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Whether you hold a relaxed version of your regular Sunday school program or discontinue classes until fall, read on for nine refreshing ideas to help you nurture kids in the summer months too!

May 22, 2017 2 0 comments
Resource, Article

Focusing our ministry attention on young adults has been a popular topic of conversation recently. But as someone who has been engaged in ministry with children for over 30 years, I’m concerned that we’re skipping over a generation.

May 10, 2017 2 11 comments
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It doesn’t seem right when one of our churches can’t afford to fully use what is, essentially, their curriculum

May 9, 2017 1 2 comments
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As a curriculum consultant for Faith Alive Christian Resources, I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking to CRC children’s ministry leaders. Here are some things I've heard, as well as ways I can help! 

April 26, 2017 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

This may come as a surprise to you, but Jonah wasn’t really swallowed by a whale. I’ve also discovered some other fishy “facts” that need to be reeled in. Read on to see if any of these tall tales sound familiar.

April 13, 2017 0 0 comments
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When you seek to lead children to Jesus, no formula will replace the guidance of God’s Spirit as you respond to Jesus’ command from Matthew 19: “Let the little children come to me. . .”

March 20, 2017 1 0 comments
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Ahhhh…it’s Lent! What am I going to do with my middle school kids? That was me last week, and once again, God provided a lesson that reached my kids and I wanted to share it with you. 

March 2, 2017 1 2 comments
Resource, Article

A wise person once said you only need three loves and two skills to be a good teacher.

January 31, 2017 2 1 comments
Q&A

Hello! I am on the education committee at my church and we are interested in knowing what other churches are using for Sunday School curriculum and if they are enjoying it.

December 12, 2016 0 3 comments
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One of the most precious gifts you can give to the children in your group is to truly listen to them. When you listen, you’re giving them permission, inviting them to ask important questions and explore their faith.

November 29, 2016 0 0 comments
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Are you looking for some ways to encourage the kids in your group to talk and listen to God? If so, check out these suggestions for teaching children about prayer. 

October 11, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Have you seen the ‘I’m Part of God’s Story’ design that Dwell curriculum recently posted? In addition to helping helping children live into and out of God’s story—it’s a really fun design! Here are 8 ways to use it. 

September 13, 2016 0 0 comments
Q&A

We're a smaller church and our Sunday School teachers are having a hard time because we only have a few kids and they're all different ages and levels and not all of them attend regularly. Any tips?

September 6, 2016 0 4 comments
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Katy and her husband shared this blessing that they speak to their children nightly. Speaking this to children not only blesses them but it reminds them (and us!) of why we tell these stories.

August 1, 2016 2 1 comments
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Wondering what the best kinds of questions are to stimulate kids’ imaginations and nurture their faith in the classroom? Check out these tips...

July 15, 2016 0 0 comments
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Recently I had a conversation with someone who, upon hearing me describe all the work that goes into creating pedagogically, theologically sound children’s ministry curriculum said, “I had no idea. You should tell people that!” And so I am.

June 17, 2016 1 1 comments
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Choosing the right curriculum is crucial to the faith formation of the kids in your church. However, it can often be challenging to find a curriculum that is both meaningful in terms of content, but also fun and engaging for kids.

June 10, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

There are many ways to talk with kids about faith. One unique resource is God’s Big Story Cards—a boxed set of cards that encourage families to wonder, pray, praise, share, and respond to God’s Word. 

May 24, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

We expect those who provide a service to have expertise in that area and to be equipped to meet that specific need. The same applies to teachers: kids expect you to speak from experience when you teach—to “walk your talk,” as we say.

May 24, 2016 2 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

Some of the best conversations with children at church happen when I join them at the activity table. There’s something about sitting side-by-side as we draw, color, cut or paste that sparks conversation. 

May 12, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

Transparency isn’t just another name for an “overhead”—it’s also an essential quality of a good teacher. To be true to Christ and to the kids you teach, cultivate honesty in your life by keeping in mind these tips. 

April 26, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

For the past 3 years, I’ve been a coteacher of DWELL Marvel at my church. I am excited about the new CRCNA Digital Library because it’s going to make preparing and teaching easier for me!

