Advent Take Home Kits

Families love the take home kits that I have made for them.  It started in Lent in a Bag, Church on the Go, Jesus Home Kit, and now Advent Take Home Kits.  The theme this year is: Journey to Bethlehem: Share the Joy.

The kit contains a book with information, education, and lots to do.  There is information on what Advent is, how to make an Advent wreath, how to use an Advent wreath, worship services to practice at home, weekly meditations with readings and discussion, Christmas Eve and Christmas meditations and information about our church services.  Booklet is available for the cost of a donation.  Please email me at [email protected]  

The Kit, itself is in a “take out” box with a sticker showing Mary and Joseph traeling to Bethlehem.  I used take out containers to give it a fun feel (and to make it different from the other season’s kits.

In the box, I included objects to be used for the meditations in the booklet.  On week one, the reading is Isaiah 9: 1-7.  So the object is a jewel for families to pass around, as in a jewel from a king’s crown.  The jewel needs to be big enough for children not to swallow.  I liked these jewels as they look very impressive.

Week two’s reading is Luke 1: 26-55.  The object is a feather for angel’s wings.  I found this feather and liked it because it looked very different from a bird’s feather.

Week three’s reading is Luke 1: 10-25, 57-66.  The object is a baby blanket and picture of old couple with a baby.  For the baby blanket I used material squares.

Week four’s reading is Matthew 1: 18-24, Luke 2: 1-7.  The object is wood for Joseph.  I loved these tree slices for the rawness and the way one can tell it is from a tree.  I loved the way the slices feel too.

Christmas Eve’s reading is Luke 2: 9-20.  I used sheep wool for the shepherd’s story object.  This sheep’s wool will need to be cut into small 2 inch squars, but makes for a wonderful feeling object.

Christmas Day, the meditation moves from the journey to Bethlehem to the journey to Easter.  The object is a cross that the family can decorate.

The Advent kits are designed for families to use to help the preparation of Christmas be about faith, time together, understanding and joy.  They can spend as little as once a week up to three times a week doing things in their kit.  They can include visiting family and friends.  It gives thema chance to share about the exciting things happening at their church.

Our kit, also, includes a Christmas ornament (picture of the church in snow printed on cardstock) and a Christmas card from the staff.

Another item to include would be Advent candles for a wreath (or making them available  for purchase.)  For purple candle set or blue candle set, click on the color to get the link (or click on any of the items to get the link to the items I used.)  Any item purchased through the link, helps to fund this site.

 

Advent: Time for the Church to Expand

Advent is the time of year for churches’ to expand people’s hearts, people’s understanding of Christmas, faith, and religion, and expand their programming.  Advent is a great on-ramp for people, who are looking for a faith or a church, to enter into our congregations.  It is a great time for churches’ to bridge the space between the church building and their homes (and their families.)

Advent starts off with a booklet which contains information, worship materials, discussion topics, and activities to do at home.  I have two booklets for this purpose.  One, Devotions for Children and Families with Children, contains a weekly Advent wreath worship service and six activities that can be done through the week.  Families can choose to do one or more each week depending on their time restraints.  Activities listed include a church activity, a craft activity, a charitable/outreach activity, an ornament activity, a creche activity, and a family-centered (history) activity.  The second booklet is part of an Advent Take Home Kit and is called, Journey to Bethlehem: Share the Joy. It contains information on what Advent is, how to make an Advent wreath, how to use an Advent wreath, worship services to practice at home, weekly meditations with readings and discussion, Christmas Eve and Christmas meditations and information about our church services.  Both are available for the cost of a donation.  Please email me at [email protected]

Advent is a great time to get families and individuals involved in non-Sunday activities.  During Advent, I, typically, schedule the following events:

  • First Sunday in Advent: Home kits go home.
  • Holy Pause in Advent: we offer different types of ways to “pause” including classes on how to do a labyrinth, Centering Prayer, Icon use, Communion Classes, and Prayer Stations.
  • St. Nicholas Festival: fun for all ages and way to share a different perspective on Santa Claus.
  • Las Posadas: Introduce a different culture and very group growing.
  • Saint Thomas Service: for those who have lost a loved one.
  • Angel Event: we learn about angels and do crafts.
  • Lessons & Carols: beautiful music.
  • Family Christmas Movie: we watch with popcorn and lemonade and them discuss.
  • Christmas Pageant: we do as a part of our December 24 Service at 3:00 PM.  Any child who shows up is in it.  Generally, we have about 100.

