This year we find ourselves isolated and still living in a world with a pandemic. Many people are feeling anxious, stressed, lost, and sad. It is a normal reaction to what is happening around us. Reaching and connecting with families is more important than ever. We need hope, connection, and faith.
As those who work with children, we may be feeling a little overwhelmed ourselves. For those people, I have found a program that is easy to do and requires little work on the Children’s Minister. A paid program that comes highly recommended by others working with children in my diocese is the Lent Program from Illustrated Ministries. The program is Reflections from the Heart. Each week includes scripture, reflection, questions, activity, prayer and a coloring page. The cost is based on the size of the church ($39.99-$69.99). Their website is Illustratedministry.com.
For those looking for a more hands on approach, I have written a format for Living in Community.
We all need others. God gave us community. As a child, we needed other to care for us. As we grow older, we need others to teach us, to help us learn who we are, and to give us friendship. We need God all the time. The relationship with God gives meaning to all the other relationships in our lives.
Decorate bags with pictures of community. Put these six objects in the bag: Rock (with a cross or heart painted on or get Rockimpact with Engraved Cross), Heart, battery operated candle, bandage, small sheep, chalice charm (Pepperloney brand). Put each small object in its own plastic bag.
Include these short questions with each object. (See bottom for link to objects used).
A small booklet with all the Bible verses is recommended. Instructions to pick one time a week that family is gathered. One person pulls an object out of the bag. The Bible verse is read. The object is passed around with each person holding the object answers the questions. End the session in prayer.
Rock: Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus knew that connection with God is important even when he seemed to be alone. Do you pray when you are alone? What do you do to connect with God? Have you felt God’s presence? How did God give Jesus strength to resist temptation? How can you get strength form God?
Heart: Jesus chooses his Apostles (pick one or two). How do you think Jesus choose his friends? What do you think made a person a good Apostle? Who are your good friends? Jesus’ friends were good listeners. Are you a good listener? What qualities do you want in a friend? How can you be a good friend?
Candle: Jesus Transfiguration (Matthew 17: 1-13). Jesus took his friends with him and they saw him with Moses and Elijah, prophets that lived long ago. We are all connected to those who came before us. Ask your parents about your family tree. If your grandparents are alive, call them and ask them to share a story from their childhood about their family and their friends. What do you have around your house that was handed down from your family? What things would you want to hand down to your future children and grandchildren?
Bandage: Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Being a good neighbor is important. How was the Samaritan a good neighbor? What does being a good neighbor mean? What is something you can do to be a good neighbor to someone who lives on your street? What can you do to be a good neighbor to someone at your school? Is there a project your church is doing that your family can get involved in and be a good neighbor to those in need?
Sheep: The Lost Sheep & The Good Shepherd (Luke 15:1-7 & John 10:1-18). How did the shepherd take care of the sheep? What do these parables say about our relationship with God? Do you like thinking of God as your shepherd? Jesus looks for the lost sheep. Who are people who are lost? What are ways someone can be lost? How can you help them?
Chalice charm: The Last Supper (John 13) Jesus gave us a rule (new commandment), that we love and care for each other as he would. How does Jesus want us to care for others? What ways can we be nice, even when it is hard? How can we be nice when we are angry at someone? How can we find ways to care for people we do not know well?
Each Station will have picture, music, scripture, activity, devotion/worship, prayer and/or youth as picture. Use stain glass window pictures if available.
There are 8 outdoor Stations concluding with Living Nativity on church steps.
Station 1: Angel Gabriel appears to Mary
If youth: Angel Gabriel with Mary falling to her knees
Scripture: Luke 1: 26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[b] The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Activity- make halo using garland that is pre-cut. and Mother’s prayer poster/wall hanging (write name of their mother or other women of faith.)
Devotion/Reflection: Why do you think Mary was chosen? It was not because she was the most beautiful girl. It was not because she was the smartest girl. It was not because she was the bravest or strongest either. Could it have been that she trusted God? Could it have been because she had faith? Mary’s response is to let God’s will be done. She says yes to God’s plan. What area in your life do you struggle with? Try giving that area to God without a list of how you want it handled, but say trust in God’s will.
