A Room Full of Possibilities

It’s Saturday afternoon and Ben Murdock, the third grade Sunday school teacher, is preparing his lesson. Let’s listen to his thoughts. “This is going to be a great activity and will really get the kids talking about the main point of the lesson! Oh wait; each kid will need two water bottles. I could probably dig three out of the garbage, but that’ll never do. We’ll just have to do that activity another time … Now this looks like an awesome craft and I bet the kids have never done this. Oh no, not again! It calls for several colors of poster board, and I just don’t have time to run across town to get it. I guess we can just pull out the construction paper and pretend.” Can you hear the frustration in this teacher’s thoughts? He knows it could’ve been a much more engaging lesson, but the resources just weren’t there.

How many times do teachers abandon the really “cool” activities, because the supplies aren’t readily available? Those supplies either take days to collect or require a special trip across town to shop. The resources the teacher needs are not easily accessible and the kids get cheated out of a great learning experience. Instead of getting frustrated because teachers don’t prepare earlier in the week or browse through the entire unit to plan ahead, think about developing a resource center. If you’re not familiar with the term, a resource center is simply a place, a specific location, where common supplies and resources are housed in an organized fashion. It can be as little as a closet or as large as … well, as large a space as you can permanently claim. (I want to give you a heads-up though; if you start with a small closet, you’d best be looking for more room, because you’ll quickly see how beneficial this space is.) A resource center is in addition to the standard supplies (crayons, pencils, paper, markers, scissors) that are kept in every room.  Let’s talk about it and see how this special tool could not only benefit your ministry, but take it to a new level.

This wonderful resource center is jam-packed with all kinds of cool teaching tools, supplies, and equipment. This is where Ben Murdock, our third grade teacher mentioned earlier, would find a box of those water bottles he needed. This is also where he would find the poster board that he didn’t have time to get. But it also has lots of other things, like gear needed for games (sponge balls, traffic cones, parachutes, dice), equipment (a die-cut machine, sticker maker, comb-binder, laminator), posters depicting Bible stories, craft supplies (beads, glitter, cotton balls, pie tins, paper plates, chenille sticks, feathers), and paper on a roll. In addition, if the space is large enough, there might be a workspace for those big behind-the-scenes projects.

The key to an effective resource room, though, is being able to find everything (no matter if it’s a small space or a huge room) in a short amount of time. It’s not a place where you open the door and push leftovers in to hide them.  It’s not a place where you can see what you need but you can’t get to it. It IS a place where every container is labeled and every cabinet or shelf is identified. It IS a place where a complete inventory of every craft supply, game paraphernalia, piece of office equipment, and miscellaneous items has been compiled. The next step to make the resource room effective is to distribute the inventory catalog periodically to the entire children’s ministry team so they know what they have access to. Whenever they are assembling the supplies for a lesson, they can consult the inventory and put their hands on what they need in a matter of seconds.

The obvious benefits to developing a resource room are that it will help you know what supplies you have and save you money.  But, the payoffs of an organized, stocked, and accessible resource room are much bigger.

It will increase the effectiveness of teachers. If you look at a curriculum, you’ll notice that some of the very best activities (the ones that are really out there and without a doubt will connect with kids) are the ones that usually take a little more effort on the teacher’s part. They more than likely call for some non-traditional classroom supplies. If the teacher checks the current inventory and those items are listed there, then that rockin’ activity stays in the lesson plan; otherwise, it’s very likely that the teacher will settle for something easier to prepare. The resource center has just increased the effectiveness of the teacher, which translates into kids engaging more.

