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
Resource

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 0 0 comments
Blog

The Discipleship and Faith Formation Ministry launched the God Loves Me crowd funding campaign this week. Here's why.

January 23, 2015 0 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 0 1 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

“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
Blog

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 0 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
Blog

How can we make listening a key part of our time together with kids?

September 9, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Activity or Game

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
Blog

The answer seems obvious: to teach the Bible story or lesson we've been assigned. But I wonder if it's more nuanced than that.

August 26, 2014 0 3 comments
Blog

Here's an idea for kicking off the year with a creative project that brings kids together.

July 29, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

Creative ideas from churches that are trying new things with this age old tradition.

July 22, 2014 0 4 comments
Discussion Topic

It's curriculum selection season--which materials have you found especially helpful for sharing God's word with kids, teens, or adults? 

July 8, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Here's a pattern that has proven helpful for hosting a youth retreat focused on the Heidelberg Catechism

July 1, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

The Circle of Grace curriculum teaches children and youth how to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual boundaries; recognize when boundary violations are about to occur; and demonstrate how to take action when boundaries are threatened or violated.

June 30, 2014 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Here's a great article on working with volunteers in children's ministry, but all the suggestions listed can also be used in any other area where volunteers are engaged in ministry.

June 27, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

As your faith formation programs switch gears for the summer, consider these preplanning ideas to help you kick off next year's Sunday school season with success.

May 13, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

Ideas for making the last day of Sunday school special.

May 6, 2014 0 1 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

If your church is considering a change in Sunday school or children's curriculum, this webinar will provide practical tips on finding a curriculum that fits your theology and your context.

April 23, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

At a time when the diagnosis of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and learning disabilities is on the rise, it seems wise for churches to consider investing in someone who can help us understand how best to love one another in Christ.

April 22, 2014 0 4 comments
Resource, Presentation

Join me for a one hour webinar that explores the nuts and bolts of curriculum selection and offers an overview of Faith Alive's three core children's curricula.

April 15, 2014 0 0 comments
Blog

Are you expecting a few new folks in worship this Sunday? Consider these easy ideas for embracing Easter guests.

April 15, 2014 0 2 comments
Blog

Is our Sunday school structure holding us back from deeper discipleship with children?

April 8, 2014 0 4 comments

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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.

I think question 97 explains the purpose of this Lord's Day.   We are not to worship images or substitutes of or for God.  Jesus was a man also, fully human, as another Lord's Day explains.  So people saw him, touched him.   Representing the Jesus they saw, admittedly we don't know what he looked like, is in one sense having an actor represent Julius Ceasar or the apostle Peter in the telling of a visual story.   However, if you find yourself worshipping such an actor, or thinking that the actor represents God, rather than the human suffering aspect of Jesus, then you probably should not participate in the watching. 

A.God can not and may not
be visibly portrayed in any way.

Although creatures may be portrayed,
yet God forbids making or having such images
   if one's intention is to worship them
   or to serve God through them.1
 

 

In the Heidelberg catchism  L.D. 35 , images of God or Jesus are not permitted .  I would be interested to see if anyone else thinks that movies like this would be applied to this.

One of our members told me yesterday that her non-Christian husband asked her to watch it with him.  I am praying that God will use this series as the open door through which this man will step asking more questions and perhaps finding the answers in Christ.

Thanks for the comment, Fred. I wonder how many people who aren’t familiar with the Bible are watching it. Your caution reminds me of a time when I was leading youth group for high schoolers and someone asked about a story that they thought was in the Bible. It was sort of a fable with a moral, and it was totally fictional, not in the Bible at all.  Yet this person was convinced that the story came from Scripture! Perhaps it was used in a devotional or as a sermon illustration at one point. Likewise, people can get confused when the story is combined with creative liberties.  

I didn't catch the latest episode, but I heard it was quite violent. I hope families with young children are cautious about watching it with their kids. In Sunday school we don’t tell all the stories to every age group. Sometimes people criticize that, but we have to strike a balance—we know kids today to face violence and hardship, and some of these stories speak to them. But we also need to be sensitive to young imaginations that are vivid and easily frightened.  

We have watched this as well. my wife and I are quite familiar with the Bible stories. The series does make them interesting. Certainly, a lot of details in the Bible are not included, and sometimes the series skips over a lot of Bible history. So while it may be interesting, I do not think that someone unfamiliar with the Bible should study it without also looking at the Bible itself for reference, and rely on this for his/her Bible learning alone. Worth watching.

