Helping kids develop a faith that's big enough to deal with the realities of this fallen world is part of our role as faith nurturers. Last night I found this article posted on my facebook wall, Talking With Children about the Boston Marathon Bombings... and Listening!  and I wanted to pass it along. 

April 17, 2013 1 0 comments

When I think of Sunday school I think about telling God’s stories and sharing God’s love. But we’re also passing on a faith tradition. With that in mind, the songs we sing with kids and the variety of music we use is significant. It can help or hinder our efforts to enculturate them into the full life of the church.

April 9, 2013 0 0 comments

A few weeks ago one of Faith Alive’s editors received a voicemail from a classis leader. He was calling to ask if the churches in his region should continue ordering from Faith Alive, or if we’d soon be closing our doors.

April 1, 2013 0 2 comments

As educators we know that people learn best when their senses are engaged. Theresa Cho draws people in using color and sound, texture and scents, reflection and interaction. The experiences she creates are memorable, personal, and communal.

March 27, 2013 0 1 comments
Resource, Activity or Game

Resurrection eggs are a carton of 12 colorful plastic Easter eggs each containing a little trinket that symbolizes some aspect of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Each egg helps families focus their attention on this important story during Holy Week. 

March 18, 2013 1 0 comments

It’s been a couple weeks since the premiere of the BIBLE on the History channel. I’ve heard a range of opinions, some hating it, some loving it. Last night I caught a rerun of some of the first and second episodes. I have to say that it was better than I expected, and it made me wonder what other Sunday school teachers are thinking.

March 12, 2013 0 7 comments
Resource, Video

Last week Mark DeVries, president of Youth Ministry Architects and author of Family Based Youth Ministry posted this video on recruiting volunteers. He is so confident it will work that he offers a $100 guarentee!  

March 4, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Procedure

Why does your Sunday school or children's ministry program exist? The answer to that question could help motivate leaders to join the ministry, parents to send their kids out, and the church to invest in the next generation.

February 12, 2013 0 0 comments

This fall Tyson Capel he asked each high schooler at his church to invite an older member of the congregation to study the book of Acts with them. The teens decide who they would like to ask and then they ask that person to meet with them regularly throughout the school year to study the Bible . . .  

February 12, 2013 0 0 comments

I'm very thankful for all of our Sunday School teachers.  They are all gifted people and they sacrifice their time to disciple our children.  However, I'm concerned about the long-term health of our Sunday School program.  We are often short of teachers and our overall program is not unified.  I...

February 9, 2013 0 8 comments

In the book Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, Chap Clark and Kara Powel talk about flipping the 5:1 kid-to-adult ratio. Rather than one leader for every five teens, what if every child and teen in our churches had five adults who were investing in their lives?

January 30, 2013 0 2 comments

If you are a church educator, Sunday school coordinator, minister of faith formation, or director of children's or youth ministry, it is time again to join or renew your membership in the Association of Christian Reformed Church Educators. Members receive an annual selection of new resources from Faith Alive, membership in the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, and a subscription to The Advocate, a quarterly journal focused on topics relating to faith formation.  

January 22, 2013 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Come to Me, a unique family “prayer book” now in development by Faith Alive, is an exciting new venture designed to bring families closer together and closer to God. We’re looking for families to field-test a sample of this book, which makes spending time with God a natural, doable, and meaningful part of family life. 

January 17, 2013 0 0 comments

What should fifth grade children know about the Bible and about God? What values should Christians embody by the time they reach adulthood? These are interesting questions without easy answers. ..

January 15, 2013 0 1 comments

I just got a phone call from a man named Peter in Florida who is hoping to teach No Easy Answers with 9-12 graders. He wants to speak with someone who has taught it and can give him some advice on teaching it. It's one that I haven't taught. Please let me know if you'd like to help Peter out....

January 14, 2013 0 0 comments

For Sunday school coordinators and teachers New Year’s brings a sigh of relief… ahhh, you’re halfway there! You’ve survived the fall recruiting crunch, the kick-off chaos, and the Christmas celebration. Like a Sabbath on the first day of the week, take a little time to catch your breath, reflect, and regroup for the New Year...

