Fall Christian Formation Planning for Children and Families with Young Children During COVID

Like many Directors of Christian Formation and Children’s Ministry Directors, planning for “Sunday School” or regular Christian Formation is challenging. We want to keep our children safe, but we want to give thtem the tools to continue on their faith journey. Many families are feeling overwhelmed by becoming their child’s teacher in addition to all the other roles being home bound now require. Ideally, this is when the church becomes a support system and a place of comfort, as well as, a place to encounter God and learn.

I wanted to compile a list with lots of different offering so families can pick and choose what they want to do, what they can do, and allow for flexibility to change week to week. I have compiled a list of free online resources that can be shared and used by families inaddition to the online worship service at their normal Sunday Worship.

Here is the list with links:

Children’s Chapels

St. Paul’s Children’s Chapel twice a week: Sundays at 11 AM, Wed 9:30 AM on Facebook Live (can view anytime). Sunday is for all children, while Wednesdays is more for preschool age. www.facebook.com/stpaulswinstonsalem

St. Anne’s Children Message: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZeR42POMr68m5R8rwAIGDA?app=desktop

St. Luke’s Children’s Chapel Sundays at 10:00 AM  https://www.facebook.com/StLukesSalisbury/

Nativity Children’s Message on Sundays: https://www.facebook.com/nativityonline

Summer Sundays at Emmanuel: http://www.emmanuel-parish.org/  

St. Mary’s Chapel: http://www.amyschapelchat.org/chapel-chat-videos.html

Free Resources for Online Ideas/Curriculum/Formation Events Continue Family Formation & Devotion activities to do together (Bible Story, meditation, prayer, discussion questions, craft, music video link, outreach activity, activity to do together, in-reach activity (serving our family), games, watching the story video links, and summer Flat Jesus activity.)  Comes out once a week with up to three saved on the site.  Link: http://www.laurensline.com/family-devotions-formation/ 

Ideas for Children’s Ministry Online events (Online Summer Camp, Lego, Kindergarten events, etc.) http://www.laurensline.com/blog/

http://churchschool.info/  (Virtual Sunday School on line resource)

https://lessonplansthatwork.org/ (Episcopal Church includes home and group activities) *(Also in Spanish)

Do Lego Bible Build once a month for all ages.  http://www.laurensline.com/2020/06/22/virtual-lego-ministry-night/

Forward Movement: Faith at Home: www.dofaithathome.org -sends out weekly readings and activities based on weekly lectionary scripture readings. *(Also in Spanish)

Family Faith and Prayer Booklets https://www.thykingdomcome.global/sites/default/files/2019-03/TKC_Home_Pack_V4.pdf    *(Also in Spanish)

www.spokanediocese.org/worship/worshipathome.html (Also in Spanish)

Parent group do the Living Compass Parenting.  Put in groups of 12.  Meet once a week or month. https://www.livingcompass.org/parents (also have teen program)  *(Also in Spanish)

Using Zoom: Meet by grade/age meetings, lunch with Children’s Minister, EYC for 4th & 5th Graders, Parents After Dark, Taco Tuesdays, Reading to Preschoolers, and discussion of use family home curriculum.

Video Formation: Send out videos to watch on Sundays (Instructed Eucharist, Bible Stories, etc.) and then on an Evening have a Zoom discussion.  Lots of materials, just watch before you send out for appropriateness and beliefs.

Blessing Backpacks & Devices in Times of COVID 19

Our church, like many churches, have been doing virtual services instead of our usual worship schedule.  Schools in our area, have decided to begin online classes for all of its students. 

Normally, we would have a Blessing of Backpacks the Sunday before school starts and over 100 children would participate.  This year is going to be very different.  I wanted to still honor the start of the school year, even if it is going to be unusual, with most children remaining at home.

During the Sunday worship Service, live-stream, we will say a prayer and bless the backpack tags we are giving out.  Then we are inviting families to drive by with their backpacks and devices.  We are asking them to hold them out the window of their car as we bless each one (with water for backpacks) and give them a specially made backpack tag for attaching to their backpack or bag. We, also, made bookmarks with our children and youth online schedule for the fall. We handed these out.

We have scheduled an hour for this and are doing it in a covered area.  For those who cannot drive up, we are blessing the tags, so they can attach them to their bag when we can give them their tag.

For the tags, we try to make them as fun and useful as possible.  This year, instead of designing our own, we are purchasing a stained glass picture, putting our church on the back and using the luggage tag laminator to make them. (See previous backpack for tag instructions).

Celebrating with Families: Fifth Grade Breakfast

One of the most important things a children’s ministry can do is be a part of a family’s everyday life.  Moving outside of Sunday.  This tells the child and the family, that they are important, they matter, and God is a part of their lives beyond church.

Helping families develop rituals will help them find ways to incorporate their faith into the special moments.  Most families love to find ways to celebrate and include their faith, but are unsure what to do.

It is, also, important for the church to acknowledge and celebrate the milestones in a child’s life.  This says, you are a part of our family.  God loves you.  We love you.  We are here for you.

