Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:26
Serve: birds (and squirrels!)
Connect: most children don’t need too much help to notice the changes spring brings with it’s longer and warmer days, and in many areas of the world, the reappearance of birds after the winter; help children consider ways we can care for birds just as God has cared for all animals by creating a simple bird feeder; challenge children to especially think about ways it may be difficult for birds to find food in more areas where nature has been overrun by urban development
- toasted oat cereal
- pipe cleaners
- thread toasted oat cereal onto pipe cleaners, leaving a little space at each end
- carefully bend the pipe cleaner into the shape of a circle and twist the ends to create the first loop
- repeat the threading process with a second pipe cleaner
- connect the shapes by looping them inside one another and twist the ends of the second loop closed
- repeat until you have a nice chain to hang outside
Moving is part of being a United Methodist Elder. We serve a connectional system in which the bishop seeks to match local congregations with pastors for the best fit to further the work of Jesus’ mission to make disciples. It’s both difficult and exciting. It’s hard to leave a church, a community of people you have come to know and love. At the same time, it’s exciting to meet new people and see how God is alive in their midst. Perhaps the most important thing is to leave well in order to begin well.
As I thought about how to say goodbye to North United Methodist Church, I immediately wondered about the best way to share my farewell wishes with children. I turned to my trusted source of all good things: Pinterest. I found a lot of good ideas but none that spoke directly to the relationship of being a pastor in ministry with children.
Thankfully, inspiration struck and the pieces began to come together from a variety of Pins and blog posts. I decided to give each child a personalized magnet with a poem adapted to a pastoral role. As I made the magnets, I thought about each child and prayed for him/her. It turned out the process of making these gifts was a balm for my soul as I said my goodbye and trusted their care to the pastor who will follow me.
Saying goodbye is always hard. It is especially hard when ministry has been good and love is shared. But when we remember goodbye is really a blessing of care, then the ritual can become a time to remember and bless one another.
Personalized Magnets with Poem
- select a picture of each child
- place the large bead on the desired area of the picture
- trace around the bead
- cut out the bead shape
- use your finger to add modpodge to the back of the glass bead and attach it to the picture
- press firmly along the back and edges to remove air bubbles and ensure the picture is secure
- allow to dry
- add a small piece of magnet tape to the back
- put the magnet and a copy of the poem in a cello bag and seal it closed
There are natural times of transition in Sunday school when one period comes to an end and another starts. Sometimes this happens at the beginning or end of the school year and may be marked by a kind of promotion to the next age-level. At North Church Indianapolis, we move from age-level classes to a one-room Sunday school during the summer for elementary age children. It’s a great opportunity to bring together all children to build relationships across grade levels and to offer something unique (like learning with LEGO bricks or Dr. Seuss!) for a set period. To mark this transition, I wanted to do something creative and fun so I went to my best resource for ideas: A Facebook group for United Methodist in Ministry with Children. Another member gave me the idea for a sundae school party and I ran with it!
Of course the foundation for the idea of a “Sundae” school party is ice cream sundaes. I decided on a make your own sundae bar with a variety of toppings (all peanut allergy friendly!). We also played games — never underestimate the joy of a parachute and beach ball. And, we celebrated our teachers who serve for the whole year with a class with a theme related gift card to a local ice cream store.
The hallmark of the event, though, was the activity “Get the SCOOP.” After eating their sundaes, children wrote questions for the pastors to answer about God, the Bible, and church as well as “get to know you” type questions. Keeping with the theme, the questions were written on ice cream scoops, which were printed onto colored paper and cut out in advance. The questions were taken back to the pastors who answered each one. Some questions were trickier than others, a few were funny (like “How old is God?” answer: Infinity plus one), but most were really thoughtful and a great way to connect children and pastors. The finished project created a really amazing bulletin board under the heading “Get the SCOOP on God, the Bible, Church, and More!” with all the Q&A scoops piled on top of ice cream cones.
