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Helping Families Keep Easter at Home

Easter should be our most joyous season, yet with the “Stay at Home” order caused by the COVID-19 Virus, it can feel anything, but joyous.  We are all feeling worn out, frazzled, and grieving.  Here are some ways for families to keep Easter and remind them of the joy of the season.

Holy Time:  Set a time each day (if that is too ambitious, then once a week) for a holy time.  Explain to the children that this time is to practice Sabbath.  Set the alarm so that when the predetermined time arrives, it is a reminder to start.  Ideas include, sitting in prayer with eyes closed, practice some deep breathing or “box” breathing, sitting in a circle and saying what you are grateful for today, or praying a song (offering a song as a prayer to God and then maintain a few moments of silence after it is finished.)

Find a way that works for your family and make it a priority.

Finding Joy:  Each family member has a day and a predetermined time, all the family participates in what brings the person joy.  Start with a prayer, let the person explain what the activity or thing is that brings them joy, all try it and then end with sharing what each person is grateful about the activity or thing, then close in prayer.

Easter Butterflies:  Each person in the family design a butterfly.  Put them in the front window to remind people walking by that it is Easter.  Hearts and signs can be added too.

Empty Tomb Stone:  On a walk, find a rock that can be decorated.  When you get home, use permanent markers, paint, ribbon, and other craft objects to decorate the rock.  While you are decorating the rock, each time a color is added or an object, say a prayer of thanksgiving to God.  Place the finished rock or rocks in a bowl to be used for prayer during Holy Time or Prayer Time.

Scavenger Hunt Walk:  As you go for a walk outside, look for signs of new life.  Try to remember what certain bushes, trees, or paths looked like in Winter.  Notice the differences now.  Remind yourself that this time will pass to and we will enter Spring.  After you have found 10 things, say a prayer to God, then continue the hunt until you find 10 more, then pray and continue repeating until you arrive home again.

Prayer Walk: Before you leave home, each person chooses a color.  Every time they see that color on the walk, they offer a prayer to God.

Easter Pen Pals: Make a list of people you miss seeing and don’t forget the people, who may not be considered friends but are a regular part of your life (like the janitor at school or church).  Each week of Easter send a letter to one person on your list telling them that you miss them, what you like about them, and what is going on at home for you.  Encourage them to write back.  The more letters you send, the more you will get in return.

Holy Week for Children at Home

As a Children’s Minister, my biggest question is how to make Holy Week special and fulfilling for children. This week should be a big deal. It is a big deal!

In addition to the ideas on my previous blog on Holy Week, we are faced in 2020 with one of the biggest challenges for Holy Week that leave us struggling with, “What do we do when we can not gather to prepare or worship?”

Here are ideas for keeping Holy Week that families can do with little to no preparation:

  • Palm Sunday: have the children gather greenery from their yard. Do a children’s moment either during the service and tell the children the story or have a Children’s Chapel after and retell the story. Encourage them to yell, “Hosanna!” and wave their greenery. Have the family create a “Holy Week” space in their house (a corner or table) and place the greenery their as a reminder of the start of the week. They can make a crown for the king. A battery operated candle can be used for prayer time.
  • Wednesday of Holy Week: have a Children’s Chapel of what has happened and what is to come. I talk about Jesus as teacher, healer, storyteller, and messiah. The Godly Play Faces of Easter are very good for this. Ask the children to choose a role of Jesus and put a symbol representing that role on their “Holy Week” space. Letting the children choose the object or picture creates a beautiful chance at sharing.
  • Maundy Thursday: have a Children’s Chapel before the Maundy Thursday Service and explain how this Service will be different. Tell the story of the Last Supper and the washing of the feet. Encourage each family to wash each others feet or hands before they eat tonight. Add a small towel to the “Holy Week” space.
  • Good Friday: have a Children’s Chapel before the Good Friday Service and explain how this service is different. Tell the story and talk about being afraid. Remind them that this is not the end of the story! After the service, create a cross from twigs or other objects at home and put it on your “Holy Week” space.
  • Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil: depending on which service you will do, have a children’s chapel explaining what will happen and why. If doing Holy Saturday, it is a beautiful time to talk about waiting, about God never leaving us, about love, and about family. To the “Holy Week” space add a picture of the family that is not there with you. If doing the Easter Vigil, have the children draw their favorite Bible Story and add it to the “Holy Week” space. During Children’s Chapel (done before the service), expain what the Vigil is, encourage families to light a candle and turn off all the lights until Easter is announced.
  • Easter: have the children pick flowers or draw flowers. Remove all the items from the “Holy Week” space and replace with flowers. During the children’s moment or during Children’s Chapel, tell the story of love winning and light winning. Tell the story of the resurrection with enthusiasm and excitement to emphasize the big deal this is.

