Resource, Devotional
Bless the families in your congregation with this free Christmas devotional and plant a seed to encourage them to resolve to talk about faith and to spend time together in God's story each day in the New Year.
December 4, 2014 1 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet
“Recommendations for the best Christmas children’s story book…GO!” was the challenge. Here are the responses.
December 1, 2014 0 2 comments
Resource, Type Not Listed
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and, if you’re feeling pressure to put on a pageant but haven’t yet nailed down the details, here are some ideas.
November 18, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog
It happens all the time in our ministries—new babies are born, family dynamics change, a time of adjustment occurs, until finally a new normal is established.
October 21, 2014 1 3 comments
Q&A
Have you come across something or developed something to help kids learn about and experience the spiritual habit of fasting? By fasting, I don't necessarily mean fasting from food, but abstaining from something for a specific period of time for the sake of seeking God more fully.
October 20, 2014 0 0 comments
Q&A
With just 40 minutes for Sunday school it's been hard for me to squeeze in prayer time. What's worked for you? I need some ideas!
September 30, 2014 0 3 comments
Blog
How can we make listening a key part of our time together with kids?
September 9, 2014 1 0 comments
Resource, Activity or Game
I always like to spend a few minutes playing a getting-to-know-you game on the first day of Sunday school. Here are two of my favorites.
September 2, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog
The answer seems obvious: to teach the Bible story or lesson we've been assigned. But I wonder if it's more nuanced than that.
August 26, 2014 2 3 comments
Blog
Here's an idea for kicking off the year with a creative project that brings kids together.
July 29, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog
Creative ideas from churches that are trying new things with this age old tradition.
July 22, 2014 0 4 comments
Discussion Topic

It's curriculum selection season--which materials have you found especially helpful for sharing God's word with kids, teens, or adults? 

July 8, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Article
Here's a pattern that has proven helpful for hosting a youth retreat focused on the Heidelberg Catechism
July 1, 2014 1 0 comments
Blog
The Circle of Grace curriculum teaches children and youth how to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual boundaries; recognize when boundary violations are about to occur; and demonstrate how to take action when boundaries are threatened or violated.
June 30, 2014 0 1 comments
Resource, Article
Here's a great article on working with volunteers in children's ministry, but all the suggestions listed can also be used in any other area where volunteers are engaged in ministry.
June 27, 2014 1 0 comments
Blog
As your faith formation programs switch gears for the summer, consider these preplanning ideas to help you kick off next year's Sunday school season with success.
May 13, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog
Ideas for making the last day of Sunday school special.
May 6, 2014 1 1 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording
If your church is considering a change in Sunday school or children's curriculum, this webinar will provide practical tips on finding a curriculum that fits your theology and your context.
April 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog
At a time when the diagnosis of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and learning disabilities is on the rise, it seems wise for churches to consider investing in someone who can help us understand how best to love one another in Christ.
April 22, 2014 2 4 comments
Resource, Presentation
Join me for a one hour webinar that explores the nuts and bolts of curriculum selection and offers an overview of Faith Alive's three core children's curricula.
April 15, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog
Are you expecting a few new folks in worship this Sunday? Consider these easy ideas for embracing Easter guests.
April 15, 2014 0 2 comments
Blog
Is our Sunday school structure holding us back from deeper discipleship with children?
April 8, 2014 2 4 comments
Resource, Website
This blog is a creative source for ministry inspiration, especially during special seasons of the church year.
April 7, 2014 0 0 comments

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What a wonderful idea, Janice! (My tear inducing picture book is Koala Lou by Mem Fox. It's a great example of unconditional love.)  

We have started reading 24 Christmas books for 24 days of Dec. at our house. I admit they aren't all Christian books, but there are some really delightful books out there. Sunday I cried reading "An Orange for Frankie" byPatricia Polacco with Abby and laughed at "Froggy's Best Christmas." I also love Jan Brett's "The Animals' Santa." Elizabeth read a board book to me this morning "The Christmas Story" by Patricia Pingry. "The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado is beautiful! Oh, the list goes on...

