Christian Faith, the Bible, and Public Schools

My mother began her teaching career in the public schools in the early 1970s. Over the years, she has recounted the times when she was expected to read the Bible to students. She remembers lovingly sharing Bible stories and even praying with her elementary-aged students. However, as the years passed, those expectations changed, and by the time she retired a few years ago, she no longer read—and wonders if she would have been allowed to read—Bible stories to students.

There is no question that the role of the Bible and Christian faith in the public schools has changed dramatically over the last half century. Some of these changes have been for the better; others have been less positive. Still, it has left some wondering, “Is there a place for the Bible and Christian faith in American public schools today? And, if so, what is it?”

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Make Room: A Big Picture View of Lent

When my children were very young I always looked forward to the changing seasons. Inside and outside the church, the turning of the circle brought new colors and sights and smells—plenty of opportunity to explore and create.

My little library of activity books kept us busy. But when it came to Lent I was never satisfied. The kids and I ironed grated crayon on to waxed paper to make stained glass crosses; we made purple paper chains, and hot crossed buns; we even blended and burned our own incense. But something was missing. Continue reading

Christmas Participation Story

I wrote the Christmas Participation Story over 20 years ago. When I was a student at The Presbyterian School of Christian Education, one of my textbooks was A Guide to Recreation, by Glenn Bannerman and Robert Fakkema. One of the activities in that book was a participation story with a “cowboy setting.” It was a popular activity but written in a period where inclusive language and political correctness had yet to develop. I really enjoyed the format, however and began to write similar stories based on biblical texts. I paraphrased the text into a storytelling format in which I repeated words and phrases throughout and assigned groups to respond with certain words, actions, inflections, volume etc. Continue reading

Illustrated Children’s Ministry

In my ten years of ministry, serving four different churches, one element of worship that has always been hit-or-miss was the children’s moment.

More often than not, a well-meaning pastor or lay leader would invite the kids up for a few cute jokes, or maybe a creative object lesson that would just go over the kids’ heads. This always annoyed me.

In my last call, as I was exploring and reclaiming my identity as an artist, I began creating illustrations of the lectionary passage for the day, and used those as visual aids to simply tell children the biblical story for the day. I then gave the children a copy of the illustration to take home. Continue reading

World Food Day

You may not be aware of it, but Thursday, October 16 is World Food Day in Canada and the United States. This day was first established in 1979 in a collective effort to make the needs of hungry people known to the world at large.

Each year the World Food Programme(WFP)  of the United Nations publishes sobering facts about the number of hungry people in the world. Did you know, for instance, that there are at least 795 million people in the world who will go to bed hungry tonight? That is about one in every nine people. Asia is the continent that has the most hungry people, although the largest percentages of the total population can be found in sub-Saharan Africa. WFP also provides downloadable hunger maps that make the scope of this problem even more visible.

There are many resources available to churches who wish to educate about and simulate the issue of hunger. Continue reading

Camp and Conference Remix-Part 2

As we discussed yesterday, some significant Christian Education happened at our camps and conference centers this summer. Children and youth from your congregation may have had a “mountain top experience,” a significant faith experience that brought them closer to God. Not only do we need to acknowledge a possible milestone on their faith journey, it is also important for us to share their experience with the rest of the congregation. Connecting with them as the church helps sustain this significant faith experience.

Yesterday we talked about conferences, so today we will discuss how we might connect with your children and youth after their summer camp experience. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading