Category Archives: Christian Education Archive

Our Journey Through Lent: Reading Through the Gospel of Mark

Lent is one of the most special seasons of the church year. It follows the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany during which we anticipated and prepared for the birth of Jesus and welcomed him as God come to earth to be with us. In the season of Lent we travel with Jesus through his adult life as he teaches and reveals to us who God is and how much God loves us. As we will travel with the Jesus through the final days of his life on earth, his final teachings to his followers, his arrest, trial and crucifixion we will discover all that Jesus has done for us.

Attached you will find a Lenten Journey devotional booklet for adults and for families of all ages.

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FAMILY ADVENT ACTIVITY: ADVENT PRAYER CALENDAR

Hi Friends,

My name is Mirim Kim and I am currently a second year student at Knox College, studying in the MTS program specializing in Religious Education. My passion has always been for children, youth and family ministries, and creating practical activities that help families to cultivate loving, joyful and faith-based home environment. This year, I was given the exciting opportunity to participate in a Theological Field Education (TFE) placement and met Tori Smit as my site educator, who has helped me to expand my horizon in both educational and intergenerational ministries. As a part of my TFE experience, she has graciously invited me to write a blog posting for the synod website, thus I decided to share with you one of my family activities that we do at home.

So let’s begin! 

Another exciting season of Advent is less than a month away. It is a wonderful season for parents and grandparents to create a learning opportunity for our children to experience the joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus. With this in mind, I want to invite you to participate in this simple family activity, which has helped my family reflect on the coming of Christ.

Children tend to pay better attention when tangible materials are in front of their eyes, and when they are allowed to touch and interact with objects. Perhaps this is the reason why many toy stores allow children to see, touch, and hear the toys to stimulate their interest in order to sell the products. Children also love having a chocolate Advent calendar so that they not only have fun opening something each day, but also to taste the delicious chocolate. 

As a mom of three boys, I wondered if there are any other types of Advent calendars we can use before bedtime that would not create a sugar rush for the boys, and also something that can be reused year after year. I also looked for something simple. We tried our best to do Advent devotions with our children every year, but to be honest, there were days when they were just not willing to do anything, or when we were too exhausted from the chaotic day. 

While looking for the one I liked, I ended up deciding to make my own version at home. Inspired by the Advent wreath that we commonly see in the church, I made an Advent prayer calendar composed of one white Christ candle, 25 stones and 25 little bowls to put them into. 

Each night, we gather around this prayer calendar and ask each person to offer up a prayer of waiting for the coming of Jesus. Children’s prayers can be a simple sentence, such as “thank you for sending baby Jesus,” while younger children can be encouraged to say just a word or two. When my youngest was in preschool, we asked him to say a word, and the word he chose was “baby Jesus.” There is no right or wrong prayer. Meaningful participation is the key to this family activity. Creating a safe environment for children to feel welcomed and invited to pray in simple language in their own way is the core of this Advent Prayer Calendar. 

When the prayers are done, we asked our boys to take turns putting one stone in one of the little bowls each night. The person who placed the stone in was also asked to say, “we pray all this in Jesus’ name, Amen,” and then use the candle snuffer to snuff out the light. Our children liked to stay there for a few more seconds to watch the smoke dancing and disappearing as it went up in the air. One of my boys told me that it reminds him of God being everywhere. Indeed, our God is omnipresent. 

This has been a meaningful Advent prayer time for our family, to not only learn how to pray but also to listen to each other’s prayers and build a sense of unity as a family in expressing our hearts to Christ. I hope that this family activity may bring an extra special atmosphere and joyful participation of waiting for the coming of Christ, just as it is for our family. 

How To Make an Advent Prayer Calendar

Materials:

2-3 packages of oven baking modelling clay (I used Sculpey PE 5042 Oven Bake Clay Premolar! in black from Amazon. You can choose any colour you want.

25 small stones (available at a dollar store)

A white pillar candle (available at a dollar store)

A small container to hold rocks (available at a dollar store)

A simple candle holder (optional)

Candle snuffer (optional)

Instructions:

Unpack the clay from its original package and cut them evenly to make 25 pieces. 

Using your hands to mold the clay into small bowls for the stones. Place them on the baking tray and bake it according to the instruction on the original package. I used “Sculpey Premo” and baked them at 275 degrees for 40 min.

Let the cups sit until the bowls are cooled down. 

