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.

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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.

 

Meet the Author Webinars

hand-laptop-notebook-technologyWe are pleased to announce a new program called Meet the Author Webinars. We are inviting new and established authors of books with religious and/or spiritual themes to present a 30-minute webinar which will give a brief summary of their book and include a question and answer period for participants. There is no charge for authors to present a webinar and no charge for attendees.

Authors will need to prepare a PowerPoint or similar presentation and participate in a brief practice webinar. The use of a webcam is optional. We provide the software, which is GoToWebinar. We also provide an organizer for the webinar and technical support. We handle the registrations and will assist authors in publicizing their webinar.

The webinars are recorded and we will list them on our website. Authors are also free to publicize the link to view the webinar on their website, publisher’s websites, in emails, etc.

We have been offering webinars since 2011 and have thousands of people from around the country and the world watch or register for our webinars each year. Information about our Meet the Author webinars will be sent to all those who have registered for previous webinars.

You can see the list of upcoming and recorded webinars on our website.

If you are interested in participating in our Meet the Author Webinars, please email our senior consultant, Debbie Kolacki.

PRC – Practical Resources for Churches is a non-profit ecumenical resource center for churches. We assist churches in all areas of ministry and present webinars, workshops, and retreats.

-Debbie Kolacki

Celebrating the Special Days after Easter

pinwheel-9229_1920Easter is the holiest and most important holiday in the Christian year, but there are still special days to celebrate after Easter. Along with holidays of the church year which include Ascension Sunday, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday, the secular holidays of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can also be recognized in Sunday school and other Christian Education settings.

Mother’s Day is celebrated this year on May 14th. If your children attend part or all of the worship service, work with your worship planners to include the kids in some way. The Re:think Worship website has some ideas for this in the article “Creative Mother’s Day Ideas for Church.” For the classroom, you can plan a lesson based on God and mothers. The article “29 Mother’s Day Ideas for Your Children’s Ministry” includes complete lesson plans for preschool, elementary, and preteen children, as well as suggestions for crafts and games. Be sensitive to the situations of adults and children who may find Mother’s Day to be a painful time. The United Methodist Communications website has an article titled “Honor Moms on Mother’s Day without Hurting Others” and the Children’s Ministry website offers advice in “Mother’s Day and Kids Who Have Lost Their Mom.”

Not all churches celebrate Ascension Sunday, but you might want to consider teaching your children about this important event which is mentioned in the Book of Acts, especially if you are focusing on the early Church at this time of year. Ascension Day this year is Thursday, May 25th, and Ascension Sunday is May 28th. The Building Faith website offers “6 Resources for Teaching the Ascension” and you can find additional crafts, coloring pages, and other activities on Pinterest by searching for Jesus’ Ascension Children’s Activities.

Pentecost is a fun and joyful holiday and one that seems made for children. PRC – Practical Resources for Churches recently offered a webinar called “Celebrating Pentecost with Children,” which shared lots of ideas which can be used in worship, Sunday school, and in intergenerational settings. You can click here to register and view this free webinar. The Ministry Matters website in an article titled “Make a Big Deal about Pentecost!” offers Pentecost activities for children and adults. The Day When God Made Church is a beautifully written and illustrated book for children which tells the story of the first Pentecost and also includes ways for churches and families to celebrate this special day.

Another somewhat neglected special day is Trinity Sunday, which falls on June 4th this year. The Trinity is not easy for kids to understand, and the adults in your congregation may also struggle with the concept of the Trinity. This excerpt from The Prayer Guide to Christian Education offers scripture passages, a short explanation, and some discussion questions. The Sermons4Kids website offers not just children’s sermons but also group activities as well as coloring and activity sheets. They have a number of resources on the Trinity.  

Father’s Day falls on June 18th this year. The DLTK website offers Father’s Day resources for younger kids including an explanation of the day, coloring pages, crafts, puzzles, recipes, and music. The article “21 Father’s Day Ideas for Your Children’s Ministry” on the Children’s Ministry website includes complete lesson plans as well as craft and gift ideas. As with Mother’s Day celebrations, be sensitive to those in your congregation who may struggle with Father’s Day. The Interpreter website offers an article entitled “Father’s and Mother’s Day Get Complicated” which you may find helpful.

-Debbie Kolacki

Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter

Make-Room a Child's Guide to Lent and EasterFor parents and Christian educators, explaining to children the meaning of Lent and telling them the stories of Holy Week can be challenging. Christmas emphasizes the birth of a baby surrounded by animals and angels. Before you know it, that baby is a grown man who is arrested, put on trial, and condemned to death. It’s tempting to concentrate on Easter Sunday, but children won’t truly understand what happened that day unless they have some understanding of the events that preceded it.

Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter by Laura Alary with illustrations by Ann Boyajian is a wonderful tool adults can utilize to help children see Lent in a positive light and understand the last days of Jesus’ life and his resurrection. The book reads like a poem; the illustrations are beautiful and simple and suit the words of the book.

Most of Make Room is focused on Lent and how Christians make time to be with God during the season. Children learn about prayer and how we talk with God in different ways – with words, music, and colors — as well as how we make silence, read Bible stories, and pay attention to how we live. While acknowledging that making room for God during Lent can be hard, it is also portrayed as a positive action.

During Lent we make space.
We clean our whole house.
We sort our clothes and toys and books
and give away what we do not use.
It is hard at first.
I like my things and I want to keep all of them.
But someone else might need them more than I do.
Besides, I like having space in my room.
It makes me feel lighter.

There are also stories from the life of Jesus including how Jesus went out to the desert to make time for God. The description of Holy Week is simple yet includes all the essentials. The events and the sadness of Good Friday are acknowledged but quickly followed by the joy of Easter morning.

This book could be used in children’s ministry or a family setting; it could even be given as a gift to adults who would enjoy the simple, contemplative feelings it invokes. It is available from Paraclete Press; the list price is $15.99 but right now it is on sale for $11.19. You can also order it from Amazon and other online booksellers.

Paraclete Press provided me with a review copy of this book.

-Debbie Kolacki