Family Serving Sunday: Love Thy Neighbor

Setting a Sunday afternoon in February as a Family Service Day teaches community service and outreach, encourages community and family togetherness, promotes living our Baptismal vows, and encourages practicing our faith.

We gather at 4:00 PM in one large room. The story of the Parable of the Good Samaritan is shared and then Jesus washing the disciples feet is shared. We have a short discussion on what loving and serving our neighbor means.

We then divide into three projects. Each child must be accompanied by an adult. The three projects are:

Cooking Class and Making a Meal for the Ronald McDonald House: The instructor shares about what the Ronald McDonald House does. Then we make a meal for 40 people together. We generally make it storage ready, so the Ronald McDonald House can use it for a fill in. This way, all ages can participate in this activity. (We start it at 4 years and up). Supplies needed are: someone to lead the cooking class, fodd items needed, measuring supplies, storage containters, instruction notes for guests of the Ronald McDonald House and someone to deliver to the house. The families learn about cleanliness and safety during the class.

Love “Caroling” and Flower delivery to a Nursing Home: A music leader teaches simple songs about loving God and God’s love for us. We load up in the church bus (or carpool) and go to the nursing home, where they are expecting us. We sing about 15minutes then the children hand out flowers. The residents of the nursing home love having the families visit. Supplies needed: someone who knows songs (and motions), instruments (if desired), and flowers.

Animal Blanket and Toy Making for the Humane Society: A speaker from the humane society comes to talk about caring for our animal friends and what the Humane Society does. The speaker, also, bring some animal friends. We make sewless blankets out of fleece and dog/puppy toys out of PVC pipe, dog food, and pvc caps.

A family signs up in advance for which project they would like to do. It is a lot of fun and we are generally done in an hour to an hour and a half.

Respect the Dignity of Every Human: Loving Your Neighbor

With Martin Luther King, JR. Day approaching, it is an opportunity for the church to offer a lesson or event based on our Baptismal Vows and the Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Children will have learned in school about MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech. (Have some copies on hand, just in case).  Jesus’ “dream” of all people being treated with dignity showed through in his Parable of the Good Samaritan, his talks of the lowly as named by society, and his meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.

An event or lesson would include the telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the woman at the Well. It would include opportunities to interact with people the children/families would not normally socialize with or feel comfortable doing so. This is a great time to expand people’s comfort zone. Some ideas include: invite someone from the homeless shelter, a family who is being helped by the food bank, people of different cultures, someone living in a nursing home, and someone who benefits from your parish outreach program.

Have the guests prepare with: what would you like us to know about you?  What is a typical day like for you?  Since we vow to respect the dignity of every human being, what are ways you feel disrespected and how can we interact with you that helps you to feel respected?

Have some activities.  If from a different culture, maybe a craft or activity from that culture.

If from an outreach program, have information about the program, a list of ways to get involved and a small project to get the children involved in the outreach program.

This can make adults feel uncomfortable, but that is why we avoid the outcast. This is a chance to learn empathy, compassion, and how to treat others with respect and dignity.

Here are some children’s books on Martin Luther King, Jr: I am Martin Luther King, Jr (Ordinary People Change the World), I have a Dream Book & CD, A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.

For other people: Courageous People Who Changed the Worl (Little Heroes), First They were Children: Seven People Who Changed the World

Epiphany Event

January 6th is Epiphany. After the rush of Christmas, hosting an Epiphany event is a perfect way to celebrate the end of Christmas and the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as told by the Magi (Kings/wisemen) visitation.

My Epiphany Event is inter-generational with activities for all ages. I have stations so people can interact and do the activities that interest them. The stations are open for 45 minutes to an hour. When the time is over, we all move to Nave. In the Nave, either an Epiphany Service or an Epiphany Pageant with the Magi visitation is done.

