Giveaway for “That Baby in the Manger” Children’s Book

That Baby in the MangerThat Baby in the Manger was recently published by Paraclete Press, which is providing two copies of it for this giveaway. The book’s illustrations are fun and child-friendly, while the content encourages families and Sunday school classes to discuss what Christmas means for each of us. The first twelve pages of the book can be viewed on Paraclete’s website.

The book begins with a group of first grade students entering a church to look at the crèche set up for Christmas, as elderly Mr. Gonzales is praying in one of the pews. One little boy asks where the baby Jesus is and is told that he’ll be placed in the manger on Christmas morning. The children remember that the statue of baby Jesus has blonde hair, although the parish priest tells them that Jesus probably had very dark hair. As the story progresses, Mr. Gonzales helps the children learn that “no matter what color Jesus’s hair was, he came for all of them, no matter what they looked like themselves. Jesus loves them all.”

A free downloadable Discussion and Activity Guide is available with questions about Advent, the history of the Christmas crèche, and the themes of the book. The activities include directions for making a Unity Poster, a word matching game, and suggestions for retelling the Nativity story.

To enter the giveaway, send an email to debbie@prcli.org with your full name and “The Baby in the Manger giveaway” in the subject line. Please note, we can only mail the books to addresses in the US. The giveaway ends on Friday, November 17!

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Giveaway for “Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas”

Look A Child's Guide to Advent and ChristmasLook! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas is a new book from Paraclete Press and is beautiful both in spirit and appearance. The poetic narration makes difficult concepts, such as “waiting for someone born so long ago,” easier for both children and adults to understand. The illustrations are subtle, as though viewed through a gauzy light. The story takes us from the people of the Bible who waited for redemption to the people of the church today who are still waiting. The book not only introduces children to the powerful symbolism of Advent, especially that of light and darkness, but also talks about Advent as a time for spiritual practices such as journaling, painting, using prayer beads, and serving others. The book ends with the image of a congregation on Christmas Eve in a darkened church which becomes filled with the light of candles: “The Christ light grows and grows, until all our faces are glowing. I can feel the mystery.” Reading this book, I can feel the mystery too.

Paraclete Press and PRC – Practical Resources for Churches are offering a giveaway of two copies of this lovely book. The last day to enter the giveaway is October 31, 2017. For a chance to win a copy, send an email to debbie@prcli.org with “Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent & Christmas” in the subject line.

‘Twas the Evening of Christmas Book Giveaway

Twas the Evening of ChristmasThose of us who work with children in the church are always looking for ways to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas. Often, the message children receive from TV and other media is focused on material gifts and Santa Claus. If we want our children to grow up as caring, giving individuals, we need to share with them the story of the baby who came to earth to show the world how to love.

Telling the story of Jesus’ humble birth can be done in many ways; one way is by reading some of the beautiful Christmas storybooks that are out there. This year, there is a new addition to the collection for families and those in children’s ministry, and it’s a winner. ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas, as you might guess from the title, tells the story of the birth of Jesus using the familiar rhythms and phrasing of Clement C. Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I can envision a family on Christmas Eve reading Moore’s poem and following that with a reading of ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas.

The book is written by Glenys Nellist who skillfully brings the story of that famous night to life with verses such as these:

The pigeons were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of breadcrumbs danced round in their heads,
The cows closed their eyes, and the oxen laid down;
The doves cooed so gently; the lambs made no sound.

The illustrations by Elena Selivanova are captivating, filled with plenty of the animals which kids love, as well as characters with various facial expressions to help children identify the feelings that Mary, Joseph, and others experienced on the evening of the first Christmas.

Author Glenys Nellist and PRC – Practical Resources for Churches are offering a giveaway of two copies of ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas. One book will be sent to a randomly picked winner who sends an email to debbie@prcli.org with “’Twas the Evening of Christmas giveaway” in the subject line; the deadline for the email is October 24, 2017. Another copy will be sent to one person who attends the free webinar Glenys is giving about her book on October 24, 2017; you can click here to register to attend in person or to view the recording after the broadcast.

