Many families travel for long periods of time during the
Summer or use Summer as a chance to withdraw from activities to rest. As we are currently in an unusual Summer,
with social distancing facing our Summer, it is more important than ever to
find ways for families to practice and grow in faith. If the activities or kits come from their
Church, then it connects them to their church family and reminds them they have
a place that cares for them.
Usually, I would do a “Church on the Go” bag filled with
activities and ways to worship while away.
But being away from the building is the “normal” for Summer 2020. Beyond
live-streaming, here are some ways to help families keep “church”.
*Flat Jesus or bendable Jesus: Mail out to each family (or have a pick up location) a Jesus to color, or one that is completed and laminated or a toy bendable Jesus (click on link to find this). With it come these instructions:
1. Give them three or four parables to read, suggesting one a week. Give a few “I wonder” or discussion questions with each parable. They are to take their Jesus and find ways to show the parable. Give them a place (email, dropbox, etc.) to send these photos then at the end of the Summer, make a parable book to give out (using copy machine, Shutterfly, etc.)
2. Give them the “I AM” statements and have them show who Jesus was, doing as above through taking pictures. Have some discussion questions for each “I AM” statement.
3. Give them some of Jesus miracles or a paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount. Let the families take photos of the things they are thankful for and where they find God.
*Give them a picture of your altar (5 x 7 at least) along
with copies of Morning Prayer and readings.
Before the family does Morning Prayer together, have them create a
sacred space including the picture of the altar. Give them a theme for each week to decorate
the space or table (i.e. God’s creation: collect flowers, rocks, pictures of
animals or stuffed animals). Tell them
that even though we are not together, we are all the church and our worship is
*Send out a coloring page of a stained-glass window or
outside of your church. Have the
families use that as a template to color.
Have it say on the back, “We prayed for you today. Church Name loves you.” Have them pray for people and leave it on
*Give them some short lines from Psalms that are about
joy and love. Have them write the lines
on a rock, decorate the rock with paint or permanent marker, and leave in
places where they go. Each week, release
another psalm with a prayer the family can say over their creation.
*Choose a Bible story for the Summer theme. For each week for six weeks give them
something to do with that story. For
example, the first week would be telling the story with some discussion
questions. The second week would be a
craft that goes with the story. The
third week would be a science experiment that goes with the story. The third week would be an outreach project
that goes with the story. The fourth
week would be a game that goes with the story.
The fifth week would be food focused (make something). The sixth week would be a video of the story or
watch a recording of someone talking about the story.
During this time of quarantine, here are some simple ways
churches can get the celebration feeling:
Have families send in photos of them dressed in
red with a symbol of the Holy Spirit (flame, candle, sparklers, doves, etc.)
and put it into a slide show to show before or after the Service on Pentecost.
Have the families dress in red and give them
each a language, including English, and have them say Happy Pentecost on
video. Have them send it in and include
it at the offering of the Service of Pentecost or either before or after the
Film a video of children playing with things
symbolizing the wind (Bubbles, pinwheels, kites) and use as part of the
Choose different families and have them say a
line from the story of Acts (make sure they wear Red) and video tape it. Put it together for the reading.
For families to do at home, after watching the Pentecost Service or reading Acts 2.
Talk about the forms of the Holy Spirit and play
with bubbles, kites or pinwheels.
Create a red feast. Prepare foods that are red (strawberries,
watermelon, cherries, etc.)
Make red flowers and put them on your table.
These can be made from tissue paper, construction paper or draw red flowers and
cut them out.
Make a kite or windsock from material around the
Bake a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to the
Make windchimes out of old keys or odd metal
items and hang them up.
Make doves from paper and decorate them. Fill a front window of your house or place on
your front door.
Make thank you cards for people at your church
who have helped you on your faith journey.
Learn a few words in different languages and
practice them all day.
Read the book, The Day When God Made Church:
A Child’s First Book About Pentecost, by Rebekah McLeod Hutto.
Baptism is one of the joyous gatherings of family,
friends and church. Besides being one of
the Episcopal Church’s major Sacrament, it is a major ritual and tradition in
many of our families.
Once a child is old enough to understand what is about to
take place, about three years of age, it is important to include the child in
preparation for Baptism. Once Baptized,
it is important to have a celebration annually of this important milestone in the
child’s life and in the family life. It
is a reminder of the spiritual/faith journey that was started and a good time
to reevaluate where we are on that path.