Prayer from Church of England: Common Saints, Collect for Mary:
Almighty and everlasting God, who stooped to raise fallen humanity through the child-bearing of blessed Mary: grant that we, who have seen your glory revealed in our human nature and your love made perfect in our weakness, may daily be renewed in your image and conformed to the pattern of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Station 2: Mary & Elizabeth
If youth: two girls to be Mary greeting Elizabeth (who is pregnant)
Scripture-Luke 1: 39-56
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would bea fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Activity- worship: Mary went to see Elizabeth, someone she could trust. Write the names of someone you can trust on the posterboard in a heart and as you do, say a prayer for that person thanking God he/she is in your life.
Devotion/Reflection: In a time of fear and maybe, feeling alone, Mary went to see Elizabeth. The angel had told Mary that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age and her child would be tied to Mary’s child. Mary and Elizabeth were blessed to have each other to share their news, their joy, their fears and their concerns. Who in your life do you go when you are excited about something? Who do you go to when you are afraid? Who do you share your worries with?
Prayer from Church of England: Mary visits Elizabeth-Mighty God, by whose grace Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary and greeted her as the mother of the Lord: look with favour on your lowly servants that, with Mary, we may magnify your holy name and rejoice to acclaim her Son our Saviour, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Station 3: Joseph dreams
If youth: two youth: boy as Joseph and angel stand over him.
Scripture: Matthew 1: 18-25a
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife
Activity: Joseph was a carpenter. Take a block of wood and write the name of a man who is important in your life. (Each family does one block of wood). Thank God for the person. Put the block under your tree.
Devotion/Reflection: Joseph at first was disbelieving, but then after an angel visiting him in a dream, he knew that the baby that Mary was carrying, was God’s Son and Mary had stayed loyal to him. Joseph seemed to be a good man. He was going to save Mary from being disgraced and end things quietly. After the angel confirmed this baby was special, Joseph accepted his role as father and husband gladly and with devotion. Who are the men in your life you can count on to be there for you?
Prayer from Church of England for Feast Day of St. Joseph: God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph the carpenter to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary: give us grace to follow him in faithful obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Station 4: Travel to Bethlehem
If youth: two-Mary and Joseph resting by “road”
Scripture: Luke 2: 1-5
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.
Activity: have map from Palestine during Jesus time. Ask families to find Nazareth and then Bethlehem. How long do you think it took to walk there? How many hours a day do you think they walked? How do you think it felt to be pregnant and traveling do far?
Devotion/Reflection: Looking at the map, Mary and Joseph had to travel far and at the end of Mary’s pregnancy. Hardship has always been a part of life, even if you are the mother of God’s son. God is always with us. We are never alone on our journey. We all face different hardships, but traveling through those hardships can help beautiful things happen, like love come down to earth in the form of a baby, born to set the world free.
Prayer: Lord, today we think of Mary and Joseph and their long and frightening journey to Bethlehem. You were with them as you are with us. Help us to trust you like hey did and help us to have the strength to travel through the hard places in our lives. Thank you for your constant love on our life journey, in Jesus’ name, the one whose birth we celebrate. Amen.
Station 5: Bethlehem
Youth-one youth dressed as an innkeeper with sign, “no room”
Activity: Create a building of Bethlehem (uses TP rolls and markers with instructions) Each family creates and adds their house/building to the Bethlehem.
Reflection on hospitality and welcome How do you make people feel welcome in your home? Do you do it differently if you know the person well or it is a first time visitor? How do you make people feel welcome at school or work? How do you make people feel welcome in church?
Hospitality and welcome is a gift. We have all been new and know that someone’s welcome and hospitality makes all the difference. We have all been uncomfortable and someone else has given the gift which helps us to feel comfortable. How about when we are late or there is not room. How do you feel when someone says, “Sure, we will make room for you!” Can you say and do the same, even when it might be inconvenient? You might be making room for the future king.
Prayer: Lord, we make room for you in our hearts by loving you and helping others. We make room for you in our homes by prayer and Bible reading. We make room for you in our days by taking time to pray or sit with you in silence. We make room for you In our lives by opening ourselves in faith. We make room for you in our minds by thinking of you throughout our days. We make room for you by caring for others. We make room by being kind to all. Thank you for being with us always. In Jesus, our Savior, we pray. Amen.
