Great (and free) Resources for Faith Formation @ Home

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Many curriculum publishers are graciously offering free curricula and resources for churches and families to take advantage of during this time when we’re all learning from home. Some are even developing special resources that shift teaching from a classroom leader to everyone in the family exploring and learning together. What follows is a curated list of some wonderful offerings that are theologically Presbyterian and Reformed and place the educational emphasis on family conversation and wondering together. Enjoy exploring some of these great offerings for your church and family.

At the end of this list you will also find a bonus adult study on Philippians courtesy of Columbia Theological Seminary (my alma mater).

Sunday School @ Home

If you have been sending Sunday School materials home for families to adapt for home use, Sparkhouse has a more family-friendly answer for you. Starting this Sunday (April 19, 2020) Sparkhouse is launching an eight-week Family Sunday School series with Dr. Dawn Rundman and her family. Dawn is a gifted curriculum developer with Sparkhouse and comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience in educational ministry. She and her family will be posting a 12 minute lesson video along with accompanying resource sheets at the beginning of each week for families to learn together. This series follows the common lectionary readings of Eastertide and features the Spark Story Bible with dramatic flare, songs to sing and activities to help understand the story application to our lives. This is an easy and helpful way to provide families with a guided lesson each week and enable them to do faith formation easily at home. The material leans toward families with younger children, so an older option might need to be added. You can find the resources here.

If you are using any of Sparkhouse digital or print curricula and are wanting to distribute those resources to your church families there is good news. Sparkhouse has expanded the licensing for their curricula to give churches permission to circulate materials more broadly to their members homes. From March 15 through May 31, 2020, digital subscribers and those who have purchased physical copies of Sparkhouse curricula have permission to share videos, learner pages, and music for local use only.” Instructions for adding an unlimited number of users to your digital account, and/or distribute photocopies of your print curriculum can be found here.

Illustrated Ministry is also graciously providing free materials for at home Sunday school for the duration of our time at home. Illustrated Ministry (previously Children’s Illustrated) began a number of years ago with great colouring sheets for congregations. They expanded by including children’s worship bulletins and then began producing lesson plans for Sunday schools. During the pandemic they are providing free, at home, Sunday school resources to families directly through their website. All you have to do is sign-up and you will receive a weekly email with the lesson plan and colouring sheets. While the invitation is for each family to sign up, churches may wish to have the weekly email sent to one overseer so the church can distribute it to families themselves along with conversational notes from the church community. Illustrated Ministry is collecting the emails of those who wish to receive the free mailing separately from their regular email list, will not sell your email to anyone, and will destroy the ‘pandemic’ list once we head back to our church buildings. You can sign up for the weekly materials here.

As much as I’ve linked a number of resource options for you to consider from this post, don’t be tempted to forward all of the options to your families with the invitation that they choose what they want for themselves. This becomes overwhelming, and everyone is already overwhelmed enough these days. Too much information might mean that the whole bag gets dropped. The minister, CE Committee or Sunday school superintendent should do some exploring through all of the options first and select the curriculum resource you think would best suit your families. The bonus of everyone doing the same thing each week is that even though we are apart, we know we are still together in this way. You could even schedule a Zoom meeting for families to chat with one another about what they have done, thoughts they had about the story, and their reflections on the lesson each week.

If you are the person in your church researching and providing families with materials for them to use at home during COVID-19, don’t send you church families links to a great resource once and expect them to return to that resource each week without a little prompting. Everyone has the best of intentions to do the lesson or watch the video every week, but without a weekly reminder it often slips through the cracks. Send your families a short, manageable, weekly email of activities once a week. An email that includes that week’s materials, a caring check-in, a wondering question about something they will encounter in that week’s lesson, and a personal note is much more likely to be followed through on than an email sent six weeks ago with the expectation that parents will follow through on their own with weekly lesson plans.

Family Devotions

Spiritual disciplines help us exercise our soul muscles and draw us closer to God. Just as we try and form good eating and exercise habits, it’s important to form good spiritual habits. Initiating this practice while our days are more predictable and home-based provides us with the perfect opportunity to build a spiritual habit. A great place for families to start is with a gentle and simple 5-step daily examen at the close of each day. A family friendly examen to practice each day would go like this:

Step 1 – Share – your highs and lows of the day
Step 2 – Read – a Bible story or passage
Step 3 – Talk – about how that might relate to your highs and lows
Step 4 – Pray – for one another’s highs and lows
Step 5 – Bless – one another

Turn off the TV, phones and other technology and make a quiet space for your family to gather. Start with reflecting on your day. What were the highs and lows for each member of your family? Accept each person’s thoughts and express care for each answer given. Have a bible story ready to read. You might choose to read some of the post resurrection stories from the latter part of one of the gospels and/or from the book of Acts, or pick up a children’s bible story book such as the Spark Story Bible or Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible by Caldwell and Wehrheim and read together. You don’t need to make the story fit the highs and lows expressed earlier. Just carry on with your daily bible reading, talk about the story read, and let each family member draw their own connections with the story. Close with prayer inviting everyone to offer their own simple prayer for one another. Finally bless one another before heading off for a night’s rest.

Another Great Children’s Resource

Free Resources

In Australia, Cecil the Lost Sheep is a well-loved children’s story book on the parable of the lost sheep that launched an entire series that now includes Dave the Donkey, Tina the Tree, Claudia the Caterpillar and a host of other critters and people who lovingly live out bible stories for children. Lost Sheep Resources is generously posting daily youtube videos with author and illustrator Andrew McDonough reading one of the books in the series and then following up with activities such as learning how to draw a character or make a special meal. You can find the story videos here.

If you want to check out the Lost Sheep website for other free materials go exploring here.

Youth @ Home

Sparkhouse has also released At the Movies resources for online youth groups or families with youth to engage with at home. Using popular movies like WALL-E, The Black Panther and Spiderman, participants discuss themes, make connections with scripture and determine actions after watching the movie. Sparkhouse has also written ideas for taking these studies and making them work during this time of staying at home. So grab some popcorn, your bible and enjoy a night at the movies with you friends. Everything you need can be found right here.

Adult Bible Study

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And finally, are you looking for a great adult bible study to participate in over the next few weeks?

Brennan Breed, from Columbia Theological Seminary, and Chris Holmes, from First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, are teaming up with guest professors to offer an in-depth, spontaneous and unrehearsed five-week study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. 

Office Hours: An Online Popup Bible Study is designed to meet the needs of pastors and congregants during our season of social distancing.” All are welcome to the hour-long live Zoom conversation every Sunday morning from 9:30AM to 10:30AM EST, from April 19th to May 17th. Participants who register will receive free access to course material, complete with syllabus, downloadable readings, and audio-video links for further study.

Sign up for Office Hours Adult Bible study here.

Keep checkin out the CNOB website for more resources and ideas for you and your congregation. Easter blessings to you all.

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