Online Holiday Club – Stories of Justice

Our online holiday club plan, “Stories of Justice,” can be downloaded below.

There are five days’ worth of plans, including:

  • An opening story and wondering questions. There are two options for videos for each story – one shorter and one longer. Text versions of the stories are also available for families who don’t have internet.
  • Response activities. Families can do as few or as many of these as they like, on their own time. They include something to MAKE, things to TALK about, a physical activity or charitable action to DO, and a PRAYER activity.
  • Plans for a closing Zoom session. While families without internet can still dial in to this session, they would miss out on the visual aspects of this. It’s suggested therefore that families without internet take advantage of recent guidelines that allow two houses to meet up with social distancing, so they can share the Zoom session with another family.

Many of the activities suggest using “whatever you have around the house” for the MAKE activity, eg, the contents of your recycling bin, things you can find in the garden or the park, etc. However, you may also need to make sure families have access to the following materials:

  • Paper and pens
  • Candle and lighter (or LED candle)
  • Play-doh
  • Glue
  • Felt-tips/pastels
  • Plastic eggs that can be opened up (available online, including from Baker Ross)
  • Blu Tak
  • Cups
  • Kitchen roll
  • A large bowl
  • Flour
  • Sand or shredded paper
  • Coins
  • Sellotape
  • May also be helpful if families don’t have them: Lego or Playmobil figures, toilet and kitchen roll tubes, coloured card, shoeboxes, fabric in various colours.

Bags of these materials can be dropped off at the beginning of the week.

Download the plans here: Stories of Justice

The supplementary material – text versions of the stories, and some images used for the Zoom session on Day 4 – can be downloaded here: Stories of Justice – supplementary material

Running a Holiday Club Online – top tips from the Diocese of Bath and Wells

HUGE thanks to my colleagues in the Diocese of Bath & Wells for putting together some practical top tips for running a holiday club online. Here’s what they’ve written:

How To Run a Holiday Club Online

The aim of this guide is to help you think through the why/when/what and how of running a successful church holiday club online. It may be helpful to work through the headings below as a planning group, so that your vision for doing this is clear and shared by those involved. For many of you, you may have anticipated doing your Holiday Club as per normal, but the Covid-19 pandemic has forced you to rethink your plans. Lots of things around the ‘Why’ remain the same, but the ‘How’ will naturally differ significantly.

IMG_20190526_110355Holiday Clubs or Holiday Activity Days, whether done face to face or online can be a great way to connect with children but before you dive in, here are a few questions to think through:

  • Why do you want to run an online holiday club?
  • When will you run it and for how long? Online will need to be thought through carefully.
  • What kinds of things do you want to include in the programme?
  • Who will you need and how will you gather a team?
  • How much will the online holiday club cost to run?
  • How will you tell children and their families about the online holiday club, plus get any necessary resources to them?
  • How could you make sure the whole church feels involved?
  • When the online holiday club is over, what might be the next step?
  • What platform/s might you use to run the online holiday club?

Why do you want to run an online holiday club?

This is a really good place to start, as although we might all agree this is a great fun way of connecting with children and their families, it’s important you agree on some aims in your own context. Reasons for running an online holiday club could include:

  • It creates an opportunity to reach out to local children and their families who are not usually connected with church.
  • Provision of fun activities for children during the long school holidays after a particularly challenging time for families, where they have spent an extended time at home.
  • It provides a low-cost activity for families to be involved with at home.
  • You have few children involved in your church but would love that to change.
  • You have a good link with your local Primary School and this could be a positive thing to offer them, as they break up for the summer after a hugely challenging 4 months.
  • You have a thriving children’s group and church parents, who have continued to engage online throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and who are keen for something extra in school holidays, that they can encourage their friends to join in with.
  • You have engaged with new children and families throughout the pandemic and would like to offer them the opportunity to explore faith further.

Having discussed your primary reasons for running an online holiday club, now turn these into your aims. We suggest 3 or 4 main aims that reflect the missional and practical elements of what you hope to do. They can also include who the club is aimed at (i.e. is it aimed at children from church families who you already know or at those you have yet to connect with, or both).

 When will you run it and for how long?

Children

Photo from Dreamstime stock photography, https://www.dreamstime.com/ .