January 8, 2013 0 0 comments

Just a couple weeks ago a friend mentioned how sad it is that her five year old son has code red drills at school. They practice hiding and staying quiet “in case a bad stranger comes,” he told her. Now our hearts grieve with the families in Newtown.

December 18, 2012 0 0 comments

This Sunday at Prairie Edge CRC a barren tree stood on stage in the worship center. Later that night kids, teens, and adults came together to sing, share a meal, and reflect on the promise of God to send a savior. . .

December 4, 2012 0 2 comments
Resource, Article

Last week I visited Fourth Reformed church on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. It’s a busy place, buzzing with ministry. Sunday school coordinator’s Tom and Norma Boehm showed me around the building and talked with me about the children’s ministry. They face the same challenge that many of us...

November 20, 2012 0 0 comments

We tell a lot of stories about persecution in Sunday school. But our North American kids don’t experience the daily persecution faced by Christians in other parts of the world. It is easy to forget their struggle and to think of these stories as ancient history. 

November 13, 2012 0 0 comments

We love our kids and want to protect them. We implement policies like team teaching, windows in classrooms, safety screening, video cameras, and more to keep them safe. Is there more that we can do?  

November 7, 2012 0 0 comments

Recently I asked Laura Brink, Children’s Ministry Director at Cascade Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, what she has done to encourage and equip her volunteers. Her church offers Sunday school, children and worship, and midweek programs, so there are teachers, leaders, and helpers who minister to the same age group of kids at different times throughout the week. 

November 6, 2012 0 0 comments

The song “When I am Afraid I Will Trust in You” played softly in the background as we scrawled pictures of things that scare us (mostly monsters). Seven-year-old Justice was eager to talk about her picture—a scene from a movie she’d seen on TV. “The man was running to get these people,” she said, eyes wide, and voice getting louder with each word.  

October 31, 2012 0 0 comments

I’m on a mission to connect with children’s ministry directors, Sunday school coordinators, and teachers to see and hear what God is doing in their midst. I’m hoping to highlight a new idea or best practice each week. Here is a fun one that's easy to implement at any time of the year. . . 

October 23, 2012 0 1 comments

Volunteers are BUSY—it’s getting harder and harder to get everyone together for training and encouragement. Brian Bierenga, the Children & Youth Ministry Coordinator at Brookside CRC uses weekly email to encourage his youth team. His formula is simple . . .

October 16, 2012 0 2 comments




  Try making a written agreement with them not to act out in Sunday school and beyond. Tell them that is the way adults take care of conflicts when they due it correctly. Tell them that is the way God works also through his covenants.

  I find my kids respond well when things you tell them sre in their best interest. I ask them if we all love each other. The answer is always yes. Then why do we hurt each other? Isn't there a better way? What should it look like? Your a good person and so is your sibling. Don't we all make mistakes. What did God say about how many times we are to forgive? Who is forgiveness really for? Jolanda, I hope that you get my drift. You can add penaltes and positives as you see fit to drive home the point about what God demands of us.

Thanks for listening. I hope it helps get the mental marbles rolling because it is a challange to keep some adults from conflict. You can get a sense how confusing this is to kids.


posted in: Sibling Squabbles


 Jolanda, I knew she wrote it, but you published it. Same thing in my book. Now you impressed me even more by not taking credit. See the compliments will keep coming untill you take the credit for one. Just Joking

God bless you


Thanks Ken, but this post was written by Laura Keeley-- she always has lots of insights to offer!

Jolanda, You always have such positive posts,. I appreciate your efforts



Hey Jo,


Here are a few ideas you might want to try:

Take a page from your local bakeshop and find ways to create 'display cases' of materials that will catch the eye of children and youth. One church I was in recently stood several kids books up on the window ledges of the library room. If your library doesn't have windows and ledges, look around for other areas of the building that do---and stand a few books on them along with a note that says something like: "Check me out!" 