Hi Leon, I'm glad I could be helpful. It sounds like you have you have a solid plan in mind with a timeline that will set you up nicely for next fall!

Hello again, Jolanda:

Thanks again for your response.  I just browsed through the resources you suggested for training Sunday School teachers and the materials for visioning.  They all look very helpful, and I will aim to use some of them in the future.  I think my next step is to meet with the chairperson of our Education Team and cast a vision for a debriefing meeting this spring to evaluate our year, and a visioning/training session in the early fall, when we're gearing up for the new teaching year. 

Thanks again for your support and guidance. 

Peace of Christ,

Leon

Hi Jolanda,

Thank you so much for the guidance.  I look forward to exploring those resources to discern how to best mentor our Sunday School teachers.  I'm probably going to suggest that we conduct a workshop early next fall and incorporate some of these ideas.  We've also found mentoring to be helpful, although sometimes it is hard to find one teacher for each group, let alone having these teachers mentor others.  I really like the idea of developing a vision for teaching (or a philosophy of teaching ministry), and I think we really need to do that.

Again, thank you so much for the guidance.  Perhaps I'll be in touch with you with more questions/comments after I review the resources you sent.

Peace to you!

--Leon

Hi Leon, I think annual training and visioning sessions for Sunday school leaders is a great idea! Faith Alive used to have an excellent resource called Sunday School That Really Works. Check your bookshelves to see if you have a copy. If so, section 1 is all about developing a vision for ministry. I'll attached three sections of it--developing a vision, an assessment tool, and a visioning excercise under the all resources section on this network. You might find these helpful as you meet with your team.

We also offer many free workshops that you can use or draw from to develop enrichment times for your leaders. You'll find them here. But your question made me think about mentoring. I always find that the best way to grow a leadership team is to bring new potential teachers on as assistant. Give them a year to serve alongside an experienced teacher and get comfortable in the role before trying it on thier own. Team teaching is much more fun than solo teaching, so it's a win win situation. You'll develop new leaders and your current leaders will feel supported. Eventually new leaders will begin to share the responsibility so no one feels burnt out.  

I hope lots of other people post here to offer idea. But please, give me a call if you'd like to brainstorm ways to do training in your church. Helping leaders develop a plan to support thier Sunday school team is part of my job at Faith Alive. You can reach me at 800-333-8300, ext. 2789 or 616-224-0789 or jhowe@crcna.org.

That's awesome, Tim! That's the kind of web of relationships we need to weave around all of our kids!

For years, we've been part of intergenerational small groups (with families, singles, couples). We alternate between meeting with kids (a fun but chaotic soup supper, with some time to sing, share, and pray together) and without kids (calmer with adult conversation, in-depth sharing and study).

I've been AMAZED at the effect of that on our young kids. They truly love their small group and have formed real connections with the other adults. If my wife and I are busy during the service, they'll occasionally sit with them instead. One is a Sunday school teacher, another a kids club leader, others occasionally babysit - all of which adds other dimensions to the relationship and, through that, to our church and their faith.

But it takes time to form those relationships. And, at least in our experience, intergenerational small groups have really helped provide that time.

Thanks for this article.   I think we often underestimate the capacity of children to learn.  They actually learn much faster than adults, with the right motivation and expectations.  So learning is very important, because doing without learning, often leads to "doing" for its own sake, rather than for the Lord's sake.   Any robot can do things without learning.   It is easily possible for grade five students to memorize the 66 books of the bible, for example.  Even grade one students have the capacity to memorize an entire chapter of the gospel, for example, Luke 2, with enough coaching and perseverance.   Learning how to apply the scriptures to life is one of the most valuable things any child can "do", so learning and doing are inseparable.   In our church education programs, we should probably remember that our "doing" needs to reinforce and not replace our "learning".    

Interesting ideas, William!

The Jesse tree is a wonderful Idea that helps us celebrate the season of Advent.  I wonder if, instead of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas during Advent, we could wish each other Thoughtful Advent?  Then at Christmas, we could drop the name Christmas.  It is the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and it lasts 12 days.  Could we claim back the season for Christ by wishing everyone Merry Nativity?  And  before the Nativity Eve service wew could begin to turn the Jesse Tree into a Nativity Tree by adding symbols and figurines that have to do with Christ's birth?

