I made this word search a few years ago and included it in a pack of materials we handed out to children on Easter Sunday. Feel free to download and use it in your churches. The words are designed to mostly be new and introduce children to vocabulary they may be unfamiliar with, so definitions have been included as well. Words are vertical, horizontal, and diagonal.
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.
Here are the rules I set:
- 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.
- 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.
- One point for each item you find.
Pentecost Scavenger Hunt
CAN YOU FIND:
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
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
This blog has been completely silent during the Covid-19 crisis, as I’ve been putting my energies into making videos for families to use to worship at home (you can find them here) and putting together a Pinterest board with all the resources I’ve found, both for home worship and for helping children with anxiety. You can find the Pinterest board here.
However, a few resources have been coming along in Word or PDF format, which can’t be easily pinned, so I’m going to use this blog to share some of those.
This first one is from the Rev Louise Collins, from Elstree and Borehamwood. It follows Jesus’s journey through Holy Week, through the eyes of the animals that accompanied him – and, through the animal imagery, connects Holy Week to other stories of Jesus’s teaching and ministry as well. There are also craft ideas and prayers. Click on the link below to download.
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.
We now have a Creation/Harvest Story Bag for our Resource Centre – churches can borrow it for Junior Church, Messy Church, assemblies, clubs, All-Age Worship, or anything else. The Resource Centre is open at Holywell Lodge, in St. Albans, from 9-5, Monday to Friday – however, if you can’t get down here, let me know and we’ll send out an APB to the staff to find someone who’s driving your way and can deliver the item.
The story bag contains:
Bible stories and non-fiction books related to the story of Creation and the themes of Harvest Festival
Toys to help explore the six days of creation – a light-up sun for “let there be light,” fish and birds, green growing things, animals, and people!
A toy farm to help connect with Harvest Festival and thank God for the earth and all that sustains us.
You can have the bag available for free play, base your entire programme around using it, or anything in between. The games included can be played according to the rules, or they can simply be used to play and build. It’s designed to be as flexible as possible.
The bag will be available to borrow within the next few days. We also have story bags for Pentecost, Easter, Christmas, Water stories, Shepherds, and more – as well as a great variety of Godly Play stories, books, and other materials.
Hey everyone, it’s CRIB SERVICE AND NATIVITY PREP SEASON, otherwise known as Advent, and that means you may have LOTS of families come through your doors who you don’t see much of the rest of the year.
This is an opportunity to get these families onto your mailing list and send them regular updates and invitations about what’s happening at your church.
If you don’t have a mailing list, then start putting one together. Mailchimp is an excellent (and free) platform for easily sending professional-quality mass emails – if you have twenty minutes, you can learn how to use it via this tutorial.
And to save you the hassle of re-inventing the wheel, I’ve developed an insert for you to put in the service sheets of all your events – crib service, nativity, school services, etc. – so any families who want to be invited to future events can let you know.
You can download the insert here:
Follow-up information sheet (note: once the file opens, click on “Enable editing” at the top, and the weird formatting should fix itself.)
I realise this probably comes too late to be useful for this year. We started work on it late, and then went through multiple drafts for both the short and long versions. But do bookmark it for next year!
In the parish where I still do some work with children, we’ve decided to change our nativity play. For the last eight years, we’ve done “People, Look East,” which is a dramatised lessons and carols service, with a Eucharist, written by Gretchen Wolff Pritchard (who happens to be my mum). You can buy the book or eBook that contains the script here (note that when it says “Church School,” this means “Junior Church” – the book was published in America and that’s what it means there).
“People, Look East” is designed to include people of all ages among the cast, and that’s how it worked at the church where I grew up. However, when I became Children’s Worker at St. George’s, I had trouble convincing the adults to participate, and we had very few teenagers, so it became something done by the children.
Now those children have all become teenagers. And they see the pageant we’ve done for the last eight years as something they’re starting to grow out of wanting to be involved with. And many of them don’t want to dress up.
So I’ve drafted an adapted dramatised Lessons and Carols service, which was then amended with suggestions by Clare Heard, LLM at St. George’s, and the Revd. Neil Traynor, Associate Vicar. As Lessons and Carols does, it moves from the tragedy of a fallen and broken world, through to the hope of the prophets, its fulfilment in the coming of Jesus, and finally through to our hope, now, looking for his coming again.
