"The Zoo" Children's Ministry

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The "Zoo" Children's Ministry is no longer in operation. We are maintaining this portion of our web site so that we can freely share the curriculum we developed and give some suggestions on how you can run this type of program yourself.




The following is the basic program structure for the "Zoo" along with helpful tips on running your own program.







What is "The Zoo"?

At "The Zoo":

  • We teach simple Bible lessons using themes.

         Themes provide excitement, variety, and a setting. e.g. "Swamp Days". Lesson One - "Garbage In - Garbage Out"; Lesson Two - "Overcoming Temptation"; Lesson Three - "Swamp Rescue".

         The themes change every three weeks, long enough to hold interest without becoming boring.

         For every theme, props and puppets are changed to fit with the theme.

         Props can be made simply from easily obtainable items.

         The theme should be chosen to fit the environment you have to work in.

Structure of Program


  • Basically serves as a welcome or introduction (especially for a new program)
  • Helps to make the children feel comfortable.
  • Could include a puppet song or brief skit, etc. to introduce the theme or lesson.


  • Every week make the rules clear at this point in the program.
  • Kids need to understand what is expected - What the boundaries are.


  • Keep the prayer Brief and Simple. Keep in mind that "Christian-eese" terminology should be avoided. Be sure to use simple terms that the children will easily understand.
  • Prayer is a teaching opportunity, e.g. We can talk to God simply.
  • Provides an opportunity for a role model - how to pray.
  • An opportunity to dedicate the program to the Lord and His purpose.


  • Should be fun, lively and fast paced. Choose songs with actions.
  • Make sure the children have a clear understanding of what they are singing.
  • It's an opportunity for worship.
  • It's an opportunity to burn some energy.


  • Are usually related to the particular theme.
  • Are an opportunity for fun, teamwork and cooperation.
  • Provide learning opportunities. e.g. vocabulary and number skills, dexterity.
  • Don't create an overly competitive atmosphere. All participants receive a prize.
  • Avoid any games or prizes that could be a potential health or safety risk.
  • It's an opportunity to burn some energy.

Memory Verse

  • It is important for children to learn what is written in God's word. His word is powerful, and we are encouraged to hide His word in our heart.
  • Serves to help familiarize children with the books of the Bible and how the reference system works.
  • A puppet character and props can be used at this point.
  • Should correlate with the lesson and also fit with the theme.
  • Make the method of teaching the verse fun and challenging, e.g. word puzzles.

Object Lesson

  • Reinforces message taught in memory verse.
  • Can be illusions, simple tricks.
  • A demonstration to convey a point.


  • Is used to apply the concepts being taught to real life situations.
  • Takes everything that has been taught in the program to this point and ties it together into a story that the children can relate to.
  • Should be easy to identify with or grasp- how they can use that teaching in their own life.
  • Done through the use of videos, puppet skits (can be a mix of puppets and a story teller), story boards or drama could be used.
  • Can be actual Bible stories or Bible stories rewritten in a modern setting. Fictional stories written to convey a Biblical truth can also be used.


  • Provides a question time to see how much of the lesson was comprehended.
  • An opportunity to reinforce the point of the lesson.
  • An opportunity for an invitation to accept Christ.
  • Includes a closing prayer.


  • Quiet seat prizes are awarded.
  • Used as an opportunity to promote the program for next week.
  • An opportunity to address any concerns about leaving the location, i.e. traffic.
  • Every child receives a treat as they are dismissed.

Maintaining Control

In any children's program there is a need to maintain control. Boundaries and limits MUST be set. Children need to know what is expected of them. If there is no structure, very little learning will take place. We have developed the following system of discipline to help maintain control. It is mostly based on methods we have seen used by other ministries. CONSISTENCY is important. Once the rules have been stated, it is important to follow through with them. To be most effective, use all elements of the following structure.

Methods of Helping Maintain Control

Method No. One - Teams

Divide the children into two teams. Girls on one side and boys on the other. This is the simplest and fairest method of establishing two teams. It also helps to ensure a mix of ages on each side. It is important not to use this as an opportunity to promote one gender as better than the other.

Method No. Two - Balloons

Three balloons are designated to each team. If any member of a team is being disruptive, then one of their balloons is popped. A team having had all three of their balloons popped, will then forfeit their treat at the end of the program. The other team would then receive double treats. (The other team must not have any of their balloons popped to receive double). NEVER pop the third balloon early in the program - you have no leverage after that happens. We have popped all three balloons on rare occasions. It has sent the message that we mean what we say and are willing to follow through.

Method No. Three - Three Strike Rule

This is a rule that applies to the individual child. When a child is misbehaving, a verbal warning or "strike" is given. After "three strikes" (baseball analogy), the child is "out". This means that the child is asked to leave the program. Be clear that they must leave for the remainder of that weeks session but emphasize that they are welcome to return next time. Try to be as gracious as possible - it's not an easy rule to enforce, but once you've set the rule, you must follow through.

Method No. Four - Quiet Seat Prizes

This is an incentive used to encourage the children to pay attention. We offer prizes to the children who are being quiet and behaving during the program. One or two leaders are assigned to select the winners. Four prizes are given (two to each team) to the children who have been sitting with legs crossed, arms folded, looking straight ahead and not talking to or bothering their neighbour. Be sure to award the prizes to children who genuinely deserve to win. This helps to reinforce the standard.