Photocopy the covers of some books/videos/music that will appeal to kids. Hang them--at kid eye level, not adult eye level!---in a hall near where the children meet. Use sticky tack to hang them up and add a caption like---"See something you like? Peel it off the wall, take it to the library and bring the real thing home!"

Kids love to crack codes. How about scrambling the words of a book title or turning it into a code kids can crack and then placing the scrambled title/coded words on the bulletin. First person who arrives in the library with the correct title can take the item home. (Be sure to have a stack of other great selections for the runners-up!)

Pick up some inexpensive canvas bags at the dollar store. Fill each one with a few books (or CDs or videos if your library has them) for a specific age level. (And maybe a candy to enjoy while reading:) Personally invite kids to come and check out one of these 'surprise' bags to take home.

Ever notice how big bookstores and local libraries have a shelf with books/items that the staff personally recommends? How about personally visiting a few Sunday school classes along with a variety of books from the library. Give each child an index card and a couple of books to take home. Ask them to take the books home for a week, write down which book they would recommend on the index card and then return them to the library so you can display their picks, along with the index card that says: "Brooke's pick..." or "Joel suggests...".

Hope that helps---the library is such a wonderful and important ministry to our children and youth!!!

I would suggest that you do not worry too much about what others do.   Rather, ask yourself what is edifying in your situation.   We have decided to have Sunday School classes , including also adult Bible study, before church, not during church.  Some sunday school classes sing, others do not.  Sometimes they get together to sing, other times not.  But every Sunday the sall children do come to the front at the beginning of  the service to hear a story and to sing some songs (mostly by memory), in front of the congregation.   And the rest of the congregation sings with them.  It is a way for everyone to share in the joy of the children, and for the children to know that they are welcome in church. 

Update: Faith Alive is now offering Dwell preview webinars for those who can't make it to one of the events. Check out times and dates here. You can also stay up to date on the launch by following the Dwell Facebook page.


Try Home Grown: Handbook for Christian Parenting, a new publication by Faith Alive Resources.  It comes complete with a 7 week study guide and a DVD with some introductory comments for each session.  We will be using this publication in the spring for an evening parenting discussion group.  It looks really good!!!


Faith Alive is coming out with a new curriculum called Dwell that is in the field testing stages right now. It will bend will be released this spring, in time for the next Sunday school season. If you subscribe to Faith Alive News you'll see updates in the monthly e-newsletter that introduces to new resources. Soon you'll hear about preview parties that will be happening around North America beginning in February to launch Dwell. The website, should also go live in February with details and samples of the curriculum.

I like you John, Your humor and humility is contagious. God bless you

Jolanda, thanks for note here. You blessed my day when you stated the mothers God givin wisdom in how faith is nurtuered  and developed. As a sick, stay at home father I have experienced the same thing. Glory be to God for your abiltiy to so casually state it.


We are just getting into this, we call it "Intergenerational Worship", (too bad we can't mix that one up like wii, a bit of humour is always helpful!). I am the organist , Praise Team and Organist have been playing together in the services since we installed our "new" pipe organ in 2003, it works. Now we have youth led services once in the three months, how it will work out is unknown at this time, but our youth leader kicked my proverbial conservative behind by challenging me to play the electronic keyboard with them (heresy!?). We had one of our hymn fests, but this time in the morning service, the Genesis Club participated with the processional hymn, two 15 year old girls volunteered to sing a solo during the offertory (they picked a hymn!, I was thrilled), I played the keyboard for the first time while they sang, (I didn't know that I could play the violin, cello, flute and pan flute!, before the girls sang I announced to the congregation that in the last two weeks I had learned to play these instruments, a few came up after the service and asked where I was standing when I played these instruments, GOTCHA!) another young lady sang a solo with one of our youth leaders, a whole new world opened up for myself and I hope for the congregation as well. Our goal is to have us all appreciate the different ways in how we feel connected to God no matter how that is expressed, a two way street and tall order, but with Gods help it will be so.

Sounds like a great idea!! What are some of the other forms of worship you hope to have the kids explore? I love the weWorship/WiiWorship mix up--made me laugh out loud!!!

