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This Sunday School Welcomes all Ages – and makes ‘em sit together!

Table with flowers intergenerational

At the Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids Michigan we started Intergenerational Sunday School (IGSS) in the Fall of 2013. On the first Sunday of the month from September through May, during our education hour, IGSS replaces our normal Sunday school classes.

Instead of watching adults go off to their classes and sending each grade of kids off to their separate classrooms, all generations (even our nursery kids!) are invited to meet together in the fellowship space. We set up round tables that seat eight people. But how could I guarantee that each table would have an intergenerational representation? My solution: silk flowers and quart jars.

Preparing for Thanksgiving

leaves

Lessons in Gratitude and Giving Thanks are always appropriate in our church classrooms. The four weeks in November that lead up to Thanksgiving, that lynch pin before Advent, give plenty of time to incorporate teaching gratitude in your weekly schedule.     Incorporate Gratitude We can include teaching gratitude and thankfulness in small ways throughout our classrooms. The […]

Love and Serve – A Youth Group Learns Compassion in Visiting Aging Adults

Youth visiting adult

My favorite youth program design of all time comes from First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore, Texas. It pairs middle school youth with adults; and together they make monthly visits to various senior adults in the church.

The youth are given conversation starters and a devotional to offer during the visits. Skills are developed, faith is shared, multiple relationships are built.

While I am no longer at this church, the program is still “up and running.” The visitation week is the best part, and by far the favorite part for the youth and adults alike. Why was it their favorite part . . . because they know what they were doing makes a difference!

A Church Reinvents Adult Education with a Bible and a Blog

reading bible hands

I wanted to share something my parish is doing that is breathing a lot of life into our adult formation. It is easy to do, and the congregation is loving it. Also, in terms of planning, I am not having to create new and topics every week. It is based in Bible reading, but has some advantages over the Bible in a Year challenge.

Faith Formation Explained in 66 Words

three candles light

These principles, based on research and experience across Christian denominations, have stoop up for two decades, and they are still standing up. (And popping into minds wherever faith formation is discussed.)

So here they are. Print them, memorize them, tape them to your desk, send them to your congregation’s staff and volunteers… you get the idea. This is faith formation in 66 words.

How to Feed a Youth Group (When they’re tired of pizza)

pizza table plates

There are plenty reasons why pizza is an ideal food for youth groups. It arrives ready-to-eat; most people like it (vegetarians included); and it can be very cost effective, depending on the deal you have with your local pizza place.

But pizza can wear a little thin (get it?).

We asked Blake Woods* and Randall Curtis*, both experts with years of youth and young adult ministry experience: what are the other options for feeding a group?

How to Get Church Volunteers – Stop Recruiting Them

group of people toys

And as the title of this post suggests, the most important point is that we don’t recruit volunteers. On the contrary, we call volunteers. This may seem like semantics, but the language underlines a crucial distinction. To recruit is to fill spots. We have a gap; we need a warm body to put in there. In this way of thinking, filling the spot is more important than the person who fills it.

“You Gotta Go Where the Dogs Are” – Taking St. Francis Day to the Park

pet blessing dog St. Francis

This past Saturday, October 4th, was the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is a tradition to bless animals on this date, as St. Francis is the patron saint of animals.

Many churches and schools hold blessings ceremonies. This year, as the date fell on a Saturday, my family and I decided to do some extra blessings – at the local dog park.

Saving a Sacrament – The Future of Confirmation

Confirmation bishop

Youth confirmation, or whatever we come to call a period of intentional adolescent discipleship, should be about the church equipping young people for lives of faithful purpose as followers of Jesus.

The Children’s Bulletin – Which One is Right for Your Church?

Children's Bulletin with crayons

Most churches distribute some type of bulletin on Sunday mornings as worshippers enter their sanctuary for services. For some, it is the entire service printed out – prayers, readings, and hymns. For some it is simply the Order for Worship, with names of those who are giving reflections. For the newcomer or visitor, it is a helpful aid to follow what might be an unfamiliar form of worship.

But what about the children? Sunday bulletins are not just for adults.

How Much do you Know about Ecumenism? Seven Facts

Icon_of_Saint_Paul_from_Ephesus_4-th-century-preparing-to-make-the-sign-of-the-cross

Ecumenism is the practice whereby Christians of different denominations come together for conversation, common mission, or formal agreements. Ecumenism happens all the time, in different forms. Want to learn more? The following offers seven facts about ecumenism, including some history within the Episcopal tradition.