Download the materials:
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Let her share in the results of her work; let her deeds praise her in the city gates. Proverbs 31:30-31
Serve: women’s shelter
Connect: whether a mother, grandmother, teacher or family friend, most children can think of at least one woman who has had a positive effect on their lives and the desire to show appreciation for that woman’s work; take the tradition of honoring mothers to a new level by challenging children to honor all women for their work through a simple gift of pampering
- dawn hand renewal
- 4oz plastic cups with lids
- instructions printed onto cardstock and cut out
- plastic knives
- measuring cup
- plastic spoons
- stickers (hearts, stars, smiley faces)
- ribbon (optional)
- give each child a bowl and plastic knife
- add a 1/4 cup of sugar to the bowl
- add a tablespoon of dawn hand renewal
- have kids stir well
- add a little dawn hand renewal a time until it’s a paste like consistency
- scoop mixture into 4oz containers and secure lids
- add stickers to decorate
- secure the containers with ribbon (optional)
Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your others, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land. Deuteronomy 15:11
Serve: nurses (school, local hospital, etc.) during National Nurses Week, May 6-12
Connect: help children think of a time when they have been physically hurt or sick and a nurse has helped to care for them; nurses often work long hours and do extra because they care about others and a simple, fun “thank you” can help them know they are respected and appreciated
Extra: invite a nurse to share about why he/she became a nurse and what it means to serve others in this profession
- survival kit explanation card printed onto cardstock
- nurse’s prayer printed onto colored paper:
Holy God, guide the heart, hands, and healing words of this special nurse each day as this person cares for your children in need of healing. Help each nurse provide comfort and compassion at just the right moment. And when the day comes to an end, allow for peaceful rest to keep this person strong to continue again in healing ministry. Amen.
- sandwich or snack bags
- crayons (optional)
- For each kit:
- tootsie roll
- put one of each item in a bag
- give each child a marker to write his/her first name on nurse’s prayer card
- ask each child to read the prayer before putting it inside the kit
- have children use crayons to color the front of the survival kit explanation card (optional)
- seal the bag
- fold the explanation card in half along the dotted line
- staple it over the top of the baggie zipper (try not to cover the contents too much)
I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35
Serve: hungry members of the community; local shelters
Connect: for most kids, oatmeal is a staple food and they are probably most familiar with it in its prepackaged, instant form; help kids appreciate the goodness of oatmeal as a hearty and healthy food source but also one that is not expensive, made even less expensive with a homemade version so that with a little effort, children will be able to help more people for less money
Go Further: show kids the difference a little effort can make with a quick object lesson:
- show kids a box of prepackaged instant oatmeal, affirming that 10 people can enjoy a good meal by each eating one package, and the cost is about $2.50
- ask children if they think spending about $0.25/meal is a good deal? feeding 10 people for $2.50 a good thing? what if you could feed six times as many people?
- pour out the contents of a large container of instant oats into a clear bowl; scoop out a 1/4 cup of oats and explain that is how much is in an average packet; there are about 60 servings in one container of instant oats, and the cost is about $3.70
- ask children if they think spending $0.06/meal is better than $0.25/meal? is feeding 60 people the same amount of food better than only feeding 10?
- explain that they can go the easy way and feed 10 people or put in a little effort and feed six times that many people
- print cooking instructions onto Avery® 8160 labels (add your church name and address)
- 12 oz. styrofoam cups (double check the label for microwave safety)
- markers (optional)
- plastic spoons
- measuring cups
- plastic wrap
- twist ties
- instant oats
- brown sugar, cinnamon, etc. (optional)
- snack size baggies (alternative for styrofoam cups and plastic wrap)
- give each child a 12oz styrofoam cup and explain it will be used as a bowl
- have children attach a label to the cup
- children can decorate the outside of the cups with markers (optional)
- combine into a 12oz styrofoam cup
- 3/4 cup of instant oats
- 2 plastic spoonfuls of brown sugar
- 1/2 plastic spoonful of cinnamon
- place the styrofoam cup in the center of a piece of plastic wrap
- gather the plastic wrap up and around the cup, secure closed with a twist tie
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34).
As a disciple, I strongly believe in the message to love others as Christ has loved us. This motivates me to work as an advocate for the full inclusion of all people in the life of the church and society regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. I believe RFRA, a new law in Indiana legalizing discrimination, stands in direct opposition to Jesus’ command to love others. To show support to all people and to make a visible stand against discrimination, I have joined with others to create a free sign for churches* to show they welcome everyone. This sign is intentionally modeled after the Open for Service movement, which many businesses are using, and donations are appreciated.