April 25, 2016 1 2 comments
Blog

Athletics, busy weekends, travel, Saturday night events and family get-togethers are making Sunday School attendance difficult for families. So how do we respond?

April 6, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

Sunday school teachers are a lot like plants. Without support they’ll dry up, wither away, and disappear. Sounds pretty harsh, right? But that’s the way it is with ministry.

March 21, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Checklist

The Ten Question Tool for Choosing Curriculum was developed by Faith Formation Ministries to support you in the curriculum decision making process.

March 3, 2016 0 0 comments

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It is both the what and the how.

Yellowbox church in Naperville, Il, a thriving new mega church with multiple campuses has such a vital Sunday School curriculum that kids talk to kids at school and convince their parents to let them go to to church. Thousands of families have joined this new contemporary church because of the vibrancy of the programs for kids. I know because my three grandkids can't wait for Sunday.

Sure thing Karen.

Give me a call sometime at RedArrow Ministries, 269-657-5679.

Thanks!

Hi Ben,

Your comment paints a great picture of the unique context of every CRC and an important reminder of why a one-size-fits all approach doesn't work. I'm also part of a church plant and my small group of kids there includes those from different faith traditions, those who come with their grandmas and have parents who don't own a Bible, kids in distress, and kids whose parents grew up in the CRC, and more.  It's an exciting challenge:)  And I suspect that even in churches that aren't plants we're going to be seeing more parents who are Biblically illiterate in the coming years. So it's important that the children's ministry toolkit we hope to create will include ideas and resources that are both theologically sound and flexible to shape for the different needs of the church leaders who use them. I'd love to chat some time with you and learn more about the needs of your church and the sorts of things you are doing there to meet those needs. It's the best way for us to gather ideas that we can share with other churches!

Hi Scott, 

Thanks for your feedback. Although I posted this to the Pastors page because of the comment a pastor on the Board of Trustees made about how he wished every CRC pastor was able to hear, I'd love to see the information it contains shared with elders, children's ministry coordinators, and anyone else who is tasked with choosing what and how their church will invite kids to live into and live out of God's story. It's important!

 

Hi John,

Yes! The list to which I linked is a list that's created each year by a Church Educator from the Episcopalian tradition and shared on buildfaith.org but in the toolkit we do plan to point folks to curriculum from other Reformed publishers (for e.g.e Growing in Grace and Gratitude, Feasting on the Word and LOGOS (an intergenerational curriculum) are all available through the PCUSA.)  There are also other resources available from other sources which would work in a Reformed context which we'll include in the kit. The goal of the children's ministry toolkit will be similar to our other toolkits----links, ideas, information on resources that churches can shape to fit their particular context.

Thanks for the article!

I agree wholeheartedly that our children and their Faith Formation NEEDS to be an important focus of every Church.

From the context of a Church Plant perspective, I spoke with various people from Faith Alive often over the past 8 years. I shared with them the problem we face is complete Biblical illiteracy of many people of our congregation. With 2/3 of our people coming into our faith community being brand new to church or returning after many years, most of the parents we meet have very little Biblical knowledge to speak of. While the content of Faith Alive materials like Dwell are fantastic, they have been tried in our setting and are 'over the head' of most if not all of our kids. More and more families from the area are not just coming to us with a deficiency of Bible knowledge, they are coming to us with ZERO Biblical understanding...because they didn't even own a Bible!

We serve in a Post-Christian setting where some kids think the story of Adam and Eve is on the same level of authenticity as the story of 'Beauty and the Beast.' When God brings them into our midst, guess which story they know better?

Thank you Karen! I agree with the article and the comments so far!

Two further thoughts... 

1. What does it communicate when this is assumed to be information for pastors? How about elders? In my first church I was given almost no say about Sunday School curriculum, thankfully the second church I had did value my input. And, I hope that I'm not alone among pastors in placing a high value on the input of professional educators when it comes to the pedagogy of the curriculum.

2. I hope this is somewhat of an answer to Tim's thoughts. While the CRC curriculum is an improvement on the other, I still wouldn't say it picks up on the better aspects of Reformed theology. It reinforces a sense of assurance of our salvation (justification!), but fails to plant seeds of sanctification. I've found, sadly, that many adults who have grown up in our churches actually begin to feel less assured over time because a) they don't sense themselves becoming more godly and b) the preacher seems to believe we need to hear the message of justification again - maybe that's a sign we didn't understand it before!

