Welcome to the site of the Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda

We hope that this will be a helpful resource for you and your church. Whether you are looking for ministry curriculum for a youth group, VBS, or adult Bible study, we hope that we can provide you with some good recommendations. Check out our congregational development page to answer some of those tough ministry questions about working in a church! Or check out our workshops page if you or a group from your congregation are interested in attending a seminar or continuing education event for your ministry!

A Garden of Devotion, Conversation and Reflection for Lent and Easter: 2015

The special seasons of preparation for the church offer congregations the opportunity to support families in the developing and maintaining of good practices for faithful devotion as families at home.  Parents are very clear that they believe that they ought to be the primary teachers of faith to their children, but often struggle with how they might do that.  Parents want to share their faith with their children, but they often simply don’t know how to do it.  Research also affirms that children learn faith best from their parents.  So, the best thing that the church can do for our children is support and resource their parents in the ways and means of passing on their faith with those they love so much.

Here is one resource that congregations can give to families to help them do just that.

What follows is a Lenten and Easter Family Devotional Booklet that is written for families to use daily; sharing scripture, prayers, conversation and activities while also sharing their family meal.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (February 18. 2015) and goes through to EasterSunday (April 5, 2015).  It invites families to engage with the lectionary readings of 2015 through short readings of scripture and/or age appropriate bible stories from The Bible in 365 Stories by Lion Publishing (this is a great children’s bible story book to recommend to families to use with primary school children).  In addition to the readings and open ended conversations focused on ‘wondering’, the booklet includes each family making a simple and small tabletop garden that will grow and evolve over the six weeks of Lent, with new symbols occasionally being added and fun activities to do over their time together that tangibly express the ideas they experience together.  Clear instructions to make this garden are included in the booklet.

To help families get started and learn how to use the booklet, your congregation might want to set aside some time just before Lent begins to start these gardens as a part of a larger Lent Event.  Getting together as a church family while learning about Lent is a wonderful way of comfortably sharing the importance of faithful family conversation and resourcing families with the tools they need to get started.  The garden is inexpensive to make and would take about 20 minutes to plant.  A congregational Lent Event might include other activities such as sharing a meal together, playing some games, introducing the themes and meaning of Lent through a trivia game, the planting of the tabletop gardens in household groups, and then the important step of practicing daily family devotions by using the first day’s devotion as your closing worship together.

There are a few extra items mentioned in the booklet (kazoos, little animals, silk butterflies etc.) that families will use at home to continue re-creating their gardens over the weeks of Lent.  Churches may want to send home a goodie bag with each family filled with these items so they will be encouraged to stick with their devotions and maintaining of their garden at home.  These items are clearly noted in the booklet.

Finally the booklet file is in pdf format and has been written so that you can print out the 12 pages of the booklet, photocopy the pages front to back (page 2 on the back of page 1; page 4 on the back of page 3; etc), collate the pages, and then fold in half and staple it together down the middle to form a booklet.  For this reason, when you open the file it will appear out of order.  It isn’t.  Have a go, photocopy it, assemble it, and the dates will all be in the right places.  I promise!

I hope you and your family enjoy this opportunity to grow together over this wonderful season of Lent as we prepare for the wondrous glory that Easter brings.

Click Here for the Devotional

Inter-Generational Advent Event

advent peopleThe beginning of Advent is a wonderful time to gather the whole church family together to learn and celebrate together the beginning of a brand new church year and begin to anticipate and prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Intentional inter-generational events are among the best activities a church can have to help all of our members grow in faith and in faithful relationships across all ages.  When we share our rich stories of faith with each other we help our younger members learn from those they look up to and provide opportunities for our older members to experience anew the wonder and awe of our children.  Together we build meaningful cross-generational relationships that lead to life-long faith formation.