Designate a place in your home to display the Christ candle, a container of rocks and little bowls nicely. This space will be an Advent praying center for your family.

Optional: If you have extra clay, make some more little bowls to create a total of 40 bowls. Also, get a purple pillar candle and a few more rocks (you have enough when you get a bag from the dollar store) to make a family prayer calendar for the season of Lent.

Jesus Is Coming!

Advent is a time of waiting. Or, at least it’s supposed to be.

For many of us the simple act of waiting is frequently lost in the midst of the busyness of the season; there’s shopping and baking to be done, family visits and decorating that needs to happen, and the regular activities of our lives at school, at work and at home that need to carry on. In the midst of all of this there is also the desire to undertake a few Advent family activities that we can do at home such as special Advent devotions, Advent calendars, and Advent candle lighting. We know it is a good thing to do these things, but even the act of simply remembering to do them, and failing to do so some of the time, leaves us feeling more burdened then blessed during these days. How do we capture the season of waiting and anticipation for the birth of Jesus in the midst of all of this without feeling worse than when we started?

This year, instead of providing a family Advent devotional booklet for families to follow, I have instead created a booklet that keeps in mind the many obligations and commitments of families at this time. This year our Advent booklet instead focuses on the wonderful family activities we already do and enjoy. Each week there is one bible story to read together, using either the Spark Story Bible or scripture, followed by three suggested picture story books that are easily found at your local library, your church library, or Chapters/Indigo, and one family movie for your family to enjoy together. Each of the weekly stories from the bible come from the lectionary readings for that week and connect with the traditional themes of Advent, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The suggested story books also reflect the weekly themes as does each of the family movies.

It is my hope that rather than feeling overwhelmed during Advent that your family will instead delight in the opportunity to read the stories at bedtime, or watch a family movie with a bowl of popcorn and some hot chocolate. Don’t feel obliged to do it all or find all of the story books; just do what fits in, is easily available, and allows your family to experience and talk about what it is you are waiting for.

For families who would like to print out this booklet, you will find it attached below through a dropbox link. When you open the link it will look a bit mixed up, as it is laid out ready to be printed and assembled into a booklet. Print out the document two-sided, with the short edge binding, and when it comes off your printer assemble the three pages together and then fold it in half. Now it will make sense and flow correctly through the weeks of Advent and Christmas.

For churches who would like to print out multiple copies of this booklet for distribution print out each page separately so you can put it through your church photocopier easily. Print the pages as a two-sided document, assemble the pages together, fold in half, and staple down the fold.

Churches may also want to plan ahead and purchase some of the books recommended for your church library, or plan a movie night featuring one of the movies suggested one evening during Advent. Perhaps one or two of the books could be used for your children’s message during worship allowing everyone to reflect on the theme for that week. Don’t worry that you will be taking the story away from families to read at home; reading the story over and over again at home is still a wonderful family activity and helps us all remember the wonder of each story.

Please, also feel free to email or call me if you want to know about any of the stories, movies, or ideas for family Advent celebrations your church may wish undertake. You can get a hold of me at torismit@gmail.com or by calling 647-348-0879.

Jesus is indeed coming! As we wait and anticipate this glorious day, may we all find precious time to contemplate what this means to each of us and to our world. Blessings, Tori

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/afurmvshrhw0qrg/AADfcKWF_cqjy1YDHoMxXdkia?dl=0

A Children’s Book for Remembrance Day

When we gather to worship on the Sunday before Remembrance Day, we will also gather to honour and remember those people who gave their lives in the Great War, more than 65,000 of them, and those that were added to their number during the Second World War. We will also remember those that served in the Korean War,and Afghanistan.

In worship we will have special prayers, poppies will be worn and wreaths may be laid, the names of those who fought and died in the wars may be read out loud, we will stand for two minutes of silence and we will experience the mourning and rising of Last Post and Reville. All of these visible and solemn ways of honouring those who gave their lives in service to our country also help our children to see and hear about a time before they were born. Through these activities we keep the memory of loved ones and our commitment to peace alive. For children who may only rarely hear these meaningful stories the act of remembrance can be profound.

