This year takes a lot of imagination, innovation, and thinking outside the box. Formation Leaders are tired and feel drained. There are some simple ways to gather that require less volunteers, less prep work and remove a lot of the load of trying to come up with something new or trying to do the previous programs in a COVID world.
Try Multi-Age Approach: Have the children meet in one or two or three different rooms with their siblings. Tell the story or theme of the day. Then divide the children into separate rooms to work on projects to build on the story or theme. This way you can combine children, not by age, but by “pods”. This requires less volunteers as you can break the children up by the volunteers present.
Try Family Approach: form family groups (assign 4-5 families each a room). Give them the story to read together and 3 activities to do to respond. This requires one volunteer per room to help with questions. Use Legos to rebuild the story or make murals or act out the story.
Try One-Room Godly Play or similar program: All gather in large room to hear the story. Each classroom has a different response activity that people can choose to do. They stay in that room until it is time to regather.
Try Station Approach: There is one story a month. Each room is a different station for the story, i.e. craft, recreation, science, mission, music, story-telling, etc.. Each week, the children who arrive are sent to a room/station they have not done before. The ages at the station are mixed aged children. The same stations do not need to be available each week. Each week three or four can be offered and then rotate out the next week.
For Safety, require masking of all (children cannot be vaccinated), have the children wash their hands upon entering any room, use items for marking the distance. These items may include: beach towels, hula hoops, dots, pool noodles, and other items to remind the children what the safe distance from non-family is. Try to have has little work on a table as possible to encourage open floor space for keeping distance.
Rethink the mission of your gathering: For some children, this year has been traumatic and frightening. Many have not gathered in class type activity in church for a year. Setting simple goals of fellowship, spiritual exploration, faith sharing, instead of markers of what they will know, will take the pressure off of everyone. Growing in relationships is the best goal during this coming year.
Keep parents informed of changes in your programs and of the safety measures you are using.
One of the most meaningful ministries that I began was a ministry for “about to be” parents, new parents, and infants in their first year of life. This ministry has provided support and love for those facing the transition to parenthood and to those who do the ministry.
I have thirteen members of the Guild, who each take a month and are assigned a family based on the due date or birthdate of the child.
Guild of the Christ Child
Purpose: The Guild of the Christ Child is to surround in prayer, love and hospitality a mother expecting a child and then the newborn through one year of age. The time of transition of a pregnancy and a newborn can be stressful. The Guild of the Christ Child, through prayer, love, and hospitality will act as a peaceful presence during the transition.
What we do:
During Pregnancy, the mother is assigned a Guild of the Christ Child member. This Guild person will send a card and contact the mother to let her know that she is being prayed for. She will pray.
When the baby is born (if they do not have a Guild member then one will be assigned), the Guild member will provide a meal and some gifts including a prayer booklet. Our knitting ministry makes blankets and hats that we give.
During the First year of life, the Guild member will continue contact and prayer.
When the parents and child come to church for the first time after birth, the Guild member will look for them and help them including showing them where the nursery and cry room is if needed.
At the baby’s baptism, the Guild provides a banner for the family and a Bible is provided. The Guild member gives them a card.
At one year of age, the Guild gives the baby, a child’s first book of prayers.
The Guild also hosts a social event or gathering once or twice a year to help new moms come together.
Goals: Every baby will have a Guild person following them.
Summer 2021 is an in-between time. Some of our ministries to children and their families have started to transition to some gatherings in person, some remain online and some are dormant. Our families are feeling stressed and their new routines may not involve church life, but most of the students have returned to in-person learning. It is time to help feed their spiritual journey, flex their faith muscles (which will help them deal with their stress), and build their connection to church.
Here are some Summer time ideas that can help you in your ministry feed your congregation:
Online Summer Camp based on a popular movie: families watch the movie on Sunday, then Monday through Friday they enjoy activities, Bible Story, crafts, videos, puzzles, and one or two Zoom get togethers each day. To add an in-person gathering, finish Friday with a gathering outside. With the movie, I tie each character or situation the character faces with a Bible character and give the day a theme based on that. This year I am doing “Toy Story”. Last year, I did Willy Wonka”. Last years was very popular! The whole camp for 30 children cost less than $33 a day. To purchase the plan for last year’s Willy Wonka Summer Camp, email me at [email protected] . The cost is $5.