This intergenerational Event has been designed to not only provide and opportunity for faith sharing and learning, but also to provide resources for all of our families to continue to learn and worship together at home through the ritual of lighting an advent candle each day of advent and doing age-appropriate family devotions together.  Together the congregation will share in a meal, learn about the history and practice of advent, get to know each other a little more, make an family advent wreath to take home, be supplied with an advent devotional booklet, and practice the ritual of lighting the wreath, reading and praying as a family at the event so they’re ready to carry it on day-by-day as a family when they get home.

This event is designed to happen on the first Sunday of Advent following worship or in the evening, or on a weeknight during the week before Advent.  Here’s what your Advent Event could look like:

Would You Rather  (10 minutes)  This is a fun getting-to-know-you game that you could play either before after the shared meal.  You play Would You Rather by dividing the Would You Rather questions slips of paper between four baskets.  Place one basket on each of four little tables or chairs set up in a circle to create question stations.  Divide the participants between each of the stations and invite one member of each group to pick out a slip from their basket and read it to the group surrounding the basket beginning with the words, “Would you rather”, followed by the two options on their slip of paper.  For instance they might read, “Would you rather a. hot chocolate or b. apple cider”.  Each person responds with their own personal preference.  Once they’ve shared their answer with their group those who chose option ‘a’ move to the next station in a clockwise direction, while all of the ‘b’s’ move in a counter clockwise direction.  Just drop the slip of paper in the basket before you move on for someone else to pick out later in the game.

Every station is asking and answering questions all the time with people moving quickly to their next stations, either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on their individual answers.  There are no winners, just opportunities to mix the group up and get to know each other a little more.  Stop the game while it is still fun.

The Would You Rather slips of paper are attached as a separate file with this resource. Just cut them apart and you’re ready to go.

Share with a Meal  (45 minutes)  A potluck meal makes it easy for everyone.  You may wish to ask families to bring a seasonal family favorite.  Is there a food they always eat when they decorate the tree? wrap presents? have extended family members over?  You may wish to put on some hot apple cider or hot chocolate for everyone to enjoy the scents of the season.  Whatever works for you church with the emphasis on easy and enjoyable.

Invite families to sit together at this meal, but make sure a broad cross-section of ages are represented at each dining table.  Decorate the tables festively and place some discussion cards on each table with fun Christmas questions such as: What is your favorite Christmas carol?  What was the best Christmas gift you ever received and why?  What is your favorite Christmas cookie and who makes it?  Who’s coming for Christmas this year?  What do like to eat at Christmas?  Encourage tables to get to know each other a little more through these questions and chat about Christmas’ past and the joy each has brought.

Intro to Advent  (10 – 20 minutes depending on the age of the group)  While everyone is still at their tables take some time to introduce the theme of Advent to the group.   Rather than delivering a lecture on Advent you might want to pick some of the more interesting points about Advent an print one point per piece of construction paper, cut each piece of construction paper into a 6 – 8 piece jigsaw puzzle, and place each jigsaw puzzle into an individual envelope.  Distribute the envelopes of puzzles to the table groups and have them assemble their puzzles to discover exciting things about Advent for themselves.  Have each group share what they have learned with the whole group.

Here are some interesting things to know about Advent:

  • Advent is the beginning of the church year
  • Advent means ‘to come’
  • Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas
  • during Advent we ready ourselves for the birth of Christ, the coming of Christ into our lives, and for the return of Christ
  • Advent is season of expectation, anticipation, preparation
  • Advent was originally a season of penitence and has become a season of joy and celebration in modern times
  • the colour of Advent is either purple or blue, depending on the congregation’s choice
  • The bible is filled with references to Christ as the light of the world. We light Advent candles to remind us that Christ is coming as light and as the number of lit candles increases as we get closer to Christmas we see that the light is growing brighter week by week
  • The evergreens of the advent wreath represent life and growth
  • The circle of the Advent wreath have no beginning and no end, as Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end
  • The four coloured candles of the Advent wreath represent the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy (sometimes represented by the colour pink) and Love.

