Activities to Help Families Feel Connected During the Summer

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 beyond places. 

*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 their doorstep.

*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.

Helping Families Celebrate Pentecost

During this time of quarantine, here are some simple ways churches can get the celebration feeling:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 service.
  3. Film a video of children playing with things symbolizing the wind (Bubbles, pinwheels, kites) and use as part of the service.
  4. 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.

  1. Talk about the forms of the Holy Spirit and play with bubbles, kites or pinwheels.
  2. Create a red feast.  Prepare foods that are red (strawberries, watermelon, cherries, etc.)
  3. 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.
  4. Make a kite or windsock from material around the house.
  5. Bake a cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to the church.
  6. Make windchimes out of old keys or odd metal items and hang them up.
  7. Make doves from paper and decorate them.  Fill a front window of your house or place on your front door.
  8. Make thank you cards for people at your church who have helped you on your faith journey.
  9. Learn a few words in different languages and practice them all day.
  10. Read the book, The Day When God Made Church: A Child’s First Book About Pentecost, by Rebekah McLeod Hutto.

Helping a Child Prepare and Families Honor a Child’s Baptism

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:

  1. Start by reading Jesus’ Baptism (Luke1-2; Matthew 1-2:15).
  2. Discuss what other stories in the Bible involving water?  (Noah, Exodus, Woman at the Well)
  3. What does Baptism mean to the parents? 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Review the “what will happen” at the Baptism (the mechanics) to the child.
  7. This is a special day!  Discuss ways to celebrate this day and going forward each year.
  8. 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:

  1. Lighting their Baptismal Candle and each family member saying a blessing about the person and closing it with prayer.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Helping Families Keep Easter at Home

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 is finished.)

Find a way that works for your family and make it a priority.

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.

Easter Butterflies:  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.

Helping Families Keep Holy Week

Holy Week Formation

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’ triumphant entry.

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 crucifixion.)

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 Jesus.

Holy Week Countdown Calendar

 Holy Week 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 prayer.

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  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.

Maundy Thursday

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 afraid of. 

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.