Station 6: Jesus born
Youth: Mary and Joseph with a baby doll
Scripture: Luke 2: 6-7a
While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born, and she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger
Activity: Gift for Jesus-write on form and take to manger at last station. Some way you can love others in the coming year or Some way you can give God more time.
Devotion/Reflection-God’s love for us shone so bright in the gift of Jesus. The devotion and the unconditional nature of God’s love for us, with God’s determination to not give up on us, was shown in a simple manger and a baby’s cry. To be loved this completely, simply because we are, is difficult for us to grasp, so we needed more than words, and so the Word, Jesus, came down to us.
Prayer: Collect of the Nativity of Our Lord, BCP: O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Station 7: Angels declare to Shepherds
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Activity: The angels said “Glory to God”, what in your life would you give glory to God for? Write it on a heart. Hang it in a place for Christmas morning to give thanks again.
Devotion/Reflection: The first invited guests to see the King of all kings, the birth of God’s Son were shepherds. Instead of a party invite, they got a personal invitation from the angels, sent by God! We often go through so much angst about who to invite to a family wedding or a special party. We weigh each invite, discuss who would be hurt, who needs to be included, and who we wish to include. It is a carefully made decision.
So, a group of shepherds out working in the field with their sheep were the ones God chose. Why do you think God chose them to invite?
Prayer: Beloved God, thank you for inviting us to the birth of Jesus and for loving us. We thank you for the many gifts of love you give to us each day. Amen.
Station 8: Shepherds travel to Bethlehem
Youth: Two or three youth-Mary holding baby doll and two shepherds kneeling.
Scripture: Luke 2:16-20
So the shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Activity: Write a word, phrase, or sentence you “treasured in your heart”.
Devotion/Reflection: Mary treasured their words in her heart. What words do you treasure in your heart? What are the words someone has said to you that meant so much to you? Was it because of the words said, the person who said them, the circumstances or a combination of these factors? Tell a story of a time someone said words to you that you treasured.
Prayer: Lord, as we move into Christmas and beyond, fill our hearts with the love that we fill today on every day. Help us to remember that your love for us in sending Jesus was not a one time event, it is life time event. In Jesus’ name and for the love he gives us. Amen.
Station 9: Living Nativity or Manger in Nave.
Youth: living Nativity or none. Nave open with manger near altar.
Scripture: John 1: 1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Music: Silent Night
Activity: light candle, give gift from earlier into manger
Devotion/Reflection: Spend time reflecting on the miracle and wonder as we enter Christmas.
Prayer: Collect of the Nativity prayer 2, BCP O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
December 6th is the feast day of St. Nicholas! It is a wonderful way to bring a religious spin on Santa and the tradition of giving.
Nicholas lived in the 300s in Asia, the Turkey region. As a boy, his parents taught him to love Jesus and Nicholas wanted to live the way Jesus taught. He loved Jesus and looked for ways to serve him through helping others. A sickness swept through the land and Nicholas parents died leaving him with wealth. Nicholas soon gave all his money to help others. When he heard about a man who was so poor, his three daughters would not have a dowry to get married, so they would become slaves. Nicholas through three bags of gold coins into the window by the fireplace. The family was blessed and the daughters could marry and live their lives as free women.
One day a bishop was needed and god told oldest bishop in a dream about Nicholas. Nicholas walked into church at the moment God had said he would and he was made Bishop Nicholas. There are many stories of lives Nicholas saved, storms quieted, and people fed that involve miracle after miracle.
After Nicholas’ death, people thought the gifts that arrived to celebrate Jesus’ birth would stop, but they did not. They grew! They continue today. To read more about the many miracles and the love of Nicholas for Jesus, visit www.stnicholascenter.org .
Ways to celebrate this saint: Have someone dress up as Bishop Nicholas and visit a service or a group of gathered children. Our Nicholas leaves something in the shoes of those who gathered.
Ways to celebrate online:
Tell the story of Nicholas and livestream it. Use as many props as you can find!