In my own young adulthood I went from extreme boredom with my faith to fervent excitement when I began to understand a Reformed (emphasis on Reformed!) view of sanctification - a view that put God in the lead, yet gave me a role in watching His transforming work in my life and even being allowed to participate in exciting ways! And then I discovered many others who were experiencing the same thing and then we got to watch God work in each other and support each other through the ups and downs of all that! 

Thanks for the helpful article! In the toolkit that Faith Alive is preparing, I hope we can help direct churches to other Reformed publishing houses. The linked chart of 50 curriculums appears to be heavily drawn from non-Reformed, mainline denominations (Episcopal, ELCA, UCC, UMC, etc.). There are some other great options out there that are deeply Reformed and didn't make the list - such as Great Commission Publications (https://www.gcp.org/) from the PCA/OPC. We've found their Sunday School curriculum to be very solid in our context.

While I agree with much of what the article has to say, I want us to also stop and consider that the young adults who are leaving the faith from our churches also grew up with those same covenantal teachings, albeit with an older version of some of the same curriculum.   But they are still leaving.  Somehow, we need to discover what it is that we are missing in our teaching, not just what "the others" are missing in their curriculum.  Could it be that in our covenant theology that we fail to emphasize our response to God's faithful promises?  Do we presume a faithful response acceptance because we have taught the meaning of the words?  I don't have the answers, but I am also not hearing those kinds of questions being asked within our denomination.

I second Doug's "amen".  Teaching children truisms and trite morality lessons will not equip them to grab hold of the promises sealed to them in baptism, nor will it teach them to understand/handle scripture correctly.  Children are often so much more ready and able to understand and internalize deep and meaningful truths than they are given credit for.  If we expect little from our children, we will get exactly what we expect.  The great commission starts at home and in the church and blossoms outward from there. Karen, thank you for posting this.

This is provided by the CRCNA. But if the RCA would like to offer something similar to their churches, we'd certainly be open to exploring it.

Is this assistance program also available for RCA churches?

Thanks!

Love this idea! It's a tangible and helpful way to stick with a Lent plan. 

Thanks for sharing this idea, Wendy. It's wonderful!

I know that this article had a focus on Sunday School, however, as a school teacher, I was encouraged by the simple wisdom.

posted in: What Does It Take?

I am a sixth grade teacher and a few months ago I led my students in a poverty awareness activity that involved a form of fasting.  This is how it worked:

For one month I had my students consider giving up something they were used to in order to have a better understanding of others living in poverty.  It was up to them to decide the duration and the extent of their "fast."  Incidentally, I did not call this activity "fasting" until after the month was completed.  At that time, I showed them the connection between what they had given up and the traditional food-related fasting.

Choices of duration: one day, one week, one month

Choice of fast: 

Sleep on the floor or sleep without a pillow   [having a bed and a pillow is normal to us but not to every child in the world]

Use bar soap to wash your hair  [In North America, our soaps are specialized, but in areas of poverty, bar soap becomes versatile]

Watch no television or use no device  [Electricity and ready entertainment are not available 24/7 around the world]

Drink only water (not juice, milk, pop)   [Imagine if you had to boil that water first...]

Eat no dessert or snacks after supper  [Three meals a day plus grazing on snacks is not typical around the world]

Wear a shirt that is too small or too big for you  [When you're poor you wear hand-me-downs until you can afford something better]

Wear the same outfit (you are allowed to wash it in between)   [Wearing the same thing every day will help you appreciate your closet full of clothes]

Every student chose to participate.  As a teacher I modeled wearing the same outfit for the month.  Maybe some of these ideas can be useful to others.

Margaret Schuurmans  I have been teaching Sunday School for many years.  We recently started DWELL and it is going not too badly.  I find that it is very much like the LIFE curriculum.  We used Walk with Me and Kid Connection.  I found that Kid Connection was very juvenile.  It did not suit our age group at all.  Walk with Me was ok, but I was told that it was being discontinued.  Hope this is helpful.

 

Hi!

