This Church Had to Close its Sunday School Wing – The Positive Effects Shocked Everyone

In jail like Paul

Like many churches, ours has Church School space in the basement. Like many churches, our Church School space has unhealthy mold. And in the way most things happen in the Church, we found this out just before Church School began last fall. Our only option was to combine our 6 year olds – 5th graders and gather them in our fellowship hall – a big space with a stage and next to our kitchen. We knew that others use the space throughout the week and that coffee hour takes place in the hall at the end of Church School. After our initial “how can we make this work?” reaction, my Christian Education Team and I tried to figure out how we might use this space effectively to engage our children and deepen their formation experience. Here’s what we learned:

A Handy List of Christian Feast Days and Observances

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Here is a list of major Christian feasts and observances. Ready reference, all on one page, nicely formatted. Print it out, stick it on your bulletin board, put the dates in your computer or paper calendar, and rejoice!

How to Identify and Welcome Visitors – Make Welcome Packets


Here at Building Faith we believe that welcoming visitors is closely tied to formation. Here’s the issue: a welcoming congregation does not just “happen.” Churches that are truly effective in welcoming (and integrating) newcomers have been taught and formed in this practice.

Why do we say that? A Priest Gets a Congregation Excited about Learning Liturgy

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In order to meet this hunger for deeper liturgical catechesis within the time constraints of my parishioners’ over-programmed lives, I had to come up with a creative solution. The result of that creative process is what I call “The Liturgy Moment.” Every second Sunday of the month after each of our three services (8:00 am, 9:30 am and 5:00 pm), we have our “Liturgy Moment.” Immediately after the service, those folk who are interested gather at the front of the nave, and I share some information about a liturgical topic for about five to ten minutes at the most.

A Website to Bookmark – Working Preacher

Bible Study

At Building Faith, one of our goals is to equip church staff and volunteers with the resources they need for effective ministry. This is includes online resources. There are some web pages that everyone should have bookmarked, and we hope we can help you build that bookmark library.

Today’s suggestion: Working Preacher at www.workingpreacher.org

ON Scripture: A Resource for Adult Faith Formation


Odyssey Network’s ON Scripture -The Bible: connecting Sacred Texts with a modern world   What is ON Scripture? A multi-media resource to explore the relationship between the Bible and our lives today. Lectionary-based, thought-provoking, and complete with discussion questions and direction to learn more. Free. Led by faith leaders, ordained and lay, and partnered with Sojourners, […]

Summer Camp Formation – Why Does it Work SO Well?


Greetings in the name of the Lord! I write to you, having just completed another inspiring, exciting, boisterous, reverent, and one-of-a-kind day at Christian summer camp. I am serving as a chaplain for a session of 89 middle-schoolers here at Shrine Mont Camps, in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. We just came from an evening Communion service in the outdoor chapel, surrounded by candlelight, with guitars and voices rising to the darkened sky.

And the kids are LEARNING. The messages are sticking. The group is coming together. The answers (and questions) are getting more deep and honest. When I ask, “What did we talk about on the second day?” a dozen hands go up, and the correct response “Jesus is reliable,” comes without delay.

Blessing of the Backpacks – 6 Tips for Success

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It’s that time of year…

They’re going BACK!
Back to school, that is. Around the country, some student will be returning to classrooms this week. Others will start up in mid to late August, or the first week of September.

Churches shuld absolutely find way to honor and bless students and teachers at this important time. One popular method is a “Blessing of the Backpacks” ceremony. This can be done in a variety of ways. Here are our tips and suggestions.

A Video for Formation – Unsung Hero

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This summer at Building Faith we have been posting some videos that you can hopefully use in your ministry context.

This particular one is actually a commercial from Thailand, and it is tremendous!

It centers around the theme of generosity.  But woven into this miniature story (it really is a three-minute short film) are images of spirituality, community, witness, ethics, and love.

A Prayer You Must Try – The Shouting Prayer

shouting prayer

I am writing this post from Shrine Mont, which is a Christian retreat center in Orkney Springs, Virginia – in the Shenandoah Valley. During the summer, Shrine Mont welcomes over 900 campers throughout the summer, with various camps and sessions.

While the camp themes differ (art, sports, outdoors), worship is the thing that draws them all together.

And the best worship tradition has to be THE SHOUTING PRAYER.

Funny (and impactful) Video Skits for Churches and Youth Groups

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These are two of my favorite resources for Christian video skits. The Skit Guys and One Time Blind.

