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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 1 0 comments
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Here's an idea for kicking off the year with a creative project that brings kids together.
July 29, 2014 0 0 comments
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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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!

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!

--Leon

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.

Brad,

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?

Hello,

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.

--Leon

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!

Blessings,
Jolanda

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