We are currently using Kid Connection from Faith Alive.  We looked at Dwell but didn't feel it fit our kids. Kid Connection is older, but I love the 4 year scope and sequence. I'm trying to add bits and pieces to it (multimedia, additional large group activities, and special Sundays) so that we've got the best of both worlds. 

 

Im curious what ages does your program run? I find that gets a bit tricky; I like your have one story so each family can go home and discuss one lesson, not 5, but it also has to be approachable for each age. I do know a couple churches in our area (1 CRC, 2 others) that are using material from Orange and love it. I personally like knowing FaithAlive's stuff comes from a Reformed perspective rather than examining other material, but that might be something from you to look at! 

Hi Aleasha,

My name is Karen DeBoer and I work for Faith Formation Ministries as a Creative Resource Developer. Prior to that I worked as part of the editorial team for the Dwell curriculum. Our Faith Formation Ministries team is in the process of considering ways to add to Dwell and it sounds like you may be the person to speak with for some ideas! I'd love to learn more about your experience with it. (We've also been using it at my church for the past several years.) 

I'm also familiar with many of the other curricula available and would be happy to speak with you about others that may work in your setting. Feel free to email me at kdeboer@crcna.org.

Finally, here are a few tools that you and your education committee may find helpful in your search for curriculum. The first is a Ten Question Tool for Choosing a Children's Curriculum which breaks the process down into ten great questions. You can read more about it here and you can view a video about it here. You may also want to check out the Recommended Resources page on the Faith Formation Ministries site for some other ideas. 

Thanks Karen, we are considering stopping Sunday School as it is and do something intergenerational with the entire church, something like WE, but on a weekly basis and then tying it into our worship service. You've given us some great resources to look through! I appreciate all your help 

Thanks for responding Caryn,, some great ideas here, I appreciate your willingness to take time to help us out, I will take your suggestions to our Sunday School leader and this will help us get those creative fires burning again.

Hi Jacob,

I work for Faith Formation Ministries as a Creative Resource Developer.  The blessing of being part of a small church with few children is that it forces folks to consider ways to be more intentionally intergenerational and, as research from the folks at the Fuller Institute has shown, that’s a good thing!

I love the ideas that Caryn has suggested. Here are a few other places/people/curriculum you might want to check out. 

GenOn Ministries has been developing intergenerational resources with a Reformed perspective for churches of all sizes for more than 25 years.  Their LOGOS program is highly respected.

The Church Educators Facebook page is a great place to ask questions and Hope4CE is a great website with ideas---both are connected with the Association for Presbyterian Church Educators.  (Two articles to get you started on the Hope4CE page: The Experiment and Generations in Faith Together.)

Worshipping with Children is a one of the best sites around for supporting families and engaging children in worship.

The Killing Sunday School/Birthing Cross-Gen Worship Facebook page is another helpful site. On it you’ll find many folks in situations that are similar to yours---and many ideas too.

As Caryn mentioned, the WE curriculum is a great option for learning events the whole church can attend. You can watch a church using WE in this video.

Questions? Feel free to email me or any other members of the Faith Formation Ministries team anytime. We'd be happy to have a conversation with you. You’ll find contact information here

PS We are looking for congregations to participate in a learning cohort and strengthen existing faith formation practices. You'll find more information on that here.

Hi!

We have the opposite problem in our church; over 80 kids, with classes of 15. But I've done a lot of Children's Ministry in different circumstances. What's your age range like? It's easier to do something if the kids are a bit older. Are your youth involved in the program? I love the energy and enthusiasm my young helpers bring. 

One of the things I've seen work well is having the group work together to create something, on a theme or specific Bible story. So one week, you could explore Daniel and the Lion's Den by first reading the story out of a Children's Bible and then creating a Reader's Theatre play. The youngest children would be simple character such as lions, while older children would be the King and Daniel; the younger kids get the story basics, while older kids are encouraged to reflect on how Daniel may have felt, situations they may find themselves in that would be similar etcetera. The kids could present for their parents at the end of the service.  Another week, you could show video on Jonah and then work together to create a mural showing Jonah inside the fish. 