We just began a new program (so we'll wait to determine its success!) called weWorship.  (One child thought I said WiiWorship and was a bit dissappointed).  During our family nights twice a month the 1st-6th graders gather to think about the many different ways we can worship God.  Each month a different leader guides them in a different theme.  For example, last month they thought about how God is worshipped through dance. They read a Bible story about David dancing, they drew pictures, and they came up with a dance to a worship song.  They also talked about the difference between performing a dance and using it to help people worship.  Then, the last Sunday of the month the children have an opportunity to lead us in worship using what they've learned.  For us it is a way to integrate children into leading worship.

That's a great point, Michelle!

Whether or not is good for kids I can't say without creating an account and letting my kids (age 10 and 13) check it out. What I can say is that it's nice to see a supervised, moderated opportunity for kids to have access to the type of networking and social "conversation" that happens on Facebook, since many of them are really hungry to be included in that culture. Togetherville offers parents and kids an alternative to what many, many families choose, instead: they allow their children to lie about their age until they turn 13, at which point the children meet the age requirement set forth by Facebook in their user agreement. Even in our faith community, this is a common solution to kids wanting "in" on the "fun" of social networking with family and friends. 

Thanks for sharing your story, Deb. What an important discussion! It is confusing for kids and adults when we pray and God answers in ways that are different than we hope or expect... I think it's so important to take time, like you did, to talk with kids about that. They need to see that we don't have all the answers either, and that we can still trust God even when we don't understand his plan, or when we feel angry or broken hearted. 

I appreciate what you said about being attune to children's lingering sadness and providing support. In situations like the one you describe a child might be more inclined to hold their feelings inside at home because they don’t want to make a parent or sibling feel even sadder by bringing it up. If we are sensitive to that reality, we can look for ways to invite kids to talk and pray about the real things happening in their lives and create a nurturing environment where they feel comfortable doing that.   

Your blog reminds me of our Walk With Me lesson about prayer in a class of 9-yr-olds I taught this spring. One boy commented how God didn't really listen to prayer because everyone prayed when his grandfather was ill and yet his Grandpa died anyhow several months earlier. He was angry and upset and sad. The lesson plan went out the window and we spent the rest of that class talking about why we should bother praying if God does what He wants anyhow.

You're right, Jolanda, this is where 'real ministry' happens. It was a very tough class for him, and for all of us -- we didni't come up with The Answer, but we had a lot of very important discussion and learned that God also listens to our hurts . It also reminded me to be attuned to a child's lingering sadness, and how supportive we need to be as a community of teachers/ mentors.


Great Story! God bless you and your class!

 Don't forget CRWRC's educational World Hunger campaign each fall. 

posted in: Kids on a Mission!

What a great idea! We've been talking about ways to encourage our congregation members to tell their "God stories" and I think this could be a wonderful method.

Perfect timing! Our newsletter articles are due Monday! Thank you!

I was struck by this years ago when a group I was in studied John Timmer's book *The Kingdom Equation: A Fresh Look at the Parables of Jesus.* He really explores the way that the meaning and impact of the parables are affected by the Eastern culture within which they were told.

posted in: Perspective

Thank you for the helpful update!

The guiding principle quoted in the article is not the one endorsed by Synod, at least not according to my records as a delegate. I don't know the details of who changed what and when before the principle got to the Synod floor, but the approved principle reads this way:

"All baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord's Table and called to obey the scriptural commands about participation (e.g. to 'examine themselves,' to 'discern the body,' to 'proclaim the Lord's death,' to 'wait for others') in an age- and ability-appropriate way, under the supervision of the elders. The elders have responsibility to nurture in the congregation grateful and obedient participation through encouragement, instruction and accountability."

Three additional statements about profession of faith were added also to help clarify that principle.

The approved principle is similar to the one in the agenda, but contains some noticeable differences: the mention of "faith in Jesus Christ" (a critical requirement, according to Reformed theology), the examples of commands to be obeyed (which help clarify), and the expanded clarification regarding profession of faith (which also help clarify).

