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
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
Is our Sunday school structure holding us back from deeper discipleship with children?
April 8, 2014 2 2 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
My Sunday school class takes place in a small square room with two rectangle tables pushed together in the center. Add 8 chairs filled with fifth graders and you’ve used up all the floor space. 
February 19, 2014 0 0 comments
Sitting still to answer questions is really hard for active kids. So I’m collecting ideas for jumpstarting conversations and disguising discussions. Here are a few that have worked for me. 
February 11, 2014 0 2 comments
You’ve packed away the Christmas props and programs, rung in the New Year, and begun the new season. By now the weekly pace has returned and order has been restored. Although everyone appreciates peace after a busy holiday season, by February things can seem a bit too quiet! Break up the long winter weeks by incorporating a “Beat the Winter Blahs” day into your season! Here's how . . .
February 4, 2014 0 0 comments
In the children’s Bible storybooks that I read to my daughter the opening pages begin with, “This is a story from God’s book, the Bible. It’s for [say name(s) of your child(ren)]. It’s for me too!”
January 21, 2014 0 3 comments
How do youth and children call us to re-imagine what it means to be and do church? What, theologically, does it mean to be a young person in today’s church and world? How should our theology (re)shape the ways in which we minister with children and youth?
January 13, 2014 0 0 comments
It’s a wild ride from September to January, but you made it!! Back in August you knew how many kids, teachers, and classes would be in your program. You were focused and ready for the journey. Now its midway through the season and a lot has changed—it’s time to take a fresh look at the itinerary and recalculate as necessary... 
December 31, 2013 0 2 comments
The suspense builds as all the barn animals get ready for a special arrival and wonder who is coming. They dust the beams, lay eggs, and make room. At last they welcome Mary and Joseph as each snout pushes in for a better view of baby Jesus lying in Mary’s arms.
December 17, 2013 0 2 comments
I enjoy reading books on my Kindle app, but when it comes to the Bible, I still prefer to hold the good book in my hands and turn the pages manually. I doubt my daughter will grow up with the same fondness for words on pages. She is not quite two and she’s already peeking over the shoulder of her older cousin to watch Pete The Cat on Grammy’s iPad. Why not watch Pete the disciple too?
December 3, 2013 0 1 comments
Advent is almost here! During this busy holiday season celebrating Advent can help us focus our attention on the coming of Christ. Do you plan to do anything special with your class? 
November 18, 2013 0 0 comments
When I heard that members of Faith Church (RCA) in Dyer, Indiana had developed a Heidelberg Catechism game for kids I just had to get a copy. I’m always looking for resources to recommend to parents for starting faith conversations at home, or to Sunday school teachers for the downtime as everyone is arriving for class.
November 3, 2013 0 0 comments

We have a few special needs children in our congregation. Are their resources to help me (the Children's pastor) to learn how to help them best learn so that I can teach my Dwell teachers. We have some behavior issues that are the biggest concern. These behavior issues are linked to the child's...

October 28, 2013 0 5 comments
Resource, Article

When was the last time you taught a Sunday school lesson on a Psalm? (Okay, other than Psalm 23?)

In most churches the Psalms don’t get a lot of air time in Sunday school. We tend to stick with narrative portions of Scripture when teaching children. We talk about how big, powerful,...

October 23, 2013 0 0 comments
The planning process is where the rubber meets the road—we’ve been learning, exploring, and thinking during the research phase, but now it’s time to get down to business! In the planning phase we begin asking practical questions like how children will be grouped. In broad age level grouping, K-3 and 4-6 for example, or standard grade levels, preschool, K-1, 2-3, etc? What kinds of children and leader’s resources would be helpful for teaching and learning...
October 15, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

"How do I take on the responsibility of 'primary spiritual leader' in the life of my growing child?"

That's the question the Fall 2013 Parent Summit at Evergreen Ministries in Hudsonville Michigan aims to help parents answer. The special event includes a presentation by keynote speaker...

October 9, 2013 0 0 comments
I’ve spent most of my life and ministry in small congregations with limited budgets. So when I see the cost of leader’s guides and student pieces adding up, I feel the sticker shock...
October 8, 2013 0 1 comments
Looking for a litany to use for commissioning your Sunday school team? Here are some sources to check out ...  
September 5, 2013 0 2 comments
It's September! Are you ready to share the stories of faith? To create space for wonder, awe, worship, and imagination? Sometimes the thing that takes a lesson from excellent to amazing is the little spark of creativity that piques kid's interest.
September 3, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

When does your Sunday school program begin, and what are you doing to kick it off?

September 3, 2013 0 4 comments
No one likes to make rules or enforce them, but ministry is much more managable when the expectations are clear! Here's what one church is doing to start the Sunday School season with high standards.  
August 22, 2013 0 0 comments



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! 


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.


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!


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,


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,


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!


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 and 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!

Hi Jolanda,

Glad you asked this question, as this is what I'm thinking about tonight!  We plan to have a short commissioning service for Sunday School this Sunday morning, so I was wondering if you had a short litany that we could use as a prayer of invocation and blessing on our children and teachers.  If you have anything on hand, I would really appreciate receiving it. 

Thank you kindly--and may the Lord continue to bless your teaching ministry!


posted in: Kick-off Sunday!

Thanks for getting back on that. I think we're going to give it a try. 

Nate We did not end up using it.  Sorry, I don't have anything to share.


Did you ever use Paul David Tripp's Getting To The Heart of Parenting?  I'm wondering about any thoughts you have on the material. 

Deb, when I was a youth director and was leaving that position to move to a new city I left behind a three ring binder full of everything I could think of that would help make the transition easier for the new director. It included a list of people with (email addresses/phone numbers) that I often connected with for ideas and support, websites and resources that I found helpful, a timeline of our annual events and all the contact information for places we’d been and things we’d done, including fundraisers. I also left files of permission slip forms, templates for fliers, postcards, etc. I tried to provide everything that would be helpful to keep things moving forward, but I also tried to communicate that I understood he would make changes and do things his own way and I wished him the best!

When I came to my next church and began working with the Sunday school program it was helpful to me to know what materials they had used in the past, what the vision was for the program and why, what had worked and hadn’t in the past, and why they had chosen to do programing at certain times/days, etc. It was also helpful to learn a bit from the previous leader about the community, the things the church values, the neighborhood, etc., because I was fairly new to the church. I hope that helps! Many blessings to you in your next season of ministry! Praise God for the seeds you’ve planted and the lives you’ve helped to shape over the years!

Our church provides nut free snacks for children during the service. This allows us to be in control of allergy allerts. When there is a special occasion when a cake is brought in for the congregation, we ask the bakery to bake it in a nut free zone. 

I think that most of the time when a teacher brings a snack, it is just meant to be a nice treat for the kids.  Plus, at least at our church, children's church happens right at my kids normal morning snack time so we do really appreciate that they are getting a small bit of something so they aren't so whiny after church.  I would recommend just telling teachers that the church will provide the snacks so that there is no confusion on what is allowed.

One of my grandchildren has mastocytosis. My daughter-in-law needs to keep some safe food in case a sundyschool teacher tries to give children some food.  What a hassle! It is much safer and better to leave giving food for the parents. His siblings are from Uganda and his parents have to often stop them from eating, not because of allergies.

I am sure that sunday school stories can be told without having to provide candies or other things to eat. Have you ever seen ministers distributing peppermints before each sermon or even afterward? What is the theology?


We try to keep our pre-school Sunday School going all year around, but not the older students.  But the only way we've managed to keep it going thus far is to ask parents to volunteer, so usually not every Sunday gets covered.  But it's a good way to get parents more engaged in the Sunday School ministry.


I am curious if there are any churches that keep sunday school going all year round?  


That's wonderful, Leon! It's easy to just move right into summer, but so valuable to pause first and see how things went, thank God, and begin thinking of changes for next season. Praise God for a great season of ministry!


Hi Jolanda,

Hope you're doing well! Blessed Pentecost!

I thought you might be encouraged to know that we recently debriefed the Sunday School ministry at our church.  Happily, the Lord really blessed this meeting!  We debriefed the year and focused on what went well and what didn't, and how we can improve.  Then we sought to become more unified in terms of direction and curriculum.  I'm thankful at how this meeting turned out--thanks be to God!

Thank you for your guidance!


Thanks Jonathan! I didn't know that was available. I passed along the website to the pastor who was asking for resources.

I saw that several people have read this question, so I thought others might be interested in this idea and wanted to post an update. I checked with our adult Bible study editor, Paul Faber. He recommended that checking out a few of our Discover Your Bible study guides and using the TV show clips as a starter, then reading the story from Scripture and using questions from the study guide to help explore the meaning. He has done similar things using video clips and he finds it very interesting to have the group talk about the text and compare it with the interpretation presented on screen. Sounds like it would be a fun study.

Paul suggested these titles in the DYB series: Genesis, Exodus, 1&2 Samuel and Judges because they cover many of the narrative portions of the OT that would probably be included in the TV show. For the NT the studies on Mark, John, and Acts would likely cover all or most of the episodes that deal with the New Testament stories. The episodes are likely based on stories, and those books contain most of the narratives of the NT. We also have Esther and Jonah from the Infuse Bible series (which is also inductive).

The two episodes I watched covered quite a lot of Biblical ground in short segments in each episode. I imagine that if a group watched individual segments over time it could use this approach for a few years! The History Channel offers the videos for streaming over the internet, so churches interested in using the videos would probably need to make sure they have streaming capabilities in their building. I'm not sure if there are any copyright issues to be concerned about. I think that if the videos are posted online for free at the network's website and you're playing them from that source then there shouldn't be any infringement for using the videos as part of a Bible study.

Please post other ideas here if you give this a try or have a different suggestion. Thanks!



I just heard from a friend that at LaGrave CRC this past Sunday the congregation did a reverse offering to thank all those who are involved in ministry and service in the church--those who serve in the children's ministry, sing in the choir, or volunteer and minister in other ways. They put the names of each person who serves and a description of what they do into the offering plates. Then they passed the plates around and asked the congregation to draw a name and to thank that person for sharing their gifts. Each person can express thanks in whatever way they see fit--in writing, or in person. What a neat idea!

posted in: Thanking Teachers

Wow, Deb, what a meaningful way to celebrate the 6th graders while acknowledging the role others have had in shaping their faith over the years. Very cool. Thanks for sharing!

posted in: Thanking Teachers

During our Grade 6 Sunday school graduation each June, our congregation has a public celebration with the kids during the worship service. As part of that celebration, we ask all the teachers to stand (wherever they are in the pews), while each of the graduatesgoes up and down the aisles to present a rose to every single teacher of every class.

In this way, the teachers are thanked very publicly, and the students are able to convey their appreciation to a host of people who have helped guide their faith, often over a course of several years.


posted in: Thanking Teachers

I followed some links from the TV series website and there are some study guides for sale here:

Hi Jolanda,

Thank you for sharing this Sunday School evaluation tool.  It looks very helpful.  I will aim to use it this year as we debrief the SS program and dream about the future. 

Peace to you!


Thank you, Michelle, for your prayers and your encouraging words! It means so much to us!!

Thank you for taking time to answer some FAQs in this posting, Jolanda. Since I first saw the announcement a couple of weeks ago, I have been praying for the staff of Faith Alive. I will continue to do so, because I have experienced incredible blessing and growth from the resources you've developed during your years as a commercial venture. I expect great growth could come from the transition ahead, and I will pray for receptive hearts and minds among you as your CRCNA customers welcome you into a more ministry-focused role among us.

With God's help, keep leading and keep learning, even from your new offices. My vibrant little church stands firmly on a foundation of faith that has been very well nurtured by your work.

I love prayer stations! We have been doing them in different settings for a couple of years now. Many of the ideas we use come from websites and books geared toward youth--but they relate so well to adults and children alike. I have often gone to the Still Waters website, and have been blessed by her creativity. Here are some other websites that I use:

I also recommend "Sacred Space" by Dan Kimball & Lilly Lewin published by Zondervan. This is an excellent resource!

Does anyone else have another favorite resource for interactive prayer stations?

We've been watching this with our kids (10, 10, 6) and have all cringed at some of the violent scenes. But they're eventually going to see this kind of violence on a screen, and I'd rather it be in this context with us than at a friend's house watching some Hollywood movie.

Other than the violence, they LOVE it and are begging to watch the episodes we've recorded. It's really helped the Bible stories come alive and has triggered good conversation (case in point, last night we watched the episode with David and Bathsheba!). I'm grateful for the series and the discussion opportunities it provides. I appreciate that they show the characters as fallen people used by God.