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Subscribe to this section. This is the place for teachers, staff and volunteers to share their ideas, questions, answers and resources for doing Sunday School ministry.
Here's an idea for kicking off the year with a creative project that brings kids together.
I do hear that a lot! And I know from experience how frustrating it can be to have to remind folks that children are worth the one hour of prep time it takes to tell God’s story well with them. So hang in there as you seek to do that!
Re: What’s in the Bible? If you’ve determined that video curriculum is the way to go in your setting, I would recommend taking a look at the What’s in the Bible? videos as they will line up better with Reformed theology than videos from other publishers. (Unlike KidMo or 252 Basics for example.) If you are familiar with the Veggie Tales videos you will already have a sense of the quirkiness that’s found in this series because it’s created by former Veggie Tale creator, Phil Vischer. I have not read through enough of the written curriculum content to comment specifically on that content (although look for a review of it in the new Children’s Ministry toolkit from Faith Formation Ministries later this year) but I would suggest signing up for the free sample download Vischer offers on their site and reading through those pieces, using the 10 Question Tool for Choosing Children’s Ministry Curriculum as a guide. Finally, here’s a link to a review I found on the approach Vischer takes with the videos. Hope that helps!
My name is Rachel Kapteyn and I work as the Children's coordinator at our church. Our church is busy with many things and we are finding our volunteers are busy and maxed out. I'm sure you heard this a lot. Recently I've looked into introducing one of your "Recommended Resources" curriculums called "Buck Denver asks...What's in the Bible?" to ease prep time for volunteers. Can you let me know your thoughts about this program? Rachel
During our addition we added lines to represent water to a cement block wall that would be covered with brick. Everyone added their fingerprint to remember that we are baptized people. Our youth also traced their handprint and wrote a favorite Bible verse on the floor before the carpet was laid.
Hi Angela, Feel free to do so! Please just link back to this page and give credit to Faith Alive Christian Resources. Thanks so much for sharing!
These are great ideas. I would like to post this on my church's Faith Formation Website.
Thank you for your comment. What a blessing that your 3 grandkids are so eager to go to their church on Sunday. As a parent that’s a dream I also share for my grandkids one day! The Orange curriculum which I described in the post and which they use at Yellowbox Church has always been very intentional about reaching out to families and providing resources to churches to help them to do that. Although the CRC has always talked about the “three legged stool” of faith formation---church, school, home--I don’t know that we’ve always done the best job we can encouraging and equipping families to form faith at home. We kind of left that leg of the stool up families to figure out. It’s something that Faith Formation Ministries is working to change (and a big part of our going to the BOT to ask for funding.) We need to do a better job supporting family faith formation. And we can certainly learn from Orange in that regard. So thanks for making that important connection.
Several years ago I sat down with an enthusiastic Children’s Ministry Director at an Ontario church. They had been using 252 Basics for several years and were planning a renovation that would add space to their building so they could fully implement the program. Beyond their baptism Sunday, the kids at that church don’t enter the main sanctuary or worship with their families again until they are in Grade 6. They are dropped off before the main worship service begins and picked up afterwards. The Director told me that families love it because they can enjoy worship without their kids and because their kids are learning to make wise choices; the leaders love it because the prep is minimal; and she loves it because “you don’t even have to be a Christian to teach it” so it’s easy to get volunteers.
Here’s the thing. Children are not bait to get parents to church. Children grow in faith as they are participating in worship with all generations in addition to time spent with their peers in an age appropriate learning environment. Children learn about wise choices at school; at church we have an opportunity to grow in them a deep and wide faith, a three-dimensional faith which Robert Keeley defines as “a faith that is rooted deep inside so that even when our head doubts or our heart falters, our faith remains strong. This faith goes beyond platitudes and catchphrases. It’s a faith that realizes that God is faithful even when our questions go unanswered.” (Helping Our Children Grow in Faith, p. 14)
Your point about the what and the how being intertwined is an important one. We need to teach in creative ways that capture the hearts, mind and spirit of the kids we’re leading and learning alongside. We need to build loving, faith nurturing relationships with the kids in our programs. We need to encourage and equip their families. But---if we want to nurture in children a three-dimensional faith, we can’t introduce them to a one-dimensional God of wise choices. We need to invite them into God’s story and help them find their place in it. And we need to teach from a curriculum that does that.