Read a book and livestream it:
Wonderworker: The True Story of How St. Nicholas Became Santa Claus
The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Anselem Grun
Make a Bishop Miter
Make a St. Nicholas ornament
Choose an outreach program that benefits children in honor of St. Nicholas and post stories from them encouraging gift giving.
Post a few “How different countries celebrate St. Nicholas: In the Netherlands, on St. Nicholas Day, a family member makes a gift (they create it) and write a poem about the person. Names are drawn two weeks before so each family member has someone’s name and gets a gift. Try this for the day!
Have an “Ask St. Nicholas” and encourage children to text or put their questions in the comment section.
Encourage children to write a letter to St. Nicholas asking for something for someone else.
St. Nicholas gave out of his love for Jesus, encourage a love offering to Jesus (a gift for another, a letter, a picture drawn, food for a food bank, etc.)
Once you have a St. Nicholas Day, then use it to replace the words Santa Claus with St. Nicholas or Bishop Nicholas.
This years Advent will be very different. More than ever, our job as the church is to equip families to worship, learn, and grow in their own home. I have put together an Advent take home Kit. Families will drive up to get their kit. Each week will be divided into weeks. I use large business envelopes marked clearly Advent I, Advent II, Advent III, Advent IV, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There is, also, an envelope marked “Open now”.
Our families look forward to getting their kits. Children get very excited to know it is coming.
I send out the theme and get a different person to write the devotion. Each page of the devotion includes scripture, reflection and a prayer.
Here is the outline for our 2020 Kit:
Advent 2020 Home Kits During Time of Covid 19
What is Advent?
Coloring sheet for praying while coloring with instructions
Instructions for Advent Wreath -how to make one and how to use it.
Child’s Advent Wreath how to make one and supplies to make one
Coming up with ways to connect our children and youth with each other and with our church leadership has taken inventive thinking. One of the most successful has been our LEGO Master Tournament.
Based on the television show of the same name, families formed teams. Everyone did their projects at home and we meet weekly on Zoom.
Lego Master Tournament: Children and families form teams to be a part of a six week tournament. Families or children or youth register in advance. Levels are adjusted for ages. Each week the child/team builds a scene that is assigned to them. A video of the build is taken by family. Lego builds are uploaded to a dropbox. The congregation has two days to vote/judge the projects. The projects are voted on for creativity, staying true to the story, use of LEGOs, and originality in telling the story. Builds are based on Bible stories, Liturgy Parts, Church History, and Sacraments. The whole church got involved. The children, youth and families were creative, spent time researching their project, and went way beyond what was expected. They ended up teaching the whole congregation about the Bible, Liturgy, Church History, the Sacraments and our community.
Each week: the highest score picks first story and then go in order. Each team choses a different story. We meet on Zoom to remind them of how they are scored, get the scores from the previous week and pick their assignments. We met Sundays. They had until Thursday at noon to complete and video tape their project. We uploaded them to Vimeo and put a link in the newsletter for people to vote.
Week One Challenge-Old Testament
Week Two Challenge-New Testament
Week Three Challenge-Parts of Liturgy
Week Four Challenge-Church History
Week Five Challenge-Sacraments
Week Six Challenge-St. Paul’s Community
Instructions for teams each week:
Team takes a Video:
Show Completed Lego from all sides.
Explain how team came up with idea and anything you think we should know.
Email to Dropbox by Noon on Thursday.
Team takes a picture of team with Lego build for our newsletters, Facebook & Instagram accounts.
Loaded for Congregation and Voting start Monday at 5:00 PM. Voting Closes Wednesday at 5:00 PM.
Voting 1-5 with 1 being did not achieve it, 5 being excellent
Use of Lego Blocks
Stayed true to story/assignment
Originality in telling/showing story
I averaged the scores for each category above and then added them together.
Week One story ideas (Old Testament):
Jacob’s story (especially the wrestling with an angel)-Genesis 32
Balaam (and the Talking Donkey) -Numbers 22
Ezekiel & visions – Ezekiel 1
Deborah & victory – Judges 4 (might be too graphic?)
