Category Archives: Christian Education Archive

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

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

Advent Faith Practices – 2018 Calendar

Traci Smith is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and a faith-filled parent with her spouse to a young family. Traci cares deeply about how families can talk about and ‘do’ faith at home through nurture and simple practices. She has a great book out for families, Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home, filled with engaging and easy ideas for conversations, rituals, prayers, and family activities for families to do together at home. Traci also sends out a weekly email to  families called Treasure Box Tuesday. You can sign up for this great email of ideas and recommended resources at her website,

Get to know Traci through her 2018 Advent Faith Practices calendar that is linked to this posting. Please feel free to circulate it among your congregation members and to others. Please just ensure that it is circulated free of charge, and with the acknowledgement included in the bottom box of the calendar.

Click here for Traci Smith’s Advent Faith Practices Calendar

Come to the Pre-Advent Retreat at Crieff Hills for Church Leaders

Before the hustle and bustle of the season takes over your days, take time to relax, refresh, and/or plan ahead away from the busyness of it all.

Pre-Advent Retreat Special 

Leading others through the season of Advent requires careful preparation. This year, Crieff is offering a reduced rate for church leaders, preachers and Sunday school teachers for nights between November 4th to 9th and November 11th to 16th. Book an overnight stay for $80 (+HST) per night and receive:

  • overnight accommodation in a one-bedroom suite at the Pines

  • access to a special Advent resource center in the Pines Common Room       

  • opportunities for walking the labyrinth and hiking our extensive wooded trails 

  • unhurried time to prepare Bible studies, write sermons and plan children’s programs   

Call 1-800-884-1525 to book your stay. Ask about discounts on shared rooms and multiple night stays! Let us help you quiet your heart, wait on God and prepare for the upcoming holiday season.   

How to Choose Curriculum

Choosing curriculum for the Sunday School, Nursery, Youth Group, and Intergenerational activities can be a challenge. How do you ever decide? There are so many options on the market and there are pros and cons to each and every one of them. Where do you start?

While there is no one perfect curriculum for every church, making a curriculum choice is not impossible and can be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on your church’s goals and prayers for great faith formation for the children and youth of your church community.

Finding the one that’s right for your church’s needs means beginning with a good understanding of your church’s theology, and a some knowledge of how children, youth and adults best engage in learning. Knowing these things helps the teachers, parents, minister(s) and session review each curriculum option with a more critical eye.

Attached to this post you will find an article entitled How to Choose Curriculum that includes a ‘cheat sheet’ designed to assist your church in reviewing curriculum resources through a theological and educational lens, as well as assess the practical implications of each of curricula you’re evaluating. Begin by downloading a few selected curriculum samples off of the internet (more about these later). With samples of two or three appropriate curricula to evaluate, thoroughly read each of the lesson plans for each selected age group, noting what each says about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the church, sin, faith, baptism etc. Use a separate evaluation sheet for each resource, note what each says about God and our relationship to God using these  prompts. With your list of what each curricula says about God etc.  you are then better able to answer the question, “Is this what our church believes?” for each of the resources. If the theology of the curriculum is not consistent with the theology of your church, then it is not a curriculum suitable for your church. Having established which of the resources you reviewed is theologically consistent with your church, you can now begin to look at its approach to learning.

Answering questions about the lesson’s educational stance helps you to determine if the curriculum is suitable for your congregation’s approach to faith formation. Consider the following:

  • Does the session outline have a way of introducing the biblical theme that engages the participants and draws them into the theme even before the story is presented?
  • Are there a broad variety of ways of presenting the biblical story, or is the biblical story simply read directly from a text? ‘Hearing’ the story through drama, pictures, story-telling, and experientially draw the participants into the story in a more memorable and personal way.
  • Do the questions have right and/or wrong answers, or does the curriculum encourage the children/youth and teachers to wonder together about the possible answers, honouring each child’s contribution?
  • Do the lesson activities embrace a variety of learning styles? The more learning styles embraced in a lesson the more open the lesson is to all of the participants entering into and engaging with the lesson.
  • Are there options for the participants to choose from? for the teacher to choose from? If the teacher knows something just won’t work, are there other options to choose from, or will the teacher be stuck trying to come up with an alternative option on their own. With a broad variety of learning styles and ages in a classroom, being able to offer more than one activity for the participants to choose from allows each to learn in a way they learn best and enjoy.
  • Do the activities invite the participants to delve deeper into the focus of the lesson, or does it feel more like filling time?
  • Is there an opportunity for participants to reflect on how they might apply the lesson focus in their own life?
  • Does the lesson conclude (or begin) with a short time of worship?
  • Are their additional materials, biblical and educational, for the teacher to learn how best to present the lesson? Is the lesson exciting and engaging, inviting everyone in to the subject, or does the lesson feel flat or school-like?

Answering these questions point to the educational stance of the curriculum and helps you to assess whether memorable and transformative learning will take place using this curriculum.

Lastly, consider some additional questions. Will the curriculum work with the facility, and technological resources you have? If the curriculum depends on large, well-stocked classrooms and/or DVD players and screens in every classroom, and this does not describe your church, are you willing to make changes to your circumstances, or should you pass on this curriculum no matter how wonderful it appears? Will the curriculum work well with the average weekly attendance of the the children in your church? A curriculum designed for large classroom numbers, when you have only two or three in each class will be a constant frustration for everyone and demand constant adaptation. What is the cost of the curriculum when you add up the cost of leader’s guides, student resources, and additional resources (music, DVDs, magazines, curriculum specific bibles, take him papers etc.)? Is this in line with your CE budget? Does your budget need to change or do you need to consider a less costly option?

Now that you know how to review curriculum, you need to know the curriculum options available to you. There are as many curricula as cereal options at the grocery store. We can begin by narrowing down our curriculum list to those that fall within the reformed theology and educational practises of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. While the PCC does not publish its own curriculum, it does recommend a number of curriculum that fall within the theological and educational parameters of our denomination. You will find a list of recommended curricula attached to this post. The list divides your options into a number of categories, with some of the curricula appearing in more than one category. Curricula is itemized by age groupings as well as specific categories such as lectionary based, intergenerational, and broadly-graded. Each is listed alphabetically and not by preference of this writer. Links to publishing websites are also included at the end of the document.

Please, also remember that the curriculum you choose is only one piece of your church’s overall approach to faith formation with your children and youth. Finding a well-written and suitable curriculum for your church is important, but it isn’t everything. Great faith formation happens through the caring relationships your children and youth form with all of the members of your church and as they hear the stories of faith shared with them by those who love God and live their faith in every aspect of their lives.

Click here to view the document, How to Choose Curriculum

Click here to view the document, Curriculum Options for Churches

Christmas Gift Boxes

Is your congregation considering participating in a Christmas gift box project this year? Such boxes are often filled with toys and toiletries by caring individuals and groups, returned to the sponsoring agency, and sent to children living in vulnerable communities in countries around the globe. Yet, this hands-on means of gracious giving may not be as helpful as you think.

Before signing on to participate in a gift box program please read the following article from Presbyterian World Service and Development written to help you consider this way of assisting children and communities who are at risk, including some great alternative options for caring for vulnerable children during the Christmas season and throughout the year.

Following the article is a link to an more extensive article about the Showbox programme from the baptist news.



Click here for a link to a more extensive article posted in the Baptist News