We wonder how to tell the stories of war and the desire for peace in ways that are appropriate for our children. When we come to the children’s time it becomes a challenge. How much do we say? What should we say? And what shouldn’t we say. How do we find the right balance between too little and too much for our children to take in. In speaking with the children we need to be honest and use words that are clearly understood. Children do need to hear something of the cost of war without focusing on the gory details. It is appropriate to use the words ‘dead’ and ‘died’, rather than using words like ‘passed on’, ‘gone to sleep’, or ‘have gone to the other side’ which only cause confusion and unintended fears in our children. They need to have their honest questions answered sensitively and not ignored. What will you say? The age of the children in your church will help decide how much detail you want to go into, and what the focus of your message might be.

If you are looking for a good children’s book to read aloud during your children’s time, in the Sunday School, or during a mid-week children’s gathering I would like to suggest the book, A Poppy Is to Remember by Heather Patterson (Scholastic, 2004). In explaining the symbol of the poppy, this thoughtfully written book reminds us of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae who wrote the famous poem, In Flanders Fields, and prompts its listeners to remember those who served in the wars, those who cared for the injured, and those remained at home. The book concludes by highlighting the poppy as a symbol of peace. The book is brief, with helpful pictures, and includes the text of the famous poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (which you can read along with the book’s text if you wish), and a brief history of Remembrance Day in Canada.

If you would like a copy of A Poppy is To Remember, you can buy it in the children’s section of your local bookstore (Chapters and Indigo).

Faith Formation Matters-a new, free course for Christian Education Coordinators

Dear friends,

Many of our local congregations have hired a gifted lay person, usually on a part-time basis, to coordinate and lead their Christian education, youth and/or family ministries programmes. While these people are hired with a great deal of commitment to the task, they often have little formal education in their ministry area and wish they had more.

The synod has heard this concern. This fall the synod is inviting anyone serving as a paid Christian education coordinator to sign up and participate in an exciting and interactive basic course on Christian education and faith formation that is designed to assist them in understanding and doing their ministry better. This course, ‘Faith Formation Matters’, will cover the basics of the theology, theory and practice of educational ministry as well as provide an opportunity for participants to get to know others in their field.

‘Faith Formation Matters’ will be taught by Dr. Tori Smit, the synod’s Regional Minister for Faith Formation. Tori holds a Doctor of Educational Ministry Degree from Columbia Theological Seminary, has been a professional Christian educator for over 36 years, has authored numerous curriculum resources for the PCC, PCUSA, Kerygma Bible Studies and Montreat Conference Center, has taught Christian Education courses at Columbia Theological Seminary and Emmanuel College and keynotes regularly across Canada and the US. She is both knowledgable and very practical in her field.

And here is the best news of all – ‘Faith Formation Matters’ is free.

This course will be held between 7 and 9 pm the third Wednesday of each month at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Toronto. Trinity is easily reached from all directions as it is just off of the 401 at Bayview Ave. and has a parking lot available. If your church has a person serving as the CE coordinator, or you are that person, please register by calling Tori at 647-348-0879 or emailing torismit@gmail.com.

See you at Trinity, Tori Smit

Light, Glorious Light!

 

The season of Advent starts on December 2. It is the beginning of a new church year and invites us to move out of darkness and in to God’s marvellous light as we anticipate and prepare for the coming of Christ. As we decorate our homes, plan family meals and rush around to gather gifts and visit friends and family during this season it is important to stop, rest and reflect on the stories from scripture that lead us to Jesus, the light of the world.

I invite you to take time, to read and to pray each day of the Advent season. To help you on your way please feel free to download and print the Advent devotional booklet, Light, Glorious Light! attached to this blog posting. Please feel free to duplicate it and gift it to family, friends, and church members.

This devotional booklet is based on Year 1 of the Narrative Lectionary, a new collection of scripture readings that highlight the stories of our faith over a four year cycle. This year you will encounter the stories of Habakkuk and Esther along with the Gospel texts from Matthew and Luke.

When you open the attached pdf. file it will appear to be out of order. It isn’t. The pages appear to be out of order because the file is intended to be printed as a booklet. Print the file as a two-sided document with the short-edges binding, then take the printed pages as they come off your printer and fold them in half as a booklet with the colour picture of the candles on the cover of your booklet. Staple the middle seam to hold all of the pages together.

If you are wanting to print multiple copies, print the document on six, one-sided pages and then photocopy them as a double-sided document, fold as a booklet and staple in the middle. You will want to run one copy off as a trial document before committing your photocopier to large numbers.

I wish you hope, peace, joy and love this Advent as you experience God’s love anew each day. Tori

click here for the 2018 Advent Devotional Booklet, Light, Glorious Light