Viritual Easter Egg Hunt: one of the ways, I am making Easter special for our children, is during each of the above named Children’s Chapels, I have cut a very large egg out of paper and put a Bible story picture or symbol on it. For the week of Holy Week and the first week of Easter, every time I do a chapel, I will have an “egg” in the background. Children find the eggs and write the Bible Story or symbol down. Those who have found all of the eggs and named the story get a goodie bag of Easter treats on Pentecost or the next time we are able to gather. (If you are not on a “Stay at Home Order”, then you can deliver the treat bag to their houses.

To view any of the Children’s Chapel Services on our Holy Week, visit www.facebook.com/stpaulswinstonsalem.

Helping Families Keep Holy Week

Holy Week Formation

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.

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’ triumphant entry.

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 crucifixion.)

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 Jesus.

Holy Week Countdown Calendar

 Holy Week 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 prayer.

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.

Maundy Thursday

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 afraid of. 

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.

Way of Love Home Study

Book used: The Very Best Day: The Way of Love for Children by Roger Hutchison

Discussion and activities by The Rev. Lauren Villemuer-Drenth

For more information on the Way of Love or to connect to an adult focused study or watch videos, please visit: The Episcopal Church: Way of Love

I started with an All Read on Zoom. I sent the link out and had children and their families join in with their copy of the book.

Discussion after first read of the book:

  • Which part is your favorite?  Why?
  • Have you heard of the Way of Love?  What do you think it means?
  • Do any of the book topics (Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest) not make sense?
  • Do you have one you think is more important?  Why?
  • Do you have one you do not think should be included in the Way of Love?  Why?
  • I wonder if you would add any?

For the following few weeks, every few days, do one of the following deeper dive.

Turn: Reread the first few pages.  From the book answer: “What ways do I grow when I turn towards Jesus’ love?”

Then today or in the following days. Choose one or more of the activities below:

  1. Can you think of a mistake or wrong choice you made?  How did you turn back to love (God’s way) to make it right?
  2. Play a game called, “Turn”.  Every time someone uses a directional word (down, up, right, left, etc.) throughout the day, say, “Turn to God’s love!”  At the end of the day, who caught the most?
  3. God often guides us by having us feel joy or having strong feelings about something.  How can you use that “something” to help others?  For example, if it is drawing, can you draw a picture and mail it to a fellow member of the church?  If you need help, just ask Deacon Lauren.

Learn: Reread the pages on “Learn”.  From the book answer: “How can you learn more about Jesus and his love?”

Then today or in the following days. Choose one or more of the activities below:

  1. What is your favorite Bible story?  Share it with someone else.  Make a picture book, act it out, or make a “puppet” show to share it.
  2. Watch Wednesdays’ Children’s Chapel at 9:30 AM on Facebook Live.  Which “Face of Easter” is your favorite?
  3. Read a story as a family about Jesus (example healing story, feeding story, walking on water, etc.) What parts do you like best?  If you were in the story, what would you say to Jesus?

Pray: Reread the pages on “Pray”.  From the book answer: “When do you pray?  What do you say when you talk to God?”  What is prayer for you? What do you think prayer was for the people of the Bible? Today or in the following days. Choose one or more of the activities below:

  1. Make a prayer list and pray each persons’ name during a prayer time.  Can you do this for 2 days? What about 3 days?  What about 5 days?
  2. Make a Prayer Bowl for your family.  All put their prayer request in it as they come up.  Once a day, pray the contents of the bowl.  Once a week, as a family, pull out and pray all the requests.  Then empty the bowl and start again.
  3. Did you know a hymn is a prayer?  Which is your favorite song about God?  Can you sing a prayer now?  Do it.

