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.

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.

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.

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