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: 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: 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”

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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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.

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LEGO® My Bible: Intergenerational Fun & Learning

LEGO®S are loved by everyone in every age bracket. For the last year, we have used them in several capacities to encourage Bible reading, attendance in Sunday School, an evening gathering, and a Sunday morning event after church services in the Summer.

At each event, I choose a story from the Bible for each group. If I have six tables set up, then I choose six different stories. I place two to three different translated Bibles, blank sheets of paper, pencils, pens, an instruction sheet, and a list of questions.

The question sheet includes who is this story about, where did the story take place, what happened before the story, what didn’t you like, what did you like,and how can you show this story to others?

The instructions start with a prayer, asking them to pray together, them tell them to read the story and discuss the questions. Upon finishing the discussion, they draw what they are going to build to show the story. I have a cart full of LEGO® sorted by color, along with a box of people. After they have built their story, they are instructed to write a one page paraphrase of their story and a prayer.

For Sunday School classes, I use Building Faith Brick by Brick. When we started to have our Spring slump, this energized our older elementary grades. The children and youth could not wait to come and finish their group projects. We displayed all finished products in a prayer walk opened to our whole parish.

For Inergeneratinal Events, I encourage seating at tables of various ages. Young and old work together to create a Bible piece. It encourages people to get to each other in a fun way.

For a bridge between family and Sunday morning, I encourage families to take a story home and bring their pieces and stories back the following Sunday.

For inspiration, purchase the Brick Bible or for use with younger children to help share what is happening in the parish. For additional fun, take pictures of the created pieces and make your own Bible.

For teens, who enjoy sets, there is a Last Supper kit, but I like the idea of them creating their own pieces.

One of the hardest and most expensive pieces are the people. I have included a link for buying a large set at an inexpensive price –people set.

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