I'm just trying to follow the thread here. Yellowbox Church uses Orange, the negative example from the article. https://communitychristian.org/resources/kidscityparentresources/
So the point of this comment contradicts the posted article's point.
I'm just trying to understand. pvk
It is both the what and the how.
Yellowbox church in Naperville, Il, a thriving new mega church with multiple campuses has such a vital Sunday School curriculum that kids talk to kids at school and convince their parents to let them go to to church. Thousands of families have joined this new contemporary church because of the vibrancy of the programs for kids. I know because my three grandkids can't wait for Sunday.
Sure thing Karen.
Give me a call sometime at RedArrow Ministries, 269-657-5679.
Your comment paints a great picture of the unique context of every CRC and an important reminder of why a one-size-fits all approach doesn't work. I'm also part of a church plant and my small group of kids there includes those from different faith traditions, those who come with their grandmas and have parents who don't own a Bible, kids in distress, and kids whose parents grew up in the CRC, and more. It's an exciting challenge:) And I suspect that even in churches that aren't plants we're going to be seeing more parents who are Biblically illiterate in the coming years. So it's important that the children's ministry toolkit we hope to create will include ideas and resources that are both theologically sound and flexible to shape for the different needs of the church leaders who use them. I'd love to chat some time with you and learn more about the needs of your church and the sorts of things you are doing there to meet those needs. It's the best way for us to gather ideas that we can share with other churches!
Thanks for your feedback. Although I posted this to the Pastors page because of the comment a pastor on the Board of Trustees made about how he wished every CRC pastor was able to hear, I'd love to see the information it contains shared with elders, children's ministry coordinators, and anyone else who is tasked with choosing what and how their church will invite kids to live into and live out of God's story. It's important!
Yes! The list to which I linked is a list that's created each year by a Church Educator from the Episcopalian tradition and shared on buildfaith.org but in the toolkit we do plan to point folks to curriculum from other Reformed publishers (for e.g.e Growing in Grace and Gratitude, Feasting on the Word and LOGOS (an intergenerational curriculum) are all available through the PCUSA.) There are also other resources available from other sources which would work in a Reformed context which we'll include in the kit. The goal of the children's ministry toolkit will be similar to our other toolkits----links, ideas, information on resources that churches can shape to fit their particular context.
Thanks for the article!
I agree wholeheartedly that our children and their Faith Formation NEEDS to be an important focus of every Church.
From the context of a Church Plant perspective, I spoke with various people from Faith Alive often over the past 8 years. I shared with them the problem we face is complete Biblical illiteracy of many people of our congregation. With 2/3 of our people coming into our faith community being brand new to church or returning after many years, most of the parents we meet have very little Biblical knowledge to speak of. While the content of Faith Alive materials like Dwell are fantastic, they have been tried in our setting and are 'over the head' of most if not all of our kids. More and more families from the area are not just coming to us with a deficiency of Bible knowledge, they are coming to us with ZERO Biblical understanding...because they didn't even own a Bible!
We serve in a Post-Christian setting where some kids think the story of Adam and Eve is on the same level of authenticity as the story of 'Beauty and the Beast.' When God brings them into our midst, guess which story they know better?
Thank you Karen! I agree with the article and the comments so far!
Two further thoughts...
1. What does it communicate when this is assumed to be information for pastors? How about elders? In my first church I was given almost no say about Sunday School curriculum, thankfully the second church I had did value my input. And, I hope that I'm not alone among pastors in placing a high value on the input of professional educators when it comes to the pedagogy of the curriculum.
2. I hope this is somewhat of an answer to Tim's thoughts. While the CRC curriculum is an improvement on the other, I still wouldn't say it picks up on the better aspects of Reformed theology. It reinforces a sense of assurance of our salvation (justification!), but fails to plant seeds of sanctification. I've found, sadly, that many adults who have grown up in our churches actually begin to feel less assured over time because a) they don't sense themselves becoming more godly and b) the preacher seems to believe we need to hear the message of justification again - maybe that's a sign we didn't understand it before!