The stations I found the most successful include (with supplies)

Crown making: crowns to decorate, colorful permanent markers, jewel stickers

Star making: wood stars, permanent markers (paint takes to long to dry)

Star musical makers: star clappers, stickers, marker

Epiphany Around the World: articles, pictures, legends and stories from around the world (by country), books, legends

Meditations (with a quiet place to do them)

Photo area with capes to become the Magi (they use the crown they made): background, props (for king gifts).

Coloring pages, stickers, and other artistic materials for young. Mazes and puzzles for older.

Star Cookie Decorating: sugar cookies (made in advance-star cutter), icing, m&ms, sprinkles, small plates, and napkins.

 

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Christmas & Epiphany: Bethlehem Village Event

Nothing brings greater understanding to a child (or any person) than participating and living out something they did not fully grasp.  Having a Bethlehem Village, where life is recreated in Bethlehem arond the time Jesus was born, brings the time to life and creates an understanding of what life was like and how very different life was from today’s times.

To create Bethlehem Village, three parts are required.  The first part is the decorations to turn the area into Bethlehem.  The second part is “shops” or stations with educational, interactive and fun activities and crafts. The third is volunteers who take the part of the villagers.

All enter Bethlehem through the Tour Guides Shop.  They sign in at a Guest book and recieve their passport with a listing of all the shops and activities

For decorations, I use bales of hay, lots of fabric for table covers, scenic background, and props.  Each shop is a table covered in a bright fabric with educational materials, props, pictures, and a work area.

The shops and workers are the leather-maker, the metal worker, the carpenter, the baker, Hebrew School, the Synagogue, the shepherd, the potter and the inn-keeper. Each shop has lots of information of what would have been in the shop during Jesus’ time and how things were used by the people.  For activities, here is a listing of what I have done:      Leather- Maker’s Shop- fake leather bookmarks, bracelets, making leather bags (to carry small items).   Metal Worker-gold picture using gold foil and a wood  “pencil” to draw on back. Flip over and have an embossed picture.    Carptenter- wood ornaments, wood objects or blocks of wood to paint, and sandpaper.    Baker- barley to grind, bakery treats (cookies) to eat.  Hebrew School-Hebrew Alphabet, primer, guide, pencils, paper,dreidal with instructions and coloring pages for the children.  Synagogue-Menorah, meditations with objects, list of sins and suggested sacrifieces from the Bible, coins for coin changing.  Sheperds-toy sheep, mazes, puzzles, coloring pages.  Potter-clay for them to shape and take home.  Inn-keeper- small cot with various cleaning items, drinks, and activity to make a “Welcome” door sign.

At each shop, their passport is stamped.

After an hour of Bethlehem Village, the Magi (kings), come searching for Jesus.  We follow them into the Nave where a retelling of the Nativity story is done and the Magi speak about why they search for Jesus.  We sing some songs and say some prayers.   We have an area for parents to take pictures of their child and the Magi.

The volunteers are gathered in advance, given their parts with information about what their shop was like.  They read up on the work and the life, so that when, they come to do Bethlehem Village, they are prepared for any questions the visitors might have.

There are lots of different ways to do a Behtlehem Village.  If you do it before Christmas, the Shepherds could come looking for Jesus (instead of the Magi.)  Petting zoos, large animal cut-outs, or more characters can be added.  For smaller, just choose four shops to have and have it before the usual Christmas Pageant.

Getting the word out to surrounding neighbors and schools, makes the event an ideal “on-ramp” for people who have not regularly attended a church.  This event is fun, educational, and promotes fellowship, as well as, hospitality.

For information on items used in the shops or decorations, please click on the link.  By purchasing items through the links, helps to fund this site.  Thank you.

 

Advent/Christmas Family Movie Event

Watching a Christmas movie, may not feel like an event a church should host, but it can be a gift of slowing down, spending time in community, and giving a faith perspective on a season rushing towards a Christmas overload.