I will discuss each event more in depth in future blogs, but planning is the key and getting the word out.  Once the word spreads, you will see families that have been away, new faces, and lots of smiling regulars.  The important thing for any event is getting a team of helpers, planning what each event will look like and then do it.  Every year, we build on what we did the year before.  This keeps us from having to start by spending lots of money and effort.  Pick three or four stations at each event or activities and then every year add two.

Fall Event: Fall Festival

Having a Fall Festival is a wonderful opportunity for fellowship and fun. Done thoughtfully, it becomes a tool for community building and a great on-ramp for those looking for a church.  A committee of volunteers can easily put together a fun afternoon or early evening event. I plan two to three hours for the event and include food, games, crafts, stewardship, outreach, and additional activities.

Food: Ideas for easy providing of food include inviting a few food trucks, grill hamburgers and hot dogs with pot luck sides, or have a chili cook-off.

Games: Carnival games are always a hit.  Ideas are Bean Bag Toss, Ring Toss, Duck Fishing, or a mix. Host a Scavenger Hunt with a list of people to get their names (great for interactions). Ideas include a vestry member, someone wearing purple, a clergy person, someone two years of age, etc.   Give out award medals to those who complete the hunt.

Other game ideas include Bingo (with fun prizes), Cornhole, and Four Square.  Everyone loves games using cut pool noodles.

Crafts: A fun Fall event includes a Pumpkin Painting or Carving Contest  Use paints or stickers and have a table to display them  Another idea is to have a “ Create an Ad” Poster Contest  Posterboard, markers, paint, and pencils are all that is needed  Display the finished products in the Parish Hall  theme ideas of “Why I Love My Church” or “My Church is the Place to Be” help inspire ideas.  I, always, have sidewalk chalk on hand to inspire the little artists

Stewardship or Outreach: After deciding on a project, we announce the goal in services and publicity for the festival.  We have collected can goods for the food pantry  For every canned good or $1 given, the person got to through a ball for a Dunking Booth  we had staff take turns in the Dunk Booth

We have set goals for stewardship and when they are achieved, the rector got a whip cream pie in the face.

We set jars out for people to put money into and the staff person with the most money gets water ballooned.

Other Activities:  Children love face painting.  Our youth, usually, volunteer to do it.

A Bounce House is always fun.  I invested in one because renting can cost about $400.  Click here to see the one I bought

 

A Fall Festival encourages community and fellowship.  Our parish looks forward every year to our annual event.

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Getting Ready for Fall: Christian Formation Fall Checklist

The Fall is the start of most parishes’ program year. There is so much to do!  Here is a checklist, which can be used by any church to ensure a successful start of the year.

Sunday School Formation

  • Teachers signed up, trained, and scheduled
  • Curriculum chosen, ordered, and given to teachers
  • Signs for each classroom with Name of Class, ages or grades if appropriate
  • Age/grade levels and class assignments posted in several locations
  • Registration forms and pens outside of each class
  • Take Home sheets about each class with discussion questions to continue the conversation
  • Attendance Sheets
  • Name tags
  • Basic supplies in each class: markers, pencils, scissors, stapler, glue, tape, paper, construction paper, Bibles

Children’s Chapel

  • Leaders trained and scheduled
  • Story props
  • Story order and dates
  • Curriculum, if used
  • Sermon/homily options, sites, ideas
  • Music
  • ”Bulletins” for readers
  • Altar supplies: candle, cross, Bible

Youth Group(s)

For All of the Above

  • Calendar with all important dates and starting times
  • Brochure of Family Ministries with descriptions, times and location for everything family
  • Evangelism plan (way to spread the word about church and happenings
  • Goals for year
  • Letter to parents with purpose of each ministry
  • Letter to participants about what they can expect
  • Will a snack be served and if so, what? when? How will it be supplied?

