Getting Started slides from 15th March

pray-and-play8When I run training sessions, I often refer people to this blog to get the slides I used – these are for the “Getting Started in Children’s Ministry” training held on 15th March 2017 at St Andrew’s in Biggleswade. Click on the link at the bottom to download.

Topics include:

Opportunities for mission and ministry

Creating a culture of welcome

A video clip from Rev on how NOT to manage change

Answers from lots of clergy and children’s workers on “what do you do when people complain about children making noise in the service?”

Baptism/Christenings

A resource list

Children’s corners (Pray and Play areas)

Getting Started

 

Children’s Spirituality

11338852633_ef41fae0e0_oI’ve had the opportunity a few times recently to talk about children’s spiritual development in a more academic way.

The slides for this talk are attached – both a longer and shorter version.

The longer version includes a clip from the TV show “Outnumbered,” if you’re into that sort of thing – to find out what that has to do with children in church, you’ll just have to read the presentation!

 

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Imaginative Spiritual Play in action

20170205_093750Those of you who have been to any of my workshops or training sessions might have heard me talk about “imaginative spiritual play” and how to facilitate it. Yesterday, Patrick, aged 5, gave me a good example.

His mum was leading one of the Sunday School groups, so he arrived early. As the space was set up, he started playing – first, he arranged the electric candles on the altar.

What I did: got more candles when he asked, helped him come up with an idea on how to arrange them when he was frustrated that there weren’t enough to go all the way around.

Then he asked me if I had any red paper. He balled up the red paper and stuck it in the chalice to be wine.

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He also went to the toy corner and got the wave and the rainbow toys and set them on the altar.

What I did: Asked him about his setup, using open-ended questions, e.g., “would you like to tell me about what you’ve made?” rather than “is that rainbow from the Noah story?”

When I asked him about his setup, he explained that the water and the rainbow were, in fact, from the Noah story, and asked me if I’d heard this story.

What I did: Instead of saying, “yes, I know that story,” I asked him to tell it to me.

20170205_094928Using the rainbow and the water wave, he briefly recapped the Noah story, and then asked if we could take out the plastic animals from the cupboard to play with them. As the service was about to start, so we had to go into the main worship area, I said no, but reminded him there was a Noah’s Ark toy in the church’s Pray and Play area if he wanted to go and play with that during the start of the service, before Sunday School began.

What made this work:

  1. Easy availability of toys that aren’t proscriptive in their usage – flexibility of symbolism in, for example, the water toy, lets it be used for play based around lots of different stories, or around baptism, or just exploring its shapes and colours and textures and becoming familiar with the image that way. The toy corner in our Sunday School areas, as well as our Pray and Play area, doesn’t change that much – it’s not tied to the story of the day. The same toys are available year round, with a few extra at festivals.
  2. A pretty laissez-faire approach from the facilitator. This episode was child-led. I was the audience – he wanted me to see what he was doing – but not the leader. I helped when asked, but I didn’t direct his play or tell him what meaning to make from it.
  3. Patrick’s familiarity with Bible stories. Patrick’s mum is a Sunday School volunteer and leads our toddler group. She reads Bible stories at home and Patrick is in church most Sundays. But that doesn’t mean she’s doing anything complicated – she’s just making sure he knows the stories, the same way he becomes familiar with, say, Thomas the Tank Engine stories. That’s the foundation of this kind of play, and it isn’t hard to do.

 

 

 

Pastoral care of children

I’m doing training on Saturday on the topic of pastoral care of children, and my slides are attached below.  I’ve also done a new Pinterest board on pastoral care and mental health, with lots of resources – do suggest more in the comments.

There are two anecdotes I refer to in the slides, under “the healing power of story,” but which I don’t explain in detail – I will during the training itself, of course.

The first one is from my mother’s ministry, with children from deprived areas of New Haven, Connecticut, in the USA. Many of these neighbourhoods have high levels of incarceration – what sociologists and activists are calling “the school-to-prison pipeline.” My mother ran a Tuesday evening club that included worship, art time, and a communal meal. One day she was telling the story of Joseph, and got to the point where he was thrown into jail on false charges.

“My daddy’s in jail!” one kid piped up.

“So’s my brother!” another replied.

“My uncle …” “My cousin …” the stories started coming thick and fast. The Biblical story of Joseph had given them the starting point to explore a difficult and painful part of their own lives. It gave them a launchpad to talk about what it feels like to be in jail, what it feels like for someone you love to be in jail, what it feels like when the charges are unfair, and whether God is still with you even in those situations.  And it gave the leaders a chance to start looking at how the liberation of an individual which leads to the liberation of the entire people is at the heart of so many Bible stories – Joseph doesn’t just get out of jail to save himself, when he gets out of jail he saves all of Egypt, and his own family as well, who had brutalised him in the past.

The second anecdote is from my own ministry. I was looking at the story of Ruth, and what struck me (love-treepartly from having read Lauren Winner’s excellent book Girl Meets God, which looks in detail at Ruth) was how this story provides a broad and inclusive model of what it means to be a family. It’s a step in the movement away from the purity model of the early patriarchs, when who your father was, and how cleanly your blood led you back to Abraham, was what mattered most, and towards Jesus’s model of, “those who follow my commandments are my family,” and the early church’s assertion that “there is no longer Jew nor Greek … all are one in Christ Jesus.”

Ruth is a woman from a different tribe, the Moabites, and she is brought into God’s Chosen People by marriage. After her husband dies, she chooses to stay with his widowed mother – her family is now one of choice, not of blood. Her second husband is Boaz, a relative of her late first husband, but their marriage requires another kinsman to refute his claim on her. Upon Ruth and Boaz’s marriage, and the subsequent birth of Obed, the family is now: the mother of Ruth’s first husband, her distant kinsman Boaz, his wife Ruth (from a different tribe), and their child. Naomi has a grandmotherly relationship to her son’s widow’s second husband’s child, and the Ruth/Boaz relationship is a mixed marriage. How very modern this all starts to sound! (And of course, out of this family of adoption and choice and mixed heritage came King David … and Jesus himself.)

