A Pastors First Sunday

Children’s Message for A Pastor’s First Sunday

This children’s sermon is written to help pastors connect with children in their new congregations. It should be presented by someone other than the new pastor. It’s intended to be an introduction for both the children and the pastor. It is adapted from a Midrash written by Rabbi Marc Gellman in his book“Does God Have a Big Toe?” Though the book is out of print, there are still many copies floating around in used bookstores and online. Special thanks to Rev. Kevin Armstrong who introduced me to the children of North United Methodist Church using a similar retelling and application of this Midrash.

Good morning boys and girls! Today I want to share with you a story about a story in the Bible. These stories are called Midrash. And this story is about the story of creation, way at the beginning of all things. God had just finished creating the whole world, the sky and land, the sea, the plants, and of course the animals. God had named most things, even the first human, who’s name was Adam. But God didn’t name the animals. God wanted Adam to name the animals.

Adam was thrilled to name the animals! He saw a big, brown furry animal with teeth who was sleeping under a tree and yelled in its ear: “I’m going to name you!” The brown furry with teeth opened one eye, yawned, and went back to sleep.

(look worried) But Adam didn’t know what to name the brown furry with teeth. He didn’t know what to name any of the animals!

So, he decided to call the brown furry with teeth, number one. (look smug) Adam spent the rest of the day numbering the animals….

But then… (look frustrated and sad) Adam lost count.

He needed a new plan (thinker pose)

(excitedly announce:) Finally, he had it! Adam declared, “I’ll call all the animals, “Hey You!” (look smug) Adam thought this was super smart because then he only had to remember one name.

The next day, Adam needed a big rock moved. He wanted the large-grey-wringled-up-long-nosed-big-eared-white-tusked-tree-eating-stomper for the job, so he yelled (cup your hands around your mouth) “Hey You!”

But the rather-small-quite-noisy-banana-eating-swinger showed up instead. And just stood on the rock eating a banana.

(look very discouraged) Adam didn’t know what to do. He went back to the brown furry with teeth to think of a new plan.

Then, the brown furry with teeth woke up. Shook Adam and said, (put your hands on your hips) “Did you ever think to ask us animals what we want to be named? I don’t know what they call a skinny-hairless-foot-walker like you, but I’m a bear.”

So, Adam asked all the animals what they wanted to be called and they told him! (smile really big!) 

Today, our brand new pastor is here with us and I think we should do the same thing. Let’s ask her/him what we she/he wants to be called. So, pastor, what would you like us to call you? (this is when the pastor should very clearly communicate to the children, and even the congregation, how she/he prefers to be addressed)

Thank you title name! And over the next few months, I know  title name will want to know your names, too. So, please speak up and tell her/him what you are called.

Let’s pray together:

Holy God, thank you for the gift of new friends and new beginnings. We are so glad you have brought  title name to our congregation and you have called all of us by name to follow you. Amen.

Recognizing Father’s Day

As Father’s Day quickly approaches, I hope the prayers of intercession and children’s sermon provided below will help you in your preparations for worship. This is a wonderful day to celebrate and with careful planning and sensitivity, I believe it can be a rich day of thanksgiving for all!

Prayers of Intercession for Father’s Day

Children’s Sermon for Father’s Day
Purchase fishing bobbers at a local store or online to give one to each man in church.

Bobber Tags for Gift (optional)
To use the tags, simply print out on Avery® 5371 business cards or regular card stock and cut out, then punch a hole and thread fishing line to connect the tag to the bobber. It makes a nice addition to the gift.

The Invisible String

Less than a week ago we celebrated the life of my mother-in-law after her unexpected death. Our grief is made less only in knowing she lived a good life filled with the richness of family and faith and in dying she went without pain or suffering to be with our Savior in Heaven. Even still, this will be the first Mother’s Day we will celebrate without her here with us. The pain and grief are real. This is a story many endure on the second Sunday in May. As others gear up to celebrate, many struggle with deep grief and heartache for the death of a mother or child this Mother’s Day. For them, we pray.

There are no easy answers to offer in the wake of death and loss. There is some measure of comfort to be found in knowing we never walk alone through these struggles because God is always with us. We find throughout the Bible an active, always present God who genuinely seeks to be in relationship with us. In Matthew, Jesus promises to be with us until the end of time. He also promised to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to guide us and be with us. In the wake of such human loss and pain as the death of a mother or child, may we know God is with us.

Though comforting, such an abstract idea can be very difficult for children to grasp, especially young kids who are such concrete thinkers. Whenever I am with a child who is struggling through grief, who needs the comforting word that they are not alone, I am reminded of the book The Invisible String by Patrice Karst.

In this story, told by a mother to her two children, an invisible string keeps them connected to one another no matter how far apart they find themselves. So, they are never alone. Children can imagine a string connecting two people in two different places — even a string to God. Like the invisible string, it’s the Holy Spirit who connects us to God who loves us and is with us always and forever.

