Daily Devotionals

When I was an educator/pastor at the Nassau Presbyterian Church, the Adult Education Committee had the idea of creating a Lenten devotional, with daily entries written entirely by members and friends of the congregation. Guidelines for submission included a maximum word count, inclusion of a 2-3 sentence prayer and brief bio, and style suggestions such as preferred Bible versions for a brief selected quote and appropriately inclusive language for God and humanity.  This is not a unique or even a new idea, but two features of it, and a Covid-19 time expansion that grew from the practice this spring, may be developments worth noting.

The first year, 46 days of devotions, based on each person’s choice of text from the daily lectionary, were printed in a small booklet, and reproduced in large print. The latter were in such high demand multiple additional copies were printed. Older adults were enthusiastic users!

In subsequent years, these additional access points have been added:

  • Daily posts are sent by email (the first one automatically, subsequent ones to those who subscribe)
  • All are made available on the church website
  • All are posted in the early morning on Facebook

These two features have become very important to readers:

  1. The writer’s name and a short bio are attached to each devotion, primarily stating one’s involvement in the congregation
  2. Writer’s email addresses are provided so readers may write a note of appreciation or connection to the writer. Emails are listed in the print version only to protect privacy. Those using other formats may send an email forwarded by the church office.

In this spring of virtual worship and programming, connection is so important no one has wanted to stop receiving these after Easter, so the practice has been extended through the 50 days of Eastertide to Pentecost. No print version is available but all other ways of distributing the daily devotion continue. Volunteer writers are solicited and all submissions follow the usual guidelines and focus on a selected lectionary text for the day. (See below for an example of a recent Daily Devotional Post.)

Daily posts inspire faith and prayer, offer encouragement, and most important of all, create and nurture connection amongst the congregation, something worth valuing at all times, not just in this time.

Devotional Post Example 6-1-20

Joyce portrait

 

Joyce MacKichan Walker, Retired Church Educator/Pastor, Princeton, New Jersey

Mother’s Day

I am a mother of two. One bright, creative, full of life five year old and her sister who lives in heaven. Mother’s Day has always been tricky for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love recognizing my mom, both of my grandmothers and the many other important “mothering” people in my life. My living child has an amazing godmother and many positive female role models but Mother’s Day is a challenge.

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One Good Idea in Adult Education

During this time of experimentation and innovation in church ministry, as churches move out of their buildings and into homes and virtual spaces, there is one consistent thing I hear from many educators. “There are so many great ideas out there that I’m feeling overwhelmed right now and can’t do it all!” As we continue to face this pandemic together, I would encourage and challenge your church to pick one new idea and do it well. In this post I will focus on adult education and will detail the one good idea that Oakhurst Presbyterian Church has been doing during Lent. At the end there will be an attachment with more good ideas for adult education that may spark your own one good idea. Continue reading

TheoEd Talks

Several years ago, our church began wondering how to advance church-based theological education. While the church continued its traditional Sunday school and adult bible study programs, we also perceived that the culture around us was changing. Our members (and potential members!) interacted with sophisticated, on-demand technology every day in their offices and homes. Those in our community listened to podcasts as they commuted and streamed YouTube videos in the evening.  How could we better leverage technology in our Christian Education programs? Could we think more creatively about how to deliver our programming to an increasingly busy and technologically-savvy congregation?

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And the Survey Says . . .

Sharon Ely Pearson shared the results of her ecumenical curriculum survey on her own blog. I wonder how your ministry matches or challenges these results.

Rows of Sharon

4006230793_9b2742c25e_oAn on-line survey was held on a voluntary based during June 2016 to learn what curricular programs were being used in congregations with children, youth, and adults. The survey was disseminated through e-mail and social media (predominately Facebook groups) and various organizational list-serves (Forma, APCE, CEF,AUCE, and the Christian Education Network of the ELCA). The construction and results of the survey was conducted by the research group of the Church Pension Group, the parent company of Church Publishing Incorporated. The analysis of the data is strictly mine, and I take all responsibility for its interpretation.

Godly Playcontinues to be the most used program with children, with Montessori-type programs used by 36% of churches. The other three types of curriculum were lectionary-based (25%), Bible story based (30%), and workshop rotation model (9%). Most churches use a variety of resources, combining and tweaking them…

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Spiritual Disciplines

Amidst the busy lifestyles we Christians often lead in society, I can’t help but wonder what it looks likes to have our faith formed and grow. Yes, we have Sunday School and worship, and maybe even a Bible Study coupled with a mission opportunity or two. Some of us may be chaperones on youth trips or church officers, but in the middle of that, where is the Holy Spirit forming us and molding us? Are we even attuned to it? Continue reading

TED Talks for Parents

For several years my church has offered a parenting class as part of its mid-week programming. This class has looked at church-y books, secular books, and dvd-based how-to studies. Through it all, the main expectations from the parents have been: 1) keep it real, and 2) don’t expect us to read anything ahead of time.

This fall we’re using TED Talks as our curriculum, and we’re looking at these videos through the bifocal lenses of parenting and faith. Continue reading

WWJT

This last Saturday I was with a group from Salem Presbytery exploring what it means to be The Hopeful Church. We looked at the current state of Christian education in mainline churches, particularly the PC(USA). We talked  about how difficult it is to change the model of Sunday School with which many of us have grown up.

Then we tried an activity to break us out of our preconceived notions of what Christian Education is about. I called it WWJT, which could be translated “What Would Jesus Teach?” or “Where Would Jesus Teach?” Continue reading

The Essence of Being Human

Ubuntu is an African worldview that is hard to translate into Western culture. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has offered several definitions. One of them is “my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.” But he offers another definition, simple and profound, that resonates with me: Ubuntu is “the essence of being human.”

Two weeks ago a group of Columbia Theological Seminary students representing various ethnic and cultural traditions began their journey as Practical Theology students. None knew what to expect – of the school, the program or each other – but we were all united as one by the radical love of Jesus and the unifying power of the Spirit.

During an intense week-long session, half of the class journeyed to be with members of the Friendship Center of Holy Comforter Church. For over 15 years, the Friendship Center has provided services to individuals marginalized by poverty, serious mental illness, and disability. Funded by small grants, the Episcopal Diocese and friends, The Friendship Center offers three programs: Wellness and Recovery, Art and Gardening and Community and Relationship Building. Continue reading