Joshua & wall collapsing-Joshua 6
Meshack, Shadrack and Abendigo -Daniel 3
King Jehoshaphat- 2Chronicles 19-20
The Tower of Babel – Genesis 11
Samson – Judges 14-15
Elisha and the bears- 2 Kings 2
Naaman 2 King 5
Challenge 2: New Testament Stories
Story of Zechariah-Luke 1: 5-25
Simeon meets Jesus-Luke 2: 25-35
Four Friends encounter Jesus-Mark 2:1-12
Jesus heals the 10 Lepers- Luke 17:11-19
Jesus Quiets the Storm: Mark 4:35-41 & Matthew 8:23-27
Parable of the Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-32
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead: John 11:17-44
Jesus appears to Paul-Acts 9:3-19
Paul and Silas in Prison-Acts 16:16-40
Other ideas-Samaritan woman at well
Challenge 3: Parts of Liturgy (find all in Book of Common Prayer)
Saints Scavenger Hunt: For a two hour period, families are invited to walk in our open field area and find saints. The saints are on a stick. Each saint has a picture or icon on one side and a description of their life on the other side. When families arrive, they get a sheet with a line about a saint. They walk the saints and identify the saint on their sheet of paper that matches the one line description on their sheet. Once they have identified all the saints, the family gets a bag of candy for each child. The candy is prepackaged a week before.
Then they can walk through our haunted playground. At the playground, spaces were pre-assigned. Our families decorated their assigned and physically distanced space. Our younger youth stayed within their family decorated playground space. Pool noodles were placed for families to walk and stay at least six feet from the haunted playground haunters. Candy and Halloween toys were tossed by those wearing gloves.
For all events, everyone wears a mask and plenty of hand sanitizer is placed about.
Other ideas for All saints: have adults take on the role of saints and write letters to young children, provide coloring sheets, and/or have a saint a day for a few weeks putting up a saint with information about him or her.
For Saint Scavenger Hunt:
Pictures of saints (laminated) with information on back
Handout with a fact to match & one or two questions
Bags of candy
Craft sticks to place Saint in ground
Table for candy
Stick name plate that says “I am a Saint” and craft sticks at prize table.
Make the Saints with facts
Purchase prize bags
Put together prize bags
Put saints on craft sticks
Set up event
Get someone to take pictures
During Event :
People pick up Saint handout search at start table (do outside). People come in costume. Have camera to take pictures.
People look around field, playground and other outside areas for saints. When they find them, they put the name of the saint to match the search fact. When they have found all the saints, they bring their sheet to the prize table. Each child receives a prize bag. Adults get to a piece of candy.
The children put their name on a name plate on a craft stick that says “I am a Saint!” They can stick them in the ground anywhere along the search area.
Clean up area
Put all Saints away for another year
Move “I am a Saint” to a common place for a few weeks
Put prizes left over away.
Send pictures for publicity.
Do a small write up.
Saints being used 2020
David Pendleton Oakhater
Catherine of Siena
Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary
For Haunted Playground:
Way to mark family area for each haunter.
Get families to sign up that they will decorate. Each family brings their own decorations, their own chairs to sit on, and candy to hand out.
Mark space for each family and assign space.
Hand out gloves to those tossing candy.
Put pool noodles to act as walk way.
At Event: Ensure families walking event stay socially distant.