In my own young adulthood I went from extreme boredom with my faith to fervent excitement when I began to understand a Reformed (emphasis on Reformed!) view of sanctification - a view that put God in the lead, yet gave me a role in watching His transforming work in my life and even being allowed to participate in exciting ways! And then I discovered many others who were experiencing the same thing and then we got to watch God work in each other and support each other through the ups and downs of all that!
Thanks for the helpful article! In the toolkit that Faith Alive is preparing, I hope we can help direct churches to other Reformed publishing houses. The linked chart of 50 curriculums appears to be heavily drawn from non-Reformed, mainline denominations (Episcopal, ELCA, UCC, UMC, etc.). There are some other great options out there that are deeply Reformed and didn't make the list - such as Great Commission Publications (https://www.gcp.org/) from the PCA/OPC. We've found their Sunday School curriculum to be very solid in our context.
While I agree with much of what the article has to say, I want us to also stop and consider that the young adults who are leaving the faith from our churches also grew up with those same covenantal teachings, albeit with an older version of some of the same curriculum. But they are still leaving. Somehow, we need to discover what it is that we are missing in our teaching, not just what "the others" are missing in their curriculum. Could it be that in our covenant theology that we fail to emphasize our response to God's faithful promises? Do we presume a faithful response acceptance because we have taught the meaning of the words? I don't have the answers, but I am also not hearing those kinds of questions being asked within our denomination.
I second Doug's "amen". Teaching children truisms and trite morality lessons will not equip them to grab hold of the promises sealed to them in baptism, nor will it teach them to understand/handle scripture correctly. Children are often so much more ready and able to understand and internalize deep and meaningful truths than they are given credit for. If we expect little from our children, we will get exactly what we expect. The great commission starts at home and in the church and blossoms outward from there. Karen, thank you for posting this.
This is provided by the CRCNA. But if the RCA would like to offer something similar to their churches, we'd certainly be open to exploring it.
Is this assistance program also available for RCA churches?
Love this idea! It's a tangible and helpful way to stick with a Lent plan.
Thanks for sharing this idea, Wendy. It's wonderful!
I know that this article had a focus on Sunday School, however, as a school teacher, I was encouraged by the simple wisdom.
I am a sixth grade teacher and a few months ago I led my students in a poverty awareness activity that involved a form of fasting. This is how it worked:
For one month I had my students consider giving up something they were used to in order to have a better understanding of others living in poverty. It was up to them to decide the duration and the extent of their "fast." Incidentally, I did not call this activity "fasting" until after the month was completed. At that time, I showed them the connection between what they had given up and the traditional food-related fasting.
Choices of duration: one day, one week, one month
Choice of fast:
Sleep on the floor or sleep without a pillow [having a bed and a pillow is normal to us but not to every child in the world]
Use bar soap to wash your hair [In North America, our soaps are specialized, but in areas of poverty, bar soap becomes versatile]
Watch no television or use no device [Electricity and ready entertainment are not available 24/7 around the world]
Drink only water (not juice, milk, pop) [Imagine if you had to boil that water first...]
Eat no dessert or snacks after supper [Three meals a day plus grazing on snacks is not typical around the world]
Wear a shirt that is too small or too big for you [When you're poor you wear hand-me-downs until you can afford something better]
Wear the same outfit (you are allowed to wash it in between) [Wearing the same thing every day will help you appreciate your closet full of clothes]
Every student chose to participate. As a teacher I modeled wearing the same outfit for the month. Maybe some of these ideas can be useful to others.
Margaret Schuurmans I have been teaching Sunday School for many years. We recently started DWELL and it is going not too badly. I find that it is very much like the LIFE curriculum. We used Walk with Me and Kid Connection. I found that Kid Connection was very juvenile. It did not suit our age group at all. Walk with Me was ok, but I was told that it was being discontinued. Hope this is helpful.