Holly Gort, Children's Ministry Director at South Grandville CRC, sent me this great idea for decorating classrooms and celebrating baptisms:

I put posters on the wall with the kids names, baptism dates, and on the bottom it states: Child of God! We celebrate the kids baptism dates like a birthday! Give them a small book called "God Thinks You're Wonderful" by Max Lucado. 

Thanks for sharing, Holly!

posted in: What A Great Idea!

Thanks, Kelly!  I'll look into it :)

Hi Jamie!

The Office of Social Justice also has a kid-friendly way to get involved in justice on behalf of asylum-seekers from Indonesia -- it's a bit more relevant to the U.S. than Canada, but it's a cool way for kids to learn about immigration, the persecuted church, and how they can show love to their neighbors.  Check it out!

http://www.crcna.org/pages/osj_indonesian_encourage.cfm

Thanks for sharing that tip, Michelle! I know organizations use Mailchimp, but I didn't realize it could work for churches. Great idea!

posted in: Celebrating Success

Thanks for sharing Brian's email format--this is just the direction I was looking for regarding the biweekly email I send to all of our teachers, subs, and assistants. I love introducing celebration to an email that has felt stuck in the information and encouragement rut. This adds a deeper dimension to my communication, turning everyone's attention for a minute to the audience, and not just to the author and necessary program/admin info. 

Now I'll share something on this topic: one tool I've found very valuable in creating a biweekly email is Mailchimp (http://www.mailchimp.com). It's an email/marketing service that is free for use with small lists of people, for which our small church qualifies. I most appreciate the intuitive interface, frequent offers of "help" with tasks, and easy access to good graphics, interesting color schemes, and choices in layout. Using mailchimp has taken my group email out of the text-only world and into the graphics-rich communication format that so many of us now expect. Bonus: It also allows me to track how many recipients open the emails I send, which has been instrumental in closing loops with folks who are inconsistently reading the messages I send to everyone. 

posted in: Celebrating Success

Thanks John, I couldn't agree more!

Thanks, Renee!  I've ordered the materials :)

Jolanda, I appreciate what you've said here.   It is really important for the teachers to capture the vision.   This helps them to go beyond just going through the motions, to realizing that we are helping our children to put on the full armor of God, in an eternal life and death situation. 

Hey Jamie, CRWRC/World Renew has a new children's giving project that you may be interested in called "God's Blessing Farm".   It's available through Faith Alive: http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/800570/god39s-blessings-farm-leader39s-guide.aspx 

Nate,

Another potential video resource is Paul David Tripp's Getting To The Heart of Parenting.  You can buy the DVD on his personal site and download handouts for free. http://www.paultrippministries.com/store 

I haven't done this yet, but am considering it for spring.  We did his What DId You Expect? series.  Video quality isn't as slick as some but content was very good. His relationship book is pretty Christocentric and have heard positive comments about the parenting course.

 

Brad's question is mine. I'm trying to find some good materials on parenting with a media/video component. Where can I find reviews on the various offerings?  I've gone through Boundaries for Kids but find their accompanying video a bit heavy & dry. What I do like about their materials is that the video offers short teaching segments that then lead to discussion. People don't necessarily have to prepare ahead of time.  

Nate

I just talked to someone about when churches generally do VBS. I've seen a broad range of dates from the beginning of summer, right after the church school season ends all the way to the end of summer, to build momentum for the new season to come. I tend to favor the second approach because it allows your church to build meaningful connections with the community just as you're signing up new kids for the fall kick off of Sunday school and other ministries. What goes into your thinking when you schedule VBS? Why do you choose the date that you do?

Laura,

Thank you for all your stories, insights, and tips.  I think my favorite blog was: What I Learned from Fruit Snacks.

posted in: Moving On

We just finished a session on "Dealing with Today's Teens" Heartlight Ministries Foundation, a seminar for parents & youth workers which includes DVDs, workbook for the parents and leader's guide. It was presented right after the morning service when the children were in Sunday School. We had a very good turnout and will do it again. www.heartlightresources.com 

Eva

Thanks Jolanda and Kim!  I am looking forward to Jolanda's leadership on the Network!

posted in: Moving On

Thanks for all of your articles and insights, Laura! You and your ministry are a gift to the CRC. You do so much to encourage, inspire, and equip church staff members, children's ministry directors, and Sunday school coordinators. I am always challenged and blessed by you!

posted in: Moving On

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