Choose a family movie that is appropriate for all ages.  I have done Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Elf, and other classics.  Some movies are wonderful for adults (It’s a Wonderful Life), but are too slow for the younger crowd.  I try to pick movies that are less than one and a half hours.  Preview the movie and come up with five to seven discussion questions that as a community of faith, what are the ethics, faith, and love-based questions that come up?

Publicize the event!

Have popcorn, snacks, lemonade, water and tea.  Make it an intergenerational event, to encourage fellowship and community.  Have a table of activities for the very young to do if they become bored. One option, that is a lot of fun, is choose an activity or word to call out every time a certain thing happens on screen (it makes it like a movie scavenger hunt.)

After the movie, have the discussion, encouraging all (and all ages) to answer.  It makes for great community building and encourages those who normally would not interact, to get to know each other.

This activity is a great activity for the Sunday before Christmas (as an intergenerational Christian Formation event.)

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Advent: Angels Event – an Intergenerational & Family Event

Angels are, probably, one of the most used creatures in movies, art, theater, books, and other forms of media.  Yet, very rarely, are angels shown as the angels in the Bible.  Most of what people know about angels comes from the arts, not the Bible.

Hosting an Angelic Event during Advent encourages learning, Bible knowlege growth, fun, fellowship, and a way to keep the holiday season faith focused.

Families, congregation member, children and youth gather for stories of angels in the Bible verses the angels depicted in the arts.   This, also, encourages parents to be their children’s main faith teacher, build a time of community, encourage exploration and help families to think of church and faith beyond Sunday mornings.

I set this up as stations to encourage everyone to move about and explore.  One can have as many or as few stations as one would like.  I, also, set up a cookie and lemonade table for when people get hungry, as well as chairs for fellowship.

The stations I have used are:

  • Crafts- 2 Stations set up opposite in the room                                                                                                                          Coffee Filter Angel: need coffee filters, cotton balls, gold pipe cleaners                                                                            Ornament Angel: including a beaded angel (kit) and wood angel ornament (I use permanet markers for them to decorate so they can take it home with them that evening.)
  • Games and Puzzle Stations- Wood Searches, hidden objects, and mazes with angels.  I , also, copy a picture of an angel on cardstock for anyone to make into a puzzle Angel.  This is two stations.Matching Game- I have angels in art copied and let children cut them out to make into a matching game.  Will need scissors to cut the angels out and bags to put their game in to take home.Nativity Rock, paper, scissors (Mary, Joseph, Angel: Mary wins Joseph wins Angel, Angel wins Mary) and a Bingo game featuring angels in the arts and Biblical Stories with angels. (Nativity Bingo and Biblical Bingo are two already made sets you can purchase or make your own.)
  • Learning about Angels: Make Q & A posters (interactive-queston on one sheet taped to posterboard with answer on another piece of paper.  They lift up the question to read the answer.)  Questions include- What are the types of angels mentioned in the Bible?   What are the four roles of Cherubim? How many times are Seraphim mentioned in the Bible?  What forms do the Living Creatures Angels take?  What angels have names in the Bible? How many angels are there (according to the Bible)? Do angels have wings? Are angels easy to spot (see)?   What three people in the Bible does an angel come visit to tell them they will have a baby?  What does Gabriel’s name mean?   Were angels created by God or have they always been there?   Are guardian angels mentioned in the Bible?    The answers have Biblical Scripture text.
  • Angel Reading Station-books, angel dolls, angel statues, Christmas tree angels (Here is a few angel dolls to start off –one blonde and one brunette. For angel statues, here is one neutral hair and one child friendly.                   
  • Angels in the Arts-pictures with information of how angels have been depicted and any information about the artist, the media work, or the angel.   A book with some information and pictures in Angels in the Arts.           
  • Station with name tags and Information sheet for parents on activities to do with child for faith.
  • Small Child station with coloring pages, crayons, and simple crafts to make.
  • Ornament Angels (display of different angels borrowed from different people in the church.)

I schedule a volunteer at each station.  Every year, the ornament can be changes and other stations can be added.