How to Welcome Millennials to Your Church – Think Like Them!

Young adult thinking

It seems like churches are constantly asking, “How can we attract more young people?” While this opens a larger conversation, one starting point is to consider how your congregation welcomes (or would welcome) young adults when they walk through your door.

While many churches have created welcoming environments and ways to greet visitors, these policies can be updated to better welcome the millennial population. So what are people in their 20s (or 30s) thinking about as they come to church? Here are some hopes and fears, and ways to address them:

St. Francis Day Survival Guide – Practical Tips for Animal Blessings

petting goat

Many churches and faith communities offer animal blessing ceremonies. St. Francis Day (October 4th) is a common date around which these events are held. If your church is offering a blessing of the animals – or if you are interested in starting one – take a look at these 11 tips.

How Faith Can Improve Mental Health and Reduce Stress Levels

beautiful-sunrise

Life today is as stressful as it has ever been, and this is reflected in the fact that anti-depressants are being prescribed at a higher rate than ever before. However, there is one age-old method that can reduce stress levels for free and without a prescription. People around the world rely on faith to see them through hard times. Faith and spirituality are abstract concepts, but they can lead to concrete results in mental health improvement and stress reduction.

A Church Takes Adult Formation into the Community – “Prayerbooks and Potables”

Place Setting restaurant plate glass

And that pretty much sums up the recipe for this amazing new class at Immanuel Episcopal Church in Mechanicsville, Virginia. The ingredients are simple: food, drink, conversation, hospitality and learning in a casual restaurant setting. The Rev. Anne Lane Witt, the Rector at Immanuel wanted an adult formation opportunity that combined these elements AND was out in their local community not within the walls of the church.

“Prayer Books and Potables” is the result. It is a monthly gathering of adults of all ages – some in her church and some not connected to any church – who share a meal and study a particular topic in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.

Why Sunday School Still Matters – And Why it Still Works

child3.

Here is the question: Is Sunday school still valuable in building up the next generation of Christians? Or is it a tragic hindrance to the overall goals of the Christian community?

The answer must take into account a full view of faith formation. But in short: Yes Sunday school is valuable. And yes, a traditional model of parish-based Christian education can still be effective is nurturing children and offering them knowledge, skills, and values to grow into adult followers of Jesus Christ.

Designed by YOU – Why your church will love Canva.com

Canva front page

In my role as the design assistant at the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, I spend a lot of time dreaming up, tweaking, editing, scrapping, and occasionally actually publishing graphic content. While Photoshop and InDesign have long been industry standards, I find myself increasingly turning to Canva.com for its free and easy to use online platform.

Canva is changing the graphic design game by making more accessible to new users so that within a few minutes of navigating the website you can design everything from your own social media campaign images to bulletin covers.

Classroom Management: Expectations, Structure, and Laughter

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Whether you call it Sunday school or Christian formation or education hour, if you have a group of children, you will have classroom management issues. Don’t set yourself up for failure, or benevolent dictatorship! Start the year with the right attitude and set your class up to work collectively towards Jesus’ mandate to love our neighbors […]

Secular Books That Tell Christian Stories

Story time

As a former children’s book buyer for a large independent bookstore, children’s books are among my favorite to sell. Now, as the director of a cathedral bookstore, one of my greatest joys has been to introduce Christian educators, parents and grandparents to a plethora of brilliant and beautifully illustrated picture books.

While there are many Christian books that I recommend, I also keep a collection of “secular” books which have strong life-giving themes. In many ways, these books not only demonstrate the Christian message indirectly, but help us share it with others.

At a diocesan convention a few years ago, I was asked to bring these types of books to sell in the bookstore booth. They were a huge hit! As you consider gifts for non-Christian friends and relatives, and also resources for your own shelves, I’d like to share some of my favorites with you here.

Where to Find Good Pictures for Church Use

Mother and Daughter GETTY

We recently received a question about where to find good pictures to use in church publications. Whether you have a blog, website, newsletter, or are just looking to make a flyer or brochure, good pictures with Christian images are a necessity. We have listed some resources below for finding quality images.