And when a child — or an adult — is particularly sad for all he or she has lost to death, that string is there to tug on for a little extra comfort when it’s most needed.

Peace my friends.
Danyelle

Honoring All Mothers: Resources for Worship

As leaders in ministry with children and family, it often falls to us to help plan and visualize worship celebrations for Mother’s Day. I hope the prayers and resources below will help you discern what might work best for your congregation or spark a new and creative idea for you. First, a few thoughts on celebrating Mother’s Day in worship.

Growing up Mother’s Day was a special day to celebrate my mom with a bouquet of dandelions from our field, a cup of her favorite tea, and a new something special handmade at school. When I moved away from home, I expanded my understanding to include the women who mothered me through college, seminary, and early adulthood. Then, I became a mom — now the recipient of dandelion bouquets and handmade masterpieces. Along the way, I was blessed to meet women who became like sisters and loved me enough to “mother” me through tough times. Not to mention the many women I’ve encountered in my ministry who have showed me different ways women mother in the world. Today, Mother’s Day has such a broader and wider meaning in my life than it did when I was a little girl.

This ever growing sense of the greater scope of what it means to be a mother influences how I plan worship on Mother’s Day. I also keep close at heart the need to approach this day with great care and sensitivity. Paul reminds us in First Corinthians that as members of the community of Christ we are to care for one another. On Mother’s Day, this means we must both celebrate the joy and acknowledge the pain of being a woman on this day. It means honoring a woman’s worth is not tied to being a mother. And it means remembering many women long for motherhood but as of yet remain childless. It means recognizing some are grieving the death of their mothers and some mothers grieve the death of their children. As a community formed in the light and love of Christ, to care for one another means we must honor the wide spectrum of mothering.

And to all the moms out there who are planning Mother’s Day for others, thank you for all you do to lead in ministry, I see you and I give thanks for you.

Peace, 

Danyelle

Resources for Mother’s Day Worship: 

  • I’ve written a special children’s sermon to celebrate the gift of love and to acknowledge all church mothers who train up the next generation with love.
    Children’s Sermon

  • These prayers honor female imagery of God found throughout the Bible and lift up prayers of celebration and concern for women on this day.
    Prayers for Worship

  • This powerful testimony leaves no woman left out on Mother’s Day and acknowledges both the joy and pain of mothering.
    Wide Spectrum of Mothering Handout

  • This is a beautiful story of the Biblical creation story retold to break down traditional assumptions that God is male, allowing young girls of all ethnicities to see themselves in the divine. The link takes you to Storypath, a site dedicated to sharing the rich theological resource of children’s books for Christian education; it is part of a project at Union Theological Seminary.
    Children’s Book, When God Was a Little Girl
    To purchase the book, click here

Worship Bags

Worship is a time for families to draw closer in their relationship with God and grow together in faith. But sitting through a full worship service with young children isn’t without its challenges. We all have restless days and fussy moments, and sometimes the sermon does go on a little too long, but when prepared, children can rise to the occasion. One of my favorite tools for church with children is a worship bag.

Just about any bag will work to create worship bags for your congregation but canvas bags offer durability and they come in fun colors. Children’s worship bulletins are a great foundation for worship bags. They engage children with age appropriate activities that teach basic Scripture truths. The rest of the bag includes a memo-size clip board, several sheets of scrap paper, crayons, pencil, and pipe cleaner. The latter is one of my favorite things to include because it’s a cheap and fun fidget that kids love! On special occasions and holy days, it’s fun to include simple crafts in the bags. 

It’s important to find a creative way to make the worship bags accessible to kids, like a children’s coat stand or a basket on the floor. This is a tangible sign of genuinely welcoming children in worship, even to the point that they are able to get their own materials.

A tip on crayons: Ditch the box. The dollar tree sells two-pack, lock top, snack containers that perfectly fit a 24-pack of crayons. The lock tops are easy for little hands to open and close and the crayons get back in the container rather than all over the bottom of the bag.

Worship bags for children are a small way congregations can come alongside families to support them in growing together in faith.

easy access & 24 crayons neatly stored

The Church’s Got Talent

Summer is an amazing time in ministry with children to offer something new during Sunday school. This summer, why not combine learning about the Bible with building intergenerational relationships? It’s called “The Church’s Got Talent.”

This fun, faith-based, friendship-building program invites adults in the congregation to share with children their hobbies and talents. Each week adults will:

    • share a little about themselves
    • read a Scripture verse related to their hobby or talent
    • tell kids about their hobby or talent
    • share a story, examples, or demonstration
    • lead a related activity with children

The beauty of “The Church’s Got Talent” is that new friendships are formed as adults, especially older adults, serve in ministry with children. By sharing about themselves and inviting children into their lives through their hobby and talent, these adults are forming important, life-giving, faith-building relationships.

