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
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!
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
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
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. Seuss! I 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_Senet Board
Week 13_Tangram Puzzles
Week 13_Tangram Template
Week 14_Seuss Book List
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
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.
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
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.
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
A Family Advent, Letter Size Pages
A Family Advent, Book Print
A Family Advent, Instructions & Materials
A Family Advent, Printable Tags
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