If you’d like more ideas for helping children focus on the true meaning of Christmas, join me for a free webinar on October 5, 2017, called “Helping Families Celebrate a Holy Advent”; click here to register for the live broadcast or to watch the recording after the broadcast date.

Observing the Season of Creation in Sunday School

st-francis-373549_960_720For most churches, the time in the church year between Pentecost Sunday and the First Sunday of Advent is Ordinary Time. However, in more and more churches, a new church season is being celebrated, the Season of Creation, which usually runs from September 1 through October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. According to the Season of Creation website, it is the time of the year when “Christians are invited to pray and care for creation.” An article on the United Church of Christ website entitled “An Introduction to Season of Creation: A Liturgical Earthcare Practice” by Robert Shore-Goss states that this season “can be a time to introduce your church to environmental issues through sermons, prayers, educational programs, and children’s programs.”

Churches observing the Season of Creation can focus on creation and creation care in Sunday worship services or by offering special prayer services. There are many resources for worship available online, including those on denominational worship websites. Ideas for children’s sermons during this time are available on the Children’s Addresses page of the Season of Creation website. Seasons of the Spirit, a lectionary based Sunday school curriculum for all ages which also includes worship materials, offers resources for the Season of Creation.

In Sunday school, churches may decide to follow the special lectionary readings and focus for each Sunday in the Years A, B, and C, or might choose to plan lessons based on other creation-related topics. Many Sunday school curriculums start the Sunday school year with the story of creation. You can find creation lesson ideas and activities online; for little ones check out DLTK’s Growing Together’s resources on The Creation Story. Pinterest also has plenty of ideas that focus on Creation for children of all ages, and the Rethinking Youth Ministry website has ideas for prayer stations for youth that are based on nature. For adults, the GreenFaith website offers a free, three-week, downloadable study called Splendor.

The Season of Creation usually ends on October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, although some churches may extend the season further into the fall. We are seeing more churches celebrating St. Francis by offering a Blessing of the Animals, usually on the Sunday closest to October 4. Your Sunday school can also celebrate by learning how God calls us to care for the animals God created.

You can read a short biography of St. Francis from the Holy Spirit Interactive website here and there is a lesson plan available called “Pets Are a Blessing” on the Ministry-To-Children website. The Real Life at Home blog has “10+ Ideas for Celebrating St. Francis of Assisi with Young Ones” which can be adapted for use in Sunday school; it includes a list children’s books about St. Francis. This is also a good time to introduce children and youth to the Prayer of St. Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Get Ready for Sunday School

If you need some assistance and/or inspiration to jump-start your Christian Education programs for the new year, consider attending a free webinar offered by PRC – Practical Resources for Churches on August 10, 2017 at 7 PM Eastern time. The title of the webinar is “Getting Ready – for CE Directors” and it’s led by Christian educator Elizabeth Christie who will be discussing an effective schedule for communications, programming, staffing, facility maintenance, and administrative duties. Don’t worry if you can’t attend the live broadcast; the webinar will be recorded. Register here to attend the webinar or receive a link to view the recording.

Are you considering a new curriculum? Check out our free downloadable Sunday School Curriculum Review booklet which was just revised this month. Among the latest news in curriculum is that Group Publishing is discontinuing its large group/small group curriculum, Living Inside Out. In other news, Deep Blue Kids, the children’s Sunday school curriculum offered by the United Methodist Church, has added Deep Blue Life, a “downloadable, customizable curriculum option that focuses on living life faithfully.” It includes Bible stories, stories about faith leaders, and spiritual practices. Deep Blue has also added some new resources to its product line including an intergenerational weekend experience, leaders’ guides for Kids Church, family take-home sheets, activity bulletins, and more.