Worship: Reread the pages on “Worship”.  From the book answer: “What is your favorite part of worship?  Why?” What is worship for you? Today or in the following days. Choose one or more of the activities below:

  1. Join online for worship.  St. Paul’s is doing the Daily office at 8:15AM, Noon, and 5:30 PM.  Children’s Chapel (worship for children) is Sundays about 10:40AM (after 10:00 AM Sunday Morning Prayer) and Wednesdays at 9:30 AM.  All on Facebook Live.
  2. In the Lent-in-a-Bag, there is a Family Services leaflet from the “Daily Devotions for Families” from the Book of Common Prayer. Do the Morning or Early Evening Service every day for 5 days as a family.
  3. Pick a Bible story and lead your family in worship.  Use songs and prayers, too.

Bless: Reread the pages on “Bless.”  From the book answer: “You are a blessing.  Can you name the ways?” Today or in the following days. Choose one or more of the activities below:

  1. Draw a picture of yourself and add pictures or words of ways you bless others.  For a few days, at night, add ways you have blessed others to your picture.
  2. Think of someone who means a lot to you at church.  Is it a teacher? A smiling usher? Someone who shares your pew?  One of the clergy?  Write them a card or letter telling them that they have blessed you.  Mail it.
  3. Write down three ways you can bless your family over the next few days.  Do the them and think about what happened when you did them. How did it make you feel?  How did it make the other person feel?

Go: Reread the pages on “Go.”  From the book answer: “What does ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’ mean to you?”  Choose one or more of the activities below:

  1. Can you think of a way to serve others from home?  Pick one and do it!
  2. Bake or make a snack for a neighbor. Someone who does not have a lot of family close by is especially thoughtful.  Make a card to go with it.  Then deliver it to their door.
  3. Make a video telling someone how much they mean to you.  Then send it to them.

Rest: Reread the pages on “Rest.”  From the book answer: “What do you do to slow down and rest?”  Choose one or more of the activities below:

  1. Can you find a way to rest for 3 hours that does not include technology or electronic games?  Do it.
  2. We rest so we can take care of our minds, bodies, emotions, and spirit.  Either sit outside or take a walk and focus on nature and the beauty around you.
  3. Pretend you are “camping” in the living room.  Settle down in your “tent’ and share animal or other outdoor type stories.  What about roasting marshmellows in the fireplace?

Reread the whole book and ask yourself the questions at the beginning again.  Which was the hardest to do?  Which was the easiest?  Did any surprise you?  If you were going to keep one, which will you do regularly?

Helping Families Keep Lent: Lent Challenges

Using Lent as a Time to Grow

Lent Challenges

Lent Challenges are a way to learn new practices and focus on “doing something” instead of “giving up something.”  Based on the Ash Wednesday Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer to have a “Holy Lent”, these challenges are designed to discover and try new things.  Each time a task is completed, the child gets a sticker or other type reward on a bulletin board.  The child, also, gets a matching sticker to wear.  Once a challenge is completed, the child demonstrates or shows me.

I encourage families to do the challenge together and explore them together.  Once all the challenges are completed, the child gets an invitation to a pizza party with me after Easter.

This can be done as a family-at-home challenge or done as a group class project on a week-night with other children.

Lent week One: Prayer

               An explanation of what it is and why do it (if done at home, then an informational sheet.)

               Obvious ways

  • Meals
    • Start & Close of Day
    • Book of Common Prayer
    • When worried about something

Other Ways to Pray

  • Praying while coloring
    • Praying using a labyrinth or object
    • Praying in a visual way

Writing a prayer-child writes prayer to be used throughout week.

Choose a prayer practice

Do it

Lent week Two: Community Service

               An explanation of Baptismal Covenant and importance of helping others (if done at home, then

               Informational sheet.)

               Obvious ways

  • Helping those closest to you
    • Helping the earth
    • Moving Outward
    • County, State
    • Country
    • World

Our project: choosing a project-

  • Who helps
    • What we will do

               Do project

Lent week three: Study and Learning

What is it (studying scripture)

Why do it?

  • To know, get help, understand
    • To be able to interpret for ourselves
    • To gain and grow in wisdom & faith
    • To connect to God, Christianity, each other
    • For strength, comfort, etc.

Obvious ways

  • History of Bible Reading-OT, NT
    • Families read together
    • Different translations
    • Media presentations

Other Ways to Read and study

  • Devotionals
    • With others, Lectio or other out-loud methods.
    • Beginning to end
    • Picking a certain Book or Chapter of the Holy Bible.