The idea is that people of all ages can participate in this nativity.
Readers 1, 2, and 3 can be adults, or a mix of teenagers and adults. Reader 1 represents God and God’s messenger – Readers 2 and 3 represent the people. Teenagers and adults can also lead the music.
The prophets should be teenagers – teenagers often have a prophetic voice, calling out injustice, holding the powerful to account, and creating a vision of a better world.
The characters in the nativity should be children and teenagers – they represent new hope and new life. Babies and toddlers can be sheep, with an adult as their shepherd. If at all possible, a real baby should be used for Baby Jesus – they can sit with their carers in the front row, wearing a neutral plain Babygro and wrapped in a neutral blanket, until the needed time.
The numbers are flexible. Just because the script calls for 5 shepherds doesn’t mean you can’t have 2 or 10. Just redistribute/break up lines as needed.
NOTE: YOU WILL NEED REHEARSALS. We do this on the third Sunday of Advent, so our schedule is as follows:
1st Sunday of Advent: learn the music during Junior Church. Send the readers out one by one to practice their readings with an adult.
2nd Sunday of Advent: practice the music and readers during Junior Church, then put all the movements together in an hour and a half after church.
3rd SATURDAY of Advent: a three-hour rehearsal – teenagers and adults needed for all of it, children for the second half. Include breaks.
3rd Sunday of Advent: final rehearsal an hour before church starts.
The pageant itself, for us, IS THE MAIN SUNDAY SERVICE on the third Sunday of Advent.
There are two versions available for download below. One is a bit longer, but the shorter one is not just an adapted version of the longer one – there are a few elements that are replaced or rewritten, not just cut.
A few notes:
- In terms of the poetry included: I’m not a copyright expert, but I believe use in public worship could be said to fall under the educational fair use exception of copyright law – but if you’re worried, do check with an expert before using this material.
- The link to an audio version of the communion anthem is here – it’s a rubbish recording of me singing it in my office. Sheet music is also attached below. You could add a second communion anthem if your kids are into singing. If you have a Junior Choir, they could do something stunning here.
- The collect is the one for the third Sunday of Advent. If you’re doing this at a different time, change it as needed.
- Glitter is used to show God appearing to/choosing people. I tend to use the large sequin type of glitter, as it’s easier to clean up. I tell children after the pageant “any sequins you pick up, you can keep,” and use a mini Hoover for the rest. You can also use Party Poppers.
If you have any questions or find any glaring mistakes, let me know in the comments!
Here are the files to download:
Inspired by James Ballantyne’s list of 35 Things Every Youth Worker Has Done, I’ve come up with a version for those of us who have the delight of working with the under-11s and their adults. Add your own in the comments!
- Walked down the street to the school/village hall with some random assortment of items in your arms, like a paper dove on a stick, a box full of bubble wrap, three bags of Haribo, and 200 light-up Baby Jesus dolls.
- Been vomited on, caught in a poo-explosion, or peed on, by a baby or toddler, while you were in church clothes.
- Got really really carried away in the art supply store.
- Totally improvised a Junior Church/club/whatever session on the spot, because the group of kids who showed up were completely different from the ones you’d planned for.
- Had to find a way to diplomatically explain to the vicar that their 45-minute lecture on 18th-century church history might not have been what the school children were hoping for from their visit.
- Planned an All-Age Service that was a total disaster.
- Had brilliant parents, but also panicking parents, parents who try to feed their kid the “right answer,” parents who run away from church the second their child makes a peep, parents who play on their phones while their kid has a tantrum, and parents who think their kids’ whole spiritual formation is your job and not theirs.
- Tried to explain what you do to people at a party and been met with a sea of blank faces.
- Explained to your friends for the thousandth time why Saturday nights aren’t normal weekend nights for you and why you can’t be in the pub at 4 pm on Christmas Eve.
- Had to explain that this isn’t just “trying out whether I should get ordained,” but a valid ministry in its own right.
- Wondered if you should get ordained.
- Cleaned up a room that was an explosion of flour, water, juice, sequins, bits of fabric, glue everywhere, storytelling materials, and six lost jackets, in less than 10 minutes.