We are currently using Kid Connection from Faith Alive. We looked at Dwell but didn't feel it fit our kids. Kid Connection is older, but I love the 4 year scope and sequence. I'm trying to add bits and pieces to it (multimedia, additional large group activities, and special Sundays) so that we've got the best of both worlds.
Im curious what ages does your program run? I find that gets a bit tricky; I like your have one story so each family can go home and discuss one lesson, not 5, but it also has to be approachable for each age. I do know a couple churches in our area (1 CRC, 2 others) that are using material from Orange and love it. I personally like knowing FaithAlive's stuff comes from a Reformed perspective rather than examining other material, but that might be something from you to look at!
My name is Karen DeBoer and I work for Faith Formation Ministries as a Creative Resource Developer. Prior to that I worked as part of the editorial team for the Dwell curriculum. Our Faith Formation Ministries team is in the process of considering ways to add to Dwell and it sounds like you may be the person to speak with for some ideas! I'd love to learn more about your experience with it. (We've also been using it at my church for the past several years.)
I'm also familiar with many of the other curricula available and would be happy to speak with you about others that may work in your setting. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, here are a few tools that you and your education committee may find helpful in your search for curriculum. The first is a Ten Question Tool for Choosing a Children's Curriculum which breaks the process down into ten great questions. You can read more about it here and you can view a video about it here. You may also want to check out the Recommended Resources page on the Faith Formation Ministries site for some other ideas.
Thanks Karen, we are considering stopping Sunday School as it is and do something intergenerational with the entire church, something like WE, but on a weekly basis and then tying it into our worship service. You've given us some great resources to look through! I appreciate all your help
Thanks for responding Caryn,, some great ideas here, I appreciate your willingness to take time to help us out, I will take your suggestions to our Sunday School leader and this will help us get those creative fires burning again.
I work for Faith Formation Ministries as a Creative Resource Developer. The blessing of being part of a small church with few children is that it forces folks to consider ways to be more intentionally intergenerational and, as research from the folks at the Fuller Institute has shown, that’s a good thing!
I love the ideas that Caryn has suggested. Here are a few other places/people/curriculum you might want to check out.
GenOn Ministries has been developing intergenerational resources with a Reformed perspective for churches of all sizes for more than 25 years. Their LOGOS program is highly respected.
The Church Educators Facebook page is a great place to ask questions and Hope4CE is a great website with ideas---both are connected with the Association for Presbyterian Church Educators. (Two articles to get you started on the Hope4CE page: The Experiment and Generations in Faith Together.)
Worshipping with Children is a one of the best sites around for supporting families and engaging children in worship.
The Killing Sunday School/Birthing Cross-Gen Worship Facebook page is another helpful site. On it you’ll find many folks in situations that are similar to yours---and many ideas too.
As Caryn mentioned, the WE curriculum is a great option for learning events the whole church can attend. You can watch a church using WE in this video.
Questions? Feel free to email me or any other members of the Faith Formation Ministries team anytime. We'd be happy to have a conversation with you. You’ll find contact information here.
PS We are looking for congregations to participate in a learning cohort and strengthen existing faith formation practices. You'll find more information on that here.
We have the opposite problem in our church; over 80 kids, with classes of 15. But I've done a lot of Children's Ministry in different circumstances. What's your age range like? It's easier to do something if the kids are a bit older. Are your youth involved in the program? I love the energy and enthusiasm my young helpers bring.
One of the things I've seen work well is having the group work together to create something, on a theme or specific Bible story. So one week, you could explore Daniel and the Lion's Den by first reading the story out of a Children's Bible and then creating a Reader's Theatre play. The youngest children would be simple character such as lions, while older children would be the King and Daniel; the younger kids get the story basics, while older kids are encouraged to reflect on how Daniel may have felt, situations they may find themselves in that would be similar etcetera. The kids could present for their parents at the end of the service. Another week, you could show video on Jonah and then work together to create a mural showing Jonah inside the fish.
I know there are churches in my area that have one Sunday a month where the service is intentionally led for the kids. They do more interactive songs, incorporate various media, and have simpler teachings. This is coupled with their Sunday School program on the other weeks of the month. And I've heard great things about the WE curriculum from Faith Alive, though I've never tried it.
