Resource Shout-Out: Doodle Prayers

Every once in a while we come across a great resource we want to share with you. Here’s a new favourite from Selina.

I love using art in worship and meditation, but many folks feel like they’re not “artsy” enough to do it. That’s where Praying in Color comes in.

They offer simple instructions/methods for using doodles in your prayer life. These exercises can be done on your own, or as part of a group. They can be complex or very simple.

An intercessory prayer
A meditative way to spend time with God

For many folks who need to engage their bodies while they pray doodle prayers can be a way to connect their heart and hands. For those who need a little structure having a “method” to the madness of prayer can soothe anxiety. For the perfectionist, knowing their work is a private creation that doesn’t have to be beautiful can be relaxing.

This is a great resource for folks of all ages who are looking to cultivate their prayer life.

Check-out their free downloadable resources!

Have you tried this resource or something similar before? Let us know how it went in the comments!

Guest post: A reopened church’s activity bag

This week we have a guest post from Nancy Windis, a member of Mt. Brydges United Church in Ontario. She shares about the activity bags her community of faith put together with care and intention to welcome children back to the church when they reopened this past year.

The Project: A reopened church’s activity bags

A little while ago we shared a post on creating activity bags for families returning to church. As part of that we asked about communities of faith who had tried out this particular project. Nancy shared with us about her church’s experience of creating bags, which included items “ranging from stickers to colouring books, puzzles, crayons etc., and a snack.”

The inspiration

Nancy shared with us that, as a response to health restrictions due to COVID-19 that made traditional Sunday school unsafe, that the Mt. Brydges community “wanted to have something for the children who were too young to follow a  sermon.” She notes that “our pastor is wonderful and not boring at all”, whew! I’m sure Rev. Beth is glad to hear that! But, the community understood they needed offer some additional items to make worship more engaging for their younger members. So they found resources based on biblical characters such as books, colouring pages and stickers.

What did your children/families respond to best? 

“The ones who could read enjoyed the puzzles (word search) and the younger ones seem to like the colouring. To add a little variety there are little fun things also that don’t relate to worship but require patience and thinking. An example would be Rubik’s cubes with designs not colours, enclosed balls that need to be maneuvered into little walls and metal shapes that can be separated and rejoined only certain ways.”

What part would you want to do again? 

“We are still using the bags. We were only meeting in person for a couple of months and did not have many children regularly. There are still bags at the entrance for new visitors.”

What part would you leave out or do differently next time?

I love the wisdom Nancy has to offer her, she suggests “[putting] less options in to start and [putting] out new activities every couple of weeks.” The idea of having items that rotate will keep the bags fresh and interesting. It also offers an opportunity to make them connect with different liturgical seasons!

A final thought

Nancy shares that Mt. Brydges is a “smaller Church with an aging congregation” but that this kind of family ministry project “is what works for us.” We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, families and children and looking for communities who have a heart for them, not something big and flashy. Even the smallest congregations can create a place of hospitality and engaging worship with few resources–since, you know, anything is possible with our God.

A big thank you to Nancy for sharing with us, and a virtual hi-five to our friends at Mt. Brydges and Rev. Beth Parsons for this great example of hospitality towards families despite a global pandemic! – Selina

Guest post: ‘Delivering’ God’s love in a pizza box

This week we’re sharing a project from Rev. Stephanie Richmond and the communities of Greenbank UC and Seagrave UC in Port Perry (north east of TO). I invited Stephanie to share her community’s project with us because I hadn’t before heard of Sunday School being done in quite this way! Many communities have been trying to figure out safe ways to do family ministry (camp-in-a-box, take-home VBSes, Advent-at-home) but there’s just something about serving up a slice of Sunday School that appeals!

The Project: Sunday school in a pizza box

My name is Stephanie and I currently serve the communities of faith at Greenbank and Seagrave Pastoral Charge, located just outside of Port Perry Ontario. Both are rural communities.