If you’re thinking about the future of your Sunday school, consider joining a group of like-minded folks in our three-week online course The Changing 21st Century Sunday School. The course runs from July 24 through August 14, 2017 and we’ll be exploring ways to handle the challenges of the 21st century Sunday school. We’ll also be talking about the possibly of doing Sunday school in a different way or at a different time. The course is eligible for 1.0 CEU; click on the link in this paragraph to register and for more information.

New teachers or experienced teachers looking to grow can enroll in the online course Called to Teach which also is eligible for 1.0 CEU. In the course we’ll be looking at teaching as a calling and ministry and will cover faith development, age level characteristics, spiritual practices with children, the Bible, church history, curriculum, lesson planning, the teaching environment, and partnering with families and the congregation. Click on the link in this paragraph to register for the course which runs from September 18 through October 9, 2017.

What more can we do to help you get ready for Sunday school and another year of children’s ministry programming? Email me at debbie@prcli.org with any suggestions you have, include webinar topics you’d like to suggest.

Get Ready for Sunday School

VBS Follow-Up Is Vital!

Boy with sunflowersIn many churches, summertime means taking a break from the usual Christian Education programming and focusing on special events such as Vacation Bible School (VBS). By now, VBS planning is well underway as staff and children look forward to having fun doing crafts, singing, playing games and, of course, learning about God’s love for all of us. Whether VBS lasts for a week or is offered in a different timeframe, by the time it’s over you might just want to collapse as VBS earworms play on and on in your head. But don’t forget to follow up after your program so you can connect with new families and get feedback while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Make sure you offer an invitation to attend Sunday school, worship services, and other activities to any VBS families who aren’t already part of your church. Having your worship service continue the VBS theme on the Sunday after VBS is a great way to encourage new families to attend; have the kids participate by singing or in other ways and you’ll have an even better chance of getting families through your doors.

Get your pastor or outreach team involved in follow-up and make sure you have a brochure or other resources available with information about your church. This can be given out to families on the last day of VBS, mailed, or emailed.

The Children’s Ministry magazine has more ideas for VBS follow-up in an article titled “No Fail VBS Follow-Up Ideas.”

Evaluations from staff and parents can help you improve your VBS program and make you aware of problems that may need to be addressed. The Ministry-to-Children website offers downloadable staff and volunteer evaluation forms. You can find examples of VBS parent surveys and create your own online survey for free on SurveyMonkey.

Enter to Win a Free Copy of “The Day When God Made Church”

The Day When God Made Church

THE GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED.

I fell in love with The Day When God Made Church: A Child’s Book About Pentecost the first time I saw it. This was shortly after it was published last year with words by Rebekah McLeod Hutto and illustrations by Stephanie Haig. Hutto’s language captures the wonder and excitement of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early Christians on the first Pentecost, while Haig’s illustrations are colorful, fun, and inspiring. The publisher, Paraclete Press, lets you view the entire book on its website. You can also watch a video about the making of the illustrations. The book would make a wonderful addition to a children’s ministry collection or as a gift to a child or even an adult who would appreciate the beautiful words and drawings.

I first heard about the book last year when PRC presented a webinar titled “Worship for All Ages: Ideas for Pentecost” led by Karen Ware Jackson, pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC. (The free webinar was recorded and can be viewed using the link in this paragraph.)  Rev. Jackson suggested using The Day When God Made Church in a worship service for all ages. Calling the book “amazing” and “inspiring,” she said it could be simply read, as the words stand on their own, or read while showing the images (after getting permission from the publisher). She also suggested that children or even the entire congregation could enact the images as the words are read, as in this passage:

A new sound comes.
WORDS!
Words, like raindrops,
fall across the room.
Some with LOUD sounds,
some with quiet WHISPERS,
words like DRUMBEATS,
words that TIPTOE through the air.

The last page of the book includes ideas for parents, educators, and pastors for celebrating Pentecost with children using symbols, participation in worship, and even holding a birthday celebration for the church.

Paraclete Press is giving away three free copies of The Day When God Made Church. To enter the giveaway, just comment on this blog post or like PRC’s Facebook page.