Child Preparation/Family Preparation:
Start by reading Jesus’ Baptism (Luke1-2; Matthew 1-2:15).
Discuss what other stories in the Bible involving water? (Noah, Exodus, Woman at the Well)
What does Baptism mean to the parents?
Talk about Baptism (The Book of Common Prayer pages 858-859) for parents and older children. For younger, put in simple words what is written in the BCP.
For children 10 and under, I read with them: Today is a Baptism Day by Anna V. Osteneo Moore. Asking at each page, I wonder what this means to you? Add to what is said to help them grasp an understanding of what the Baptism Covenant is.
Review the “what will happen” at the Baptism (the mechanics) to the child.
This is a special day! Discuss ways to celebrate this day and going forward each year.
At home, ask them to look at other family member’s baptisms’ pictures, candles, bulletins, and other memorabilia. I give them a copy of the book to reread a few times before the big day and encourage them to call me or come see me with any questions that may come up.
Celebrating an Anniversary of Baptism- Here are ideas and ways to honor the day in the years to come! The family is encouraged to develop their own tradition to celebrate. Ideas include:
Lighting their Baptismal Candle and each family member saying a blessing about the person and closing it with prayer.
Giving the child a book of age appropriate prayers or Bible with the whole family encircling the child or laying hands on the child while a prayer is said.
Get out pictures from the child’s Baptism, with each person saying how the child has grown in faith or on their life journey. Close the time with the child having a cupcake or some small celebration treat after a prayer is said for the child.
Ask the Godparents over for dinner on each anniversary of the Baptism or some other person who is important in the child’s faith life.
Each person in the family writes a short poem or prayer for the child and then reads them out loud while the Baptismal Candle is lit. Put them in a scrap book that is added to each year.
Easter should be our most joyous season, yet with the “Stay
at Home” order caused by the COVID-19 Virus, it can feel anything, but
joyous. We are all feeling worn out,
frazzled, and grieving. Here are some
ways for families to keep Easter and remind them of the joy of the season.
Holy Time: Set a
time each day (if that is too ambitious, then once a week) for a holy
time. Explain to the children that this
time is to practice Sabbath. Set the
alarm so that when the predetermined time arrives, it is a reminder to
start. Ideas include, sitting in prayer
with eyes closed, practice some deep breathing or “box” breathing, sitting in a
circle and saying what you are grateful for today, or praying a song (offering
a song as a prayer to God and then maintain a few moments of silence after it
Find a way that works for your family and make it a
Finding Joy: Each
family member has a day and a predetermined time, all the family participates
in what brings the person joy. Start
with a prayer, let the person explain what the activity or thing is that brings
them joy, all try it and then end with sharing what each person is grateful
about the activity or thing, then close in prayer.
Each person in the family design a butterfly. Put them in the front window to remind people
walking by that it is Easter. Hearts and
signs can be added too.
Empty Tomb Stone:
On a walk, find a rock that can be decorated. When you get home, use permanent markers,
paint, ribbon, and other craft objects to decorate the rock. While you are decorating the rock, each time
a color is added or an object, say a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Place the finished rock or rocks in a bowl to
be used for prayer during Holy Time or Prayer Time.
Scavenger Hunt Walk:
As you go for a walk outside, look for signs of new life. Try to remember what certain bushes, trees,
or paths looked like in Winter. Notice
the differences now. Remind yourself
that this time will pass to and we will enter Spring. After you have found 10 things, say a prayer
to God, then continue the hunt until you find 10 more, then pray and continue
repeating until you arrive home again.
Prayer Walk: Before you leave home, each person chooses a
color. Every time they see that color on
the walk, they offer a prayer to God.
Easter Pen Pals: Make a list of people you miss seeing
and don’t forget the people, who may not be considered friends but are a
regular part of your life (like the janitor at school or church). Each week of Easter send a letter to one
person on your list telling them that you miss them, what you like about them,
and what is going on at home for you.
Encourage them to write back. The
more letters you send, the more you will get in return.
Educating and helping families to find ways to honor the
week before Easter, known as Holy Week, is one of the many blessings church
leaders can give. It is the basis of our
Christianity. It is the greatest example
of love in action.
The week is full of drama, yet so much beauty. It is a chance for families to dive deep into
their faith. It gives a way to talk
about a God, who loves with a completeness.