Hi Sherri, Sometimes our class size fluctuates, so we have to combine the middle & high school groups. But I'm hoping to use Faith Alive's Walk With Me Year 1 material for middle school next year. The monthly topics include: Tough Choices, Bible Reading, Building Relationships, Talking with God, Christians & Culture, Telling Others, Sexuality: A Gift From God, Diversity, Stewardship. For high school we're using Questions Worth Asking, a course on scripture and the Heidelberg Catechism. It's very creative and engaging.

I hope you find something that works well with your youth. What have you used in the past? What type of material are you hoping to find?



posted in: Sunday School

Thanks lauri! I love the idea of a slide show with pictures! I be the kids would enjoy seeing themselves on screen, and it's a great way to remember the good times shared over the last year! I only have a handful of photos this year, but I'll be more intentional about taking pictures from now on, so that I can do that next year!

By the way, it's nice to hear from you! I hope all is well in Ripon--I have such fond memories of visiting there.


Hi Jolana:

I stick with the 'tried and true', my 4th year with this plan. We've had an appreciation lunch for all children & youth teachers and leaders the Sunday after our Church school, and most other kids ministries, end which was May 23 this year. My husband cooks, I decorate and set-up, the Education Committee serves and cleans-up, along with some Council members as well. We invite family members and usually have about 90.

I have a "give away", usually a thank you pen with a name card for each volunteer. It's a nice time of fellowship and seems to be appreciated by those who attend.

We also do a slide show of lots of photos of the past year in ministry during both morning worship services. On that apprecation Sunday we give bibles to our kids entering 3rd grade for use at the christian school. And, we give recognition to any leaders 'retiring' from ministry.

So, it's a full morning but a very upbeat, positive one.

Blessing to you!
Lauri Howard
Coordinator of Ministries
Immanuel CRC, Ripon CA

Hi Jolanda,
In my limited experience of "visual worship", the pictures on the PowerPoint have been scenes of nature depicting God's glory, like beautiful mountains or trees in fall, or flowers, or people's faces, babies, etc. I think as long as the picture isn't so funny or strange to be distracting, and not so flashy as to be overwhelming, anything can work. In a song about God's love, there are numerous images that come to mind, like people hugging, an adult hand holding a baby hand, a heart, etc. That is very general, I know, but in my opinion it's ok to keep it simple, and most songs have very general themes anyways. To find pictures, one idea is to do a search in Google, then click on "images" so it only searches pictures that are related to the word or phrase you are searching. Another way to make it more personal, if you have people willing to volunteer, is to ask congregation members to submit photos to be used. Imagine how included a child would feel to see a picture of themself up on the screen at an appropriate time. As in all things, as long as this is done well, with respect and good taste, it can be effective. As this could very easily be a time-consuming thing, it might be somethign a high school student who is into computers or design or photography could take on as extra credit for school, or even as a hobby. This would have a dual effect as they would also feel included in the worship by helping create it!
I'm loving all the other ideas I'm reading on here as well! This is great!

Thanks for passing along these ideas! During the song service, how is the story chosen for the children? Does it relate to the morning's sermon, or to Sunday school, or does it follow its own sequence? Are the stories read from a children's storybook, or shared by a storyteller?

Jesus said, let the little children come to me. If you do not become as these little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. We often take these statements too lightly, and pass them off as fluff, when they are actually at the heart of the gospel.

In our church, we spend the first fifty minutes having Sunday school. Everyone is involved, from small children to adults. Adults who are not teaching can attend an adult bible study, while some simply drink coffee and fellowship. Then, after a ten minute break, we have a song service, maybe 3 or 4 songs, and then a special story for the children, which the adults also get to listen to. About ten or 14 kids go to the front to listen, answer questions, and suggest kids songs to sing. Another 2 or 3 kids songs then are sung, usually from memory.

Then the regular service starts, at which all children are welcome to stay, but a few go to nursery. Particularly infants. Making the worship service for children is important, but also the entire environment. We have a playground outside also, which gets used in summer after church, and a foosball game in one of the nurseries, which kids get to play while the adults have coffee after church. Anyway, just some ideas for paying attention to what Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them."

