Resource, Article

Children aren’t the church of tomorrow—they’re the church of today just as much as adults are! Find ways you can help kids identify, develop, and use their gifts for the benefit of the body.

January 5, 2016 2 0 comments
Resource, Article

Teaching children means sharing the truth of Scripture with them—but it’s even more important to give them opportunities to put what they believe into practice. 

November 25, 2015 2 0 comments
Resource, Curriculum

We are frequently asked, “Do you have any children's ministry sessions on the Lord’s Supper?” Today I’m excited to tell you that we can finally answer, “Yes, we do!”  

November 2, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

Sunday school is not the only game in town—sports events, birthday parties, and other celebrations are often scheduled for Sunday mornings too. How do we build community with these challenges?

October 21, 2015 2 0 comments
Resource, Article

Where are seeds of faith first planted by the Holy Spirit? Within the family! But the church also partners with the family in this process. Keep reading to find ways to help parents nurture faith. 

October 6, 2015 1 1 comments
Resource, Activity or Game

I recently found a fabulous pattern for making wonderful stand-up Bible story characters. I’ve listed three ideas for how you might use them but I'm sure there are many more! 

October 5, 2015 1 0 comments
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Mrs. Brown was a great story teller. Back then we used flannel boards instead of videos, and although the images weren’t digital, she made Bible stories come to life...

September 24, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Drama

Puppets can be a great teaching tool for Sunday School teachers. They encourage creativity and can help lessons "stick". 

The Train Bible Teachers website has a great resource page that offers tips for teachers on how to use Puppets. Here is the link for Puppets in the Classroom. 

September 1, 2015 0 2 comments
Blog

Does your congregation welcome children to the Lord's Supper but also offer a children's ministry program during worship? If so, find ideas for how to make this transition go smoothly! 

August 31, 2015 2 0 comments
Resource, Article

Now you’re a leader—kids will be coming through your door looking for inspiration, affirmation, knowledge. That’s a tall order. Where do you start?

August 31, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

An hour in a children’s ministry program gives children the chance to spend time living into and out of God’s story but when we omit the church and home connection, children are missing out. 

August 24, 2015 3 1 comments
Q&A

At the beginning of the school year, my church holds a "Promotion Sunday" for Sunday School. Any suggestions for activities to entice folks that don't normally come to Sunday School?

August 18, 2015 0 1 comments
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The room fell silent for a few minutes as the impact of that question sunk in. It was profoundly moving to all of us in the classroom, and also to the girl's parents when we chatted about it later. 

 

June 18, 2015 2 0 comments
Blog

More than 400 churches have used Faith Alive’s children’s ministry curriculum to deepen and expand the faith of its children! Do you know what Sunday school curriculum your church uses?

April 27, 2015 3 1 comments
Resource, Curriculum

Dwell builds on the best features of Walk With Me and introduces some new things that Walk With Me users told us they wanted to see in a new children's ministry curriculum!

April 10, 2015 0 0 comments
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What do the walls in your church tell your congregation---particularly the children---about what you value? Use this idea to make your walls another way to tell God's story.

February 23, 2015 2 0 comments
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The Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministry launched the God Loves Me crowd funding campaign this week. Here's why.

January 23, 2015 1 0 comments
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 1 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 4 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
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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 1 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
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How can we make listening a key part of our time together with kids?

September 9, 2014 1 0 comments
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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

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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

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!

--Leon

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.

Deb

posted in: Thanking Teachers

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

http://www.outreach.com/the-bible/church-engagement.aspx

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!

Leon

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: 

http://engageworship.org/

http://www.creativeprayer.com/

http://interactiveworshipstation.blogspot.com/

http://www.rethinkingyouthministry.com/

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.

Interesting conversation here! I agree that determining whether worship is the intention is a big factor in understanding when images of Jesus are or are not appropriate. But we also can't underestimate the power of images to make helpful or harmful impressions about Jesus. When Christ is portrayed on screen or in pictures it can affect the way we think about him. From the smile or stern look on his face to the color of his skin or the friendliness in his voice, these details do make an impression for better or for worse. 

In a best case scenario art and film that depicts Jesus could help stir the curiosity of people who don't know Jesus (like the man that Bill Vis mentioned in his comment) and prompt them to take a look at what the Bible has to say. And for those of us who read the Bible, it might challenge us to wonder about God in new ways and take a fresh look at the stories of Scripture. Art can certainly reflect the beauty and truth of God in ways that speak to our imaginations. I wrote about this in an earlier blog when we talked about using art in Sunday school. But in a worst case scenario, depictions of Jesus could make God seem more distant or set in our minds an image of God that we hold as true even though it isn’t accurate.

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