 

Beautiful words, Jolanda. Thanks for the many ways you've supported children's ministries in the CRC and beyond. Blessings on this new phase. We trust that God will nudge someone to continue the good work you've begun here on the Sunday School section of The Network.

Thanks for all the ways you have blessed us a children's ministry leaders, Jo! And thanks for the hope-filled encouragement you've given us in this post. We will miss you! 

Congratulations and best wishes for you and your son! 

Thanks for the advice, Mary & John! Sounds like starting right off with prayer would be the best plan. Maybe I'll ask them to fill out a prayer request card as they walk in the door and place it in a bowl. Then we could draw the cards and pray for each other before we move into the story...

Prayer may be the best teaching moment of the whole class.   If you think you are squeezing prayer in, that will send a subliminal message about the importance of prayer.  So I would suggest that prayer is as much of a priority as anything, and therefore the rest of the class can fit around the prayer.  Don't squeeze in the prayer;  squeeze in the rest.

I teach 4th/5th and I prefer to start with prayer to set the tone and clear our minds. If I think it's going to take too much time to cover each request individually, we share them as a group, and I cover all of them in one prayer (Lord, you know all of our concerns, both spoken and unspoken, etc.).

Hi Karen,

Thank you for the guidance.  This litany will do nicely!

Peace to you!

--Leon

Hi Leon, 

On the Dwell curriculum site there is a free downloadable Commissioning Litany that might be helpful. I love it because it involves children too!  Here's the link: http://dwell.faithaliveresources.org/_downloadables/_pdf/topics_for_coordinators/3_Commissioning_Litany.pdf

Karen De Boer, Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministries, CRCNA

 

 

Hello Jolanda,

Thank you for this article.  Just what I needed to hear as we begin another season of Sunday School in our local church!  I agree: the best gift we can give our students is a love for God's Word and a transformed self.

Say, we are having a Sunday School kick-off this Sunday.  Do you have any prayers and blessings for such an occasion?

Thank you kindly and God bless!

--Leon H. Johnston

Lacombe, AB

That's awesome, Reg! It's so important that kids feel that they are part of the whole church community from a very young age and that their gifts and contributions matter. 

A few years ago, at First CRC Orillia, the stewardship team provided envelopes for the Sunday School classes. Parents received the tax receipt and the children received a letter showing how much they had donated for the year, We used the "World Renew Catalog" and about every six months the children decided what they would buy. We then purchased the items and asked "World Renew" to send a letter thanking the children. In addition, the stewardship team would bring cake and ice cream to the Sunday School to celebrate and to confirm what items had been purchased. . A PowerPoint presentation of the children's ministry was shown to the congregation during "children's time" at front of church. Giving went up substantially.

Also we gave each child a bank that had three compartments. One for giving, another for saving and a third for spending.

 

 

What a great idea! Thanks for sharing, Jamie. Love the way you kept track of how much you raised! 

This past year, our kids and congregation brought in non-perishable items each week for a local food bank.  We weighed all the items each month or so and kept track with a North American animal of that weight-- so at 395lbs we had a harp seal, 621lbs polar bear, 794lbs grizzly bear, etc.  The deacons came on board and encouraged the whole congregation to help too, we ended up donating a total 1129lbs of goods... a (smallish) moose!

Thanks for posting about this excellent resource. We believe it's one of the best tools available for equipping children and youth with the skills they need to actively participate in creating a safe environment for themselves and others. It will help build a culture of respect and healthy relationships for the next generation in our churches. Now is the time to get ready for Fall and plan on adding Circle of Grace to your church school curriculum.

Because we believe in it so much, Safe Church Ministry is supplementing the cost for this program - it's available from Safe Church Ministry to CRC, and and now also to RCA congregations, for only $25. (The information on our website has not yet been updated to reflect this - 50 churches received the program free of charge to pilot the project - that phase is now over). Here's what one CRC had to say about Circle of Grace, "The program is very good. It ties in well with what the kids are already learning ... The program is easy to adjust for a small church. We did not have any difficulty combining the classes and using lessons from multiple grades ... The parent information was a good addition to send home as well ... I would say it was a success."