An important milestone in a child’s life that often gets overlooked is a child’s move from Elementary School to Middle School.  Children have mixed feelings about this move.  Along with excitement, there is fear of the unknown, stress of the what ifs, and grief over what is being left behind.  Parents are feeling these mixed feelings too.  Their child is growing and moving into the teenage part of life.  The obstacles and dangers are real.  The expectations parents place on themselves as they try to include so much in their child’s life can cause stress and anxiety.

One of the things I do to celebrate and help is to hold a Fifth Grade Breakfast.  We invite the parents and their fifth grade child.  Our fourth graders serve and act as hosts.  We do this at the end of fifth grade, usually the weekend before school ends.

We start off with prayer and then enjoy a buffet breakfast.  Once everyone has eaten about ¾ of their plate, we start the program.  After thanking the parents for sharing their child with me, I tell the children how much it has meant to me to be a part of their lives.  I remind them of their spiritual journey and there are many steps left.  I remind them how faith can help them and how much they are loved by their church family.

I give the parents a developmental chart which includes what to expect for the next six years including spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and other aspects growth.  Similar to the developmental sheet parents got when their child was an infant, this helps parents to know what is coming and how to help or step back while their child moves through this last part of childhood.

Our Youth Leaders, then, talk about youth group and youth formation.  Emphasizing the importance of this in their developmental journey.  We offer support of the parents, as well as, the teen.

After questions and answers, we ask each of the parents to say how their child was a blessing to them.  It is very beautiful to hear and the children are very moved.

We end it with a blessing and a promise that I will always be there for them and this church will always be their home.

Because COVID-19 physical distancing, we could not do our fifth grade breakfast.  We mailed each family a developmental chart and mailed a card to each child telling them how much we love them.  If it is possible, we will hold the fifth grade breakfast at the start of the program year before their sixth grade year starts.  If not, the contact is important.

Helping Families Grow in Faith in Summer from Home Part 2

As Summer 2020 promises to be challenging for all of us, here are some more ideas (see Helping Families Keep Church During the Summer) to connect families during our time in physical/social distancing. 

Camps, Vacation Bible Schools, and all the plans that usually make up our Summer, are not going to happen this year except on line.  Here are some activities that involve us getting off line, but still growing in faith.

Bible Story Treasure Hunt:  Each family gets a Bible Story to read and a poster board.  After a family reads their story, they design a picture to show their story.  They place the poster board in a place that can be seen from the road.  Each family participating gets a list of families addresses, stickers, and a list of the stories (one a page) with some questions on it.

The families drive around and find the poster.  They guess which story it is, answer some questions, and then put a sticker on the page to show they completed it.  Publish the names for your families of those who completed the hunt.  Get families to take pictures of their posters.

Bible Story Scavenger Hunt:  Each week, families receive a different Bible story.  After reading it, there is a list of objects that go with the story (David-sheep, musical instrument, rocks, sling shot, very tall person, crown, etc.).  Each child or family, checks off when they spot all of the objects that go with the story.  Put the first names of the children who complete it in the church newsletter.

Church Member Tag:  Place a picture or an object in the front door of a family.  Send them an email or leave a letter that says they are it.  They must complete four challenges before they can “tag” another family to be it.  The challenges: using the object or picture (after it has been cleaned), come up with silly things from Bible Stories to do with it.  Once the challenges are complete, they place the picture or object at a family of their choosing, sending an email or letter to tell them they are it.

Loving our Neighbor: Get a list of older people from your parish and let them know that they are on a list of love.  Families can choose from the list and do a good deed: make a meal, do yard work, weed a garden, get groceries or do a small act.

LEGO Bible Build:  Each week, send out a Bible Story and ask the families to build a LEGO representation of the story.  Have them send in the pictures and create a photo page for each story.

Activities to Help Families Feel Connected During the Summer

Many families travel for long periods of time during the Summer or use Summer as a chance to withdraw from activities to rest.  As we are currently in an unusual Summer, with social distancing facing our Summer, it is more important than ever to find ways for families to practice and grow in faith.  If the activities or kits come from their Church, then it connects them to their church family and reminds them they have a place that cares for them.

Usually, I would do a “Church on the Go” bag filled with activities and ways to worship while away.  But being away from the building is the “normal” for Summer 2020. Beyond live-streaming, here are some ways to help families keep “church”.

*Flat Jesus or bendable Jesus:  Mail out to each family (or have a pick up location) a Jesus to color, or one that is completed and laminated or a toy bendable Jesus (click on link to find this).  With it come these instructions:

               1. Give them three or four parables to read, suggesting one a week.  Give a few “I wonder” or discussion questions with each parable.  They are to take their Jesus and find ways to show the parable.  Give them a place (email, dropbox, etc.) to send these photos then at the end of the Summer, make a parable book to give out (using copy machine, Shutterfly, etc.)

               2.  Give them the “I AM” statements and have them show who Jesus was, doing as above through taking pictures. Have some discussion questions for each “I AM” statement.

               3. Give them some of Jesus miracles or a paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount. Let the families take photos of the things they are thankful for and where they find God.