Choose one.  Make a picture book for children showing what you have read or write a meditation on what you did for the week.

Lent week Four: Almsgiving

               What is it and Why do it? (If sending home, send home informational sheet).

Obvious ways to raise money to give for a child

  • Earning money
    • Chores, Allowance
    • Selling items a baked goods
    • Giving up a food or other item and putting that money towards almsgiving.

               Organizations-many different ways to give to charity

  • The Church
  • Episcopal Relief and Development

               Pick a project and writing a plan paying for & set goal.  Then do it.

Lent Week Five: Personal Practices

               How do you live out your faith?

What does our Baptismal Covenant say?

               Review the Book of Common Prayer.

               Healthy balance

  • Media
  • Friends
  • School
  • Church
  • Faith practices

Other Ways

  • Goals for one year, five years
    • Write letter to self

Writing a mission/goal statement

Choose ways to help achieve

Do it.

Lent Challenges for Families & Children: A Fun Way to Grow During Lent

Lent Challenges

Lent Challenges are a way to learn new practices and focus on “doing something” instead of “giving up something.”  Based on the Ash Wednesday Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer to have a “Holy Lent”, these challenges are designed to discover and try new things.  Each time a task is completed, the child gets a sticker or other type reward on a bulletin board.  The child, also, gets a matching sticker to wear.  Once a challenge is completed, the child demonstrates or shows me.

I encourage families to do the challenge together and explore them together.  Once all the challenges are completed, the child gets an invitation to a pizza party with me after Easter.

This can be done as a family-at-home challenge or done as a group class project on a week-night with other children.

Lent week One: Prayer

               An explanation of what it is and why do it (if done at home, then an informational sheet.)

               Obvious ways

  • Meals
    • Start & Close of Day
    • Book of Common Prayer
    • When worried about something

Other Ways to Pray

  • Praying while coloring
    • Praying using a labyrinth or object
    • Praying in a visual way

Writing a prayer-child writes prayer to be used throughout week.

Choose a prayer practice

Do it

Lent week Two: Community Service

               An explanation of Baptismal Covenant and importance of helping others (if done at home, then

               Informational sheet.)

               Obvious ways

  • Helping those closest to you
    • Helping the earth
    • Moving Outward
    • County, State
    • Country
    • World

Our project: choosing a project-

  • Who helps
    • What we will do

               Do project

Lent week three: Study and Learning

What is it (studying scripture)

Why do it?

  • To know, get help, understand
    • To be able to interpret for ourselves
    • To gain and grow in wisdom & faith
    • To connect to God, Christianity, each other
    • For strength, comfort, etc.

Obvious ways

  • History of Bible Reading-OT, NT
    • Families read together
    • Different translations
    • Media presentations

Other Ways to Read and study

  • Devotionals
    • With others, Lectio or other out-loud methods.
    • Beginning to end
    • Picking a certain Book or Chapter of the Holy Bible.

Choose one.  Make a picture book for children showing what you have read or write a meditation on what you did for the week.

Lent week Four: Almsgiving

               What is it and Why do it? (If sending home, send home informational sheet).

Obvious ways to raise money to give for a child

  • Earning money
    • Chores, Allowance
    • Selling items a baked goods
    • Giving up a food or other item and putting that money towards almsgiving.

               Organizations-many different ways to give to charity

  • The Church
  • Episcopal Relief and Development

               Pick a project and writing a plan paying for & set goal.  Then do it.

Lent Week Five: Personal Practices

               How do you live out your faith?

What does our Baptismal Covenant say?

               Review the Book of Common Prayer.

               Healthy balance

  • Media
  • Friends
  • School
  • Church
  • Faith practices

Other Ways

  • Goals for one year, five years
    • Write letter to self

Writing a mission/goal statement

Choose ways to help achieve

Do it.

Using the Jesus Doll & Kit for Lent

Jesus Doll makes children smile


Lent is a time to focus on our relationships with God and each other. One bridge to the Sunday Morning “box” and to one’s home is with a Jesus Doll.  It helps families become rooted in Jesus in an easy way. After adding a home kit, it has been a wonderful tool to tie our parish and faith to a family’s home life.  Children have loved their turn with the doll and kit.  Parents love having a format to discuss Jesus and faith. One mother told me that her family had never discussed Jesus so much!