 

 

Nice ideas.  Thanks for sharing.

Children and worship is a wonderful program! It really helps kids connect with God and learn to wonder about God. We have it at my church and there are several others in my area that have that program. I hope others will respond with more detailed accounts of how they've experienced it at their church. There is a space for Children & Worship on the Network, so feel free to post other questions and thoughts here.  

Hey Jolanda,

I thought this was a great post!  I too share your passion for discipling children and not just teaching them about God but to experience God as well.. I recently attended a training on Children & Worship which really focuses on the experience of God for kids and models what adults do on Sunday mornings.. I would really appreciate feedback of anyone who uses this in the CRC?  How have you experienced it at your church?

Not to worry, Bill. I don't represent the voice of Synod when I suggest it's worthwhile for churches to consider hiring a special needs coordinator. I'm just a volunteer Sunday school coordinator and former church staff member who sees value in the idea. 

The way the US is going, the government/bureaucratic/corporate goal is for every person to consider himself in "special need." I suppose it is because it builds the money machine in DC. When every voter is getting some kind of special dole every month the incumbents will be pragmatically locked into their jobs. 

For the last 20 years every budget passed by synod is over priced by 40% or so. The US is still in a working class recession. For Synod and its departments to suggest that local congregations hire more personnel is (words I don't put into print).   

 

Jolanda,

We're so glad you found the seminar helpful, particularly the idea of hiring a "special needs coordinator". We hope this blog post will get other congregations thinking about steps they can take to include and support persons at all levels of ability in their faith community. Thanks for sharing!

Katie at CLC Network

Jolanda, thanks for this post. Excellent idea. For churches that simply cannot afford to pay a staff person, Disability Concerns encourages them to ask at least one member to be a church disability advocate to help the church be intentional about ministry with people who have disabilities. Nearly 600 volunteers serve as disability advocates in CRC churches. In addition, our ministry provides a variety of resources for people who serve as volunteer disability advocates or paid special needs coordinators.  

Hi Greg, 

Madison is doing something very interesting to tie together their children's program with the Sunday morning sermon series. From what I understand the pastoral team is preaching through the stories in the The Jesus Storybook Bible and Kristin, the director of children's discipleship is using that storybook Bible to develop the content for the children's large and small group time. I would encourage you to contact Kristin Buursma to learn more about what they are doing. Her contact information is available through the staff director on the Madison Square website page. I'm sure she would enjoy talking with you!

You are correct that many children's ministry resources divide children by grade level. To find one that groups children in a broader age range you'll want to look for curriculum with a large group/small group format like the Kid Connection curriculum from Faith Alive, which divides in groups of K-3, and 4-6. Those are still smaller age ranges than what Madison does, but it is an example of a curriculum that can be used in a multi-age context. I have used it with an even broader age range because the story is the same for all K-6th graders. 

I hope that helps! 

Jolanda,

You mention that Madison Square has adapted or developed materials for their Sunday School program.  Could you post more details on what curriculum they use?  How they've adapted it?  Most curricula continues to isolate one age group from the other.  We, too, have been emphasizing discipleship in the context of multi-generational relationships and would be interested in the specifics of how others have done this with respect to their educational ministries. 

Thanks for the great post!

Greg Linnell, Education Committee Chair, Community CRC, Kitchener, Ontario

That is an excellent point, thanks Katie! Thanks for linking the article from the CLC Network blog, it's very helpful. 

These are great ideas, Jolanda! I think churches can also prepare new individuals and families ahead of time by offering plenty of details on their website and including photos of the layout of the building, greeters they can expect to meet, typical ways people worship (raise hands, use ribbons, etc.), and how communion is served. Photos can be really helpful for individuals who benefit from a visual preview beforehand. You can read more about offering a preview on the CLC Network blog, Making Us Whole

Thanks Kim! I got a little help from Faith Alive's editor Karen DeBoer on the last week's article--she's full of great ideas. She has a Beat the Winter Blah's dinner at home every year with her husband and kids. They wear shorts, cook burgers, and pretend it's 80 and sunny! So you are right, these ideas transfer to other contexts too!