Thanks for the great ideas! We don't often use images on PowerPoint. I've never thought of the importance that might have for children. Do you have any suggestions on where to find the images?

What a great perspective. Thanks for this article. I, too, am very sensitive to the inclusion or exclusion of children in our worship services. There is so much potential. I am going to try harder to be vocal about the times when I see the church "at it's best" this way, and hope for more positive change to come.
One small change I've seen make a big difference, is the choice of songs prior to the children leaving. Including a few children's songs, or hymns with simpler words, allows children to participate instead of standing idly by, bored and/or confused. Also, for children who can't read, having appropriate images on the PowerPoint screen with the words still allows them to worship with us through visual means. Having the singing team demonstrate actions or interpretive dance helps them participate as well. I have been so blessed watching children worship with their hands and faces even when they don't know the words and can't read them. I believe this is how God is pleased in worship as well. Let's encourage more of this!!

Hey Nick.....

I often think that in most things in ministry, when our numbers drop or fluctuate highly, we need to look at ourselves first. One of the key elements in growing churches is a vibrant children's ministry. Geoff Surratt, in his GREAT book "10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing" says that our aim should be to make the hour we have with the kids "the best hour of their week". If you do that, I think kids will come. If not, it begs the question, "How do we get there." I tend to think we let ourselves off the hook a little too easily in maintaining high levels of quality and substance in our children's ministries because they are people who aren't on councils and don't have as large of a voice as other age segments of our population.

To that end, we start with a "no excuses" policy for quality - rather than see ceilings, we look for innovative ways to get our intended result. Also, resource and staff your children's ministry for the size you WANT it to be. If you resource and staff your ministry for 5-10 kids, that's the most you'll ever get. We learned that the hard way when we immediately doubled our attendance and weren't ready to deal with it from a resources/staffing standpoint. Finally, identify some churches who do children's ministry REALLY well in your community - likely young, modern-style churches, even plants. Send your volunteers there for a Sunday or two. Most churches will let you do this and pick their brains for innovative and creative ideas to hit those high quality of programming levels that make that hour "the best of the kids' week".

What a great idea, Jolanda! I can see how the kids would love having their own pocket.

thank you Liz for the great idea! Our network has recently been searching out different and meaningful ways to celebrate Easter with our children. This idea is both easy and valuable for the children and the congregation!

My church takes a mentoring approach for profession of faith. For middle school we use the I Believe student and mentor guides, and that works well. I've also used Quest of Faith with high school youth--I like its conversational tone.   

Yes, I agree. If many of your kids have grown up with the young children and worship program they'll probably catch onto the Novelli method more quickly. Please post an update on how it's working out if your church decides to give it a try. Thanks!

Hi Jolanda - Thank-you for your comments. Your insight will be valuable to us if we decide as a church to use the program - I hope we do! I think the program was designed for older teens but could be developed for younger children as well especially those with a background of Children's Worship. Thanks again - Gerry

Nice piece. I think we also have to calibrate "it will be OK" by the cross and the resurrection. "It will be OK" is a common refrain in most American movies and that means some emotional settling or something vague like that. "Success" in the Christian life easily slides into the shiny, happy faces deal.

The core message of the gospel is that following Jesus is designed to lead us to the same places it led him, to the cross, tomb and out again. Christianity wasn't designed to sit next to all of the other self-help books offering good advice in "making life work" but rather to be the only path that actually results in Creation 2.0. This reality is best communicated as you said through watching people actually do it and it won't usually look like a script about adopting some poor child who will grow up to be an NFL millionaire.