Who is St. Francis: Francis was born in Assisi, Italy in 1182. He grew up leading a privileged life as the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. Francis loved to learn and sing songs as a boy. His father wanted him to become a businessman and taught him about the French culture. As Francis grew up, he began to see visions from God that changed his life. The first vision was when he was sick with a high fever. At first, he thought that God had called him to fight in the Crusades. However, he had another vision that told him to help the sick. Finally, when praying in a church, Francis heard God tell him to “repair my church, which is falling in ruins.” Francis gave all his money to the church. His father became very angry with him. Francis then left his father’s home and took a vow of poverty. As Francis lived his life of poverty and preached to people about the life of Jesus Christ, people began to follow him. By 1209, he had around 11 followers. He had one basic rule which was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps”. Francis was a devoted follower of God. He and his followers were dirty, poor, and smelled bad. However, eventually people understood their vow of poverty and the church blessed the Order. He loved and cared for the sick, especially the lepers. The Franciscan Order grew as men joined and made vows of poverty. When a woman named Clare of Assisi wanted to take similar vows, Francis helped her start the Order of the Poor Ladies (Order of Saint Clare). He also started another order (later called the Third Order of Saint Francis) that was for men and women who didn’t take vows or leave their jobs, but lived out the principals of the Franciscan Order in their daily lives. Francis was known for his love of nature and animals. There are many stories about Saint Francis and his preaching to animals. It is said that one day he was talking to some birds when they began to sing together. Then they flew into the sky and formed the sign of a cross. It was also said that Francis could tame wild animals. One story tells of a vicious wolf in the town of Gubbio that was killing people and sheep. The people of the town were frightened and didn’t know what to do. Francis went to the town to confront the wolf. At first the wolf growled at Francis and prepared to attack him. However, Francis made the sign of the cross and told the wolf not to hurt anyone else. The wolf then became tame and the town was safe.
Why have a festival? The Feast of St. Francis is a great time to honor creation and our animal friends. The festival can be used to focus on the care and love for creation, animals, and each other. It, also, helps to build community, fellowship and appreciation of each other and our faith history.
Ways to do it online: It can be totally on line or give it out kits with contents to do the festival. Here are some ideas-
Pet “Trick” videos– ask people to make a very short video of them and their pet, preferably of the pet doing a trick. For adults it can be similar to “Stupid Pet Tricks.” Edit them and combine them into one video. Show this for the festival or put it up on your website or media.
Story Time: Record reading of and put on Facebook Live or do it as a Zoom: The Prayer of St. Francis(for all ages.) and Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi (Life of a Saint)by Juliette Levivier.
Children’s Message-video record a short message about care of animals and care of creation. This goes well with story time.
Music: All Things Bright and Beautiful is our St. Francis Festival theme. Record your choir or a soloist singing it . Put the music in a packet for families. Or give this video which includes the lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT_oDqOEGpc
Crafts: If making kits for all, here is a cute and easy kit to give out: Unfinished wood birdhouses to paint and decorate or Birdseed cookies to put out: Mix together: 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup water, 3 Tablespoons corn syrup, 4 cups birdseed. Use cookie cutters and put mixture inside the cutter. Put on wax paper to dry. Once dry, remove cookie cutter and hang with yarn or put out on tree limb. Lastly, “Stain glass “ animals-tear up a bunch of pieces of colored tissue paper then laid them down on a sheet of wax paper. Cover it with another layer of wax paper then very quickly whisked a hot iron over the top. Get images of animals from the internet (coloring page ones work best.) Size them the size for the stain glass then print. Place the animal print on top of a piece of construction paper and cut out both layers with an Exacto knife. Cut the wax paper “stained glass” out to size and glued it to the back.
Outreach ideas: Make the birdseed cookies or bird houses for gift so others can enjoy the animals. Give each family a list of ways to take care of creation and ask them to do one or two for a week or more. Do a collection of supplies for an animal shelter.
Follow with an outside Blessing or drive through blessing of animals.
Usually or normally, we would…. Doesn’t it seem that we start a lot of things that way these days? We are faced with developing a new normal. Once our children head back to school in the Fall, we give them a week (or two depending on the calendar) and then we would have our big “Rally Day/Start of Christian Formation/Christian Formation Kick off.”
Where once we would have a big barbecue after the Blessing of Backpacks (see blog for how we are doing this now) filled with games and talking, we are faced with children starting school online and the inability to safely gather large groups of people. The following week (if not Labor Day), we would have balloons lining the hallways, gifts waiting for each student, and Christian Formation/Sunday School classrooms filled with excited volunteers and children. How do we bring that excitement when we cannot gather? After asking myself, “What is the mission behind these events? What is it that makes them so valuable?” The answer for our church is community, relationships, connection (or re-connection) and learning about God.