We began having in-person outdoor services on August 8, 2021. When discussing the logistics of the service, the topic of how we might engage or provide an activity for the children of our communities was of concern. We wanted to provide an enjoyable and safe experience for our youth and have them feel that we care about them and about nurturing their faith. After some discussion and after sharing ideas on a zoom clergy gathering the “Sunday school in a pizza box” came into being. Each child receives a pizza box equipped with scissors, glue stick, crayons, stickers, markers and any other craft material needed to create the craft for that week, along with a prepackaged snack. I have been asking the children to come forward and sit physically distanced for a youth and young at heart time. After this time I hand out the pizza boxes which they take the back to their seats. The crafts are designed to go along with the theme of the youth and young at heart time and when necessary there are step by step instructions to help complete the craft. The children have been encouraged to decorate their boxes. They take home the craft and leave the box and craft tools with me.

The inspiration

This idea grew out of a clergy zoom gathering where the discussion of, “what are you doing for your children this fall,” came up. One of the clergy told us about the family boxes she had done at a previous church. She had gotten the pizza box idea off of Pinterest.

The response

When I first handed out the boxes one of the youth jokingly expressed disappointment because the boxes did not contain pizza. Jokingly, I suggested that perhaps he would like to make the pizza for the service on September 12 and individually wrap each slice and I would ensure that they get in the boxes before the service. He actually seemed keen on doing this. Wow! We will see. This young man sought me out after the service to talk about the pizza possibility. We talked about him inviting some of his friends to church.

The parents and congregants really liked the idea of the individual pizza activity box. The children have been enjoying the snack inside. I wonder if the snack or the different activity will be the thing they look forward to most.

What’s next for Greenbank and Seagrave?

When we enter into our sanctuary for in-person worship this September we plan on continuing with this until we feel it is safe for the children to resume Sunday school. I wonder if this may be one of the changes implemented because of the pandemic that will remain. So far it has been very successful.

There you have it! A simple, dare I say silly?, idea that delivers a unique experience to the children and youth present at worship. I’m interested in the idea of passing out the boxes mid-way during the service and wonder what that says to the children about our desire for them to be engaged with us during worship. We’ve talked before in a post about how some use activity bags during worship as a way of silencing children, by handing them out mid-way it seems to say ‘we see you as full participants, but here’s something to help you engage with this next part.

Big thank you to Stephanie for sharing what her communities of faith have been up to, and we look forward to an update from them this Fall!

Engaging children & youth in the Election

Recently in an article for my local newspaper I wrote about how it has been argued church folks, especially ministry personnel, should stay out of politics. To me, the Galilean tradesman and spiritual leader I follow was deeply political. He spoke for corporate responsibility, of care for the vulnerable, of the need for those with more to carry more responsibility. I believe as people of faith we have a responsibility to be engaged in our civic processes, including elections!

But when it comes to children and youth we have a tendency to leave them out until the last minute, turning around and expecting their full engagement once they reach the magical age of 18. (Hmm, sound familiar? Could it be an attitude we also sometimes have when it comes to church leadership!!!)

From Chalk the Vote, USA 2020

Now I’m not suggesting we tell kids what parties they should vote or volunteer for, but I am encouraging us to think about how faith communities can talk about political engagement. Especially with the Season of Creation coming up fast, how can we talk about making the climate crisis, conservation and green energy a priority.

We act as if elections are just about siding with one party or another, when we also have an opportunity to highlight issues that are important to our communities! Here are some ideas to engage folks of all ages in your faith community, or family, when it comes to the election.

