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 Pageant

The Christmas Pageant is a part of tradition.  It can be as big and rehearsed or as small and spontaneous as one chooses.  It is a beautiful way to tell the story of the nativity, get children involved, encourage participation, and increase joy during a hectic, time-crunched time of year.

The easiest and most inclusive pageant, is the simple reading of scripture, with hymns included, and children pantomiming it out.  If a parish is looking for something bigger, there are lots of scripts out there and these produce beautiful pageants (but do not include those newcomers or visitors.)

The Christmas Pageant can be appropriately done on the Fourth Sunday of Advent during the Sunday School (Christian Formation) time, on Christmas Eve during the earliest Service (as the Ministry of the Word) or on Epiphany as an Epiphany Pageant (just add the Magi).

If the Fourth Sunday in Advent or Epiphany is chosen, add to the festivities with crafts, and refreshments.  Publicize, invite, and encourage children from outside the church to come and participate. On Christmas Eve, new families attend and, usually, everyone leaves afterwards for scheduled plans.

In advance, I print instructions for families with children telling them where to go to get dressed and where to go afterwards to return the costume.  Every child, who walks through our door, gets a chance to participate.

In the costume room, I have volunteers waiting to help the children.  Each child is asked whether they would like to be an angel, shepherd or animal.  I have chosen and rehearsed with older children to be Mary, Joseph, Lead Angel (guides the little angels), Lead Shepherd (guides the little shepherds) and Lead Animal Tamer (guides the animals). I, also, have chosen and rehearsed with the readers/narrators their parts in advance.  The Lead parts have rehearsed the songs we will sing, too.  It is the first verse of known carols, so the congregation/audience may participate too.

Costumes can be a problem for 100 children.  For angels, I have men’s small shirts which I hot-glued gold or silver garland around the bottom and sleeves.  I use the same garland for halos.  Only lead angels get wings if the pageant is done during a service (not enough room for wings, otherwise).  For shepherds, I use small men’s colored  Continue reading “Christmas Pageant”

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: St. Nicholas Festival

Hosting a St. Nicholas Festival brings smiles, excitement, and joy from children, families, volunteers, and newcomers hoping to find something that takes the materialism out of the holiday. It is a wonderful on-ramp for new children and families looking for a church. It is a gift to give the surrounding community looking for a faith-based celebration of the Christmas spirit.

St. Nicholas feast day is December 6. In some parts of the world, such as The Netherlands, this is the day children receive Christmas gifts.  There are many ways for churches to bring this feast day to life and help replace the “give me a list” Santa Claus with “how can we love others and love God” St. Nicholas.

I plan the festival to have stations, usually 8 to 10.  Families can go to any station they desire as many times as they would like.  After forty-five minutes, we gather all and head to the Nave, where the children leave their shoes in the Loggia.  We have a short worship service (15 minutes), where we hear a knock on the door and St. Nicholas enters.  He shares information with the children, we bring offerings from the stations (will explain when I explain the stations) and we sing lots of songs.  St. Nicholas does do a short homily on giving and loving God.  After we have completed the worship service, the children are invited to come sit in the Bishop’s chair, with St. Nicholas standing beside them, for pictures.  (This takes about 10-15 minutes for all to talk to St. Nicholas and get pictures.) When we return to the Loggia, the children discover one of their shoes is filled with a bag of candy, stickers, bookmarks, pencils, and another small gift.   The children are so excited!  We then move to another room for cookies, hot chocolate or lemonade.  The whole event is about one and a half hour.

For free ideas, visit St.Nicholas Center.

For stations, I have found these the most successful:

  • Making a Bishop’s Miter (hat)- supplies are red paper, glitter crosses, tape, staples, and the pattern found at the St. Nicholas site.
  • Community Service/Outreach-we have collected slippers for a nursing home, diapers for a family homeless shelter, blankets for our police to give it to the homeless, made placemats for a community meal, food for a food pantry, etc.  We bring these in to the worship for an offering.
  • Making Christmas Cards-supplies are cardstock, stamps, stickers, and markers.
  • St. Nicholas Ornament- handprint one or easy face one come in easy kits.
  • Letter to St. Nicholas (Child asks for something for someone else)-supplies are stationary or postcards, pens, pencils, and mailbox.  We bring these in to the worship for St. Nicholas.
  • St. Nicholas Festival Around the World-I researched the festival around the world and laminated each country.  The table is filled with statues, toys, wood-shoes, etc. from around the world.
  • Puzzle and Games-supplies include coloring sheets, word puzzles, hidden object pictures,  match card games, Bingo game using St. Nicholas symbols, pens, pencils, and crayons.
  • St. Nicholas Information-supplies include information sheets, book, statues, other books, prayer cards, icons, and other items that tell about St. Nicholas.  The volunteer working the station is very knowledgeable about St. Nicholas and shares with each person information about the saint.
  • St. Nicholas Craft-Pattern from the St. Nicholas Center.
  • Storytelling-I have the Godly Play story of St. Nicholas going all the time.  There are floor pillows and blankets for people to sit on.

Continue reading “Advent: St. Nicholas Festival”

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

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