Make An Advent Wreath  (30 minutes)  Each household should make an Advent wreath together to take home with them.  The instructions for a beautiful and easy, fresh Advent wreath are included in this file.  If there are bigger families who might want to make more than one wreath, they might want to make an additional wreath for a shut-in.

Worship Together  (15 minutes) As families begin to complete their wreaths gather the whole group together and distribute the Advent devotional booklets included in this file.  Explain that Advent is a wonderful time to begin a new family tradition together and that lighting the advent candles and reading scripture/stories together is a wonderful ritual to bring into their homes.  As a whole group complete the first day of Advent devotions as it is written in the devotion booklet.  You may wish to include a couple of Advent hymns to you worship.

Thank the families for attending and remind them to repeat the devotion that evening and continue through their devotional booklets at a consistent time each day.

Advent Wreath

To make one wreath you will need the following:

  • a 9” X 2” clear vinyl plastic liner and a 7” X 2” clear vinyl plastic liner (available from a florist or Home Depot gardening department)wreath making
  • 1 block 3” X 4” X 9” wet (dark green) oasis, cut into six pieces (3” X 2” X 3”) (available from Michael’s)
  • florist’s tape for wet oasis (available at Michael’s)
  • 4 taper candles (purple or blue)
  • 1 chubby white candle
  • fresh evergreens
  • pruning shears
  • scissors
  • advent devotional booklet

Instructions:

DL-10001-400x400

  1. Hot glue the bottom of the smaller plastic dish inside the bottom center of the larger plastic dish, creating an inner dish with an outer ring (moat) surrounding the inner dish (it will look like a chip-dip dish).
  1. Soak 4 cut pieces of the oasis in water until they are saturated (The two extra blocks can be used by another family for their advent wreath). Take the oasis blocks out of the water and wedge each piece of oasis in the outer ring (moat) of the plastic dish with the oasis standing up above the upper edge of the plastic dish. The oasis should be wedged tightly at the 12, 6, 3 and 9 o’clock positions in the outer ring.
  1. Firmly push one colored advent candle into the center top of each of the four oasis blocks. Using 8 – 10 inch lengths of florist’s tape, tape the blocks to the plastic dish, securing the block on either side of the candle from the outside of the plastic larger dish to the inside of the smaller plastic dish. No one will see the tape so feel free to secure the blocks well.
  1. Snip the greens into 4 – 6 inch lengths. Push the cut ends of the greens into the oasis filling out your wreath until you can no longer see the dish or the oasis.
  1. Place your chubby white candle in the center of the dish and place the dish on a dinner or serving plate for greater stability.
  1. Water your advent wreath in the outer ring (moat) regularly throughout advent and it stay fresh and green throughout the season.

 

Advent Devotional Resources

If you would like to celebrate the season of Advent this year with a devotional for your family or congregation, here are all of the resources you will need to take part in that. We have a devotional booklet, craft, event information, and game that are all printable for your church or family Advent celebration!

advent 1 bibleAdvent Devotional Book

Advent Wreath Instructions

Advent Intergenerational Event

Would You Rather Game Slips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church Hospitality and Growth

What is hospitality? It is the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers. Or, it is the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way. It is the church’s inherent function as the church to be an organization of hospitality. William Temple said, “The Church is the only organization that exists for the sake of people who are not its members.” This is precisely why the church ought to act out of a mindset of hospitality.

Statistics

  • Most visitors have decided if they will return to a church before the service begins. You have 6 minutes to make a positive first impression.
  • People who stay in a church after six months know 7 or more people; those who leave know less than 3.
  • The longer a person is a member of a church, the LESS likely it is that someone will call if they stop attending.

