Category Archives: Parenting

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.

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.

Continue reading Morning Prayer for Children & Families

Making an Altar for Home

With most of us in the United States (and world-wide) staying safe by staying at home, we are now worshiping virtually with our faith communities via Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, church websites and other platforms. While meeting in this way has proved wonderful for staying connected with the practice of coming together for Sunday services, weekday prayers such as Compline or Morning Prayer, not being in our sanctuaries together has been hard.

We have experienced that the Church is not a building but a community gathered in prayer. We’ve also realized that our homes can also be places of prayer. So as we near the end of our Lenten journey and prepare for Holy Week, perhaps it’s time to create a prayer space at home that is available anytime of day or night to anyone in your household. In the midst of the chaos of homeschooling and worries of this world right now, working together as a household to build a home altar or sacred space may be an excellent way to create order and peace.

It is quite simple and can be done with what you already have at home most likely. Find a surface in a low traffic area such as a window sill, small table, portable tray table, or book shelf. I find it helpful to have it in a quiet area (usually this is on a shelf above my desk so it is always in sight) where there is little “action.” The pictures below are from my new area in my living room – no television or computers in this room!

Continue reading Making an Altar for Home

Keeping Faith at Home with Children

There are a variety of reasons why families are often unable to attend church: sports, travel, illness, school related activities, and so much more. Often our communities have been affected by natural disasters: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or snow storms. These are usually isolated areas of our country depending on the circumstance. However, March 2020 (and most likely longer), communities across the United States (and world-wide) are living with a new reality of many houses of worship cancelling in-person services to protect the health of all.

It has been no surprise to me that Christian formation folks have been at the forefront in sharing resources and ideas for supporting households who are staying at home. Many ideas that have been shared are not new, but are coming to light as the need has arisen for so many. New collaborations are forming to determine new ways to use social media and virtual gatherings for worship, prayer, Bible study, and simply being present with one another as a faith community. With large thanks to Forma and my colleague Mary Hawes’ (Church of England) Growing For Growth, below is a curated list (which will be updated regularly – so you may want to bookmark this) of ways to help parents, children, and youth focus on the reality that God is with us – no matter what.

Continue reading Keeping Faith at Home with Children

Praying with Children

You are never too young to pray. For many parents, as well as many adults, prayer does not come easily. Growing up, my parents regularly helped me learn prayers at bedtime, starting with the simple “Now I lay me down to sleep” until I knew The Lord’s Prayer and could say it on my own before bed overnight. We said grace at meals, and I learned “Be present at our table, Lord . . .” As an Episcopalian, I grew up with the Book of Common Prayer and as time went on, I learned where to find other prayers to assist me in my own prayer life. Now I don’t need a prayer book to help me pray, but is sure is nice to have a book of prayers handy with the words just don’t seem to come. After all, prayer is simply a conversation with God: Help! Thanks! Wow!

Order from Amazon or Church Publishing
Illustration (c) Copyright 2020. Perry Hodgkins Jones. All rights reserved.

But now there is a new book out just for children and the parents, teachers, and adults who care for them so much that they want to teach them prayers and share in the experience of talking to God at all times and in all places. Jenifer Gamber and Timothy J.S. Seamans have put together a beautiful compilation of prayers (originally and familiar) that are accompanied by delightful line drawings by Perry Hodgkins Jones.

Divided into six “parts,” Common Prayer for Children and Families offers The Lord’s Prayer (in many versions) and Mealtime Prayers (new and traditional) as well as ways to pray through the day for every day of the week. There are prayers for each of the seasons of the church year as well as the ordinary events of life for one’s self, at home, at school, and at camp. There are prayers for saints past and present, as well as for the needs of the world. With a thematic index as well as a scripture index, finding just the right prayer to share with your child is now just a page away.

Continue reading Praying with Children