Many church holiday clubs have traditionally been run over 5 morning or afternoon sessions plus included an all-age Sunday service that the whole family are invited to. However, when doing this online, there are a number of new considerations:

  • How long can we reasonably expect children to sit in front of a screen?
  • Do you have enough people on team to cover the length of time you want to run the club (going online doesn’t mean that less team are needed – more on that below)?
  • Do you have people with the IT experience and skills to put something together?

Think about what will work best for the families you hope to include. It would be worth asking some parents if they’re not already represented in your team. Much will also depend on the team you have available.

Ways to transfer your holiday club online

  1. Signpost your children and families to other organisations who are producing Online Holiday Clubs, free of charge for churches to use and access.

You may look through this guide and conclude that in the current circumstances, you simply don’t have the resources and experience to be able to run a Holiday Club this year. Please don’t be dismayed, these are challenging times. There are, however, experienced organisations who often tour the country leading holiday clubs for churches. With those organisations being unable to do that this year, they are putting together full virtual Holiday clubs for churches to use. These include:

  • Pulse Ministries – Orbiters Online from 20th -24th July: https://www.orbitersonline.co.uk/
  • 4 Front Theatre, All Stars Kids Club, St Peter’s Baptist Church and All Churches Trust are joining together to do a virtual Holiday Club on YouTube from 3rd – 7th August
  1. Move your Holiday Club onto a conferencing platform such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or other

Many of us knew very little about these platforms a few months ago, but they have now become part of our everyday. Each platform has its pros and cons, so decide which one works for you. We would strongly encourage you to practice with your team well in advance, so that everyone knows what they are doing.

Safeguarding must still continue to be top of your agenda, with consent still needed and correct ratios etc being adhered to:

  • Safeguarding online is the same as for a physical holiday club
  • The recruiting of team, safer recruitment is the same as for a physical club
  • Parents permission still needs to be sought
  • Invites should be sent to parents
  • Records of attendance and concerns should still be logged
  1. Pre-record Holiday Club and Songs and put them on a site such as YouTube or Vimeo

Be very aware of copyright. Scripture Union, for example, allow you to use their videos, but they must not be used and shared on a public YouTube channel (they can be shared on a hidden channel). Similarly, you will need to ensure you have the correct copyright permissions for using any songs or video clips.

  1. Use a combination of the above e.g. conferencing platform, paired with pre-recorded sessions

For this option you may choose to have some pre-recorded sessions that are premiered online, which children watch prior to joining a conferencing platform for small group sessions and conversations.

What does a good Online Holiday Club look like?

  • Safe recruitment
    • All helpers must be DBS checked, including anyone you use in video clips or in hosting breakout rooms. Whether online or for a physical holiday club, all those working with children should have undertaken Basic Safeguarding Training (C1) and those leading children’s activities should have completed Leadership Safeguarding Training (C2). In addition, it may be helpful to lead a short session on good and safe practice with children as part of your team preparation.
  • Safe practice
    • Provide guidelines for team e.g. to dress appropriately on screen, both for pre-recorded and live activity, also they must be in an appropriate room/space in their home for any pre-recorded videos or live sessions.
    • Provide guidelines for parents e.g. children and anyone who maybe seen on screen, must dress appropriately for any video conferencing sessions. They must be in an appropriate room/space in their home, parents should be present or able to hear what is happening on screen throughout.
    • If you use break out rooms or similar, you must always have 2 DBS checked, unrelated adults present in each room.
    • Consent must be sought as per a physical holiday club. If you ask children to send in shout-outs or photos, you must have permission to share on the online platforms
    • Permission is needed for anything other than looking at a video online
    • Ratios of adults to children are still the same online as they would be for a physical holiday club – the recommended staffing ratio for children 4-8 years is 1 adult to 6 children and for children 9-12 years is 1 adult to 8 children. If young people are part of your team, remember to count these in the number of children present if they are under 18.
  • Risk Assessments are still essential for online holiday clubs.
  • The Holiday Club needs to be short/keep each item short – we suggest 30 minutes maximum, possibly with a live video conferencing session via Zoom or similar added on. This will mean it is necessary to miss things out that you may have historically done in your Holiday Clubs.
  • Include variety in what you do, so choose wisely.
  • Think about the essential elements and be sure to include them (Bible, prayer, fun)
  • Plan it carefully and decide who is doing what and share it out, ensuring it plays to people’s gifts
  • Script it and stick to it, to be sure you keep to time.
  • If possible (and with relevant permissions), invite children to send in their contributions and include them.
  • Create a resource pack to go with the online programme – it’s usually best to assume that families have none of the things needed, so make sure you include EVERYTHING they might need in the pack e.g. pens, a pair of scissors, paper. It is also worth noting, that it’s being suggested that if you have concerns about packages entering your home and carrying the virus, it is best to leave them untouched for 72 hours, so the virus can die. With this in mind, make sure you deliver the packs well in advance of the club.
  • Make sure you have the correct licenses for songs, video clips etc, otherwise your videos maybe pulled down from platforms such as YouTube.

