Category Archives: Christian Education Archive

“Make Room” for a wonderful, new children’s Lent and Easter book

make-room-a-child-s-guide-to-lent-and-easter-5

 

Presbyterian minister and mother, Laura Alary, has gifted the church once again with a wonder-filled, story-resource for families. Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter invites children and their parents to consider together the story of the life of Jesus during the season of Lent, and make room in their homes and hearts to welcome God in as they prepare for Easter.

From her perspective as a mother, Laura writes, “When my children were very young I always looked forward to the changing seasons. Inside and outside the church, the turning of the circle brought new colours and sights and smells – plenty of opportunity to explore and create. My little library of activity books kept us busy. But when it came to Lent and Easter I was never satisfied. The kids and I ironed grated crayons on to waxed paper to make stained glass crosses; we made purple paper chains, and hot crossed buns; we even blended and burned our own incense. But something was missing. Although we had plenty to do, we lacked a framework – something to hold the pieces together in a meaningful pattern. We were missing the BIG picture – a narrative which held the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as an integrated whole, and which invited children to become a part of the story.”

Make Room is written for children using a story format that gently weaves episodes from the life and ministry of Jesus with reflections on Lenten practices from the point of view of children. The rituals and practices revealed within its pages are simple ones for families to complete: cleaning our rooms; eating plain meals like bread and soup; giving up snacks and using saved money to help someone in need. They are all variations on the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and they all centre around the theme of emptying out to make space. Woven together the practices find their meaning in the stories of Jesus as these events are brought together to become a part of the big picture of what God is doing in the world – through Jesus, and through those that follow him.

Please consider buying this resource for your own family this Lent and Easter, and also placing an extra copy in your church library for other families to discover for their homes.

Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter can be purchased from Paraclete Press at http://www.paracletepress.com/make-room.html, or through amazon.ca.

 

 

 

Advent Intergenerational Event 2015 – Year ‘C’

advent-wreath-300x199

The 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:

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  families who might want to make more than one wreath, they might make additional wreathes for shut-ins.

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.

Click here for instructions on making an Advent wreath

Click here for a pdf file of the Advent Devotional Booklet for 2015, Year ‘C’

When you open this file it will appear out-of-order. The file has been saved for you to print and then photocopy back-to-back, assemble, and then fold and staple as a booklet down the middle. You can also also print the booklet 2-sided, fold and staple as a booklet down the middle.

Introducing The CNOB Vacation Bible School Resource Lending Library

Children holding a heart shape

I am grateful to Knox Presbyterian Church in Guelph for cleaning out their attic and passing on to me a variety of VBS resource kits that they’ve used over the years. With this kind gift I am now able to begin a small but mighty VBS resource lending library for churches to save a bit of money while hosting a great Vacation Bible School at their church or in their community. If you wish to use one of these resource kits you are welcome to do so, knowing that each of them comes from a past season and therefore comes ‘as is’, without the possibility of ordering publisher pre-packaged craft kits, give-aways and student booklets. Many of our churches already avoid these ‘extra’ kinds of purchases already. Please know that every resource kit in the library already includes excellent directions for crafts and lots of activities making the packaged craft kits, give-aways and student booklets often redundant. So with just the VBS introductory kit from the lending library you should be good to go.

You will find a list of the available resources linked at the end of this blog post. With each listed VBS resource kit you will also see noted the overall theme of the curriculum, daily themes with accompanying scripture references, and details of every item the kit contains. I hope this will help you in making a resource selection suitable for your church.

If you would like to borrow a resource from the library to use for your Vacation Bible School, Professional Development Day programming, or for mid-year school break activities please contact me to find out if your resource of choice is available for the time you require it. Once I have received the request I will confirm the kit can be loaned to you and I will then try and use the Presbyterian people connections we share to pass the resource on to you as soon as possible while also trying to avoid shipping costs (I have no budget for shipping). You are welcome to keep and use the materials for as long as you need to prepare for and carry out your event, but please do not lose or destroy any of the materials you receive so that they might be used again and again by other churches down the road.