We are the Church:

  • We are not in the membership business. We are in the discipleship business.
  • Hospitality precedes growth
  • It is a matter of Character

Four Areas of Hospitality:

  • Facility
    • Is it Clean?
    • Is it accessible?
    • Is it well marked?
    • Is it meant to be used?
    • Is it welcoming?
  • People
    • Are they polite?
    • Are they knowledgeable?
    • Are they ready to serve?
    • Are they inviting?
    • Are they willing to accommodate strangers?
    • Will they take the initiative?
  • Activities
    • Are they welcoming?
    • Are they accessible?
    • Are they appropriate?
    • Do they meet the needs of visitors?
  • Communication
    • Is it clear?
    • Is the language appropriate?
    • Is it controlled?
    • Is it accessible?
    • Do you expect visitors?

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Preparing for Change in Your Congregation

Preparing for Change in Your Congregation

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”
~Walt Disney

Rev. Cheol Soon Park, the Moderator of the 134th General Assembly said, “Change is not an option anymore, it is an imperative…It is time to change our understanding of church, ministry and worship service.”  Rev. Park challenged everyone in the Presbyterian Church in Canada to try one new thing this year…one thing that is necessary, yet has never been tried for various reasons.

Why Do We Not Want Change?

  • We don’t want to fail
  • We don’t want to lose something
  • We don’t want to change our identity
  • We fear change itself
  • Change might bring conflict

Why Should We Change?

  • Change is inevitable
  • Change is no longer optional
  • Change is necessary for renewal and revitalization

Steps for Healthy Change:

  • Have a vision
  • Define your changes
  • Plant your vision with key leadership
  • Share your vision with the whole church
  • Implement your changes
  • Deal with the opposition
  • Make adjustments
  • Evaluate and celebrate the results!

Conflict Resolution Styles

Conflict is not a distant stranger to churches! But knowing and understanding your own conflict resolution style and honing in on appropriate strategies, can take your church to the next level. Check out this handy chart! You ultimately want to go beyond compromise to collaboration to reach your maximum potential as an individual and as a church.

conflict resolution style

Session and Board of Managers Roles

Ever wonder the difference between a church session and the board of managers? Or why there is so much conflict between the two at many churches? Check out this quick guide to the specific roles of each and how to clear up communication between your session and board!

Session (Citations are from the Book of Forms)

  • 109 It is the duty of those who are called to the eldership to meet regularly with the minister for the purpose of establishing good order and providing for the pastoral care of the congregation. All who are members are subject to the authority and discipline of the session.
  • 2 The session is responsible for all policy and procedures with respect to the use of the church buildings and property subject to the provisions in sections 114.6 and 163.
  • 113 The session is responsible for all aspects of stewardship and mission, both spiritual and material, within the congregation.
  • 6 The session is responsible for all decisions relating to stewardship, including how and when the financial needs of the church at all levels are to be presented to the congregation so that the programs of life and mission may be supported adequately.

What does this mean for the Session?

  • Leadership
    • The Session oversees the Church
    • Doing the right things
    • Future oriented
    • Ministry oriented
    • Supporting the ministry of the church
    • Setting the example
  • What are the policies and procedures with respect to the use of the church building and property?
    • Is it welcoming?
    • Does it become the church?
    • Does it match our values?
    • Communicate these with the Board of Managers.
    • Remember you are on the same team as the Board of Managers – you build up or break down the church together.
    • Money isn’t everything!

 

 

Board of Managers (Citations are from the Book of Forms)

  • 162 The duties of the board of managers have special regard to the temporal and financial affairs of the congregation. It is their duty to co-operate closely with the session, which is responsible for all aspects of stewardship, in encouraging the liberality of the people in support of the congregation’s total ministry, and to disburse all moneys received for this purpose, subject to the approval of the congregation; to provide for the payment of the minister’s stipend and other salaries; and generally to administer all matters committed to their charge as the congregation may from time to time direct.
  • 163 It is the duty of the board of managers to care for the place of worship and other ecclesiastical buildings, and to see that they are kept in good condition and repair.

What does this mean for the Board of Managers?

