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,


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.



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


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.



Printable 12 Days of Kindness Activities

Online Option for an Elf

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Our Syrian Neighbors


One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31

Last week, I had the honor of  helping to organize an interfaith vigil to support and extend traditional Hoosier hospitality to three Syrian refugee families living in Indiana. It was a moving time together with prayer and candle-lighting in the sanctuary followed by fellowship with refreshments made by the refugee families (and oh my, it was also so yummy!). Click here to see coverage from one of the local news channels who reported on the gathering.

We knew many families would attend and I wanted to create an opportunity for children to welcome the refugees. A dozen or so clipboards, white construction paper, and packets of crayons were made ready for children to create welcome cards. Each one is precious and full of love proving yet again that little hands have big hearts to serve all!

If your church wants to join in making cards, please contact the Syrian American Council to get in touch with a local chapter who can help you send cards to refugee families.

Danyelle Ditmer

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Nativity Bracelets

Nativity Bracelets

The first Christmas with a new congregation is always exciting as we work together to learn, share, and blend traditions to create a meaningful worship for all. For my part, I wanted to help create special aspects of the worship service that were child friendly. I decided to create a nativity bracelet kit to give to children to work on during the sermon.

The bracelet proclaims the good news of Jesus the Christ’s birth. Each bead on the bracelet represents a part of the story with a printed card that tells a poetic version of the story. All the pieces are packaged in sandwich size ziplock bags with simple instructions to thread the beads onto the pipe cleaner, and twist the ends to create a bracelet.

I hope children will delight in their own special gift during Christmas Eve worship to remember and celebrate the greatest gift of all — Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!




  • downloadable poem printed four to page onto heavy paper
  • sandwich size ziplock bags
  • brown or black pipe cleaner
  • pony beads
  • star beads
  • jungle bells
  • propeller beads (or any other style than pony beads)


  • cut the cards printed four to page
  • put a card into a sandwich size resealable bag
  • add the following to each:
    • 1 white pony bead
    • 1 blue pony bead
    • 1 brown pony bead
    • 1 grey pony bead
    • 1 green pony bead
    • 1 purple pony bead
    • 3  propeller beads
    • 1 jingle bell
    • 1 star bead
    • 1 pipe cleaner
  • close the bag tightly


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A Family Advent

Family Advent

Advent is a beautiful gift of the liturgical calendar. In the midst of our busy lives, it is a season of time devoted to helping us slow down, talk and listen, and prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ. I created “A Family Advent” to equip families with devotionals and hands-on activities to celebrate the season at home.

The kit reflects upon the traditional themes of the season: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. It combines weekly family devotional with a Scripture reading, lesson, music and reflection questions with (nearly) all the materials needed to do an activity together. My hope is that “A Family Advent” may help families carve out a special time each week of Advent to spend time in reflection and preparation for the many gifts God has given to us through the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Music Selections

Advent 1: Hope – O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” performed by BYU Vocal Point

Advent 2: Peace – Child of Peace” performed by Sandi Patty

Advent 3: Joy – “Sing Joy” performed by Peter Meyer

Advent 4: Love – “They Will Know We are Christians” performed by Jars of Clay

Peace of Christ,

Rev. Danyelle Ditmer
Epworth United Methodist Church, Indianapolis
Advent 2015

A Family Advent, Letter Size Pages

A Family Advent, Book Print

A Family Advent, Instructions & Materials

A Family Advent, Printable Tags

Forever Family: A Liturgy for Adoption

Forever Family

He also says, I will rely on him. And also, here I am with the children whom God has given to me
Hebrews 2:13

Just over a year ago, it was my privilege to write and officiate a ceremony for a forever family. In case that’s a new phrase for you, a “forever family” is a family brought together through adoption. Like all families, each forever family is uniquely made through love, trust, and grace. This particular family was stuck in the red tape of the system but with two children who deeply needed to know they were loved and belonged to this family forever. Even though it took the state another year to legally certify the adoption, we pressed on with a covenant ceremony binding them together in the sight of God and the assembled congregation.

In honor of Adoption Awareness Month, I want to share the liturgy I wrote for this covenant ceremony. It was adapted from various covenant services, including the United Methodist Church’s Service of Christian Marriage. My hope is that church leaders may use it to bless and encourage families brought together through adoption.

Peace of Christ,


Download Forever Family: A Liturgy of Adoption

Pastor Danyelle with Forever Siblings, Fall 2015

Pastor Danyelle with Forever Siblings, Fall 2015

Handful of Thanks


 I will appoint shepherds with whom I’m pleased, and they will lead you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15

Pastors have a very special calling on their lives, and they need to be appreciated, cherished and encouraged as much as possible. Sunday, October 11 is designated in the United Methodist Church as clergy appreciation day. Help children celebrate their pastor(s) by creating a special bloom made of thankful hands to put on the pastor’s door.


  • white construction paper
  • hand washing supplies
  • jumbo ink pads, various colors
  • scissors
  • clear tape
  • green construction paper
  • yellow construction paper
  • markers


  • have each child make one handprint per pastor/minister of staff
  • write the child’s first name on the palm or under the handprint
  • cut out the handprints (for sturdiness, don’t cut between fingers)
  • cut a circle from yellow construction paper large enough to place the handprints around without too much overlap
  • have children help tape the handprints onto the front of the circle, be sure the first name of each child is displayed
  • cut a chunky stem from a piece of green construction paper
  • attach the green stem to the back of the yellow circle
  • use a black marker to write “Thank You Pastor name
  • attach the flower where the pastor/ministers can see them first thing on Sunday morning

Placed with Joy


You must rise in the presence of an old person and respect the elderly. Leviticus 19:32a

Serve: elder care facilities

Connect: children won’t have a heard time imagining a time they have felt bored, encourage them to think of something that would have made that time more joyful (reading a book, playing a game, drawing a picture, etc.); explain that at many elder care facilities, older adults eat together and often wait quite awhile before being served, which we might imagine can get boring; challenge children to think of how something as simple as a placemat could make waiting more enjoyable — what can they do to turn an ordinary placemat into something an elder may enjoy?



  • give each child white placemats to decorate
  • if close to a holiday, challenge kids to decorate the holiday theme