Once you’re done with the materials please contact me and once again we’ll try and get them back to the synod office in Toronto through the people we together know who might be travelling in this direction or as I travel just by your door as I tour the synod.

Finally, if you are busy cleaning out your church attic and are wondering what you could do with those very useable VBS kits you have taking up space at your place, please know that they could be used helping other churches this summer and beyond. If you’d like to donate them (even if they are duplicates to ones I already have) thank you and please let me know and I will figure out a way of picking them up from you and getting them into the Resource Lending Library. I am also hoping to build up a library of intergenerational materials as well, so feel free to keep that on your radar and pass things along when you’re done with them.

Thank you to Knox, Guelph for providing the beginnings of this very helpful ministry to the churches of our synod. Now let’s welcome the children for some exciting ministry opportunities throughout the synod.

Blessings, Tori Smit, Regional Minister for Faith Formation, Synod of Central, Northeastern Ontario and Bermuda

To borrow a kit please contact me at torismit@gmail.com or call 647-348-0879

Click here to view the VBS Lending Library Resource List

Be Strong – Be Courageous: A study on Joshua 1:1-9

The Presbyterial of Kingston met recently and considered the theme “Be Strong – Be Courageous” in mission and in bible study.  The following is a short study on the passage from which the presbyterial found their theme.  Take some time to reflect on the passage itself.  What words and phrases leap off of the page for you?  What questions do you have about the circumstances of Joshua’s call to lead the people of Israel into the promised land?  What are the challenges ahead of him?  What will be the key to his success?

Then go ahead and read the brief commentary following the passage and consider the questions that follow.

You will then be invited to pray using one or more of the prayer practices included.  Each practice invites us into contemplation and consideration of the our own need for strength and courage and the needs of those around us and throughout the world.

Click here to download the Joshua study

Click here to download a map of the world to use with the Joshua study

Spiritual Practices Inspired by the Jewishness of Jesus

DSCN1020Spiritual practices and disciplines have gained a lot of attention in the mainline church over these last few years. Many are rediscovering the spiritual practices of an earlier church and in testing out these practices people are discovering through the ritual of disciplined prayer, reading of scripture and meditation they are able to experience God in new and meaning-filled ways.  In this workshop/ experience we will go back further than the early or medieval Christian Church and rediscover some of the spiritual practices of our Jewish heritage.

Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner has inspired this exploration of Jewish spiritual practices. Following her conversion to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism, Winner found herself missing the richness of the traditional spiritual practices of her Jewish heritage. She wrote Mudhouse Sabbath to reconsider these meaning-filled practices through a Christian lens inviting readers to transform the way the view the world and God.  Practices of Sabbath Keeping, Hospitality, Mourning, and Fasting are among the eleven practices explored in her book.

In this workshop I have selected five of the spiritual practices she considers in her book.  Each practice can be explored through a learning centre as an individual or as a group. Each spiritual practice is considered through handouts outlining background information, questions for reflection and/or discussion, and detailed instructions for an activity which has been designed to invite participants to ‘test out’ the practice before leaving the centre and moving on to consider another practice. Participants can explore as many or as few practices as they wish, taking all the time they need to experience the practice as fully as needed to repeat it at home. Multiple copies of the files can be photocopied for participants to take them home and reinforce the practice as they wish.

You will find five individual attachments included, one per centre. In each attachment you will find a supply list for the centre, a sheet of condensed background information, a sheet of questions for individuals to reflect upon or the group to discuss, and instructions for the activity(ies) that go with that practice.  Choose to use all the centres,or explore one each time you gather.

I hope that you will find new ways of worshiping and glorifying God through these practices.DSCN1025

Click here for Sabbath file

Click here for Fitting Food file

Click here for Prayer file

Click here for Mourning Well file

Click here for Doorposts file

Good Friday Dramatic Reading

Thank you to Rev. Stephen Dunkin of Graceview Presbyterian Church in Toronto for sharing this Good Friday service of worship.  Through the stories of some of the people who were there we gain a fresh perspective on the thoughts and feelings of those who loved and those who witnessed the events of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus.  Please feel free to use and/or adapt this script to your congregations setting and needs.

Click Here for the Good Friday Dramatic Reading

 

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.