guest prepare by suggesting he or she share hands-on artifacts, cultural snacks or games that are common to the foreign field.

Connect preteens with real kids.  One way to hook kids’ interest is to have them financially support a child through a ministry designed to reach children their age, like KidZ at Heart International (kidzatheart.org), or a relief agency like Compassion International, Food for the Hungry, “Operation Christmas Child” through Samaritan’s Purse, or Reach International.

Another way is to help your students get to know kids just like themselves who are serving with their families on the mission field.  Have your kids send care packages, including tapes of favorite shows or new Christian groups, and of course, favorite foods not available on the field.  Throw a party for the missionary family when they return home for visits.  And have your students correspond with their peers, especially on birthdays and holidays.

Join me this week at the FourFiveSix conference in Rocklin, California!

The FourFiveSix Preteen Leaders Conference is coming: April 18-20 in Rocklin, CA. And we hope to see you there!


[1] Mark Oestreicher, Help! I’m a Preteen High Youth Worker! (Youth Specialties, 1996).

[2] Gordon & Becki West, Preteen Ministry Smart Pages (Gospel Light, 2005).

When does helping hurt?

I once heard paternalism defined as “doing good for others without their permission.”

Over the past decade, I’ve had a seat at the “global missions” table and I’ve gotten to meet thousands of well-meaning North Americans who truly want to bless people from other countries. Our own KidZ At Heart International board members, staff and volunteers all are included in this group! We want to make a difference in the kingdom; we want to equip people to effectively reach and teach the children of their own culture – for Christ! So, can our best efforts actually end up hurting those we seek to help?

This past week, I’ve been forced once again to re-think what we’re doing and how we are doing it. As God will often orchestrate, the thinking process kicked off from various sources…a combination of new ministry opportunities coming forward, a great book, a reflective mood and some gently probing questions from wise mentors.

In our case, we are seeking to launch KAHLA (KidZ At Heart Leadership Academy) in several key regions of the world. (Insert here whatever “project” or ministry you are currently considering in order to “help” someone else.) The purpose of KAHLA is to provide in-depth children’s ministry training for key leaders in strategic regions of the world. Our desire is to equip top-level leaders to be change agents in their churches, denominations, and countries! So what could go wrong?

Two of our board members, one who works with Wycliffe International, the other with the U.S. Center for World Missions, asked some great questions:

  • Do we know what is really wanted?
  • Is the energy for this project coming from North America (us) or local leaders?
  • How do the local leaders want this to happen?

Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath (Bantam Books, 1999), shares an entire chapter called, “Doing Good Badly.” As Muller puts it, “Doing good requires more than simply knowing what is wrong.” To the point, huh?

Like many visionary leaders, when I believe God has shown me the mountain top, I want to be there yesterday. Muller’s words (the morning after the board members’ questions) truly challenged me: “In our frenzy to make the world a better place, it is easy to presume that the romance and magic of our good intentions will protect us from doing unintended harm.”

Again, as God will often do, he spoke his will through several voices. The board members’ suggestions? Take our time, ask more questions, involve more key leaders, listen, pray, don’t move too quickly.

Muller’s suggestions? He identifies Sabbath as a key tool for slowing down long enough to hear from God, from ourselves, from others: “As we drive forward without stopping, even our generosity takes on the characteristics of a high-speed train, forcing compassion, wanted or not, right prescription or not, on everything unlucky enough to get in our path. Even a good heart can cause harm for ourselves and others if it has no rest in it (emphasis mine).

God’s “suggestions,” pretty much the same…I think you’re getting a theme here.

So as we move forward to launch KAHLA (again, insert your ministry or project here), we’ll be trying to slow down long enough to listen to local leaders, to mentors, to ourselves, and…most importantly…to God.