So as one of the activities, I encouraged children to draw their family trees, and to think about “who do I count as my family?” I asked them to think about godparents, close friends – are they family? How do people become part of our family? Birth, adoption, and marriage are all ways of becoming family. Are there others? What about our church family? What about people who have died, like Ruth’s first husband? Are they still part of our family? How do we keep them close to us?

I was working with a small group of children at the family tree table, and when I said, “what about people who have died?” one girl’s face lit up, and she said, “like my brothers!”

The story gave her a way to tell me what had happened in her family, and she received affirmation that her brothers were still part of her family. She told me their names, we put them on her family tree, and she received a story which connected to her own experiences, and the affirmation that God’s story relates to her own life, and that church is the kind of place where you can process this sort of thing.

Please do check out the Pinterest board and the slides below, and let me know your thoughts, and any resources I haven’t stumbled across!

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Free Holy Week stuff!

12Tomorrow is our day on Creative Holy Week for All Ages – so for those of you who can’t be there, here are all the resources.

You’ll find:

  1. A script for a walk-through of the whole Passion story. This is great for Messy Church or clubs or other settings where the children probably won’t be in church for Holy Week itself and may not get anything between Palm Sunday and Easter (or not even that). This is in the file labelled “Risen With Christ Resource Pack” and is based on the Prayer Walk in Gretchen Wolff Pritchard’s book Risen With Christ, which you can get here. (It’s worth dealing with the antiquated website and having to order by email or post – it’s a very useful book.)
  2. A summary of how we used the imagery of trees throughout our worship in Lent, Holy Week, and Easter (also in the first file below).
  3. A plan for an all-age Maundy Thursday service. This works for groups up to about 20 – for larger groups, you’ll need to rework it. We have our all-age service at 5:30 and our main Eucharist at 8 – the all-age service tends to attract families and older people who don’t want to be out late, while the Eucharist gets those in between.
  4. The Beulah Land Exodus story script, which is used in the Maundy Thursday service.
  5. The service sheet for my Children’s Stations of the Cross, which provides pretty much everything you need to re-create the service.
  6. Materials which make the transition period of the Great Vigil of Easter much more interactive and dramatic. Many of these are also based on what’s found in Risen With Christ, which in turn was largely inspired by Rick Fabian and Don Schell, who planted the church of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco (in this setup, the service starts with the kindling of the New Fire and then moves on to the Old Testament readings, instead of vice versa):
    1. The Noble Joseph” – Orthodox Bulgarian chant, used at the end of the Old Testament lessons.
    2. The Litany of the Saints – used for procession to the font before the Exsultet.
    3. The Easter Sermon of St. John Chrysostom – used after the Exsultet, culminating in the first proclamation of the resurrection

Don’t forget to also check out my Lent and Easter Pinterest board – and send me anything you find that you think I should add to it!

 

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First Dates by the Manger

I set up two of my friends recently – they had a lot in common, they seemed to be looking for what the other one had to offer, and I thought they’d get on.

They agreed to meet up and they went out! There were candles, there was poetry … all the ingredients of a special occasion.

A few weeks later, I asked one of them if there had been a second date.

“No,” she said. “I really liked him!  He gave all the right signals, but then he never called … guess he didn’t want me after all.”

So I went to my other friend and asked why he’d never arranged a second date.

“Well,” he said. “I organised the first one. I reckoned if she was keen, she’d call me, and set up a second date. It’s a shame – I really liked her.”

This story is made up. While I am, in fact, responsible for introducing TWO of the couples in my immediate circle ninebreaker-at-deviantart-madonna-and-childof friends, this particular matchmaking venture didn’t take place. This is, in fact, a fictional version of the elusive courtship relationship your church has with young families.

Your church wants young families. Young families want a friendly and meaningful religious community where they feel welcomed, loved, cared for, and wanted. You meet up for a Crib Service – there are candles and poetry, and it’s a really special event. You smile at each other and say how lovely it was to meet up, and you’d love to do it again.

And then you both sit at home, waiting for the other to make the first move.

Research from the Christenings Project shows that families WANT the church to stay in touch. They want to be invited back to special events and to family-friendly services. But families are busier than ever, they’re nervous about their child’s behaviour in church, and they don’t know what’s happening at your church if you don’t tell them. So you need to make the effort. You need to reach out. You need to woo.

This Christmas Eve, why not hand families who come to your Crib Service a small sheet of paper with a space for them to write down their name, their child(ren)’s name(s), their email address, and whether they’d like to be contacted about future events?  You know they like you – they’ve come to your Crib Service!

Have someone at the back of the church at the end of the service to gather these papers in and hand out something special to take home (a chocolate coin, a cut-out-and-keep Nativity, or something else).  Then add these email addresses to your mailing list and invite them back for Candlemas … Mothering Sunday … Holy Week … toddler group … holiday club … and don’t take them off the list unless they ask you to! Conventional wisdom in the marketing world is that people need to be reminded of something seven times before they’ll take action on it. Keep inviting them back.

After all, that’s what God does, isn’t it? He goes out into the highways and the byways and says “we’re having a feast! Come on in!”  And he keeps asking, and keeps asking, because he loves us so much and he wants us to be together, near him – he calls his people to be his Bride.  Let’s model that persistent courtship in our churches.

(And if anyone wants my services as a real-life matchmaker, do get in touch. I can provide two happy couples as references! One couple was even introduced to each other, by me, in a church. So you never know …)