The family gets the Jesus Doll and Home kit on Sunday morning and return it the following Sunday.  I send an email during the week to let the coming family know their turn with the doll and kit will start the coming Sunday.  I, also, send an email to the family who has the doll, asking them to send pictures and reminding them to bring it with them on Sunday. We have a large parish, so generally I stick to our Kindergarten Class, but all children love the opportunity to take “Jesus” into their home.

The photographs returned are full of smiles as the child(ren) take Jesus on their different adventures.  Jesus has visited preschool classes, parks, parties, and zoos while with the children.  Jesus, also, joins the family at dinner and bedtime. The books (made from a photo service), are cherished. I title it “Jesus Came to our Homes” and the year. I put the photos in story content.

Parents receive a letter in the kit:

    This is your week with St. Paul’s Jesus Doll and bag.  Enclosed in the bag, you will find a folder with an activity sheet for each child in your family as soon as Jesus comes home and then an activity sheet when Jesus is ready to come back to church.  Please, return the sheets with the doll and book in the bag.  They will be used to make a display and a book.

       The bag, also, contains the book If Jesus Came to My House.  Please read this with your child and use it throughout your time with the Jesus doll as a time to talk about Jesus in our homes and in our lives.

       Please email a photo of your child(ren) with the Jesus Doll and one photo of Jesus doing an activity with your family.  These with the words will be put into a Shutterfly book that will travel with the doll in the future.  Copies will be available for purchase if you would like your own.    

       Included in this folder is a Parent Insights Page.  Please write anything you would like to share about this experience for your family. 

      Please, return the doll and the bag with all the contents the next time you come to the church.  The doll and bag with new sheets will be passed on to the next family.

     Any discussion questions you have with your children that you would like to pass on, please let Lauren know and those will be compiled to travel with the doll.

Enjoy your visit with Jesus at your home and I hope you find ways to include Jesus in all your activities even beyond the doll’s visit.

Additionally, each kit contains

  • Two Activity Sheets for each child: one sheet asks the child to write or draw what they would like to do with Jesus during the coming week and the other is their favorite times with Jesus (write or draw) for child to return and then are displayed.
  • Insight Page for parents to return
  • Book: If Jesus Came to My House
  • Jesus Doll
  • Photo book from previous years

The Jesus Doll and Home Kit was such a success, that I purchased a second Jesus Doll and book. This one goes to our school for classes to use. Jesus, also, attends our parish events. I get various pictures of Jesus with parishioners or “doing” some of our regular activities.

Click on any of the highlighted items to see what I used.  Any items purchased through this link helps to fund this site.

Helping Families Keep the Season of Lent

Lent-in-a-Bag 2020

This church season begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the Easter Triduum (Maundy Thursday through Easter Day) and lasts forty days, plus the Sundays.  Lent is an important time in the church and for our families.  It was has been a time for preparation for Easter, which included baptism of converts to the faith and reconciliation of those who either left the church or of sinners who had been publicly excommunicated from the church.  It is a time to get ready to enter into the mystery of Easter.  Lent, historically, is a time of fasting, penitence, almsgiving (charity work), prayer and study for those being baptized, reconciled, or those wishing to grow closer to God.  Currently, we are asked to use Lent as a time for personal and collective transformations.  We look truthfully at ourselves and make changes. 

We see two major scripture stories that use the forty days as a time of great change.  The children of Israel, were led out of bondage into freedom, but ended up spending time in the wilderness to prepare for their promised land.  Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days to prepare for his ministry.  As these stories represent, we can use Lent to break our bonds, make new choices and begin a new direction for hearts and lives.

When most people think of Lent, they think of giving up a food item for six weeks.  I like to give families a new practice and a time to focus on their relationship with God and each other.  Giving them the tools for spiritual practices and discussions during this time is important.  Some of the offerings I give families are Lent Home Kits, Lent Challenges, Jesus Doll and Home Kit, Ways to Pray and Give, and Devotionals. 

Holy Week will be covered in Another blog.