Vacation Bible School: Consider doing outdoors with less children. For music, teach the motions and include a CD in the price for each family. Have tables set up for crafts. If doing snacks, do prepackaged. Children just want to be together!
Books with a Purpose: I am leading a program for parents and their children on dismantling racism. We start with a webinar for parents only with techniques to help them have the conversation. We have a book list with 4-5 books for each age group (infant-preschool, early elementary, and older elementary ages) with a Reading Guide for each book. We check in to see how it is going, send out an email with tips each week, and offer ideas to enhance the conversation. We close with a webinar for children and their parents focused on honest discussion and some activities. In September, we are having a panel of three of the authors to discuss their books.
Outdoor Children and their Families Worship: gather in an area park. Everyone brings their own chair or blanket and a picnic. I put out dots or pool noodles to show the distancing. We start with a worship service, then move to a lunch, and then families can enjoy the park.
Outdoor Movie Night: Set up a drive-in at your church and enjoy a family movie night. Each family brings their own blanket or chairs to sit in.
Everyone enjoys and celebrates the build up to Christmas! In the Christian faith, Easter is a more important day, yet it is not seen this way in our world. Once the Easter baskets and egg hunts are done, it is seen as over. This makes Christmas seem a bigger day in our faith. There are several ways that we can help families to continue the Easter celebration.
First is teaching families that Easter is a season and lasts eight weeks. It is a season of joy and love. Next, give them ways to continue beyond the church walls the celebration of Easter.
Each night families can share something that brought them joy in their day. After everyone has shared, say a prayer of thanks for the gift of the joys.
Once a week, have a “Favorite” Night. Examples are to have a dinner made up of one of everyone’s favorite foods (don’t worry about being healthy for one meal) or extend it by once a week adding someone’s favorite food. Another example is to have a Favorite Movie Night or Favorite Book reading Night, where each person takes a turn sharing their favorite with the family. Add in a Favorite Game Night or Favorite Song Night (the music plays during dinner.)
Go for a walk or to a park and point out the things that bring you happiness and say a quick prayer of thanks.
Keep a family Gratitude Journal and before bed say thanks to God for the items listed in it.
Read the Bible as a family or a book of Bible Stories.
Find a community service project to spread love to others.
Celebrate a family members Baptism, bring out pictures, clothes, and talk about hw=ow that person is special to your family.
Find times and ways to say “Alleluia!”
For churches, encourage Easter as a Season! Look for fun opportunities to include families with children. They can plant flowers, make cards for a nursing home, and other projects. Have them write their name on hand imprint with the project they completed and hang it on a wall or bulletin board. Show the love of helping hands!
Educating and helping families to find ways to honor the
week before Easter, known as Holy Week, is one of the many blessings church
leaders can give. It is the basis of our
Christianity. It is the greatest example
of love in action.
The week is full of drama, yet so much beauty. It is a chance for families to dive deep into
their faith. It gives a way to talk
about a God, who loves with a completeness.
Christmas means very little without the walk to Easter.
There are five ways that I have found very successful for
families. Some start at church, but move
into the home. They include: A Walk
Through Holy Week, Holy Week Countdown Calendar, Holy Week Passports, Maundy
Thursday Re-enactment, and Devotionals for Holy Week.
The most important thing is to keep Holy Week. Giving just one activity to do a day keeps it fresh on a family’s mind. Even sending out a prayer a day this week with a small thing to do helps families.
A Walk Through Holy Week
I host an event either on Palm Sunday or sometime the
week before called “A Walk through Holy Week.”
Starting with Palm Sunday, we spend about 20-30 minutes on each
day. We read the Scripture, discuss what
happens in the liturgy at the service, and make a symbol for that service (or
build a Lego). Ideas for “symbol”
include making something for a countdown calendar (either paper or felt),
creating a picture book with a description on the day for the congregation, or
making a Lego to put on display.
Palm Sunday-Jesus Enters Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark
11:1-11; Luke 19: 28-40; John 12: 12-19
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why,
talk through the Palm Sunday liturgy, read the Collect for the Sunday of the
Passion: Palm Sunday, and then make a palm leaf cross (or Lego of Jesus’
Monday in Holy Week- Jesus Cleans House: Matthew
21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-17. Read or tell the story,
wonder what happened and why, talk through basic of Eucharist (part 1), read
the collect for the day, and then add a “gold” coin to the calendar (or Lego of
Jesus throwing out the money changers.)