Events

  • Chair and Co-chair for each planned event
  • Description, purpose and goal for each event
  • Notes about event from previous years
  • Schedule of activities for each event
  • Supplis needed list (and budget) for each event
  • Helpers, volunteers, committee for each event
  • Will food be served? Will special furniture or room plan be required?
  • Advertisement or publicity plan for each event

Tools to help

This checklist is a great overview and way to start planning   Depending on the curriculum, activities, crafts, and games, additional supplies will be needed

Clicking on the link and purchasing through the links helps to fund this site 

 

Getting Ready for the Fall: Rally Day

Planning for the first day of the Program Year sets the whole tone for a successful year.  Having a form of Rally Day, helps excite interest, promote motivation for families to attend, and create buzz for the year.

Successful “Rally Days” include volunteers, props, registration forms, well displayed possibilities, spreading the word, and excitement.  Having volunteers to give directions, hand out registrations, welcome all back, help the newcomer, and share possibilities is a must.  We have red balloons attached to clip boards and let people know to look for a balloon to get help. On the clip boards, have room assignments, a map, and other important information. Instruct volunteers on what to say when approached and to look for those who seem lost or confused.

Besides the balloons, we have little treats waiting in the rooms for those coming to the first day.  A special snack or small gift is a wonderful way to say, “Welcome, we are so glad you are here.”  I have given away bracelets (inexpensive fun option), candy with scripture, or wooden cross necklaces.  The idea is to make sure the children come away feeling welcomed, loved, and wanting to return.

A registration form with pertinent contact information, allergies, special needs, and permission for pictures to be taken and used is important.  I ask families to fill one form for all the children in their family every year.  This enables me to double check and make sure all the information we have on file is correct.  E-mails tend to change frequently. A letter explaining curriculum, what to expect, and other information should be given as a “Take Home” sheet for each class, Chapel or program.

Displaying all the options for ministry, Christian Formation, volunteer possibilities and ways to get involved is a must even for those members who are heavily involved.   Have fliers for coming dates.  Ideally, have a calendar of what is coming so they cna put it on their calendars.  Have sign up sheets for different areas of ministry, social groups, and ways for them to get more information. Have special displays for new ministries

As Rally Day approaches, build the excitement!  Have a coutdown, give “commercials”, have signs up, and encourage your congregation to invite friends.  On Rally Day, remind everyone, it is not too late.  Tell their friends and invite people to participate in different things happening.  I, also, send all the chidlren who participated in our Vacation Bible School or other Summer Events (usually over 100 children), to come to Rally Day.

To make the day special, have a breakfast or a picnic.  Look for ways to turn this day into a celebration of the coming year.  The start of the Program year is a time to celebrate!

Click  on the underlined items to get a link to what I have used. Purchasing through the links, helps fund this sit. 

Getting Ready For Fall: Bible Presentations

Once upon a time, every house was filled with Bibles. Bibles were read together as a family. That was long ago. Many parents feel lost when it comes to the Bible and many children find the language difficult to understand. Bridging the Sunday Morning “Box” with home life, means helping parents navigate this important part of our faith.

Every Fall, at the end of September, I present those entering Second Grade and those new to our church family in other Elementary Grades above Second, a Bible. This is done during the service. Children are invited up to the front of the church. A prayer and a blessing is said over the books and over them.

The Bible we have given out over the last three years is Deep Blue Kids Bible. I did lots of research on this Bible and chose this one because it was easty to read, had lots of additional information for children, and had hints for parents. We use this Bible in our Sunday School Class, as well. This Bible will carry the children until they are ready to start Middle School.

If you are looking for a Bible for those entering First Grade, I recommend My First Message

I always put a sticker in the front of every Bible or book we give out saying it was a gift from the church. That way as the child grows up, it is a reminder that they are a member of a church family, wherever they are.

