Category Archives: Children's Ministries

Children’s Presence in Worship

A workshop I was to present in the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia in early March 2020 was moved to an online webinar using Zoom, of which we are all now so familiar with. Here is a diocese that has been very nimble in taking what would have been their day-long, in-person annual event for Christian formation practitioners called Better Together. They are now calling this “shelter-at-home continuing education,” in which I gave my keynote as a Zoom webinar-styled presentation in the first installment, called Faith Formation in a Changing Church.

I recently offered my two workshops, Children’s Presence in Worship: Full Participation or Brief Appearance and Texting God: The Spirituality of Youth via Zoom meeting for more interaction. Valerie Reinke, Canon Missioner for Faith Formation: 35 & Under and her team recorded them and are making them available for others to view.

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Faith Formation in a Changing Church

About six months ago I was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (western Washington state) to deliver a keynote address for their annual Better Together Christian formation event. I was asked to speak about where I saw the church heading in the future based on my 40+ years of experience in formation, drawing upon what I had seen and learned along the way. I entitled it Faith Formation in a Changing Church: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future. My intention was to share a little history of Christian education in the church through the lens of four generations of my family. I planned to talk about my perception of how the church needed to adapt to a new reality in the twenty-first century. How would my granddaughter (a fifth generation – the Alpha generation) be formed in faith?

Little did I know that much of my preparation in talking about the “future” would become the present. A week before I was scheduled to fly to Seattle, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot. Twenty-four hours in advance, Bishop Rickel made the decision to cancel all diocesan events where more than fifty people would be present. I cancelled my flight and said a prayer.

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Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 2

The Garden of Gethsemane (c) John F. Pearson

Knowing that all of us will be observing Holy Week at home this year (2020), Christian formation folks as well as publishers are making a number of resources available for free. From streaming Bible study and worship to downloadable coloring sheets and devotions, it can be a bit overwhelming to recall what you saw shared online and forgot to “bookmark.” I’ve been keeping a running tab of ideas that have popped up in the blogposts, newsletters, and social media feeds I follow. Here are some ideas I feel worth passing along for you to check out. (And this post won’t “disappear” in your feed!)

Prayers and Devotions

Church Publishing has offered a free online version (via Issu) of Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People by Jenifer Gamber and myself.  It’s now available free until 11:59pm EST April 15, 2020. View it here.

Roger Hutchison, artist, Christian educator, and of numerous books including Under the Fig Tree and Jesus: God Among Us (great for Holy Week and Easter reading) has been leading a Bible study on his Vimeo channel based on Jesus Among Us. You can also view his reading of The Very Best Day on the site.

Illustrated Ministry has offered Prayers for When You Feel Anxious coloring pages for downloading.

Story Telling

StoryMakers NYC has created a new curriculum that is tailored towards the developmental stages of children and young teens on their Christian journey through wonderful illustrations and creative storytelling and activities. They have been making weekly sessions available for free, including great videos of the Sunday Gospel lesson. Check out their website for freebies and how to get on their mailing list to obtain the weekly video in your inbox.

The Godly Play Foundation has made available for download two sets of materials to go with The Faces of Easter prints (purchase the digital story here) and The Parable of the Good Shepherd figures (digital story here for download/purchase). Whether your materials are waiting for you safely at your church for when you return or you want to try Godly Play for the first time, this is an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.

Every Friday night Daneen Akers, author of the new amazing book Holy Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, will offer a story from the book. This one is very timely – the story of Florence Nightingale.

Family Activities

The Center for Children and Theology offers a set of ten templates: five lightly lined sheets with borders reflecting the themes of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (the True Vine, the cross, the nativity, prophetic and angelic announcements) and five practice sheets for learning the strokes of lower and upper case letter of calligraphy.

Candle Press has been producing downloadable “To Go” sheets for churches to send home or via email to families for years. Founder Helen Barron has made available four “To Go: At Home” sheets for families to engage in prayer, activities, and discussion on Lenten themes: In the Ark, God is Here, A Boat in the Storm, and Martha and Mary. All you need to do is sign up for her monthly email. Here is a taste with God is Here.

GenOn Ministries is giving away sessions to gather around the kitchen table, coffee table, picnic blanket, or anywhere food is shared. Use it for any meal or snack time, any day of the week, to break bread, study the Bible, play, and pray—together. It’s a fun and easy way to add a faith and fun component to mealtime. Maybe with grandparents or friends over Zoom or FaceTime? It could become a new Sunday morning or Friday night tradition!

Lastly, Church Publishing has offered a bunch of Holy Week Activities for Families that offer many ideas to use for Holy Week:

  • Prayers for the days of Holy Week from Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans
  • Holy Week coloring sheets and puzzles by Anne Kitch from What We Do in Lent
  • Way of Love coloring posters (in English and Spanish) from Jay Sidebotham
  • A chapter on how to talk about Good Friday with your children from Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian Parents by Wendy Claire Barrie
  • The Easter reflection (with art) from Roger Hutchison in Under the Fig Tree
  • Use your LEGOs to tell the story, “Jesus Enters Jerusalem” from Building Faith Brick by Brick by Emily Given
  • A chapter from my book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God from Mardis Gras through Pentecost about observing Maundy Thursday in your home.

With many thanks to all these individuals and publishers for making this resources available. Please check out their websites and support their ministries.

A Household Holy Week

As we prepare to journey to Jerusalem next week in our homes, many have been sharing ways to create a sacred space at home. How might we use these spaces for Holy Week? What objects might we place on our altars each day to remember the final week of Jesus with his disciples?

The concept of a Holy Week Box is not new, in fact I had gathered supplies to put together bags to give out to our households at my church based on what Building Faith had posted a few years ago. The original idea came from Camille LeBron Powell in the UK some years ago. Due to health and safety concerns, these won’t be distributed this year (and we’ll save them for next year). So I’ve transferred and adapted the concept into one that individuals and families can create on their own. Follow along below, or download the document here which includes the readings.

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Morning Prayer for Children & Families

There’s a new book out, just in time to help families start and end their days (and all those between times) as everyone is home together. Common Prayer for Children and Families by Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans (Church Publishing, 2020) is a simple, yet beautiful book that will assist preschoolers and elementary age little ones learn the sacred practice of daily prayer. Whimsically illustrated with creatures living life to the fullest scattered across the pages by Perry Hodgkins Jones, children will enjoy seeking out the little mice, bunnies, and butterflies as they learn to read these original, timeless prayers.

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