Veterans Day

Growing up a Navy-brat, Veterans Day holds a special place in my heart. It is a national holiday set aside to celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. I always appreciate the many ways we celebrate and give thanks to veterans with ceremonies and parades. Yet, I can think of no better way to honor them than with prayer. This Veterans Day, I encourage you to pray for veterans in worship.

One of the many options available to church leaders is to include a prayer for veterans during prayers of intercession or the pastoral prayer. I’ve written a prayer included below that can be used as a stand alone or woven into a longer prayer or series of intercessions.

The children’s sermon is also a great way to honor veterans and equip children with a tangible reminder to pray for them. This particular message uses plastic toy soldiers, which can be purchased at a local dollar store, box store, or online. If possible, buy enough for the whole congregation.

Finally, make available in the bulletin, or via another means of communication, an active duty military prayer list. This will allow members to be in prayer for specific people connected with your congregation and it sends a powerful message to those serving that they are regularly remembered by name in prayer.

Peace,

Danyelle

 

Worship Prayer for Veterans

Children’s Sermon for Veterans Day Observance

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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

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

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,

Danyelle

Download Forever Family: A Liturgy of Adoption

Pastor Danyelle with Forever Siblings, Fall 2015

Pastor Danyelle with Forever Siblings, Fall 2015

Handful of Thanks

IMG_2685

 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.

Materials

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

Directions

  • 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