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.

 

 

 

Baptism Matters

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Last Thursday, we had a brilliant day’s training on Baptisms with Sandra Millar, Head of Projects and Development for the Archbishops’ Council.

You can follow the day by looking at the #BaptismMatters tweets, but here, off the top of my head, are the Top Ten Things I Remember:

  1. The public calls it a christening, not a baptism. The word “christening” is searched for on Google 12 times as often as “baptism.” When someone rings the church and asks for a christening, they shouldn’t get the reply, “actually, we call it a baptism.” The first word should be “congratulations!” When a couple calls to ask for a wedding, we don’t say, “actually, it’s a marriage service.” We explain that during the wedding, the couple will be married – same for babies. During a christening, the child will be baptised.
  2. In the service itself, symbols matter much more than words. Candle, the oil on the baby’s forehead, the water – these are what parents remember as meaningful. We don’t need to intellectually understand music to find it moving, and the same is true of liturgy. Understanding can come later.
  3. Parents want us to do the God talk. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
  4. Parents want to hear language of a journey – a christening is a step on a journey. They’re thinking about the big questions, and we can walk with them.
  5. Godparents really matter. Over 90% of parents said that a big reason for choosing a christening was so their child would have godparents. How can we support and celebrate the godparent/godchild relationship during preparation, the service itself, and afterwards?
  6. Feeling warmly welcomed and celebrated on the day of the service matters to parents.
  7. Guests matter. These people are the child’s community. They are special to the family. They probably have very little experience of church – how can we include them in the service and make them feel welcomed and valued?
  8. The Church of England Christenings website has information for parents, godparents, and guests, as well as the chance to light a virtual candle (and share on social media that you’ve done so) and a church-facing side for clergy and other church workers.  There’s also a Faith at Home newsletter that parents can sign up for.
  9. There are also lots of resources on the Church Print Hub, including prayer magnets for godparents, prayer bookmarks for guests, and resources for Godparents’ Sunday. Many can be personalised with the contact information and logo of your own church.
  10. Follow-up matters. Many parents want the church to invite them to things. Get contact information and permission from christening families and send them invitations whenever you have something coming up that’s appropriate for young children. Don’t take them off your list unless they ask to be removed!

Ministry With Under-5s Day: further resources

Last Saturday, we had a wonderful day on Ministry With Under-5s.  As part of it, I did a whistle-stop tour through the idea of Pray and Play corners – my slides are below, if anyone would like to share the presentation or be reminded of what was covered.

Some other takeaways from the day include:

Ellie Wilson did our keynote address. While she has unfortunately left her post in the Diocese of Leeds, her legacy includes support of “1277: Make Them Count” and also the Toddler Group Research Project, which will be published soon – check back here for more!

Vicki Howie, who did a wonderful workshop on Storytelling with under-5s, recently did a Childrenswork article on a similar topic, which you can find here.

30844981952_3df1f5dc22_kJenny Paddison introduced us to Starting Rite, which is a 5-week programme of spiritual nurture for carers and babies together, based on the type of course run by Sure Start centres. You can learn more here.

Carolynn Pritchard led a workshop on liturgical worship with children – many of her ideas can be found on the Spiritual Child Network page. (There’s also a Facebook group of 700+ members, which I’ve found invaluable on many occasions, for ideas and inspiration.)

Victoria Beech and Becky May did a workshop on music and multi-sensory worship – they both do wonderful Faith at Home work as well. Victoria runs GodVenture, and Becky and her husband Adam are the Treasure Box People.

Any other resources you have for Under-5s are more than welcome – please do leave a comment.

PDF of Pray and Play Corners presentation: pray-and-play-corners

Five-Finger Prayer

There are dozens of versions of this prayer out there – it’s an easy way to involve children physically in prayer, and works with anyone from toddlers to pre-teens (and sometimes even teens).

This is the one I use. I like how each prayer connects in some way to that particular finger – it’s not just random. The Revd. Ally Barrett has added a final piece to this prayer – she draws a circle on her palm as she prays for the whole world. I think that’s a great addition.

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Christenings!

Christenings are REALLY important. Every year, hundreds of children are christened in our Diocese, many of whose parents don’t come regularly to church. It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with new parents and get to know them, hopefully bringing them into our community and walking with them and their child on the journey of faith.

And there are so many ways to make the service memorable, to make it a really special celebration of this child’s relationship with God, their share in new life with Jesus, and their place as one of the communion of saints.

On our Lay Leaders of Worship course in May, I met the lovely Dawn Abbatt, who has done some really brilliant stuff with her kids’ christenings.  I’ll let her tell it in her own words:15A3ABA5-A703-4617-9C8C-F9B4E5899D61

I have been to so many [christening services] where the baptism is almost an annoying add on to a service, and an important opportunity for celebration and outreach is overlooked.

I have three children.  For Tabitha, her baptism was one of three children being done in one service, the vicar kept getting the children’s names wrong!

For Jasper’s 3 years ago, I was in a new church with vicar (Roni) who is also my friend, I was able to discuss how I wanted his baptism to be a real celebration and also to help my friends who aren’t familiar with church to feel comfortable and introduce them to how church can be. What real Christians do. I felt it was part of my job as a Christian to help show others.

We showed part of the Lion King movie- the beginning where all the animals come to celebrate the birth of the baby lion- and that’s how baptism should be, a shared excitement that we are adding one more to our number.

The pictures here are from Hetty’s baptism earlier this year; we asked everyone to come wearing a crown. This was fantastic as we had people crafting, I encouraged competition between my friends on Facebook, some got to wear wedding tiaras again, some wore flower crowns some feathers, some home made, some bought.23A92705-23D0-4F52-992B-18CE138EF117

Everyone was welcomed, children could be around and were included, people were encouraged to join in putting the oil on Hetty’s head and then the children were splashing everyone with water from the sprigs of yews.2ED1A7B9-0DE5-43F0-BDFF-FE2C10492FB4

All the children were helping to ring the bell beforehand. We had vicar selfies, and the meaning of the crowns was explained during a brief talk by Roni. Hetty’s feet were dipped in too as she wanted to climb in the font.0D5A231E-8BD2-4F27-BF3D-ABA7CEEC68FB

As you can probably tell I am a little pleased with how the day went and lots of my friends have been encouraged as a result. They have felt comfortable in church and they did not burst into flames or get judged or have to keep their children still.63460FE1-B37F-4791-8BE8-C82812E23481

Welcoming the Stranger, Part II

20160207_095425Tonight I have the privilege of speaking with some Lay Readers on the topic of Welcoming Children and Families.

I’ve put together a PowerPoint, which I thought I’d share with all of you.

The images of prayer spaces without captions are taken from this blog – you can find more details about them in older posts; just click on the “Pray and Play” tag at the bottom of this post to get all the related ones.

Welcoming Families (PowerPoint – 15 MB, download it on a proper computer over wireless not data!) Please also note – the big black rectangle on the 10th slide is a video – hover over it to see the “PLAY” command appear.

Pray and Play 2

A few more images of great children’s areas have come through.  If you’d like me to feature yours, email pictures or links to cme@stalbans.anglican.org

This one shows an area focused on providing different activities for children to do at different times in the service.  This type of idea might need an adult helper, or clear notes for parents.  This corner supports the “gathering” time at the start of the service – many different items made of different pieces that can be put together.

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There are lots of seasonal ideas for children’s areas. This one is set up for Advent and Christmas (the gathering area above can be seen just at the right):

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While many children’s areas are specifically designed for Under-5s, there are ways of providing opportunities for older children as well.  Here are a few.  For the first activity, a book of the story is available for children who don’t know the story:

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