Tuesday in Holy Week-Jesus Predicts His Death: Mark
8:31-38; Luke 18: 31-33; John 12: 20-30.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk through basic
of Eucharist (part 2), read the collect for the day, and then add a heart with
the Alpha-Omega Sign (or Jesus with his followers and them not understanding.)
Wednesday in Holy Week-Anointing of Jesus’ Feet: Matthew
26: 6-13; Mark 14: 3-9; Luke 7: 36-50; John 12: 1-11. Read or tell the story, wonder what happened
and why, talk through basic Eucharist (part 3), read the collect of the day,
and then add a foot print or cut out of a foot (or Lego of Jesus getting feet washed.)
Maundy Thursday-Dinner in Upper Room and a New
Commandment: Matthew 26: 14-39; Mark 14:
22-25; Luke 22: 1-27; John 13: 1-38.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk about the
Maundy Thursday Service (foot washing, stripping of altar) and remind them of
our communion. Read the Collect for
Maundy Thursday. Add a chalice and wafer
or symbol of the bread and wine (or Lego of the Last Supper.)
Good Friday-The Crucifixion: Matthew 27: 32-66; Mark 15:
21-47; Luke 23: 26-56; John 19: 16-42.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, (using the
Stations of the Cross works very well), talk about the Good Friday Service,
read the Collect for Good Friday, and add a cross (or build a Lego of the
Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil-The Burial of Jesus…We Wait:
Matthew 27: 57-66; John 19: 38-42. Read
or tell the story, wonder what happened and what everyone was feeling, talk
about the Easter Vigil Service, read the Collect for Holy Saturday, and add a
“tomb” or rock (or Lego of the tomb and waiting.)
Easter-The Resurrection: He is Risen! Matthew 28:1-10;
Mark 16: 1-12; Luke 24: 1-12; John 20: 1-10.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk about the
Easter Service, read the collect for Easter, and add an Easter lily with “He is
Risen!” (or make a Lego of the Empty tomb.)
This can be very time consuming and so may be divided by
days and done over the whole of Lent or only pick certain days to talk
about. It is worth the time commitment
as it gives a deep understanding and expectation to Holy Week. Families take their countdown calendar of
Holy Week home and when Holy Week comes, they put up a symbol each day and are
reminded of the scripture. More
importantly, it opens a conversation about the life, death and resurrection of
Holy Week Countdown Calendar
Countdown Calendar is very similar to the Walk Through Holy Week, but is home
based. It is a “home kit” for Holy Week.
It can be done in several forms. The
first form is a paper calendar with information about each day including
scripture verse, prayer, and devotion.
Another form is a booklet, with each day being a
page. The page would include Scripture,
devotion, collect of the day, discussion questions, and an activity the family
could choose to do.
A Child’s Countdown Calendar would be made of links of
paper leading to a picture of an Easter Morning. Each link would include a brief story and a
A Symbol Calendar is made of felt or wide ribbon. The symbols mentioned in “Walk Through Holy
Week” are put on and off using Velcro. A
booklet with the scripture, devotion, collect of the day, and discussion
questions is included with it.
Holy Week Passports
Holy Week Passports quickly became a favorite of children
and adults! We had families who attended
a Holy Week Service just to get their sticker.
I created the passports in house. I wrote what each day meant, anything special
happening in the Service and gave a place for a sticker. For the cover, I used light purple thick
paper. We printed in house. I designed the stickers using Avery Circular
Stickers and the template from their website.
Let’s travel with Jesus and his friends for Holy Week.
Travelers need to carry a passport when they travel to exciting places—and this
booklet is your passport for Holy Week.
On or before Palm Sunday, find a special place to keep
your passport. It could be on the table beside your bed, or even in your car.
Every day in Holy Week, read the Bible passage, either with a printed Bible or
on www.biblegateway.com. Then explore the question on each page and
pray the Lord’s Prayer. Afterwards, award yourself with the passport sticker
for that day! If you would like to share
a picture of your passport as it fills up, please post it to our Facebook page.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this
day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Each day is a separate page. Children love it if you add a picture page
like a real passport.
Children love to be involved in the movement of this
service. The focus is bringing the story
of the Passover and for Jesus, the last meal with his friends to life. Using a low table, the evening includes
candles, different types of bread, different types of grapes, sample of the
meal, washing feet supplies, and pillows to sit on.