To learn more about the importance of people of faith standing against this legislation, please read Reconciling Ministries Network’s letter “When the Right to Discriminate Collides with the Rites of Holy Week.”
*You can easily create stickers by printing directly onto Avery® Removable Full Sheet Labels 6470.
I’d still take comfort, relieved even though in persistent pain; for I’ve not denied the words of the holy one.
Serve: persons who have chronic physical pain, a physical disability, or recovering from surgery
Connect: every child has experienced a bump or bruise and the resulting pain; try to help them understand that some people experience that kind of pain all day, every day; in the same way children have experienced care and comfort from aches and pains, they have the opportunity to make something that will bring comfort to others time and again
- crew style white cotton sock
- rice, not instant
- dried lavender (optional)
- sharpie markers
- rubber bands
- wide ribbon
- poem with directions printed onto card stock:
This little sock filled with rice,
is such a comforting device.
Microwave for 1-2 minutes on high
and kiss those aches and pains goodbye.
Apply it to the troubled spot,
the heat will ease the pain a lot.
Or warm those little toes so cold,
you’ll find this nice to have and hold.
Or freeze it for a little while,
and fix that boo-boo up in style.
Instead of a compress made of ice,
use this pillow filled with rice.
- allow kids to decorate the outside of a sock with sharpie markers
- fill the sock with rice leaving about 2-inches at the top
- add a few pinches of dried lavender (optional)
- secure the sock closed with a rubber band
- cover the rubber band with a decorative ribbon
- attach the card with directions to the ribbon
When we introduced this mission project at North United Methodist Church, we invited Jeremy Warriner, a church member and double amputee, to share his story of living with a physical disability and pain. In a uniquely wonderful way, Jeremy talked with the children and encouraged them in their mission project to share care and comfort with others. For the kids, and all of us adults too, Jeremy put a face to the mission so that suddenly it wasn’t serving “somebody” but rather serving our friends, like Jeremy who many of the kids lovingly know as “the man with robot legs.”
Thanks to Artsy-Fartsy Mama for the cute poem to include with this mission project.
You must wash your clothes on the seventh day and you will be clean. Numbers 31:24
Serve: homeless and transient populations who may not have access or means to use washing machines but cold wash clothes by hand in a sink* (a large batch of soap is also a great gift to a local shelter)
Connect: children probably know better than most that dirt and messes happen, but they may not yet appreciate that washing clothes takes some work; challenge children to consider what it would be like to wear the same clothes for days and weeks without washing
- zoat laundry soap
- butcher knife
- cutting board
- washing soda
- quart size baggies
- print washing instructions on to Avery® 5162 labels:
add 1-2 Tablespoons per load of laundry
- cheese graters
- measuring cups
- plastic spoons (optional)
- an adult can use a large butcher knife and cutting board to divide a bar of zoat into three equal pieces
- show kids how to use a cheese grater to shave soap
- combine into a quart size bag:
- 1/3 bar of zoat, shaved
- 1 cup of borax
- 1 cup of washing soda
- seal the bag well and shake to mix
- add a label with washing instructions
- put in a plastic spoon to measure soap for washing (optional)
*This laundry soap works great in cold water and rinses well to leave clothes clean without the need for a washing machine, which makes it perfect for those who do not have the means to use laundry appliances or who choose to wash in cold water to save money.
So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Serve: children waiting in a hospital emergency room
Connect: every child can relate to a time when he/she felt bored and also feelings of uncertainty, help children connect that these feelings are often magnified when a child is waiting in a hospital emergency room for treatment or for a loved one to receive care
- gallon size zipper bags
- labels with church name and address
- for each busy bag:
- 4-6 coloring pages
- 4-6 blank drawing paper
- 4 crayons, various colors (packs sold online)
- sharpened pencil
- 3-4 pipe cleaners (optional)
- copy paper box for finished bags
- set up an assembly line of materials for the bags
- have children write “Busy Bag” on a gallon zipper bag
- show children how to fold the coloring pages and drawing paper hamburger style to fit neatly into the bag
- ask children to assemble one of each item per bag
- help children get as much air out of the bag as possible before closing
- have children put a label with church information on the back of the bag
- deliver assembled bags to a local emergency room
TIP: instead of tearing out coloring pages, break the binding to lay the book flat and use a paper trimmer