What kinds of things do you want to include in the programme?

Putting together a programme for a holiday club can seem like an impossible job, but there are a number of organisations who produce holiday club resources which you can adapt for an online context. Scripture Union and John Hardwick are well known for their ‘ready-to-use’ Bible- based programmes. Resources like these are usually aimed at 5-11 year olds (Primary School age), but as indicated above, you will need to be wise in selecting which parts to include for an online club.

 How much will the holiday club cost to run?

Costs will have to be considered at some stage. It may be that the church has already set aside funds for a project like this. If not, you will need to consider a funding strategy. A decision will also need to be made about whether to charge families for the online club or not, and if so how much and how will you collect that money?

 How will you tell children and their families about the holiday club?

Advertising the online holiday club will need to be thought about carefully and will be different for every context.

Note about registration: As with a physical Holiday Club, no child can be admitted to a holiday club without a consent form signed by a parent or adult with parental responsibility. Asking parents to pre-register for the club helps make sure this isn’t an issue on the day and also identifies numbers.

How could you make sure the whole church feels involved?

As your team prepares for the club make sure you give regular updates to the wider church family, so they’re aware of what’s going on. Suggest ways they could be involved such as:

  • Having enough invites so that church members can invite neighbours who have children.
  • Inviting individuals to support the club with a financial gift.
  • Involving church members in preparing the resource packs
  • Sending out a ‘Prayer Email’ so that all church members can pray specifically for the club.

When the holiday club is over what might be the next step?

As you plan the event it is worth thinking through what a follow on to the club might be. In the present pandemic, that maybe through the form of a monthly video being shared with families or a follow up online gathering or a celebration in the church building when government guidance tells us that it is possible to do so.

N.B. Lots of the content in this guide has been taken from Scripture Union’s Online Training event ‘Running a Virtual Holiday Club’.

Safeguarding Note:

For all safeguarding queries and issues in your parish, you must speak with your Parish Safeguarding Officer in the first instance and then the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers, whose contact information can be found here.

Useful links:

Scripture Union resources https://content.scriptureunion.org.uk/holiday-clubs-0

John Hardwick resources https://www.johnhardwick.org/holiday-clubs

Diocese of York online holiday club resources: https://dioceseofyork.org.uk/schools-and-youth/children-young-people-churches/holiday-club-home-hope-club-2020/

Leavers’ Service

33397533_10157740782383508_9191189486128594944_n (1)The Youth and Children team have worked with the Schools team to create a leavers’ service that can be done virtually, or with some children at school and some at home. It requires no physical contact and no sharing of resources. It’s designed to have different building blocks, appropriate for years 2, 4, 6, and 8, so you can use it for transitions to junior, middle, secondary, or high school.

You can download it here:

Rebuilding Community Pack 5 Leavers Service

Road and Journey Pictures

Here is a selection of photographs of roads or journeys, which can be used by schools during the online/partly-in-person leavers’ service during the “may the road rise to meet you” blessing, as suggested. They are all taken by Margaret, our Children’s Mission Enabler, and she gives full permission for their use in worship in schools and churches.

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Pentecost Scavenger Hunt

Here’s a Pentecost scavenger hunt I put together for a half-term club when I was a children’s worker. We did it in the church, but you could easily do it at home as well, after online church on Pentecost, or as part of a family service.pentecost-people-1024x612

Here are the rules I set:

  1. You can be as creative as you like in deciding how the objects fit these clues. But each object can only be used for ONE clue.
  2. If you find something that can’t be moved, you can take us to it for judging time or take a picture of it and use that.
  3. One point for each item you find.