From Chalk the Vote, USA 2020
  • WWJVF? What would Jesus vote for? Use this imaginative exercise to pair up stories from the Gospels with issues you see today. If Jesus asks us to care for the “least of these” who would that be in our country?
  • Ask one another, what issues do you care about? Why not grab a big piece of paper and draw concentric circles, talk about what matters to you in your neighbourhood, moving outward to talk about your area, country and the world.
  • Write letters or emails to leaders and candidates to ask them questions bout your concerns. What are they planning to do about the climate crisis? How can they help bring more doctors to your town? You can brainstorm these questions together, and even write a group letter if you’re feeling shy.
  • Using Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, ask who are the neighbours we should be thinking about? Are there any public concern groups from these communities you can listen to or support?
  • Create some public art to get folks talking about issues you care about! Chalk art on sidewalks and brick walls is always a good choice, but you can also design posters (think Obama’s HOPE poster) and stickers!
  • Whose prophetic voices are you listening to? Highlight other young people whose voices are making a difference and pair it with the story of the young prophet Samuel! Figures like Greta Thunberg and Autumn Pelltier. Can you name some others?

At the end of the day, what we should be doing is talking with out kids about what is happening in the world around them. We can raise change makers, young people who beat swords into ploughshares, by telling them that their voice and actions matter. They don’t need to wait until they’re 18 to change their communities, and just like the young prophet Samuel they can be God’s messengers in the world.

Thanks be to God, for our young question-askers and holy-mischief-makers.

Guest Post: A one-day light-filled VBS on PEI

This week we’re sharing a project from Rev. Barbara J. Cairns and the folks at Bedeque United Church on PEI! They recently hosted a one-day Vacation Bible School for their kids and shared the experience with us.

The Project: A one-day light-filled VBS

Bedeque United Church “did a half day VBS this year.” With the pandemic, “this is the first time that the children have been at church since March 2020.”

Barbara put together the material from a variety of sources, including The Go Project; Andrea Rogers, the Family and Youth Ministry Coordinator at West River United Church; and, to Jenny Vessey, the Youth and Sunday School Coordinator at York United Church, PEI.

She says, “The key aspect was that it was set up to encourage a process-oriented approach to faith formation. In that the activities were open ended, without a product as an end. Lots of room to wiggle and squiggle.” We love how she affirms that wiggling and squiggling is a big part of how God created children to worship!

When it comes to being COVID-conscious she shares that they “set up a cozy space on the floor to gather for worship,” (spaced out) and that “each child was given their own material that was prepared ahead of time with name tags.” Activities also took place in and out of doors, but it’s worth mention during this period of time the Atlantic provinces had much laxer health restrictions then provinces like Ontario.

Interested in the details? Check-out the activity schedule here!

What was the inspiration?

Barbara comments that she “wanted to focus on the aspect of faith formation in a play-based model for our young children. As the youngest was three and the oldest was nine.” As well as a desire to “explore God’s love and celebrate diversity.” Amen!

The focus for the day was based around an adaption of 1 John 4:7-16, “God is love”.

What did your children/families respond to best?

“The children and families were excited to be together again. They really enjoyed doing the art and outside water activity.”

Did you learn anything surprising or new?

I am always humbled by how the children love to engage spiritually and how they get the lessons so well. For example, we used sponges in our water activity to water the trees and one girl said it was good because they cared for God’s trees and the sponges can be used again.”

What part would you want to do again?

“I want to do this again on a monthly basis as a family faith activity called Family Church.”

What part would you leave out or do differently next time?

I would leave out the need to fill it with a lot of activity as the children really enjoyed going deeply with one or two activities. I had a lot of extra material prepared in case I needed it. But did not.”

Final thoughts from Barbara: VBS can be affordable!

This program used mostly recycled material. The cost was minimal for tea lights, sponges, bubbles and chalk. It can be done for under $20 per session. Our snack was donated.”

Well there you have it folks! Sometimes VBS doesn’t need to be fog-machines and purchased curriculum. Barbara shares how it was the time to connect and play that made this event a success for her community. And, we love hearing about the unspoken lessons they were teaching in Bedeque, like using recycled materials for activities and engaging with God’s creation in their play.

Hopefully this will inspire you, remembering that it isn’t the size or flashiness of your Family programming that makes it a success, but whether you’re embodying those heart-habits Jesus calls his followers to: care for others, care for creation, wonder at God’s creation, a love of God’s story.

Way to Go Barbara and all our friends at Bedeque UC! – Selina

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