You may have heard of them. And if not, you are in for a treat! The videos are funny, well produced, and well acted. The themes are directly related to Christian life, and they always include a challenge or thought provoking question. Both groups have dozens of videos, and you can search them by theme, topic, etc.
With both of these resources, here’s the deal: You can watch them for free on youtube. And if you were showing them to a small group just once, it would be ok to use the free version.

How to Stay Connected with Church Youth after Graduation

St. Mary's Arlington student

Transition is a part of life, especially for young people. Churches should be present with their members in all of life’s transitions. Church communities should celebrate when appropriate and recognize achievements when opportunities arise.
Honoring the achievements of graduating seniors and acknowledging this important transition in their lives is a small way we can continue to include young people in the lives of our congregations.

The congregation of St. Mary’s in Arlington, Virginia, does its best to celebrate young people at the end of the academic year. One way we do that is by recognizing graduating seniors, both those who have stayed active and those who are less active. We find that young people raised at St. Mary’s, as well as those who joined us more recently, have a real sense of identity as members of the congregation. Celebrating their time at St. Mary’s, no matter how long or short, is important for everyone in the community.

Jesus Shows Up – A Chaplain Reflects on CPE in North Dakota

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Here at Building Faith we know that Christian Formation occurs in many other places besides church and Sunday school. The home, the school – the car! What about the hospital?

We caught up with Kristen Pitts, who is completing her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in Grand Forks, North Dakota. This means she serves a chaplain intern, meeting with patients, family members, and hospital staff.

Does Christian Formation occur in CPE – you bet it does. Read Kristen’s reflections below.

An Episcopal Perspective on the Child Refugee Crisis


As Central American children stream across the US border in unprecedented numbers, congregations across the country are moving from adding a line in the Prayers of the People towards meaningful engagement, both in worship and personal action. If you are looking for faithful response, more information, or routes for advocacy, we have collected a few resources. […]

Living Breathing Christianity – Reflections on the Episcopal Youth Event

EYE 2014

Last week, hundreds of teenagers from around the country gathered at Villanova University. Fellowship, workshops, presentations, service projects, worship…

The gathering was The Episcopal Youth Event (EYE) – held every three years. What happened – and what was the purpose? Take a look at what several teens said for themselves:

A New Children’s Bible You Need: Shine On!


One of the best resources in the new Shine curriculum is Shine On, a story bible for young people in grades 1 through 8. This is the Bible I would purchase for Sunday school classrooms and recommend for families. And it is available in Spanish!

The 320-page, hardcover book is filled with stories of people “wrestling to know God and give us a glimpse of God’s desire for the world.” Both Old and New Testament stories are included with highlights of biblical poetry, songs, laws, instructions, and history.

A Video to Spark Discussion – This is Church


This summer at Building Faith we will be posting a few videos that we hope will be useful to you.

These are not videos have made. And these are not perfect videos.

We think, however, that they will be good food for thought. Perhaps it is something you might share and discuss within a small group of youth or adults.

Summer Nurture – Talking and Listening with Children

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Children are on a mission: God is working in, through and with them. what might be our role as parents – or caregivers in any capacity? How do we celebrate their noticings, attend when they are joyous or sorrowful, and offer creative paths from boredom into engagement?
Listening comes first: fully listening to the child – not distracted by our busy schedules and mobile devices. It helps for us to be thinking in terms of of leading questions that engage, instead of just seeking the right answer. For example, “What do you think about that?”

And a Chaplain Walks Among Them – Ministering to Camp Staff


This summer I’ve been living in community with the 12 “permanent” (read: summer-long) staff members at Camp Bratton-Green, the camp of the Diocese of Mississippi. I never went to camp as a kid and had no real experience with college students—other than being one a couple of decades ago—so I was a little nervous about how my 10-week stint as the chaplain to the group might go. Despite myself, I worried about whether they would like me, whether they would be willing to talk to me about their lives. If not, I knew it could be a long summer for both them and me, since we’d be seeing a lot of one another.

On Independence Day – What Does the Bible Say About Freedom?


Today is Independence Day, 2014. In the United States we take this day to celebrate the birth of a nation, and more broadly, the gifts of freedom and liberty that Americans hold dear.

It would be a bit too easy to simply say that American freedom is a direct reflection of the freedom described in the Bible. That’s because Biblical freedom has a theological component which sets it apart.

In the Bible, people are made free for a specific purpose: to serve God.