I know there are churches in my area that have one Sunday a month where the service is intentionally led for the kids. They do more interactive songs, incorporate various media, and have simpler teachings. This is coupled with their Sunday School program on the other weeks of the month. And I've heard great things about the WE curriculum from Faith Alive, though I've never tried it. 

I wish you all the best in planning! 

Caryn Tilstra, Smithville CRC

Thanks for sharing this, Laura. I love your ideas for other ways a congregation might also use this blessing.

 This week I had the same reaction from a church educator when I described how many people looked at a lesson after it was written before it was published -- She had no idea!  Thanks for the article.  

 

These are my thoughts on how I would use the Digital Library, to get others thinking about how they could use it, and how it could benefit their church. Every church, and every teacher, is different. Life happens, and I’m doing the best I can as a volunteer in a smaller church. The kids enjoy coming to class—and we’ve had great discussions using the wondering questions in DWELL.

It's great that the library is available to teachers, however this article has some red flags for me, that you may consider. Firstly, the expectation that a Sunday school lesson can be prepared the night before or even 'on the spot'. Our children deserve better than that. 

Secondly, the 'take homes'. In this article they are mentioned as being a surprise to the teacher, unwanted by some children, foisted on the parents ( I can't be bothered checking what's in them, your kids don't want them, but you should deal with them). I suggest you either use them properly and excite your students, or give them something more valuable to take home, such as a memorable lesson.

Thirdly, the budget. Should we really be penny pinching when it comes to discipling our kids? There's something wrong with the idea that a church treasurer would suggest that the savings made (by the teachers reading something from their iPad rather than printing a few sheets of paper), entitles them to ask for further resources. Just buy the darned story cards! 

Thanks for catching this, Carol! The link has been updated so you can now access tools for using puppets in the classroom. 

For anyone checking out the link I provided for Bible Teaching Methods Using Puppets, I've just discovered that these resource pages are only live for one month and then replaced with new ones. So sorry about that. :-(

What a great way to bless your family each Christmas, Hetty. Thanks for sharing!

I have been buying a Nativity picture book for my family every Christmas for the past 20 years. Before this, not as frequently, but often enough for us to now have a collection of over 40 picture books. I avoid those with talking mice and cattle, and those by Max Lucado ( blind spot on my part!). 

I enjoy learning about and exploring Christmas traditions from around the world, but there's nothing as precious as the family sitting around the Christmas tree after all the gifts have been opened, and reading/looking at the account of Jesus' birth in a picture book. And none of us is younger than 28!

As an Australian I'm particularly pleased that you love the Julie Vivas book. It's one of my favourites, and a great hit with the many children with whom I have shared it.

Caryn, you're welcome. That's why we keep posting stuff here! So glad to hear it will be helpful. Be sure to check out the video by Barbara Newman too that I reference in the note. I think you'll find her advice right on the mark for your needs. Mark

Thanks for posting this! This speaks perfectly to some things our Sunday School program has been dealing with! 

These look great! 

Thanks for this helpful post, Angie!

posted in: Families First

Love this! How easy it is (for adults, too) to miss the opportunity to engage in the "Sunday" message. My church has a weekly guide (via an app on my phone) to stay connected to the sermon (such as Bible verses, songs, and personal growth challenges) that are SUCH a valuable resource if I take the time to use them. 

 

A celebration is a great way to start of a new Sunday School year.  Here are a few ideas that you could do with your breakfast: 

  • Chose some of the many Minute to Win It games available online.  Play with teams mixing children, teens and adults so everyone gets to know each other better.
  • Set out strips of paper for making a paper chain.  As people enters they write their names on 5 of the strips.  Include some strips with your Sunday school class name on it (like first grade.) Mix up the strips and each person makes a paper chain with seven of the strips.  Each day during the next week individuals tear one strip off the chain and pray for that person or class.
  • Contact a local discovery center, college or zoo and ask them to bring in animals for a petting zoo.  Encourage pictures to be taken and texted to you.  Print the pictures and hand then out after worship with the words “Remember our Sunday School program in your prayers.”
  • During the celebration, hand out drawstring bags or wrist bands with your church log.  Encourage everyone to wear them during the week and tell others to come join the fun at Sunday School next Sunday.

Think about all those children who are learning about the love of Jesus! That's amazing!

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

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