Christmas means very little without the walk to Easter.
There are five ways that I have found very successful for
families. Some start at church, but move
into the home. They include: A Walk
Through Holy Week, Holy Week Countdown Calendar, Holy Week Passports, Maundy
Thursday Re-enactment, and Devotionals for Holy Week.
The most important thing is to keep Holy Week. Giving just one activity to do a day keeps it fresh on a family’s mind. Even sending out a prayer a day this week with a small thing to do helps families.
A Walk Through Holy Week
I host an event either on Palm Sunday or sometime the
week before called “A Walk through Holy Week.”
Starting with Palm Sunday, we spend about 20-30 minutes on each
day. We read the Scripture, discuss what
happens in the liturgy at the service, and make a symbol for that service (or
build a Lego). Ideas for “symbol”
include making something for a countdown calendar (either paper or felt),
creating a picture book with a description on the day for the congregation, or
making a Lego to put on display.
Palm Sunday-Jesus Enters Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark
11:1-11; Luke 19: 28-40; John 12: 12-19
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why,
talk through the Palm Sunday liturgy, read the Collect for the Sunday of the
Passion: Palm Sunday, and then make a palm leaf cross (or Lego of Jesus’
Monday in Holy Week- Jesus Cleans House: Matthew
21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-17. Read or tell the story,
wonder what happened and why, talk through basic of Eucharist (part 1), read
the collect for the day, and then add a “gold” coin to the calendar (or Lego of
Jesus throwing out the money changers.)
Tuesday in Holy Week-Jesus Predicts His Death: Mark
8:31-38; Luke 18: 31-33; John 12: 20-30.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk through basic
of Eucharist (part 2), read the collect for the day, and then add a heart with
the Alpha-Omega Sign (or Jesus with his followers and them not understanding.)
Wednesday in Holy Week-Anointing of Jesus’ Feet: Matthew
26: 6-13; Mark 14: 3-9; Luke 7: 36-50; John 12: 1-11. Read or tell the story, wonder what happened
and why, talk through basic Eucharist (part 3), read the collect of the day,
and then add a foot print or cut out of a foot (or Lego of Jesus getting feet washed.)
Maundy Thursday-Dinner in Upper Room and a New
Commandment: Matthew 26: 14-39; Mark 14:
22-25; Luke 22: 1-27; John 13: 1-38.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk about the
Maundy Thursday Service (foot washing, stripping of altar) and remind them of
our communion. Read the Collect for
Maundy Thursday. Add a chalice and wafer
or symbol of the bread and wine (or Lego of the Last Supper.)
Good Friday-The Crucifixion: Matthew 27: 32-66; Mark 15:
21-47; Luke 23: 26-56; John 19: 16-42.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, (using the
Stations of the Cross works very well), talk about the Good Friday Service,
read the Collect for Good Friday, and add a cross (or build a Lego of the
Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil-The Burial of Jesus…We Wait:
Matthew 27: 57-66; John 19: 38-42. Read
or tell the story, wonder what happened and what everyone was feeling, talk
about the Easter Vigil Service, read the Collect for Holy Saturday, and add a
“tomb” or rock (or Lego of the tomb and waiting.)
Easter-The Resurrection: He is Risen! Matthew 28:1-10;
Mark 16: 1-12; Luke 24: 1-12; John 20: 1-10.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk about the
Easter Service, read the collect for Easter, and add an Easter lily with “He is
Risen!” (or make a Lego of the Empty tomb.)
This can be very time consuming and so may be divided by
days and done over the whole of Lent or only pick certain days to talk
about. It is worth the time commitment
as it gives a deep understanding and expectation to Holy Week. Families take their countdown calendar of
Holy Week home and when Holy Week comes, they put up a symbol each day and are
reminded of the scripture. More
importantly, it opens a conversation about the life, death and resurrection of
Holy Week Countdown Calendar
Countdown Calendar is very similar to the Walk Through Holy Week, but is home
based. It is a “home kit” for Holy Week.
It can be done in several forms. The
first form is a paper calendar with information about each day including
scripture verse, prayer, and devotion.
Another form is a booklet, with each day being a
page. The page would include Scripture,
devotion, collect of the day, discussion questions, and an activity the family
could choose to do.