Pentecost Scavenger Hunt

CAN YOU FIND:

A flame

Something that can be used to make fire

Something in a different language

A picture of water

Something that reminds you of wind

Something that helps tell the story of Jesus to people who haven’t heard it

A dove

Something that brings light into darkness

Something that could help someone who is afraid feel brave again

Something that shows Jesus’ friends

Something with lots of colours

A lock or key

The Knitted Bible!

Today I visited The Knitted Bible in its latest host site of Hampstead Parish Church. While St. Albans Diocese has an impressive fondness for knitted Bible stories – our cathedral’s large knitted Nativity, the smaller knitted Nativity and Noah’s Ark available to borrow from our Resource Centre, and many other knitted Bible sets around the Diocese – this goes beyond even our impressive yarn-based Biblical efforts.

It consists of around 35 scenes, from Creation to Jesus’s breakfast on the beach after his resurrection, each painstakingly re-created in yarn and stuffing, often with ingenious sets made of everything from kitchen roll to upside-down flower pots. (Please note: it does include the sacrifice of Isaac, without a huge amount of material provided about that story apart from “God wanted to see if Abraham would obey,” which is a simplistic reading that can be damaging to children’s ideas of God, and scary for them. Rabbis I have spoken with tend to interpret that story more as Abraham misunderstanding God, thinking God wants human sacrifice like the pagan gods of the time, and God stopping Abraham, clarifying he does not require human sacrifice. You may want to remove this scene from your display or provide additional material to give it context.)

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The Garden of Eden is in the church’s font.

The Knitted Bible was created in 2008 by over 40 people at St. George’s URC in Hartlepool. It is available for churches to borrow without charge – however, it’s booked up very far in advance. If you’re interested in borrowing it for your church in late 2021 or even 2022, contact information can be found here.

While that may seem far away, it’s definitely worth considering if this is something you might be interested in doing. I spoke with the stewards on site, the church’s administrator, and with the Rev. Jeremy Fletcher, Vicar of Hampstead. The stewards and the administrator told me they’ve received a marked increase in foot traffic in the church over the ten days the Knitted Bible has been in situ. The stewards said it’s been a wonderful point of engagement with the local community – the church school has brought several classes to visit, it’s been out during worship for people to look at and explore, and people of all ages have engaged with it.

Rev. Jeremy said, “lots of people have told me they expected to be charmed by it. And that they were surprised to find that they were both charmed and moved by it.” He suspects a lot of what’s so moving about it is the detail. Every person and animal is an individual, and has their own story to tell, and little details in the setup – from a steward in the act of pouring wine at the Wedding at Cana to the little foil tip on a Roman soldier’s spear – draw the viewer in and inspire wondering and imagination.

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Visiting the Knitted Bible could serve as a springboard for follow-up activities as well, in schools, or church children’s/mixed age groups, such as:

  • Make your own 3-d versions of Bible stories and display them alongside the knitted ones.
  • Choose a character from one of the scenes and write the story from their point of view.
  • Put together an assembly, or a presentation to the congregation, about your visit and/or one of the stories.

Here are some more photos. Maybe you’ll be inspired and create a knitted Bible – or at least a few scenes – of your own!

HEBREW SCRIPTURES:

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LIFE OF JESUS:

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I love the way the Holy Spirit is, by necessity of the medium, just sitting on Jesus’s head here.

 

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The Children’s Ministry Channel

Oh, I wish there was one. However, I’ve found a few programmes over the last few years which have actually been very useful, with information, inspiration, and ideas that are easily related to what we do with children and families in church.

Old People's Homes For 4 Year Olds Series 2

The first is “Babies: Their Wonderful World” – a three-part series in which famous studies in development are re-created and discussed, and a few new experiments are tried, with children up to 12 months. Unfortunately, the full episodes aren’t available at the moment, but a few good clips can be found here, and a fascinating bit about how some aspects of morality may be innate can be found here. (And yes, I asked on Twitter if they re-created the experiment with the blue square/yellow triangle roles reversed, and they confirmed they had, and babies chose the blue square when it was the “good” puppet.) If our sense of good and bad is innate, then that suggests our spirituality may be innate – what researchers like Rebecca Nye and John Westerhoff have suggested. In which case, what we’re doing in church is not filling up an empty vessel, who knows nothing about God, but helping a child understand and express a relationship, and a set of ideas about right and wrong, help and harm, which they possess from birth. This clip can be a good way of starting those conversations with your church groups.