- Memorised the soundtrack to Frozen, without ever having actually seen it, and/or become an expert in Minecraft strategies without ever having played it.
- Had to neatly sidestep the “what does ‘virgin’ mean?” questions at Christmas.
- Had your whole view of the world, and God, changed and expanded by something a kid says or does.
- Cried because you love your job, and cried because you hate your job, on the same day.
- Had to justify to the PCC why there should be a budget for children’s ministry in the first place because no, “bring some crayons from home” isn’t good enough.
- Smiled through your rage when a parishioner compliments you on your ministry because you “keep the children quiet.”
- Wondered if the disciples spent this much time stacking chairs and setting up tables.
- Attended a funeral for a kid’s parent or sibling and raged at the universe.
- Had to lead a session, or a service, while your own relationship with God was messy and painful, and you weren’t sure how much of that to include or how.
- Realised you’d gone most of a year without actually being present in worship just as a worshipper, and maybe that’s why you’re burned out and angry all the time.
- Loaded the kids up with sugar, handed them back to their parents, and felt no remorse.
- Felt completely out of your depth.
- Felt like there’s nowhere else you want to be.
Just in time for Advent, I’ve bought a bunch of new Christmas books for the resource centre. They should be here within the week, so pop in and check them out if you’re around!
For those churches in our Diocese who are far from St Albans – if any of these look good, email me, and we can send around an APB to Holywell Lodge staff for anyone who will be in your area in the next few days and can bring you what you’d like to borrow.
So without further ado, here’s what we now have …
Lois Rock is basically the rock star of under-5s Bible stories and prayers. This collection helps adults and very young children together explore the wonder and mystery of the Christmas season through prayer. Perfect for a toddler group, a creche, a visit to your local nursery, inspiration for your crib service …
Another Lois Rock one – I first discovered this when my nephew was three and I gave it to him as a Christmas present. What makes it special is that it includes not only the Christmas story itself, but a wonderful collection of folklore and legends surrounding Christmas. The stories come from all around the world, making it a subtle way of teaching diversity and inclusion, and Alex Ayliffe’s wonderful illustrations are simple and colourful, but include interesting details for children to spot.
As Elena Pasquali’s simple yet beautiful text tells the Christmas story, Giuliano Ferri’s illustrations tell a second, unspoken one – that of the peaceable kingdom. Bit by bit, the animals gather together around the manger. Lions and lambs lie down together. Bears and donkeys gather in peace. At the end, the text of Isaiah 11 connects this imagery to the prophesy of God’s Kingdom, where “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”
Another one that combines the Biblical Christmas stories with folklore and legend, this time aimed at older children. Here’s what the publisher says: “This beautifully presented volume of classic Christmas stories from around the world is written for children aged 7+ to enjoy reading alone, or for reading aloud in a classroom setting or with family sitting round a log fire! A mixture of stories from the Christian heritage and more secular tales, these retellings all evoke the true spirit of Christmas around the world. Included are Nativity stories from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew, the stories of Baboushka and Papa Panov, Fir Tree and The Nutcracker. The whole collection sparkles with colourful and detailed artwork from Jane Ray.” (It’s also worth pointing out that Jane Ray’s Mary and Joseph look genuinely Middle Eastern.)
I’ve been an adult for a while now, but this book still sends a shiver of wonder up my spine whenever I read it. It’s based around the Mexican community in the American Southwest, and the tradition of Las Posadas – when Mary and Joseph go around the town looking for a safe place to stay. Here’s the publisher’s summary: “This year Sister Angie, who is always in charge of the clebration, has to stay home with the flu, and Lupe and Roberto, who are to play Mary and Joseph, get caught in a snowstorm. But a man and a woman no one knows arrive in time to take their place in the procession and then mysteriously disappear at the end before they can be thanked. That night we witness a Christian miracle, for when Sister Angie goes to the cathedral and kneels before the statue of Mary and Joseph, wet footprints from the snow lead up to the statue.”
I’d love to hear your recommendations for the Advent and Christmas books we should add to our library – do leave any thoughts in the comments! And let me know if you’d like to borrow any of these.
Yesterday was the All-Age service for All Saints and All Souls at my church, St. George’s. Here’s some of what we did – feel free to take any or all of these ideas, change them, adapt them, mix them up, and make them better, for your services next year.