A Child’s Countdown Calendar would be made of links of
paper leading to a picture of an Easter Morning. Each link would include a brief story and a
A Symbol Calendar is made of felt or wide ribbon. The symbols mentioned in “Walk Through Holy
Week” are put on and off using Velcro. A
booklet with the scripture, devotion, collect of the day, and discussion
questions is included with it.
Holy Week Passports
Holy Week Passports quickly became a favorite of children
and adults! We had families who attended
a Holy Week Service just to get their sticker.
I created the passports in house. I wrote what each day meant, anything special
happening in the Service and gave a place for a sticker. For the cover, I used light purple thick
paper. We printed in house. I designed the stickers using Avery Circular
Stickers and the template from their website.
Let’s travel with Jesus and his friends for Holy Week.
Travelers need to carry a passport when they travel to exciting places—and this
booklet is your passport for Holy Week.
On or before Palm Sunday, find a special place to keep
your passport. It could be on the table beside your bed, or even in your car.
Every day in Holy Week, read the Bible passage, either with a printed Bible or
on www.biblegateway.com. Then explore the question on each page and
pray the Lord’s Prayer. Afterwards, award yourself with the passport sticker
for that day! If you would like to share
a picture of your passport as it fills up, please post it to our Facebook page.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this
day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Each day is a separate page. Children love it if you add a picture page
like a real passport.
Children love to be involved in the movement of this
service. The focus is bringing the story
of the Passover and for Jesus, the last meal with his friends to life. Using a low table, the evening includes
candles, different types of bread, different types of grapes, sample of the
meal, washing feet supplies, and pillows to sit on.
We gather outside the room and I send two children ahead
to check to see if the room is ready.
The low table is covered with a beige table cover and surrounded with
pillows. Candles (I use battery
operated) fill the room and are the only light.
We all enter the room and sit around the table. I tell them the story of how the Passover
came to be. Then I move on to the story
of Jesus and the importance of this feast day to him. I describe what it could have been like. I tell them Jesus’ words about the bread and
wine. We talk about our communion. We then pass different types of bread around,
tasting a little from each, choosing the favorites and taste differences. We then talk about how wine is made and pass
around the different grapes. Then we
hear about the New Commandment. We talk
about What Jesus was saying and how different it would be for his followers to
hear it. We discuss what it means for
us. We then move from the table and each
is asked if they would like to have their feet washed and/or wash someone’s
feet. Once all, who wish to participate,
are done. We sit in a circle and discuss
what it felt to wash another ‘s feet and to get our feet washed.
We then talk about the betrayal and the friends
present. The children generally have
lots of questions. / We sit in silence to feel a little of what the evening
held for Jesus.
We move into the garden.
We sit in a circle and I tell them about Jesus going to the garden to
pray. We talk of how his friends fell
asleep. We wonder what everyone
felt. We pray. We talk about Jesus and his time in the
garden. We talk about things we are
Next, we talk about what is going to happen during the
service. I mention communion and to
listen to the words remembering this night.
I invite them to sit in the front pews with me after they have had
communion with their family to watch the stripping of the altar. I answer their questions about that.
We talk about sadness.
We talk about hopelessness. We
talk about darkness. I remind them that
Easter is coming and this is not the end, but we have to sit in this moment
before we can move into Easter.
The children are very engaged when we return to the
sanctuary for the remainder of the service.
When the children join me to watch the stripping of the altar, they are
in awe and point out many things. I
allow them to tell me what they are seeing and ask questions. I have a “splash zone” around the first few
pews so that those who sit there know it may be a little noisy.
Children of all ages learn from this service. I, also, learn from the children as they
respond, question, and discuss the events of the evening.
We leave the church in silence, knowing we still have
Good Friday, but Easter is coming; God will not leave us alone in the dark.
Holy Week Devotionals
I have worked with children, with youth, and with adults
to create a week-long devotional for Holy Week.
The devotionals are available starting on Palm Sunday. The whole congregation loves getting them and
following along. I have even illustrated
them with pictures based on what the person or class has written.
The children loved doing this as a Wednesday evening
project. We used all of Lent to create
the booklet. Each class, we would talk about scripture, what we think we should
get out of it. How we can do better or
differently. How can we love Jesus? Is there anything we want to say to our
church family? Then we write a prayer to go with it.
Devotionals written by those in our church family mean
something more to us than one we purchase.
They take a little planning, but what often comes from it is beautiful.