Other Appropriate Rules

Depending on the particular setting for your program, other rules will have to be added. For example, on "The Zoo" bus, the children are instructed not to touch or draw on the windows and also to stand clear of the bus as it is pulling up to the curb. In the case of a program held inside a building, a specific area may be out of bounds. Be consistent about the rules that are established.


Rewards are incentives - good behaviour is acknowledged with a reward. Rewards definitely help maintain control. They are certainly a good investment given the importance of the message that you have been given the opportunity to share.

Outdoor vs Indoor Program

"The Zoo" Children's Ministry was run all year round. In the summer it was operated out of a (cube van) and in the winter it was operated out of the (Zoo Bus). The program or curriculum is designed specifically to suit one of the vehicles. There are some activities that can only be done in a certain setting or are limited by space so we had adapted our lessons to suit the area we were using. If you are planning to use "The Zoo" curriculum that we offer, you may find it necessary to adjust it to meet your needs. We have found a few tricks of the trade:


Use video to do the story. Remember you are dealing with a generation that thrives on TV

Games in this setting may require a decrease in physical activity. Use word games etc. These will help the children with literacy and other skills required in school, so their purpose is two fold.

Songs with actions can be changed to actions that can be done while sitting down. The kids think that is an interesting change.


Games can take up much more space, use relays etc.

Singing can be done using songs with lots and lots of actions. Take advantage of the space.

This is an excellent opportunity to take full advantage of themes. Space for props is unlimited. What an exciting idea!

Puppets and Puppet Videos

Kids today are accustomed to fast-paced visual media. It is important to keep that in mind when planning an effective program for children. We have learned from experience that the use of puppets, puppet videos and props helps to catch and hold the attention of kids today.


  • add interest and excitement
  • are non-threatening to kids
  • are excellent for telling stories
    - enables you to act out a story
    - adds life to the story through action and interaction
  • can also be used to help teach a memory verse
  • allow for developing a range of different characters. This helps add variety to the program. It is also good to have familiar characters that return from time to time.

Puppet Manipulation

  • learn basic manipulation techniques. Avoid "flip top" heads.
  • rod arms give added movement
  • try to make your puppet's movements as realistic as possible
  • voices certainly enhance a character
  • takes a concentrated effort to do a good job
  • reviewing videotaped puppet skits can help to improve your skills

Puppet Videos

  • useful for reinforcing the lesson and the theme
  • provide an attention shift
  • create your own productions. You will need:
    - puppet/puppeteers
    - video camera (tripod is helpful)
    - script/setting
    - music, props and costumes
    - production crew (camera, sound effects and lighting)

Puppet Costumes and Character Design

  • puppets can be dressed to fit with a particular theme and setting. You can easily change a puppet into another character by making use of costumes, hats, wigs, beards, etc. This allows a diversity of characters using only a few basic puppets.
  • children's clothing is a good source for costumes. Sizes 2 to 3x will generally fit an average puppet (Puppets that are hand made or from other companies may vary)
  • make your own creations - they can be sewn simply and don't require much fabric. HINT: remnants are a good, inexpensive source for fabric.
  • a new character can be created over another puppet using fabric, light weight stuffing, foam, wire, etc. and held in place with safety pins.
  • you can make your own puppets using available patterns or build a model puppet using plastics, clay, etc., then tailor make your own pattern from the model. Be sure to construct the model to the actual finished puppet dimensions that you have in mind.

Puppets are without a doubt, one of the most effective children's ministry tools.

Prayer Sponsor Program

PRAYER IS VITAL - it forms the backbone of any children's ministry program. It is important to pray for the specific needs of each child and their family. You need people who are committed to this task. A prayer sponsor program can be established by assigning a list of children from five or six families to willing volunteers. A volunteer who is well acquainted with the children would be best suited to establish this program and maintain it by providing regular updates to the individual prayer sponsors.


Ministry is relational - you need to get to know your kids. This helps establish a level of trust which results in credibility. Obviously this is important in sharing the Gospel. The first step in building a relationship with the kids is to learn their names. To obtain names and addresses a coloring contest can be run. Be sure winners are selected by a random draw (done in front of the kids). Do not judge their individual ability.

As a result of having personal information such as their name, address and birth date, a visitation program can be established. A good tool to use in the program is a promotional flyer. This reminds the kids/parents about the program and allows a point of contact to the home. It gives you a reason to be on their doorstep. Flyers should be interesting and fun, it's a good idea to include an activity or two. Flyers should state the time, date, and location of your program and include a clear statement of who you represent (i.e. church or organization.) Birthday cards are Very Effective in building relationships. The card conveys to the child and the parents that you are personally interested. Our experience has been that the parents really appreciate this gesture.


  • help to establish the theme

         add interest - help to make the program exciting

         add variety and change. Prop changes are generally done every three weeks, depending on the theme.

         can be made simply from easily obtainable items such as cardboard, paper, fabric, plastic, wood, paint, markers, etc.

         can be items you may already have. Look in children's toy boxes, your basement or the garage.

         can be borrowed from sources in the community, e.g. the Fire Dept.

         can also include items related to the theme that are designed to be used directly in the program. e.g. game props and memory verse props.