 

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Advent: Las Posadas – Journey to Bethlehem

Las Posadas commemorates the entry into Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph. This festival derives from the Central and South American tradition of the same name.  Las Posadas translates to the inns.  We follow Mary and Joseph as they look for a place to stay, singing songs of comfort as they travel.  This is a church-wide, intergenerational event full of fun and fellowship.  It is another way to bring faith into the rush of the holiday season.

I find an expecting couple to play the parts of Mary and Joseph.  They dress in costume. I have a musician lead the singing.  Sometimes, I have a guitarist accompany us as we sing.  A devil is required and normally this is played by one of our teens.  The devil, dressed in red, is fun loving and is chased away by our “boos!”

Traditionally, there are nine inns.  I ask eight ministries to decorate doors of our school classrooms, office doors, and meeting doors.  I encourage the ministries to decorate the doors to represent their ministry.  Some very beautiful doors have been done.  The ministry mans their “inn.”  The ninth inn is the Nave.  It is decorated with tissue paper flowers, candles, hanging fiesta garland, and luminaries.  Luminaries line the hallways of our path.

At the starting location, I have sombreros, maracas, battery operated candles, and programs ready.  The inns are decorated and all are in place. I read the scripture Luke 2: 1-5.  Joseph and Mary discuss the end of the long journey and Mary says that the time has come to deliver her child.  We sing our song and follow Joseph and Mary as they go to the first door.  At each of the first eight doors, Jospeh stops and knocks.  The innkeeper answers.  Jospeh asks if there is room.  The innkeeper apologizes that there is not room and then asks to join their journey.  As we travel (it resembles a parade), we sing the song of comfort.  After each door, the group traveling grows as the people of the inn join us.  Periodically, the devil appears to try to distract us from our journey.  We yell, “Boo!” To send the devil running away.

As we arrive at the ninth door, the Nave, it is answered by one of our clergy, who states, “There is no room in the inn, but they can stay in the stable. It is warm and dry.”  Joseph accepts the kindness of the innkeeper and we all enter the church nave.  There Mary and Joseph sit in chairs at the front and we all sit in the pews.  I tell the story of Las Posadas, we sing more songs, we say a few prayers, and we share a few words of love and peace to the couple and to each other.

We then head to a reception.  We serve a dinner, have a piñata, and do a community service project as an offering of love.  Usually, I have the children decorate placemats for the local nursing home to use for a dinner.

This program works well in schools, as well as church.

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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: Hosting a St. Francis Celebration/Festival

October 4 is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron saint of animals.  Many communities use the first Sunday in October as a day to honor animals and those who care for them.  In the Episcopal Church, we usually have a blessing of the animals.  At our preschool, we invite the children to bring their stuffed animals and have a blessing.

Seting aside a day for pets is a fun event that can be used as a teaching and formation event.  I always start by telling the story of St. Francis, who was kind and loving to people and animals.  Reading a book with pictures makes this fun.  Three books I recommend for any age are:

 

If blessing live animals, be sure to have leaflets for all to participate.  Having a certificate or St. Francis Pet medal to give out, will remind all who came about this day and your church.

For stuffed animals, I ask the blessing that the animal chase away bad dreams, tears, and bring comfort.  I, also have a small Saint Francis doll on hand to show the children.

A great celebration or festival includes stations for those who wish to participate.  Ideas for stations include:

Invite the Police K-9 and Horse Units for demonstrations and to be part of the blessing.

Also invite the local shelter to bring some animals for adoption.  Ask them to have materials on care of pets for children.  Also, invite a veterinarian to give out treat bags or coupons.

Invite the surrounding neighborhood to bring their pets.  Make sure you request all animals to be on leash or in a cage.

St. Francis Day Celebration or Festival is a wonderful way to show love and care for creation.  It is a chance to honor our devoted animal friends.  It is a great way to introduce new people to our church and to be seen as a church that cares.

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