You’ll use a variety of the multiple intelligences.  When a wide variety of equipment and supplies are at your fingertips, then a teacher can offer a bigger variety of activities that will utilize the entire scope of multiple intelligences. Instead of limiting their teaching to connecting to the word smart and picture smart learning pathways in their students, teachers will be more likely to employ activities that will connect with the people, music, nature, self, math, and body smart pathways. Because of the resource center, the teacher may have used some rhythm instruments (engaging music smart), created a puzzle from the die-cut machine (used in people smart), come up with a great game using tennis balls and buckets (connecting with body smart), none of which they would’ve done otherwise. This is exciting for both the teacher and the student, because the main point of the lesson can now enter young hearts from multiple learning sources. It just wouldn’t happen if the resources weren’t readily available in the resource center!

Teachers will enjoy teaching more.  Once teachers experience a little success by using new mediums and a variety of them, they become more motivated to do it again, try something new, and leave their comfort zone. When a teacher pulls out of the parking lot knowing that the kids got the point of the lesson and they had fun doing it, they’ll fall in love with teaching. It’s something they’ll look forward to, because they feel successful.

It ignites creativity.  Put your teachers in this room that is now filled with out-of-the-ordinary supplies and close the doors behind them. Instruct them to look around and get acquainted with what’s available. Then, give each one a pad of paper to record what they imagine being done with some of the items. Just watch how their creativity soars!  Yes, a resource room will raise the level of creative energy on your team.

It gets more people involved.  This happens in a couple of ways. In order to get everything put back where it needs to be after being used, to purchase supplies that have been depleted, and to keep the inventory current, there needs to be someone to coordinate the resource room. There are just two requirements: This person needs to be someone who has a gift for organization and a heart for kids. Look for someone outside of those already involved in children’s ministry to bring on board. Each person added to the team raises the awareness in the congregation that children’s ministry is a high priority. The other way the resource center gets more people involved is through utilizing their help in keeping recyclable items stocked. Keeping empty water bottles, 2-liter bottles, milk bottle caps, towel paper and toilet paper rolls on hand is a continuous effort. People who love seeing an active children’s ministry, but who aren’t intimately involved with it, are anxious to collect and contribute their throw-aways from home. Once I needed to collect 500 cardboard toilet paper rolls in a month. One lady was so committed to helping that she mailed me two while she was on vacation in Florida! 

If you don’t have a resource center at your church, look around for a space that would work and keep your eye out for an organizational guru. If you already have a resource center, does your entire team know what’s inside those four walls? Keep them updated on the tools they have to work with.

A resource center will take you one step closer to having an equipped, motivated, committed, and happy children’s ministry team. With leaders like that, you’ll love the ultimate benefit of enthusiastic, engaged, inquisitive, and growing kids!

Organizational Tips for Your New Resource Center

  • Label, label, label!  Make large labels and large clearly printed lettering.  If there are multiple items in the container, list all of them.
  • Avoid using round containers.  Round edges cause you to lose valuable space.
  • Construct multiple layers of shelving.  Instead of stacking boxes on boxes on boxes, shelves provide easier and quicker access.
  • Utilize uniform containers whenever possible.
  • Put containers of similar objects together, such as all craft supplies on one set of shelves, indoor games on another set of shelves, decorations, outdoor games, bulletin board supplies, etc.  You may want to color code the labels for different areas.
  • Stand long, tall objects, such as dowel rods, rolls of wrapping paper, flags and yardsticks in a 30-galloon trash can.
  • Keep markers and labels handy to mark additions to the resource center.
  • Place a kitchen serving cart near the resource center door where returned items can be placed, if the person doesn’t know where they should go.
  • Keep a one or two-step stool handy to avoid accidents caused by someone attempting to reach supplies that are over their heads.
  • Designate someone to return items to their shelves and keep inventory of what needs to be replaced.
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thouser@churchleaders.com'
After 33 incredible years in children’s ministry within the local church, Tina is now part of the KidzMatter team as Executive Editor of KidzMatter Magazine and Senior Publications Director, writing the This iKnow kids’ church curriculum. With great enthusiasm, she gallivants all over the country to train those who share her passion for reaching kids for the Kingdom. Tina has authored 12 books, one of which is used as a textbook in some universities (but it’s not boring, really).