One of the most momentous occasions in a young family’s life is the starting of kindergarten for their child. This marks the moment that the child is moving away from a life centered on family to one of school and friends. As a mother, I joined many mother’s whose eyes were filled with tears after the first day drop off. There is no going back to a baby. Kindergarten signifies a permanent shift in the family.
This year is different. Some will not be able to attend schools, because the schools are closed to in-person learning, some parents are too worried to risk sending their child to school, and some will attend, but an air of worry goes with it.
It is important for the church to acknowledge this momentous step in a family’s life and still keep safety in mind. Honoring and acknowledging this step moves the church out of the Sunday morning “box” and into a family’s life and home.
The invitations to a Zoom on-line breakfast are sent out a month ahead of time, so busy families can make plans. I am doing it the week before school is set tp start. With each RSVP, I create a Kindergarten kit. The kit contains the books mentioned below, a growth chart with spiritual, physical, and emotional milestones, a pencil and a backpack tag that says the church loves them. Kits can be picked up, mailed or delivered if it is a small group.
I decorate the room that I am making the Zoom call from. At the appointed time, we all join in for breakfast. I ask the children if they are worried, excited, what they are looking forward to,
Once all are settled, I talk about the importance of this day. I discuss the growth chart and what is expected in the next year including Faith, Interpersonal, Values, Family and Needs of the Age. I talk about the importance of church and a faith life is to the growing child and their family. I, also, give hints of what to do when roadblocks, such as boredom or not wanting to come, hit. The kit contains a Parent Booklet “Getting School Ready!” (Click on the Link to be taken to the site to get a free PDF.). I have on hand a book: Lessons Learned: The Kindergarten Survival Guide for Parents by Jeannie Podest, who is a teacher and parent. One option is to order enough copies for each parent to take home. Lastly, I give each child a book: Kindergarten, Here I Come by DJ Steinberg. Another really good one is On the First Day of Kindergarten by Trish Rabe. (Click on the books to go to Amazon to see and get the books). I remind parents and children that I am there for them. In each book given, I have a label that says “A Gift from St. Paul’s Children’s Ministry.”
Parents are very grateful for the breakfast and the attention. It reminds them that the church cares about them and what is happening in their lives. It, also, serves as an evangelism tool, as the parents will tell other parents at their school what a great thing their church did for them.
We do not have to let worry and fear take away from this beloved moment in a child’s life.
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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.
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
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:
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?
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
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:
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.
Watch Wednesdays’ Children’s Chapel at 9:30 AM
on Facebook Live. Which “Face of Easter”
is your favorite?
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:
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?
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.
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
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.
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
Pick a Bible story and lead your family in
worship. Use songs and prayers, too.
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.
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.
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?
Can you think of a way to serve others from
home? Pick one and do it!
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.
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:
Can you find a way to rest for 3 hours that does
not include technology or electronic games?
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
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.
Developing a way for families to worship, discuss, and bring Lent into their homes without the traditional fasting (or in addition to giving up a food item) is one of the ways we strengthen the bridge between the church and home.
Lent in a Bag is handed out to all families with children on the first Sunday of Lent. Each year, I have a different theme with story items. This is to keep things interesting. For this year, the theme is Journey into the Wilderness. I am focusing on all the Bible stories about people who went into the desert and then came out to do their ministry.
Each week the family sits around the table and pulls one object out of the bag. Attached to each object is a Bible story, a short write up with discussion questions. After listening to the story, eachfamily member passes around the object and answers the questions. The session ends in prayer.
This is very popular and many of our families are excited to share Lent in a Bag with others outside of our church family!
Here are the stories and the items I used for this year:
Jesus- after his baptism, he goes into the wilderness (Matthew 4, Mark 1 or Luke 4) The object is a small bag of sand.
Jesus- in wildnerness tempted rocks to bread (Matthew 4: 1-10). The object is a rock.
Moses leaves Egypt to shepherd int he wilderness (Exodus 2: 11-25). The object is minature sheep.
Moses and the Israelites wander in the dessert (Exodus 32). The object is gold.
John the Baptist (Mark 1: 1-13). The object is a clam shell.
Ezekiel-having a heart for God (Ezekiel 36:24 – 37:14). The object is a heart.
Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 18-25 summarized). The object is a baby.
With the theme of into the wilderness as a precusor to ministry, I am hoping it encourages each person to think about their ministry. In the future, if they are driven “into the wilderness” in their lives, then to know an exciting ministry can be ahead in their lives too.
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