Channel 4 thankfully keeps their programmes available on catch up for longer than the BBC, so you can still watch full episodes of their incredible “Old People’s Home for Four-Year-Olds.” This inter-generational experiment, in which a group of two-to-four-year-olds came into a residential care home, is a model of how mixing the generations helps us all. The parents get more adults who love their child, the elderly residents show benefits in physical and mental health from contact with children, and the children get love, care, and wisdom from older people. The implications for churches are obvious.

There is also a series called “The Secret Life Of Four-Year-Olds,” which now has expanded into series about 5- and 6-year-olds as well. It’s a lot of detail about a very narrow age group, but if this is your speciality area, it’s well worth a watch. You can find all 25 episodes here.

This isn’t a programme, but a useful clip: The Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney gave some children video cameras and they filmed what worship is like for them. An eye-opening “child’s-eye view” of an Anglican service. What do you notice?

And finally, sadly, there is “Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret.” It makes for harrowing watching, but it provides a vital glimpse into how church culture helped cover up the crimes of Bishop Peter Ball, and his abuse of young people in his care, and reminds us of how vital our Safeguarding responsibilities are. Watch it if you can, but if you know you can’t, that’s also fine. (Any current or historical Safeguarding issues relating to St Albans Diocese can be reported to our Diocesan Safeguarding team. You will be listened to and taken seriously.)

Are there any useful programmes I’ve forgotten?

Harvest Resource

I know it’s a bit late, and I apologise – but bookmark this for next year if you’ve already had your Harvest Festival.

Especially now, as more of the world is waking up to the climate crisis and our collective failure to care for God’s creation, it can be easy to feel helpless.

So I’ve put together some simple actions we can take – some personal, some pushing for systemic change – that can genuinely make a difference.

I’m going to print multiple copies of these out on orange, yellow, and red paper, then cut them out, punch a hole in each one, and hang them on a tree* by the entrance of the church. During the service, I’ll mention the tree and encourage people to choose a leaf as a commitment and promise to do something that will care for creation. I’ll include some blank leaves for people to add their own ideas.

* The “tree” is a few twigs stuck in a basket of sand.

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Faith at Home take-home

Most church leaders would love for children and their carers to talk about church together – about worship, faith, and their experiences. Often, parents are uncertain how to do this, unsure of whether they “have the answers,” hesitant about how to start a conversation with their children about these topics.outnumbered

And it’s difficult, in most churches, to get a group of parents together to start learning about faith at home, and to build the confidence needed for these conversations.

So I’ve put together a simple take-home “cheat sheet” that can help parents start these discussions. It can be used every week in any church – it’s not tied to a particular worship style, and the questions are flexible enough to be used around the year. They are open-ended, and stress that there’s no right or wrong answers. And, crucially, the idea is that children and adults respond to these questions. So the discussion is a mutual one; it’s not children answering questions for the adults, but rather some conversation starters to get children and their parents or carers sharing together about their experiences in worship.

You can download it here: Take Home Sheet for Parents and Carers (Word)

Take Home Sheet for Parents and Carers (PDF)

Book recommendation

I’m going to recommend a book that is not for children, not about children, not about children’s ministry, not about church, doesn’t mention God once, and which may be one of the most relevant books for ministry you can get.

It’s called “That’s Not How We Do It Here!” (sound familiar?). The subtitle is “a story about how organisations rise and fall – and can rise again.”meerkats

It’s an easy read – I read it in an afternoon – because mostly, it’s a story about meerkats. The meerkat colony’s habitat is changing, there are new threats, and the old way of doing things isn’t working. So young meerkat Nadia leaves the group and finds a new colony with some fresh ideas – but their way of doing things has problems too. Can Nadia and her fellow meerkats figure out the “best of both worlds” and help both colonies function well and adapt to change?

Definitely one for your PCC to read and discuss, if possible. I have a copy in the office, so do let me know if you’d like to borrow it and we can post it to you!