As people arrived, they were greeted by this display. The printed images and information about saints is available in a file at the end of this post, so you can download it and use it. It features a mix of Catholic and Protestant, male and female, different ethnicities, different time period, different countries of origin, and different gifts – from martyrs to mystics to artists to reformers of the church and society.
The cardboard figures were made by children in Junior Church over the last few weeks, as we learned about All Saints and All Souls in preparation for the service. They represent either specific saints or people our children love who have died. This created an opportunity for some great conversations in Junior Church about loss, and memory, and bereavement.
Also available was this table, with the Jesus doll, an icon of the harrowing of hell, and books about bereavement for children. A paper was available for people of any age to write names they would like included in the Litany of the Saints in the section for our beloved dead.
Children and teenagers joined the procession – the teenagers were too cool to carry shakers with them, but a few kids and I had bells and rattles, which we shook as we sang “When the Saints Go Marching In.” If you use shakers in All-Age Worship, make sure you have a bag or basket to collect them afterwards – or be sure you’re okay with random bell/rattle noises happening throughout!
After the welcome, confession, and collect, the first reading was Revelation 21:1-6. This was read by a child. I didn’t get any photos of this bit, since I was at the front doing the feltboard. You can see it here off to the side – for the reading, it was front and centre, and the pieces were added to represent the prophecy visually as it was read. This is the Beulah Land feltboard storytelling set – we have a copy in the Diocesan Office for you to borrow, so feel free to get in touch if you’re interested. Children also love playing with it afterwards. You can learn more about Beulah Land here. (Be aware that Mustard Seed Kids is owned and operated by me.)
We then went straight into our gradual hymn, which is from the American Appalachian music tradition – “Palms of Victory.” You can download the song at the link – the sheet music is available in the All Saints section of my book, “There Is A Season: celebrating the church year with children,” which is available in the Diocesan Resource Centre.
Our Gospel was read by one of our teenagers. There is, as far as I or our ministry team are aware, nothing that says children and laypeople can’t read the Gospel during a Eucharist.
I may have been imagining it, but I think the other members of our youth group paid more attention than usual, because one of their own was doing this part.
The sermon was delivered by our Reader, who helped us think about the great variety of imperfect humans who have followed Jesus before us, and how sainthood isn’t about being a perfect, holier-than-thou, joyless, person, but about our very real journeys through life.
We then sang our Creed.
The Liturgy of the Word is VERY talky – anything that can break it up a bit with something to touch, or do, or sing, can provide a break for those whose spiritual style isn’t primarily word-based, or who are young and have limited attention spans. We use this sung creed from Worship Workshop, which is set to a very familiar hymn tune. (You may need to log in to see it, but registration is free.) Worship Workshop provides backing tracks, teaching tracks, and sheet music, so it’s very user-friendly.
For our prayers, we did a Litany of the Saints. (First, we prayed for the sick, as they’re not included in the Litany and we don’t want to leave them out.) Again, the litany is available at the bottom of this post. You might want to move it up a third if you have high voices leading it.
During the Litany, people were invited to come up and light a candle – we’d moved the candle stand to be in front of the altar. It’s always helpful for things like this to have one person des
ignated to get things started – once one person has got up and done something, more people are likely to follow.
The banners of St. George and of Mary were made years ago, by children who are now pre-teens or teens. They hang regularly from the balcony in church.
Then we celebrated the Eucharist – the presence of these candles lit during the Litany of the Saints meant they created a metaphorical light of the saints’ presence as we celebrated the Eucharist together. It was a reminder that we are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses every time we come together to worship God.
There were a few prayers stations set up for people to use as they returned from communion:
We closed with six verses of “For All The Saints.”
There wasn’t a huge crowd of children present – we’re going through one of the troughs in our regular cycle of peaks and troughs in terms of numbers. However, the purpose of All-Age Worship isn’t to be children’s worship. I have been reliably and regularly astonished by how often things I plan to be “child-friendly” that take worship, liturgy, and faith seriously end up being moving for adults. Especially after last week’s article in the Church Times that seemed to think All-Age Worship means nothing but action songs, it’s important to remember this. All-Age Worship isn’t about dumbing down – it’s about opening up. And it’s for everyone.