Lent Home Kits- Lent-in-a-Bag is one of the most popular of our take home activities.  The bags are handed out on the first Sunday of Lent (one per family).  The bag contains six objects and devotions.  I place the object in a snack size back and staple the devotion to the bag.  I, also, put a booklet with all the Bible reading for each devotion.  I find that busy families will not take the time to go and get a Bible, so this guarantees that scripture will be read.  Each week, after dinner or before bedtime, the family gathers together.  One object with devotion is bulled from the Lent-in-a-Bag.  Someone reads the devotion and accompanying scripture.  There is a discussion and prayer said.  It does not take long, but families are so excited, especially the children, it is hard to get them to wait a week in-between. 

Buying items in bulk helps keep the cost down to a little over $1 a bag.

Each year, I choose a different theme.  In 2019, I did “Journey into the Wilderness” with each scripture and devotion being about someone who from scripture who had to go to the wilderness or a dark time before they did their work. 

For 2020, the theme was “Praying with Jesus”.  Each scripture and devotion is about one of the times Jesus used prayer before a major act or immediately after: Before his ministry started, the wilderness (the object was a rock), before choosing the 12 apostles (the object was a star), before the Transfiguration (the object was a battery-operated tea candle), and before he was arrested (the object was a cross).  After he fed the 5000 (the object was a fish).  He taught how to pray (the object is a scroll with the Lord’s Prayer).

Examples of devotions:

Before choosing his 12 apostles, Jesus went to pray.  He continued in prayer all night.  Read Luke 6:12-16.  Why do you think he prayed before choosing the 12?  Why pray all night?  When do you pray?  What if before major choices, we prayed, do you think it would make a difference?  We think of stars as important and even call some people a star.  What if we made Jesus our star this Lent.  What would that look like?  As you pass around the star, name one thing about Jesus that you admire.  Say a prayer asking Jesus to be your star.

Before Jesus’ transfiguration, Jesus took a few of his disciples and went up on the mountain to pray.  Read Luke 9: 28-36.  Jesus became filled with light and glowed, as well as, spoke to two prophets from a long time ago.  When we are in darkness, we use light to help us see.  What else do we use light for?  When are times that you were afraid and a light made you feel better?  Turn on the candle.  We depend on light.  What if we relied on Jesus, like we relied on light?  As you pass the candle, say a prayer and each name one place in your life that you will include Jesus as the center (the light.)

After Jesus feeds a large crowd, Jesus sends his friends on and goes to pray.  He had tried to spend time in prayer before the feeding, but had compassion on the crowd.  Read Matthew 14: 13-23.  Just as Jesus fed the crowd food, prayer feeds our souls.  It helps us connect with God.  What are some things that feed you (helps you feel excited and full of energy?)  When you are tired, what feeds you (helps you to feel better?)  What is a way you can connect to God?  Think of a short sentence that you could use to pray continuously to God (i.e. God be with me.)  Fish need care.  Our souls need care.  Pass around the fish and say your short sentence as a prayer.  When the last one has said their prayer, say the Lord’s Prayer together.

Surprisingly, Jesus does not tell his disciples about prayer; he just does it.  One, finally, asks Jesus to teach them how to pray.  Read Luke 11: 10-8.  This is what we call the Lord’s Prayer.  It is the only prayer Jesus taught us.  He starts by acknowledging God’s will is the most important then asks for the things we need to survive and moves into asking forgiveness for our sins (trespasses), but on the condition that we forgive others.  Then we ask for guidance when we are faced with a difficult choice or situation.  When do you pray the Lord’s Prayer?  What is your favorite part?  Are there other prayers you could pray that ask for the same thing?  Unroll the scroll.  Where is someplace you could place the scroll this week to remind all who see it to pray the Lord’s Prayer or a similar prayer?  Say the Lord’s Prayer together and put the scroll in a place to remind each family member to say the prayer when they see it.

Before Easter, there was Good Friday, the crucifixion.  Before the crucifixion, there was the arrest of Jesus.  Before the arrest of Jesus, Jesus goes to pray.  He knows what is to come and requires the strength and connection that comes with prayer.  He, also, asks his friends to come and pray with him, but they keep falling asleep.  Read Mark 14: 32-41.  I wonder how things seem, things we are very afraid to face or do, if we went to prayer for strength and connection?  When do you like to pray alone?  When do you like praying in a group?  When do you like praying in a community?  What do you like about each?  What do you not like about each?  As you pass around the cross, name one emotion Jesus was probably feeling.  When everyone has had a turn, say a prayer asking God to be with you when you feel those feelings.  Sit in quiet with your eyes closed, letting God’s presence be with you.