Thanks for your piece. pvk

posted in: Faith Modeling

Hi Gerry,
I've read Shaped by the Story by Michael Novelli and I think it's a great resource! I don't have any experience using it with youth, so I can't recommend it on that front, but I am impressed with Novelli's approach to exploring Scripture with youth. He takes seriously the Reformed idea that Scripture is one whole story that tells of God's redemption and restoration of the world through Jesus Christ. His approach puts the focus on God and helps teens look for the connections between each of the Scripture stories. It also guides them in thinking about how the stories shape them personally, and shape all of us as God's people. I especially appreciate the way that he helps teen imagine their way into the story by telling, retelling, and asking questions of the story. 
It's also refreshing that Novelli takes teens back into the Bible stories of the Old and New Testament. Sometimes we focus so heavily on life issues, doctrine, creeds, and confessions in the high school and middle school years that I think we send an unintended message that Bible stories are for kids. Not so!! During the teen years the abstract thinking is sharpening, so it's a great time to engage the stories again and come with new questions and wonderings born out of new life experiences. During those turbulent years teens can take great comfort in these stories that tell us how God worked in great and mysterious ways in the lives of ordinary people. They can relate to the ups and downs that we see in some of the complicated stories of people like Moses, Joseph, David, Esther, Paul, Mary. . . . They will discover more about God by seeing how he lovingly engages, challenges, empowers, forgives, all of these people (and us too!). I would love to see my church work Novelli's material into the scope and sequence of the high school years right along with Questions Worth Asking (H. Catechism). Our doctrine and theology is very important, and I think it becomes especially real and meaningful when it is paired with and grounded in the story of Scripture.      
If I do get the chance to use Shaped by the Story I think there are a few things I'd do differently than Novelli. For example, he seems pretty strict about not thinking ahead about the story--only looking back and talking about how the current story we are talking about connects to other stories we've already shared. I understand the reasons in theory, but in practice you have a mix of kids who know the whole Bible and those who don't. And you have kids who are coming about half the time, and others who are there consistently. When kids are there, they should be free to have the "Aha!" moments of making connections either to past or future stories. It would be a shame for them to miss that just because they get busy near the end of the series of studies! 
Some other details--after sharing the story initially and doing the retelling, I'd want everyone to pull out their Bibles so they could refer to particular aspects of the story as the conversation progresses. It bothers me a bit that they don't ever refer to the text in Novelli's model. Though it would take some tweaking to figure out how present the story orally in a way that still allow time for kids to meaningfully engage in the text.
I'd also be careful that I didn't make my intro too long before sharing the actual story. If you saw the video that came along with the book, I'm referring to the elaborate diamond analogy. It's a good one, but it burns up about half of the attention span of youth! I'd keep that part short and simple, and expect that it would take a few weeks and maybe even a couple months before the rhythm was strong with the youth knowing what's expected and how to participate and engage. The dialogue at the end is really the key to the formation process--it's the point where our story merges with God's story and it's the launching point for living the story. That portion lends itself to some wonderful, Spirit led reflection, conversation, and self discovery. I would guess that this whole method would work best with older youth than with middle schoolers or younger teens.
Have you visited Novelli's website, I think he has training events and other helpful materials. Post again if you begin using Shaped by the Story--I'd love to hear how it goes. I wonder if it would work best for Sunday school or youth group. I hope we also hear from others who have used it.



Has anyone read the book "Shaped by the Story" by Michael Novelli? It seems to me that this would be a really good way of doing Sunday School. I'm finding that kids are growing up not knowing the stories in the Bible. In this method the story is told bare bones, no extra explanation or description not found in the scripture passage, and after the kids take turns telling it back, each person telling one or two lines. As they talk themselves and hear the others they begin to think about the story and the implications for them. I would like to try this in our church, but because it is not Faith Alive material I am a little chicken of the process to allow it. Okay, now I'm rambling, but this is a perfect follow-up program for Children's Worship if that is something you already have.

At my church we used to fluctuate between 1 and 9 kids each week. I always prepared for 12. Sometimes God surprised me with 15, other weeks God sent 1. The biggest thing I tried to remember was that kids are always taking their cues from me, their leader. So, I tried to teach that one child with the same energy and enthusiasm I would have used with a full house. After all, kids show up ready to hear about God and spend time with you---and you can provide that no matter how many of them there are!!!