We gather outside the room and I send two children ahead
to check to see if the room is ready.
The low table is covered with a beige table cover and surrounded with
pillows. Candles (I use battery
operated) fill the room and are the only light.
We all enter the room and sit around the table. I tell them the story of how the Passover
came to be. Then I move on to the story
of Jesus and the importance of this feast day to him. I describe what it could have been like. I tell them Jesus’ words about the bread and
wine. We talk about our communion. We then pass different types of bread around,
tasting a little from each, choosing the favorites and taste differences. We then talk about how wine is made and pass
around the different grapes. Then we
hear about the New Commandment. We talk
about What Jesus was saying and how different it would be for his followers to
hear it. We discuss what it means for
us. We then move from the table and each
is asked if they would like to have their feet washed and/or wash someone’s
feet. Once all, who wish to participate,
are done. We sit in a circle and discuss
what it felt to wash another ‘s feet and to get our feet washed.
We then talk about the betrayal and the friends
present. The children generally have
lots of questions. / We sit in silence to feel a little of what the evening
held for Jesus.
We move into the garden.
We sit in a circle and I tell them about Jesus going to the garden to
pray. We talk of how his friends fell
asleep. We wonder what everyone
felt. We pray. We talk about Jesus and his time in the
garden. We talk about things we are
Next, we talk about what is going to happen during the
service. I mention communion and to
listen to the words remembering this night.
I invite them to sit in the front pews with me after they have had
communion with their family to watch the stripping of the altar. I answer their questions about that.
We talk about sadness.
We talk about hopelessness. We
talk about darkness. I remind them that
Easter is coming and this is not the end, but we have to sit in this moment
before we can move into Easter.
The children are very engaged when we return to the
sanctuary for the remainder of the service.
When the children join me to watch the stripping of the altar, they are
in awe and point out many things. I
allow them to tell me what they are seeing and ask questions. I have a “splash zone” around the first few
pews so that those who sit there know it may be a little noisy.
Children of all ages learn from this service. I, also, learn from the children as they
respond, question, and discuss the events of the evening.
We leave the church in silence, knowing we still have
Good Friday, but Easter is coming; God will not leave us alone in the dark.
Holy Week Devotionals
I have worked with children, with youth, and with adults
to create a week-long devotional for Holy Week.
The devotionals are available starting on Palm Sunday. The whole congregation loves getting them and
following along. I have even illustrated
them with pictures based on what the person or class has written.
The children loved doing this as a Wednesday evening
project. We used all of Lent to create
the booklet. Each class, we would talk about scripture, what we think we should
get out of it. How we can do better or
differently. How can we love Jesus? Is there anything we want to say to our
church family? Then we write a prayer to go with it.
Devotionals written by those in our church family mean
something more to us than one we purchase.
They take a little planning, but what often comes from it is beautiful.
In previous years, many churches had their traditional Pancake Supper on Shrove Tuesday, the evening before Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday was a time to “rid our pantries of all the fat and sweet” items to get ready for Lent. Pancake Suppers have been the way we do this. Shrove Tuesday is, also, known as Fat Tuesday. It is the end and the highlight of most Mardi Gras celebrations.
Gathering this year is impossible, but letting this special celebration disappear would make many of our families sad. It is a tradition, especially children, look forward to. Connection to each other is more important than ever.
This year, I have put together 4 delicious pancake recipes and two yummy topping recipes. I am sending them out to everyone in our parish, encouraging them to make one or their own recipe. Dress up or decorate their tables for Mardi Gras (if they would like) and join me for a Zoom Call at 6:00 PM on Shrove Tuesday. The Zoom call is brief, just a chance to say grace together and then take a few minutes for everyone to show off their pancakes. We end the call and everyone enjoys their meal.
If you would like a copy of the recipes, just drop me an email at [email protected]. Or put out a call in your parish and name the recipe for the person who sent it as a way for everyone to connect further.
Our first LEGO Tournament was such a success that I have decided to do a Winter version. The first tournament lasted six weeks, this one will last four weeks. The judges will not be the congregation, but the winners from the Fall LEGO Master Tournament. The videos will be combined and released to the congregation when the tournament is complete.
Children and families form teams to be a part of the four 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 LEGO Masters have 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, and St. Paul’s 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 have until Friday at 4:00 PM to complete and video tape their project.
This is a wonderful way to have an online formation that interests the whole family.
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.