“The Church’s Got Talent” is a program for everyone in your congregation. You will find great joy in discovering the hidden hobbies and talents within your church and using those as a springboard to build friendships between young and old.

If you get stuck on a Scripture reference, please reach out to your pastor for ideas. Also, try looking at it from a different perspective, like how does this hobby or talent serve God or bring joy to others, or does it requires qualities like discipline, knowledge, and creativity, and then search the Scriptures for verses reflective of those aspects. For example, connecting golf with Colossians 3:23 because the adult leader often played in golf fundraisers for missions — playing golf with a heart for the Lord. 

You can download a sample list of ideas for “The Church’s Got Talent” complete with Scripture verses and activities, but please don’t let this curb your congregation’s creativity! Activity instructions can be found on my Pinterest Board.

I hope this program blesses your congregation this summer!

Volunteer Handbook

Volunteer Handbook

One of the most needed resources in ministry with children is a go-to handbook for volunteers. Though each church will have its own unique way of doing things, the basic points remain pretty consistent across the board.

This particular version of a volunteer handbook was developed for a congregation with about 30 active children and 10 regular volunteers for Sunday school. It covers our standards for Safe Sanctuaries as well as procedures for lesson plans and materials. My recommendation is to give every volunteer a copy of this handbook during a startup orientation at the beginning of a new year of Sunday school.

Click Here for The Volunteer Handbook

Click Here for a Word Version of The Volunteer Handbook

One Form to Rule Them All

lord of the rings

I hate filling out forms. And if you’re being honest, you do too. When someone hands us a form to fill out, he or she might as well be stabbing us in the heart. And we’re left there wondering, “Why do I have to fill this out?” It just feels like needless work.

Yet, we all know in ministry with children and families, forms are necessary. They are one of the only opportunities to gain updated family contact information, like new email addresses and cell phone numbers, not to mention legal releases for things like transportation and pictures.

But, how many forms do we really need? My suggestion: One. One form developed with care and consultation can do the work of all those other forms clogging up your time in ministry with families.

The one form is designed for a whole family. It includes information for each child as well as legal releases and medical information. It is kept on file in the church office and additional copies are kept with the staff or lay leaders for events and trips.

I’ve uploaded this form as a Word document for you to easily adapt to your congregation. Be sure to check with your legal folks before using it to ensure it complies with your context’s needs.

May this one form to rule them all free you from the labor of administration to joyfully serve God’s kingdom!

Peace of Christ,

Danyelle

click here to download the form

 

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Gospel According to Dr. Seuss

Summer of Seuss_Poster

While I was at Duke Divinity School, I studied the great theologians of the Christian faith —  Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Wesley. But when I started to reread beloved books from my childhood like Horton Hears a Who and Green Eggs and Ham to my children, I discovered another great theologian — Theodor Geisel better known, perhaps, as Dr. Seuss!

And, I’m not alone. James Kemp is a United Methodist pastor and author who wrote an adult study that finds parallels between the actions of cats in hats, Grinches, Snitches, Sneetches, and other Creachas and lessons found in Scripture. I loved his book The Gospel According to Dr. SeussI wanted to create a similar study for children to help them see this beloved children’s author as a teacher of faith, too.

This 13-week, children will explore several Dr. Seuss favorites to learn a lesson about following the way of Jesus Christ. This series is written for a one-room schoolhouse model with children between the 1st and 5th grade.

I hope you enjoy this new series. It’s completely free to use in local churches. If you want a few extra activity sheets, check out Random House Publishing’s website.

Peace,

Danyelle

Gospel According to Dr. Seuss Lesson Plans

Week 1_All About Me

Week 1_Hats Off To You

Week 4_Pants Pattern

Week 12_Earth Stewardship Pledge

Week 13_Mancala

Week 13_Senet Board

Week 13_Tangram Puzzles

Week 13_Tangram Template

Week 14_Seuss Book List

12 Days of Christmas Kindness Elf

FullSizeRender-12

This year I wanted to start a simple yet heartwarming tradition with my children to help us celebrate the 12 days of Christmas — the days between Christmas and Epiphany. I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to do this until my five year old came home from school talking about “The Elf on the Shelf.” I can’t imagine adding one more thing before Christmas and I’m hesitant about the message of this popular elf, yet I liked the idea of a special elf visitor my kids could look forward to finding each morning. A little crowdsourcing later, and my own version of the Kindness Elf was created!

The Kindness Elf arrives on Christmas Day with the first of 12 acts of kindness. Each day, the elf moves to a new place in the house and has a new daily act of kindness. The activities are kid-friendly, simple, and almost no cost. My hope is children will delight in finding the elf each morning and discovering a new activity to spread kindness.

Peace,

Danyelle

Printable 12 Days of Kindness Activities

Online Option for an Elf

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