Of course, the great thing about having 1 or 2 kids is that you can spend more time in one on one conversation--sharing faith stories, wondering aloud together about how the characters felt, or how and why God did something. You can also take time to get to know your kids on a personal level, praying together and building a relationship that may last a lifetime! Don't be afraid to drop some activities in order to do that. Use the goals listed at the beginning of each 'Step' to frame your conversation.

Something else that's helpful---at the back of each Kid Connection session there is a section called One on One Fun. It's filled with ideas on how to adapt each step when you're working with one or two kids. In your church, Nick, the leaders may find it helpful to check out those ideas as they plan a session so they'll have some options in mind for those weeks when there are really small numbers.

Thanks Jolanda! These resouces were very helpful!
The workshop will be held April 14 & 28 at 7 p.m. Please, pray for me and the attendees that this will be a beneficial workshop!

I've been there too, Nick! One thing I find encouraging is to hang photos of all the kids that attend my class. I just used the little camera in my phone to take pictures of the kids. Whenever someone new arrives I snap their photo too. I print the photos out and cut them into a little circle just framing the child's face, and I stick it to the palm of a traced-hand cut out. Then I stick the new hands on the wall each week. Even on weeks when our group is small we can look on the wall and see all the kids that have been a part of our group throughout the last year. It's encouraging! And when the kids do come back they feel more like they belong because there photo is there with everyone elses. I don't list the kids names with their photos, even so, I think the photos have helped me remember kids names.

If you're wondering why we attach the photos to hands, that's something we started when we were using the Hand in Hand curriculum on Embracing Diversity. I cut out hands in a variety of hands in various colors to represent some of the diversity in God's kingdom. I tape the kid's and leaders photos to them in a random way so that the hands don't reflect the skin tones of the people in the photos--Instead they are there to reminder us that God make us alike and different in many ways and that we are all welcome in God's kingdom and in our class.

You could easily think of another way to display kid's photos in your class, if it was something your teachers would like to try.

Hi Holly, we spoke earlier, but I wanted to post these ideas for the benefit of others who might also be interested in sharing faith stories. It's an exciting project!

Here are a few resources that might be helpful:

  • The Faith Formation video from the Synodical Faith Formation Committee. 
  •  The Walk On Resource Guide (pages 25-28 are reproducible and talk about sharing your faith story, and include a worksheet to help prepare your story) and video. 
  • The book Celebrating the Milestones by Laura Keeley and Robert J. Keeley. This book includes a very good foundation for why sharing faith stories and marking milestones strengthens the faith of the whole community.
  • The student book Companions in Christ: A Group Experience in Spiritual Formation-- the study in Part 1, Week Four is about thinking of the ways that you see God at work in your life and preparing to share your faith journey with the group. Unfortunately there isn't anything reproducible in this book, but it may spark some ideas that you could use for the workshop. 
  • The book God in My Life by Marenc Tirabassi may also be helpful because it includes activities that can be used in cross-generational settings.

Let us know how it turns out!

One I like to use is a 1990 book titled The Children's Bible "retold" by Anne de Graaf and illustrated beautifully by Jose' Perez Montero (Tommy Nelson Publishers). I like it because it is very true to Scripture and reads very well. It is most appropriate for a bit older elementary children.

posted in: Children's Bibles

We used to rent a highschool for our church services and used the teacher's staff room for our nursery. In addition to staplers and paper cutters that needed to be covered up there was a huge bubble gum machine in the room!! We used the bedsheet system too:)

Whenever I'm setting up my Sunday school room I always take a moment to sit where the kids will be sitting so I can see what they will see. That way I can remove distractions and make sure the action is at their eye level.

posted in: Chair Wars

For each week in Lent the children return to congregational worship from Children's Worship for communion. I have printed a Bible verse on card stock that connects to the Lord's Supper such as I Corinthians 10:17. The verse is given to the children in Children's Worship with a purple pen. Following some of the ideas in the book Praying In Color the children focus on the verse by reading it and drawing around it during their response time as we prepare for communion. The kids take the paper with them when they return to congregational worship.

posted in: Calendar Check