Jolanda - another great idea (like last week's "Beat the Winter Blahs"). Not only do these sound like great ideas to use with kids but I know some adult groups that could benefit from these as well!  Thanks for helping us all to keep things "fresh" in ministry.

Amen!

posted in: It's For Me Too!

As I look at the accompanying illustration saying "Jesus died for you"  J.I. Packer's commentary in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God immediately comes to mind: He writes: "The fact is that the New Testament never calls on any man to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him. The basis on which the New Testament invites sinners to faith in Christ is simply that they need him, and that he offers himself to them and that those who receive him are promised all the benefits that his death secured for his people. What is universal and all-inclusive in the New Testament is the invitation to faith and the promise of salvation to all who believe."   

posted in: It's For Me Too!

From my experience in various teaching situations, not just with children but in leading Bible studies, youth groups, support groups, etc. I would say absolutely that the Lord uses it to teach me! I learn so much in the experience of teaching others. My prayer is that it's good for the other student learners as well. And because we have a great God who can use even me; I have hope that they also learn and experience his goodness.

posted in: It's For Me Too!

Thanks Leon! We've already had one snow day so I'll be recalculating for sure!

Hello Jolanda,

Thank you for writing yet another interesting and encouraging article about the teaching ministry. 

I agree: January is a good time to make course corrections--to learn from the first "semester" of Sunday School and improve things for the second "semester." 

May the Lord continue to bless our Sunday School teachers and students. 

And may he also bless your teaching ministry!

Leon

Thanks Jolanda,

This is a excellent Sunday School survey for our churches. We are always looking for evaluation tools. 

My all-time favorite Christmas storybook is The Nativity by Julie Vivas. The illustrations are divine!

 

Love this book!  It has become a tradition in our family and it holds the attention of even the littlest ones (one who is almost 1 year old). 

Here's an update--I've tried it, and I like it! Fresh, interactive art, and stories that are faithful to the text. There aren't very many Bible stories yet, but the app indicates that more are coming. What are your thoughts?

Hello, Try this pintrest site I created for showing appreciation to volunteers. You may also find these articles helpful, 30 Ideas for Calling, Keeping, and Celebrating VolunteersMeaningful Meetings, Celebrating Success, and Time for a Checkup

Wow, great ideas! Thanks so much Deb.

Rachel: As the parent of a child with some behavioural challenges and as a long-time teacher (and former Sunday school co-ordinator), may I weigh in witha few quick suggestions in addition to the excellent resources Jolanda and Mark have cited? A bonus: I find these 'work' well with so-called mainstream kids as well:

-- provide leadership opportunities for every child, including the ones who offer the biggest challenges. (For example: 'Jamal, you're great at drawing - how do you think you would show us what the commandment 'don't make idols' looks like?') Every person needs to know s/he has gifts, not just problems, to share.

-- co-opt the parent whenever possible in solutions, and make it a we/us thing instead of you/her problem. Something like, 'We're sensing that Alicia is restless/anxious/distracted/unhappy in class and we want her and you both to know this is a safe/welcoming/joyful place for her. Do you have any suggestions that work best at home when she's feeling this way?' If you team-teach the class, chat with those other teachers as well. (Do NOT make it an item for general discussion among an entire teaching team; that path is fraught with the danger of alienating that family, however inadvertently, by making them seem as if they're the target of an intervention, aka gossip) 

- let other children learn from your cues in relating to this child of God. If you show patience, good humour and flexibility, your other students will be more likely to do so as well; that empathy will reduce a lot of tension in you, and help stretch God's encircling arms around the entire classroom.

--allow for silly sometimes, but put a framework around it. I'm teaching a class that, last year, learned how to make paper airplanes from another teacher. At first I thought, 'no way are they making paper airplanes in this class,' until I realized they really like creating paper planes and it could be a teaching tool almost as much as a Dwell story symbol is. So, now we make paper airplanes after some lessons while reflecting on how we plan to integrate what we've learned into the upcoming week. For your class, it might be tossing a beach ball or hopping on one foot while reciting an element of the Bible story. (This is my new 'theology of origami' theory!)