Before starting his ministry, Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days.  To prepare for his ministry, Jesus prayed.  Read Matthew 4:6-11. 

While in the wilderness, Jesus was invited to transform stone into bread.  Jesus knew he was not called to do this by God.  Perhaps prayer helped him to know what he was called to do.  Might there be a stony place in you that needs changing?  Some attitude or habit that, with a little attention, might even become a gift for you and others?  When you are angry or sad, it may feel like your heart has become a rock.  How does that feel?  How can you help someone who has a “rock” in their heart?  When we are hungry or hurting it can be hard to do the right thing.  How can we remember to choose to do the right thing?  Pass around the rock. Using a permanent marker, write a word that everyone can pray to help you when you feel like you are in a rocky place.

Click here to see Lent in a Bag 2019

Helping Families Keep the Season After Epiphany, Part 2

The Parables, Ways to Expand and Group Activities

Below are activities meant to build on Family Activities mentioned in Part One: Helping Families Keep the Season After Epiphany. The ideas mentioned in the first part are designed for families to do as a unit at home. The ideas in part 2 are meant for group activites done in church to expand on the discussions and activities in the home.

Family Service Sunday: Using the theme of the parable, I come up with at least four activities that families with children of all ages, including the very young, can do together.  We start as a large group and the parable is told with a very short discussion (this should last no more than ten minutes) and we say a prayer together.   We, then, divide by project (each family has chosen their project in advance). For each project, a speaker comes to talk for no more than ten minutes.  Then they are taught a new skill or how to do the project, and finally, we work on the project. Someone closes that project group in prayer.   For the Parable of the Samaritan, we focused on “Love Thy Neighbor.”  The projects were cooking class and cooking a meal for the Ronald McDonald House (we have also had a chaplain for first responders come and made brownies and thank you cards for first responders.) For the Humane Society, after the speaker finished, we made dog toys and blankets for dogs and cats.  For our local nursing home, we learned songs and then went to sing there and handed out flowers.  We kept the songs simple and did motions so all children could participate.  For those who are homebound (in our parish), we had someone come and talk about loneliness, and wrote pen-pal letters and decorated frames with their new pen-pal family picture.  For our newborn family ministry, we bought knitting kits from widows in Rwanda and made baby hats to be handed out to the newborns at the hospital.

There are many agencies that will come out and talk about their agency and have ideas or projects groups of families can do.

Godly Play Story and Meal:  We invite families for a meal or for pot luck.  After the meal, I use Godly Play to tell the parable we are focusing on.  This event is mostly about fellowship and shared parable experience.

Lego Parable Night:  Setting up four to eight different parable stories on each table, families are encouraged to pick a table with other people at it, as they come in.  After eating the meal, the people at each table reads their parable from the Bible (at their table), and discusses it.  They then bring the parable to life using Legos.  Once they have completed their Lego project, they write a paraphrase of their parable and a prayer to go with it.  We compile all the Lego projects on tables in our hallway and the following Sunday, have a Parable Walk for all to see, read, and pray.

Parable Play: This was a big hit with our children and youth.  The children and youth got together and rewrote the parable into a play, designed costumes (out of what we had), made set decorations, gathered props and learned a part.  We put it on for the adults during our parish retreat, but can be done at a meal or gathering.

Helping Families Keep the Season After Epiphany, Part One

This time in the church was known as Ordinary Time, but the Season between Epiphany and Lent is anything but ordinary. In most places, Winter is setting in, sports and activities have slowed, and people are spending the majority of their time indoors.     This is a great time to give families short activities they can do indoors as a family, especially after all the activities of the Christmas Season coming to an end, there is a void of ritual, celebration, and family time that can be missed.

The Season After Epiphany is a great time to spend some time on the Parables of Jesus.  Most people are not familiar with them or understand that they were stories used by Jesus to teach.  Many people thought they were events that actually happened in the Bible or just did not know them.

There are several activities that can be offered to families as a way to talk about and have fun with the Parables.  I start by choosing one or two parables, depending on the amount of time we have before Lent starts.  One for every four weeks after Epiphany is a good gage of how many to introduce.