  • Management
    • Doing things right
    • Doing things transparently
    • Doing things effectively
    • Doing things efficiently
  • How does the Board of Managers care for the financial affairs of the congregation?
    • Care is foremost!
    • Forefront of ministry of hospitality!
    • Is it appropriate?
    • Is it done right?
    • Money isn’t everything!
    • Support the decisions made by session!
    • Communicate with session!
    • Remember you are on the same team as session– you build up or break down the church together.

 

 

Church Best Practices

Here are a few best practices that suit one specific diocese of the Anglican Church. For further information, William Easum’s The Church Growth Handbook, also provides a number of helpful indicators for healthy and viable ministry. A congregation is healthy when:

  • Income
    • Over 70% income comes from freewill offering
    • More than 50% of congregational income should come from more than 1/3 of identifiable givers
  • Expenses
    • 10% of expenses go to program costs
  • Personnel
    • 1 pastoral/program person (as opposed to administrative or maintenance) per 100 Sunday attendees
    • 100-200 Sunday attendees = full-time secretary
    • Between 150 and 180 Sunday attendees, the congregation adds another pastoral staff person in order for it to continue to grow
    • 300-400 Sunday attendees will require a full-time director of music
    • More than 500 Sunday attendees will require adding a business administrator
  • Property
    • Up to 80% of usable worship space is used on Sunday
  • Choir Size
    • There is 1 choir member for every 10 people in the pews
  • Stewardship
    • Freewill offering represents 2% of total household income
    • The amount that goes to Presbyterians Sharing is equal to 5% of freewill offering
    • 40% of the congregation participates in the Pre-Authorized Giving program

How to Teach “Leading with Care”

I was privileged to see this light hearted introductory skit highlighting the importance of the Leading With Care policy at Oakridges Presbyterian Church in London Ontario.  Thank you to the author, Rev. Jane Swatridge, for allowing us to post this resource and giving permission to other congregations for it’s use. ~Tori Smit

Leading With Care: On Gilligan’s Island

Preamble:

It is now time for our Leading with Care presentation, and I’m sure it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before!

But please understand that although we may have a little fun with the policy today, the message is important for the continued safety of our church family and those we serve. Watch and learn, and enjoy!

Leading With Care: On Gilligan’s Island

(Play the “Gilligan’s Island’ theme song.  Gilligan & the Skipper appear at top of verse 2; rest of cast appear at, “five passengers set sail that day …”  Pantomime the storm at verse 3, “The weather started getting rough …”, mimicking being tossed around on stage, etc.  Then cast members step forward, acknowledge crowd as their character is mentioned.)

(After the song ends the pantomime continues with the Howell’s ‘chat’ quietly with each other counting their money; Gilligan, Mary Ann & Ginger ‘chat’ excitedly as Gilligan picks up picnic basket; Professor notices something on the ground, bends to examine; Skipper notices Prof’s actions, then turns to Gilligan]

Skipper: What are you up to, little buddy?

Gilligan: The girls & I are going on a picnic to the other side of the island.

Mary Ann: I’ve packed us nuts, and fruit, and I made my famous coconut cream pie!

Ginger: And I’m the scenery.

Prof: I’m not sure that’s a good idea.

Thurston: But she’s always the scenery. (Lovey glares) Sorry Lovey, here (hands her some money).

Prof: No, I’m referring to these prints I’ve found here in the sand.

Skipper: What is it, Professor?

Lovey: Looks perfectly harmless to me.

Prof: Why, Mrs. Howell, don’t you realize what this means?

(everyone reacts, looks stunned, confused, shrug shoulders, etc.)

Prof: Why, judging from the unusual size and shocking depth of these footprints, and the apparent direction and pace of perambulation, before you can go picnicking anywhere, you’d better prepare a (look to audience) RISK ASSESSMENT.

(Mary Ann cowers beside Gilligan, Ginger cowers beside Skipper, Thurston cowers beside Lovey for protection)

Gilligan: Do you mean, Professor, that we can’t just do whatever we want …

Mary Ann: whenever we want …

Ginger: with whomever we want …

Lovey: without completing one of these? (brings Risk Assessment form out of purse) Well, that’s ridiculous!