-- be open to good surprises even if it makes you feel like your class is upside-down.. This came home to me a few years ago when one child - whose multitude of challenges made a structured, linear lesson feel like an impossibility - would burst out with some amazing God-inspired questions and comments that generated food for discussion for the whole class.  It sometimes meant abandoning the lesson I'd planned  in order to recognize that , more often than we might think, God comes to us in the challenging voice of an 8-year-old.

I know this is a long message. Hope I've been helpful. Blessings,

Deb

Rachel, the Inclusion Handbook from RCA/CRC Disability Concerns has several articles that deal with challenging behaviors. Also, I was just talking with Barbara Newman today about this very issue. She suggests that the key questions to adapting material to children with special needs are these: what is the person good at? What does he/she find difficult? and (most importantly) what can the person do? By asking what CAN he/she do, that immediately gives you some direction about how to adapt. For example, if he/she uses a communication board, then he/she can use that for response rather than verbal response. If he/she is not good at listening but is very good with tactile stimulation, give him/her a figurine that relates to the story. There are a variety of forms in the back of Autism and Your Church (by Barbara Newman) that also will be very helpful to you. I think that book has suggestions for challenging behaviors as well (whether or not the child has autism).

A lot of our issues are with classroom management. Any suggestions? 

Hi Rachel, great question. This link on the Dwell website offers some helpful ideas and suggested resources with tips for making the classroom a faith nurturing place for children with special needs. You may also want to check out the Goodbye Classroom Chaos workshop. If you read through it you'll find lots of helpful ideas for creating structure and routines that may address some of the challenges you're facing.

The best source I know of for support and training would be the CLC Network. They offer something called the GLUE, which their website describes as "a step-by-step process that includes a spectrum of tools to aid faith communities in doing 'ministry with' rather than 'ministry to' people with disabilities."

I have learned a ton from Barb Newman's workshops and presentations. She is the director of church services at the CLC Network and the author of the GLUE Training Manual. She travels to speak and train, so keep your eyes out for local workshops offered by her and see if you can connect with the CLC Network to learn what kind of training is happening in your area! They may recommend that you pick up a GLUE manual too.  

 

 

I am sure that there are many talented people who who be pleased to electronically create teaching material to be posted on line. It could be be downloaded for no cost for teaching and evangelism. If "WWW.CRCNA.ORG" was added as a footer to every page it be advertising for the CRC.

posted in: Is It Worth It?

Excellent! I'm so glad to hear it. I love to see leader's commissioned. It's inspiring to the whole congregation to see the baptismal vows being kept and to know that there are so many among us who are nurturing the faith of others! I hope the momentum continues throughout the season!

Hi Jolanda,

You may recall that you passed on your Fath Nurture litany to me recently. I'm pleased to report that it worked very well and our Sunday School commissioning was very blessed--thanks be to God!  Thank you for your help.

Peace to you,

Leon

Absolutely! Thanks for asking, please make it your own!

posted in: Kick-off Sunday!

Hello Jolanda,

Thank you for your prompt reply!  And thank you for passing on your commissioning litany.  I love it! 

May I please adapt yours slightly for our purposes this Sunday? 

Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragment!

Peace of Christ!

--Leon

posted in: Kick-off Sunday!

Hi Leon,

I do have a few leads for you on litanies. Here is a link to one that I wrote, and this forum post includes two responses from people who have written their own and would be willing to share. You can contact John Lee and Bert Slofstra at pastor@bethelsc.org and dbslof@telus.net to get a copy of the litanies that they use with their congregations.

Also, I just discovered that the new hymnal, LUYH, includes a full commissioning liturgy on page 855, and a prayer for commissioning leaders on page 869 that goes along with the song Here I Am, Lord. I was excited to hear that!

I hope this helps. Happy new Sunday school season!

posted in: Kick-off Sunday!

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