The challenge becomes how can we create the things that made these days special during COVID-19 spread? To build community, I am introducing a church-wide game. We are having a Lego-My-Bible LEGO Master Tournament. Everyone will participate by either building or helping vote (see previous blog on how I am doing this). To build relationships, I am creating a prayer and pen pal buddy. Children sign up (so only those who truly want to do this). I will match them by age/grade. Children write letters, schedule facetime talks, and think of little gifts they can make for each other. Most importantly, they pray for each other, which is formation and relationship building. I will share prayers to help when they cannot find the words. I, also, have started a letter writing campaign with the goal of writing a letter to each child by hand (that is over 150). I am hoping to get some volunteers to write encouraging letters in October to all children if we are still in “Shelter-at-Home” status. Connection is a little bit harder. It is hard to connect to something bigger when we are alone. I plan to continue weekly formation and chapel on line each week, but am adding other ways that are not as organized. Lunch with Deacon Lauren on Zoom is my plan. With a small age appropriate topic, I plan to spend lunch hour once a week with children by age/grade. The goal is to connect to each other as we “share” a meal together. Learning about God will continue in partnership form. I plan to post live-streams that can be watched throughout the week, Children’s worship twice weekly and the Family Bible/Devotions on my “For Families” page.
Translating this for your church, what is the reason/purpose you do the events for school and start of Christian Formation/Sunday School? What are your goals? How can you take those things and translate them to online? If you are having trouble finding alternatives to your goals, please feel free to contact me and I will help think of ideas.
Have a blessed and safe start of the school/program year!
Like many Directors of Christian Formation and Children’s Ministry Directors, planning for “Sunday School” or regular Christian Formation is challenging. We want to keep our children safe, but we want to give thtem the tools to continue on their faith journey. Many families are feeling overwhelmed by becoming their child’s teacher in addition to all the other roles being home bound now require. Ideally, this is when the church becomes a support system and a place of comfort, as well as, a place to encounter God and learn.
I wanted to compile a list with lots of different offering so families can pick and choose what they want to do, what they can do, and allow for flexibility to change week to week. I have compiled a list of free online resources that can be shared and used by families inaddition to the online worship service at their normal Sunday Worship.
Here is the list with links:
St. Paul’s Children’s Chapel twice a week: Sundays at 11 AM, Wed 9:30 AM on Facebook Live (can view anytime). Sunday is for all children, while Wednesdays is more for preschool age. www.facebook.com/stpaulswinstonsalem
Free Resources for Online Ideas/Curriculum/Formation Events Continue Family Formation & Devotion activities to do together (Bible Story, meditation, prayer, discussion questions, craft, music video link, outreach activity, activity to do together, in-reach activity (serving our family), games, watching the story video links, and summer Flat Jesus activity.) Comes out once a week with up to three saved on the site. Link: http://www.laurensline.com/family-devotions-formation/
Using Zoom: Meet by grade/age meetings, lunch with Children’s Minister, EYC for 4th & 5th Graders, Parents After Dark, Taco Tuesdays, Reading to Preschoolers, and discussion of use family home curriculum.
Video Formation: Send out videos to watch on Sundays (Instructed Eucharist, Bible Stories, etc.) and then on an Evening have a Zoom discussion. Lots of materials, just watch before you send out for appropriateness and beliefs.
Our church, like many churches, have been doing virtual services instead of our usual worship schedule. Schools in our area, have decided to begin online classes for all of its students.
Normally, we would have a Blessing of Backpacks the Sunday before school starts and over 100 children would participate. This year is going to be very different. I wanted to still honor the start of the school year, even if it is going to be unusual, with most children remaining at home.
During the Sunday worship Service, live-stream, we will say a prayer and bless the backpack tags we are giving out. Then we are inviting families to drive by with their backpacks and devices. We are asking them to hold them out the window of their car as we bless each one (with water for backpacks) and give them a specially made backpack tag for attaching to their backpack or bag. We, also, made bookmarks with our children and youth online schedule for the fall. We handed these out.
We have scheduled an hour for this and are doing it in a covered area. For those who cannot drive up, we are blessing the tags, so they can attach them to their bag when we can give them their tag.
For the tags, we try to make them as fun and useful as possible. This year, instead of designing our own, we are purchasing a stained glass picture, putting our church on the back and using the luggage tag laminator to make them.(See previous backpack for tag instructions).