Prof: Mrs. Howell, that’s precisely what I mean.

Thurston: Now look here, my good man. I’m Thurston Howell the Third, and I don’t fill in any forms. I have people to do that.

Prof: Mr. Howell, if you want to stay safe, I’m afraid you’ll have to. Why, all our lives may depend on it.

(Thurston harrumphs indignantly)

Lovey: Oh there there, maybe you can pay someone to do the form for you.

Gilligan: Do we all have to fill them out?

Mary Ann: For everything we do around here?

Ginger: What do you consider, risky, Professor?

Lovey: My yes, are we safe here?!

Prof: Absolutely. But we must understand that certain activities involve RISK.

Skipper: Well, like what sorts of things, Professor?

Mary Ann: Oh, how can a friendly picnic possibly have any risk?

Ginger: Come on, Professor, just one teensy, weensy little picnic?

Thurston (to Lovey): Where in the blazes were the tickets on sale for this picnic?

Lovey: We almost went down in a storm on the Thames, and he’s worried about a picnic!

Gilligan: Yah, she’s right – Skipper, whatever happened to the pre-tour Risk Assessment?

Skipper: Well, I thought YOU did one…

Gilligan: … I didn’t do one – I thought YOU were going to do one …

Skipper: No, little buddy, YOU were supposed to do one …

Gilligan: Uh-uh, I’m not trained on the paperwork, YOU were supposed to do one …

(they keep arguing until cut off by Thurston)

Thurston: I KNEW we should have just bought our own boat & crew!

Mary Ann: Well, it’s not Gilligan’s fault if he wasn’t properly trained.

Ginger: Ooo, training is everything. I mean, that’s the difference between a Golden Globe … and an Oscar!

Prof: There are important things to consider in every case. Mary Ann, do you know for certain that those nuts and fruits are safe for everyone to eat? I mean, did you check for allergies?

Mary Ann: Well, no, but I’m sure we’d find out one way or another.

Prof: And what about food preparation? Did you wash your hands, and ascertain that the utensils & working area were clean?

Mary Ann: I brushed off the sand as best I could. Back home in Kansas, we just wipe our hands on our pants.

(Howell’s & Ginger turn up noses/cringe; men just nod in agreement, ‘oh yah, that works’, etc.)

Prof: And Ginger, were you really planning on hiking to the other side of the island in that gown, with those shoes?

Ginger: What’s the problem? They match.

Gilligan: Well, you do look like an Incident Report ready to happen.

Skipper: Good thinking, little buddy.

Prof: And Gilligan, as the leader of the picnic group, have you considered the appropriate ratios of leader to number of those in your party? What about your Criminal Record Check? We haven’t checked all your references yet. And what about the vulnerability of those you’re caring for?

Gilligan: They look pretty sturdy to me.

Thurston: On second thought, think I’ll go back to our cabin and lock the door. Coming, Lovey?

Lovey: Oh you’re not worried, are you dear?

Prof: As long as we’re prepared, and we’ve considered all the risks, we’re perfectly free to proceed with virtually any plan.

Ginger: You mean, like a quiet, scenic picnic.

Mary Ann: Or sharing a meal together.

Gilligan: Or a simple little hike in a ball gown.

Skipper: Not quite, little buddy.

Prof: But about these footprints. We’re obviously not alone on the island (everyone looks around, wide-eyed, scared & suspicious).  Ladies, you stay here. Mr. Howell, you come with me and we’ll conduct a reconnaissance mission.

Skipper: And Gilligan, you come with me and we’ll conduct a reconnaissance mission.

Gilligan: Ok, but I really think we oughta scout around a bit first.

(girls exit stage right, Prof. & Thurston exit stage left; Skipper & Gilligan exit stage right)

Voiceover: Sadly, they remained on the island, marooned there forever. What a positive difference it would have made had they invested in training and planned ahead appropriately for the tour. Oh well …

Theme Song resumes