I wish you all the best in planning!
Caryn Tilstra, Smithville CRC
Thanks for sharing this, Laura. I love your ideas for other ways a congregation might also use this blessing.
This week I had the same reaction from a church educator when I described how many people looked at a lesson after it was written before it was published -- She had no idea! Thanks for the article.
These are my thoughts on how I would use the Digital Library, to get others thinking about how they could use it, and how it could benefit their church. Every church, and every teacher, is different. Life happens, and I’m doing the best I can as a volunteer in a smaller church. The kids enjoy coming to class—and we’ve had great discussions using the wondering questions in DWELL.
It's great that the library is available to teachers, however this article has some red flags for me, that you may consider. Firstly, the expectation that a Sunday school lesson can be prepared the night before or even 'on the spot'. Our children deserve better than that.
Secondly, the 'take homes'. In this article they are mentioned as being a surprise to the teacher, unwanted by some children, foisted on the parents ( I can't be bothered checking what's in them, your kids don't want them, but you should deal with them). I suggest you either use them properly and excite your students, or give them something more valuable to take home, such as a memorable lesson.
Thirdly, the budget. Should we really be penny pinching when it comes to discipling our kids? There's something wrong with the idea that a church treasurer would suggest that the savings made (by the teachers reading something from their iPad rather than printing a few sheets of paper), entitles them to ask for further resources. Just buy the darned story cards!
Thanks for catching this, Carol! The link has been updated so you can now access tools for using puppets in the classroom.
For anyone checking out the link I provided for Bible Teaching Methods Using Puppets, I've just discovered that these resource pages are only live for one month and then replaced with new ones. So sorry about that. :-(
What a great way to bless your family each Christmas, Hetty. Thanks for sharing!
I have been buying a Nativity picture book for my family every Christmas for the past 20 years. Before this, not as frequently, but often enough for us to now have a collection of over 40 picture books. I avoid those with talking mice and cattle, and those by Max Lucado ( blind spot on my part!).
I enjoy learning about and exploring Christmas traditions from around the world, but there's nothing as precious as the family sitting around the Christmas tree after all the gifts have been opened, and reading/looking at the account of Jesus' birth in a picture book. And none of us is younger than 28!
As an Australian I'm particularly pleased that you love the Julie Vivas book. It's one of my favourites, and a great hit with the many children with whom I have shared it.
Caryn, you're welcome. That's why we keep posting stuff here! So glad to hear it will be helpful. Be sure to check out the video by Barbara Newman too that I reference in the note. I think you'll find her advice right on the mark for your needs. Mark
Thanks for posting this! This speaks perfectly to some things our Sunday School program has been dealing with!
These look great!
Thanks for this helpful post, Angie!
Love this! How easy it is (for adults, too) to miss the opportunity to engage in the "Sunday" message. My church has a weekly guide (via an app on my phone) to stay connected to the sermon (such as Bible verses, songs, and personal growth challenges) that are SUCH a valuable resource if I take the time to use them.
A celebration is a great way to start of a new Sunday School year. Here are a few ideas that you could do with your breakfast:
Think about all those children who are learning about the love of Jesus! That's amazing!
What a wonderful idea, Janice! (My tear inducing picture book is Koala Lou by Mem Fox. It's a great example of unconditional love.)
We have started reading 24 Christmas books for 24 days of Dec. at our house. I admit they aren't all Christian books, but there are some really delightful books out there. Sunday I cried reading "An Orange for Frankie" byPatricia Polacco with Abby and laughed at "Froggy's Best Christmas." I also love Jan Brett's "The Animals' Santa." Elizabeth read a board book to me this morning "The Christmas Story" by Patricia Pingry. "The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado is beautiful! Oh, the list goes on...
Beautiful words, Jolanda. Thanks for the many ways you've supported children's ministries in the CRC and beyond. Blessings on this new phase. We trust that God will nudge someone to continue the good work you've begun here on the Sunday School section of The Network.
Thanks for all the ways you have blessed us a children's ministry leaders, Jo! And thanks for the hope-filled encouragement you've given us in this post. We will miss you!