I, also, have a sheet inside the Bible with encouragements on reading together as a family. I let them know that questions will arise and that is good, because asking questions opens up the world, faith, and spirituality to them. I will always answer any questions!

Clicking on the Bibles will take you to a link to purchase them. Purchasing the Bibles through these links helps fund this site.

Getting Ready for the Fall: Kindergarten Parent & Child Breakfast

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.

It is important for the church to acknowledge this momentous step. Honoring and acknowledging this step moves the church out of the Sunday morning “box” and into a family’s life and home.

Besides the Blessings of Backpacks, which are done for all children, the Sunday before school starts, we have a Kindergarten Parent & Child Breakfast, usually before the main family service. The invitations to the breakfast are sent out a month ahead of time, so busy families can make plans. The room of the breakfast is set up as welcoming as possible and all are encouraged to wear nametags. The breakfast is a buffet to keep it casual and to be welcoming to any late-comers. Also, we tend to have those who did not RSVP come, so always allow for more food.

At the appointed time of the breakfast, I welcome everyone and say a prayer. They, then, get the food they would like. Once all are settled at a table eating, I talk about the importance of this day. I hand out a growth chart containing 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. I then give out 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.

Clicking on and purchasing any of the items through this site, helps to fund this site. Thank you.

Getting Ready for the Fall: Blessing the Backpacks

As children and youth get ready for the return to school, Blessing the Backpacks (or school bags) is a way for the church to acknowledge something big is happening in their lives and the family is making a shift.
Recognizing the flow of families’ lives allows the church to be seen as a relevant place in their lives and as a resource beyond the box that takes place within the parish’s walls. By this action, we encourage faith to be seen as part of our lives at school.

On the Sunday before the start of school, at the principal service (or family service), we call all the children to the front. A few words are said acknowledging the change in the flow of their lives and then we ask them to raise their backpacks. We remind them that God is with them wherever they go and that we are a family and they are with us even at school. A prayer for courage, wisdom, and faith is said over the backpacks and completed with a blessing. A gift is then handed out for the children to place on their backpacks.

I give out luggage tags with the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and a picture on one side and then a Bible verse or prayer on the other. The luggage tags are sealed so they will last the whole year. I use an inexpensive the tags with the cord also come from Amazon.

To decide what goes on it, we ask the youth for ideas and choose one of their designs. We will use the luggage tag throughout the year in our Newcomers’ Welcome Bags.

We spread the word about the Blessing of Backpacks in our community and invite anyone to come. We encourage our children and youth to bring their friends. We usually have a very large group.

We follow up the service with some hospitality and encourage all to stay after the service and join us.

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

Jesus Doll and Home Kit

One of the ways to bridge the Sunday Morning “box” to the home is with a Jesus Doll.  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.

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.

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.

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 what their favorite time was 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 year

I only send out the Jesus Doll and Home Kit one season a year, to keep it fresh.  Lent or Easter are excellent liturgical seasons for getting families to think about faith at home.  Summer is great when looking for something to tie families to their parish while so many are traveling and most program year offerings are on hiatus.

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

Bridging the Sunday Morning “Box” and Weekday Home

Churches and families are in a place that is unique to this time.  Parents have never gone attended or had little church encounters prior to having children.  Parents’ knowledge base of tradition, Bible Stories, and faith/spiritual practices make it hard to be their children’s main teacher, because they are in the learning process themselves.  Some parents have ideas from church encounters or encounters with Christians that have left them with a “bad” taste.  Family’s time restrictions and obligations can make it hard for a family to attend learning and worshipping beyond Sunday morning.

I have developed a few home kits to make a bridge between church and family life with the goal of helping the family to move faith, worship, and formation out of the Sunday morning box.

At the parish I serve, we provide these kits as a gift to our families and then watch as evangelism, formation, and spiritual growth happen.  Families have been bringing in new families to share in our experience.  Parents are getting more involved and children are excited.  Most importantly, God is becoming a part of their home vocabulary in a fun way.

Any parish can put together their own kits.  For the Summer, I have put together:

(Click on the kit to learn more).

I will cover more in future blogs about other ways to bridge Sunday mornings and home.