Some ideas to give families the tools they need for a parable include: Parable Kits, Parable Discussion Pages, Parable Dive, and Parable Devotions. Ways to expand and help families to practice what they are discussing at home include: Family Service Sunday, Godly Play Story and Meal, Lego Parable Night and a Parable Play.

Starting with the basics, no matter what tool/activities you choose, is important.  A brief overview of “What is a Parable?”, where it is found in the Bible (including what was happening that Jesus told the parable), and a copy of the scripture is a must no matter which options you introduce.

When thinking of the activity/tool you choose, ask yourself, why this is important, what you want the families to walk away with, and how you can tie it to something going on in their lives or in their church lives.

When explaining what a parable is, keep it simple and use words the children in the family will understand.  I love the picture of parables as gifts to us.  I love the idea that a parable can mean different things to the person hearing it, depending on where they are in life.  I love the way Jesus taught by not stating an answer, but sharing a story to think about and dig deeper into.  I love that the parable lessons are true throughout time.

Parable Kits: these include ways to “handle” the parable.  It can be making the figures and the parts of the parable (printing something on cardstock for them to color and cut out or cutting printed items out of felt and placing on small blocks of wood or carboard.) The Parable would be introduced and then the family would be encouraged to make the parable.  Another option, is to have significant pieces of the parable in a small bag and pull out the pieces when it is read out loud.  Once this activity is completed, a sheet with talking points, discussion questions, and three activities to do to encourage exploring the lesson of the parable. 

An example of the Parable of the Lost Sheep kit might include sheep to make, a shepherd to draw and craft sticks to make a sheep pen.  The Parable would be included.  An explanation that Jesus was asked why he ate with tax-collectors and sinners; why he kept company with those who the religious community at the time said should be avoided.  The explanation of what a parable is would be on the outside of the kit. Discussion questions might say, “Who are the sheep? Who is the shepherd? I wonder why Jesus choose the image of a shepherd and sheep to tell this story?  I wonder what those hearing the story were thinking?  In Jesus’ time, there were people named who were the lost sheep.  Who are the lost sheep around us?  Where/when have we felt lost?  Who are the shepherds who find us when we feel lost? I wonder if the shepherd had a hard time deciding to leave the 99 sheep?  I wonder how the 99 sheep felt when the shepherd left them to find the lost one?  I wonder how the lost sheep felt? I wonder how the lost one felt when he saw the shepherd? How about when the lost sheep was returned to the other 99?”  Some of these questions could be split over different times when the Parable Kit is brought out.  Activity ideas would be a sheet of paper with ways to help those we consider “lost”, an outreach activity, another book to read that has the same theme, and a game to play that follows the theme.

Parable Discussion Pages: Include the same things as the Parable Kits, but without objects to make.  This is a more realistic activity for families with teens or children too young to participate in the Parable Kit.  For families with young children, pages that the young child can color for themselves is fun for them.

Parable Dive: Starting with either the Parable Kit or Parable Discussion Pages, the Parable Dive includes focused activities at church for the Parable.  Each week in Christian Formation, a part of the parable can be taken home with the focus on the different aspects of the parts of the Parable.  To do a Parable Dive for the Parable of the Lost Sheep, each week for the next three weeks, a part is discussed and sent home.  Week one: the shepherd is discussed.  People to give pictures to place on a bulleting board about who are our shepherds or where we see our shepherd.  Children can be asked to draw their shepherd or write thank you notes to their shepherd.  Week two: the sheep are discussed.  People are encouraged to draw, write, describe their “flock”.  A take home sheet includes identifying the different “flocks” we belong to.  Week three: the lost sheep is discussed.  A stuffed sheep or small sheep can be hidden in various places for people to find throughout the week.  A small cutout sheep can be sent home and every time we identify someone who is lost, we place a small cross or star on the sheep.  Week four: the celebration is discussed or the sheep pen or another part of the parable. “You are seen and loved” stickers or cards can go home to be given out (for the celebration) and include a celebration and encouraging pictures of the celebration.  Places we feel safe and at home (the sheep pen) can be discussed.  Pictures and drawing of those places can be displayed.  Who is in them?  Encourage family pictures in front of these places to be displayed on the bulletin board.

Parable Devotions: Send out a weekly devotion based on the parable for families.  Include discussion questions and a prayer.  These devotions can be written by the clergy, the Sunday School teachers, Vestry members, or anyone who can give the time to write a one page or less devotion.