*Give them a picture of your altar (5 x 7 at least) along with copies of Morning Prayer and readings.  Before the family does Morning Prayer together, have them create a sacred space including the picture of the altar.  Give them a theme for each week to decorate the space or table (i.e. God’s creation: collect flowers, rocks, pictures of animals or stuffed animals).  Tell them that even though we are not together, we are all the church and our worship is beyond places. 

*Send out a coloring page of a stained-glass window or outside of your church.  Have the families use that as a template to color.  Have it say on the back, “We prayed for you today.  Church Name loves you.”  Have them pray for people and leave it on their doorstep.

*Give them some short lines from Psalms that are about joy and love.  Have them write the lines on a rock, decorate the rock with paint or permanent marker, and leave in places where they go.  Each week, release another psalm with a prayer the family can say over their creation.

*Choose a Bible story for the Summer theme.  For each week for six weeks give them something to do with that story.  For example, the first week would be telling the story with some discussion questions.  The second week would be a craft that goes with the story.  The third week would be a science experiment that goes with the story.  The third week would be an outreach project that goes with the story.  The fourth week would be a game that goes with the story.  The fifth week would be food focused (make something).  The sixth week would be a video of the story or watch a recording of someone talking about the story.

Helping Families Celebrate Pentecost

During this time of quarantine, here are some simple ways churches can get the celebration feeling:

  1. Have families send in photos of them dressed in red with a symbol of the Holy Spirit (flame, candle, sparklers, doves, etc.) and put it into a slide show to show before or after the Service on Pentecost.
  2. Have the families dress in red and give them each a language, including English, and have them say Happy Pentecost on video.  Have them send it in and include it at the offering of the Service of Pentecost or either before or after the service.
  3. Film a video of children playing with things symbolizing the wind (Bubbles, pinwheels, kites) and use as part of the service.
  4. Choose different families and have them say a line from the story of Acts (make sure they wear Red) and video tape it.  Put it together for the reading.

For families to do at home, after watching the Pentecost Service or reading Acts 2.

  1. Talk about the forms of the Holy Spirit and play with bubbles, kites or pinwheels.
  2. Create a red feast.  Prepare foods that are red (strawberries, watermelon, cherries, etc.)
  3. Make red flowers and put them on your table. These can be made from tissue paper, construction paper or draw red flowers and cut them out.
  4. Make a kite or windsock from material around the house.
  5. Bake a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to the church.
  6. Make windchimes out of old keys or odd metal items and hang them up.
  7. Make doves from paper and decorate them.  Fill a front window of your house or place on your front door.
  8. Make thank you cards for people at your church who have helped you on your faith journey.
  9. Learn a few words in different languages and practice them all day.
  10. Read the book, The Day When God Made Church: A Child’s First Book About Pentecost, by Rebekah McLeod Hutto.

Helping a Child Prepare and Families Honor a Child’s Baptism

Baptism is one of the joyous gatherings of family, friends and church.  Besides being one of the Episcopal Church’s major Sacrament, it is a major ritual and tradition in many of our families.

Once a child is old enough to understand what is about to take place, about three years of age, it is important to include the child in preparation for Baptism.  Once Baptized, it is important to have a celebration annually of this important milestone in the child’s life and in the family life.  It is a reminder of the spiritual/faith journey that was started and a good time to reevaluate where we are on that path.

Child Preparation/Family Preparation:

  1. Start by reading Jesus’ Baptism (Luke1-2; Matthew 1-2:15).
  2. Discuss what other stories in the Bible involving water?  (Noah, Exodus, Woman at the Well)
  3. What does Baptism mean to the parents? 
  4. Talk about Baptism (The Book of Common Prayer pages 858-859) for parents and older children. For younger, put in simple words what is written in the BCP.
  5. For children 10 and under, I read with them: Today is a Baptism Day by Anna V. Osteneo Moore.  Asking at each page, I wonder what this means to you?  Add to what is said to help them grasp an understanding of what the Baptism Covenant is.
  6. Review the “what will happen” at the Baptism (the mechanics) to the child.
  7. This is a special day!  Discuss ways to celebrate this day and going forward each year.
  8. At home, ask them to look at other family member’s baptisms’ pictures, candles, bulletins, and other memorabilia.   I give them a copy of the book to reread a few times before the big day and encourage them to call me or come see me with any questions that may come up.

Celebrating an Anniversary of Baptism- Here are ideas and ways to honor the day in the years to come! The family is encouraged to develop their own tradition to celebrate.  Ideas include:

  1. Lighting their Baptismal Candle and each family member saying a blessing about the person and closing it with prayer.
  2. Giving the child a book of age appropriate prayers or Bible with the whole family encircling the child or laying hands on the child while a prayer is said.
  3. Get out pictures from the child’s Baptism, with each person saying how the child has grown in faith or on their life journey.  Close the time with the child having a cupcake or some small celebration treat after a prayer is said for the child.
  4. Ask the Godparents over for dinner on each anniversary of the Baptism or some other person who is important in the child’s faith life.
  5. Each person in the family writes a short poem or prayer for the child and then reads them out loud while the Baptismal Candle is lit.  Put them in a scrap book that is added to each year.

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.

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.