Category Archives: Blog

If Not In-Person Sunday School, Then What?

Has your church decided to delay in-person Sunday school for children under the age of twelve or, are you looking to provide a variety of in-person and virtual Sunday school options that will allow the church to welcome all children to Sunday school whether or not everyone is comfortable with a return to in-person gatherings?

If you missed out on our Zoom workshop last week on Alternative Options you can still view the videoed portion of the workshop that outlines six options for churches to consider. There’s a helpful handout too that includes many links to wonderful websites and resources mentioned in the video.

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Checklist for In-Person Children’s Ministry

I just got this great resource today that your church might be interested in using.

It is a very helpful and detailed checklist for all in-person children’s and youth ministry programming that takes place in your church building during the our current phase of the pandemic. This checklist comes to us from the Diocese of Toronto with the Anglican Church of Canada. While it is not a document of the Presbyterian Church in Canada it does serve as a very helpful resource for our churches to be guided by.

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Alternative Options to In-Person Faith Formation and How to Adapt Your Existing Curriculum to Each

With thanks to Sigmund, unsplash.com

What will children’s faith formation look like at your church this year?

In light of the pandemic your church may have decided to put a return to in-person Sunday school on hold for now, or perhaps would like to offer another option alongside in-person classes to meet the comfort levels of all of the families of your church.

If you want to know what some of the alternative options are for your church to consider, what the pros and cons are for each, and how to adapt your curriculum to whichever option you choose to move forward with, I’d like to offer some help.

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A Few Helpful Resources re: Protocols for In-Person Worship

Kirk Dunn, Morningside High Park Presbyterian Church, Toronto

“Welcome back! We’re glad you are joining us for in-person worship. There are a few things we’d like to share with you before you come into the building; what to expect when you enter the church, what worship will look and feel like, and a few health protocols that must be followed by everyone.”

Many of our congregations are in the process of welcoming people back to worship in their buildings. This return to in-person worship will raise a number of questions by those attending regarding the public health protocols they will need to follow, as well questions about what worship will be like when they get there. It is always our church’s prayer that no one feel uncomfortable as they come to worship and by answering these questions well in advance we can put everyone at ease. Clearly laying out your church’s expectations while offering reassurance will avoid any misunderstandings and help people make an informed decision about their onsite participation.

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A Process for Considering the Reopening of In-Person Sunday School

If you missed this week’s Zoom meetings introducing a process for considering the reopening of in-person Sunday school for your church, here is an opportunity to view the presentation portion of our get-together. This 30 minute video will walk you through the many factors your church will want to consider as you move toward a safe reopening.

Just click on the slide below and you will be taken to the youtube video.

In the video I will refer to a link to a Government of Canada file outlining areas of concern regarding physical spaces that are to be used for gatherings. This document will help you assess areas of risk and offer suggestions for ways to comply with these guidelines. Click here to be taken to this document.

I hope this presentation will assist you in your conversations and decision making.

Grace and peace, Tori

Reopening Onsite Children’s Programmes

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It’s the first day of September and many of our churches are scheduled to reopen for in-person worship services this month. This is raising a number of questions about in-person Sunday school and other children’s ministry programmes. There is so much to consider, especially as our children 12 years and under are not yet able to receive a vaccine against Covid-19, and as infections are once again on the rise.

Should we have in-person Sunday school? Should we stick with Zoom? Are there other options? What do we need to consider? And, how do we know what’s best?

Do you have questions like these?

Are you looking for a place to find some answers?

You are invited to join one of two Zoom gatherings next week to hear some helpful factors to consider as you make these important decisions.

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I Will Give You Rest

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NRSV)

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” (Mark 1:36, 37 NRSV)

Traditionally summer has been the minister’s ‘down time’. Meetings stop, people are away, and things are quieter all around. For many years, ministers typically took all of their holidays in one large chunk. This meant that real rest could happen.

Then things changed:

  • Cell phones meant ministers (and almost everyone else) could be accessed 24/7
  • Email meant that you were never truly away
  • People came to expect that their concerns would be addressed immediately
  • Even if we could get away from work physically, emotional distance was much harder to achieve

And then came Covid.

Over the past month or so I have had repeated conversations with church leaders who have not had time off since the pandemic began. They are literally at the end of their ropes.

Tori and I are similarly exhausted. While we have tried to be good stewards of our time and energy, we are aware of just how tired we really are. In June we took a week’s holidays and it actually took us two weeks to fit it in around emergent phone calls and meetings. 

For many, physical tiredness is just the tip of the iceberg. Many are feeling burnt out with no place to turn to deal with it. This has affected relationships, ministry effectiveness and satisfaction, as well as general health and wellbeing.

I cannot say when this will all end, nor can I resolve all of the issues this article raises. However, I would like to address just one, the need for physical rest.

As I read the above passages of scripture, three things pop out at me:

  1. Jesus needed to get away. He needed to get away to pray and he needed to get away to rest. The words of Peter, ‘everyone is looking for you’ speaks to our condition as well as his.
  2. Jesus promises rest. We are weary and heavy laden. Jesus promises rest.
  3. You can’t have spiritual rest without physical rest.

I remember talking with a friend who was connected to a retreat centre. For years this establishment had offered week long retreats for clergy. More recently they have discovered that these same clergy needed to sleep for the first five days in order to even be able to consider any spiritual work.

This is all a way of recognizing that we are tired – very tired – and that the summer should hopefully be a chance to recharge our batteries. 

I am aware that the summer is half way over but, I pray that you might recognize your own need for physical rest and might assert yourself to take it. No one knows what the fall will bring but, if there is a time to re-charge your batteries, now is it.

Tori and I will be taking the next three weeks off. During that time, we will only be available for emergencies. We will be doing our very best to also take an email sabbatical for this time.

Your ministry is a blessing. Please make sure that you are well rested and able to lead your flock. Please remember the adage; “put on your oxygen mask first.”

May God bless you in this season of rest.

John-Peter & Tori.

PS – Elders, please consider giving your minister some additional time off this year. They need it!

What Parents, Grandparents, and Church Workers Have to Tell the Church About Their Pandemic Experiences – Part 2

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How are things going at your church with your children and their families?

What did you do over the last year and a half to stay connected and provide teaching and faith formation for your youngest members? What worked well? What fell flat? What slipped through the cracks? What are you most concerned about going forward? What can you let go of that no one will miss? And, how will your approach to ministry with children and their families be transformed in light of any new learnings and discoveries that you’ve made while responding to changed circumstances?

Taking time to reflect now with your children, parents, and leaders is a crucial first step if your church wants to move forward in new ways in the months ahead; ways that will serve your entire church community well while providing the best opportunities for children and their families to grow in faith together.

While it is important that we all take time to ask the people of our own congregations, ‘how has it been going?’ we can also benefit from the research of others who have begun this process of interviewing children, parents, and congregational leaders and denominational influencers. 

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What Children and Their Families Have to Tell the Church About Their Pandemic Experiences and Church Reopening – Part 1

Markus Spiske, unsplash.com

What do the children have to say about their away-from-the-church-building experiences of Zoom Sunday school, online worship, and mid-week programming over the course of this past year and a half? 

What has been concerning them the most throughout the pandemic? 

And, what are they looking forward to when we return to our church buildings? 

We only have to ask!

And guess what? Some wonderful and caring people have already started the conversation for us. And, they have some very interesting things to share. 

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