The Experiment

We arrive at church for Sunday School early. While I assemble two large salads, my children set up for our feast. The scent of pizza wafts through the door ahead of the steaming boxes. People of all ages gather in a circle to share laughter, prayer, and grace. Tuesday Night Sunday School begins.

It started out as an experiment. Sunday School teachers were difficult to find. Parents were choosing between dropping children off for Sunday School and attending worship, as doing both seemed too time consuming. We wanted worship to be the family focus on Sundays.

Sunday School was banished from Sunday mornings, participation by parents or guardians insisted upon. Amidst skepticism from Church Council members, Tuesday Night Sunday School was born. Continue reading

Back to School

It took me by surprise this week that the schools in my region were back in session. Where had the summer gone? As teachers set up their classrooms and families purchase their school supplies for another year, what are some ways that the church can be involved in supporting this yearly transition? Continue reading

Water @This Point

Almost ten years ago, Columbia Theological Seminary inaugurated a new online journal, @ this point: theological investigations in church and culture. The goal of the journal was straightforward: to model (and encourage) theological conversation among Christian laity on important topics of the day and, therein, help shape a more theologically literate church. The format, too, was straightforward: invite a scholar to write a lead essay on an assigned topic, ask three other scholars to write responses to the lead essay, and then have the lead essayist write a reply to the responses. The back-and-forth is intended not to foreclose conversation or thought but to open them up; as such we ask the scholars to end with questions, not criticisms and to highlight new ideas rather than simply assessing old ones. And we strongly encourage our writers to be brief but thoughtful and to avoid academic jargon where possible. “Think of your audience as the people sitting in the pews with you,” we tell them. “They may have college degrees, but those degrees aren’t likely to be in religion or philosophy. So think about the engineer or the schoolteacher in your midst.” Continue reading

Welcoming Children Well

One Sunday, as the children at our church were hustled back into the sanctuary from their church school classes and rushing to join their families as they lined up in the aisle to go forward and receive the Lord’s Supper, my young adult daughter leaned over to me and whispered, “At the church we went to when I was little, kids weren’t allowed to take communion but here I sometimes wonder if the kids just think it’s snack time.”

Food for thought, for sure. And, while an informal poll I took with my preschool group the following Sunday indicated they did understand that the bread and juice of communion was, as one 4 year old described it “to remember that Jesus died on the cross,” my daughter’s comment left me wondering:

What was our congregation doing to enhance the participation of children/youth in the Lord’s Supper? Were we using understandable language? Continue reading

Stepping Stones in Faith

One Church’s Process to Identify the Basic Milestones on the Journey of Faith…

Over twenty years ago in my early days as Minister of Education at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA we began to talk together about what were the most important concepts to teach our children, youth and adults. We needed a plan and a goal. So we formed a committee! But what a gift this committee became to me and our ministry together. For as we met over more than a year and a half we began to solidify what became the foundational book of our Christian Education at Peachtree – Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith. I don’t remember the term milestones at that point in time but our work does seem to relate to the emphasis that is now found in many churches in providing milestones for the journey of faith.

As we got started I did some research to see if there was a document in existence that listed what the important concepts of our faith were and at what age they should be taught. I remember having a conversation with Liz McWhorter at the PC(USA) national offices who told me they had always talked about creating something like this but never had that she knew of. She challenged me to create it. So we began our work together at ground zero and it was well worth it.

Continue reading

St. Andrew’s FISH – Families Integrating Sunday and Home

Like many churches these days, St. Andrew’s had limited volunteer resources and sporadic attendance at Church School. The “regular” families were frustrated and burned out. And my experience had taught me that parental involvement is the single most important success factor in Christian formation. We were ready to do church differently.

We’re an Episcopal church, with a rich liturgical tradition. I have long believed that worship is the most formative thing we do, and worship was working well. We have strong and consistent attendance for our Family Service, which meets during the readings, sermon and prayers of the primary service. We do all the same things, in a more family-friendly setting. Then we rejoin the primary service for Communion, every Sunday. We don’t have any rules about what ages belong where, or parental accompaniment; we let each family make the decision that suits them best. Many parents choose to worship with their children. Continue reading

Selecting Children’s Bibles

At a recent gathering of the East region the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Elizabeth “Lib” Caldwell, retired professor of Christian Education at McCormick Seminary, led a discussion of things to consider when choosing a children’s Bible.

She offered a variety of criteria, or lenses, through which to examine children’s Bibles. Continue reading

PRC Webinars for Church Leaders

The internet has ushered in a new way of doing almost everything, from shopping to research. Here at Practical Resources for Churches (PRC), we’ve seen an increase in the use of the internet in how we interact with people, provide resources, and offer learning and growth opportunities. Although we still offer face-to-face experiences through our workshops and roundtables, our webinar program is continually expanding. Continue reading

Pentecost Resources

It seems like we just celebrated the glorious news of Easter, but Pentecost, the fiftieth day, is rapidly approaching. This is the day we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.

This seems to be a holy day where many churches craft their own intergenerational traditions, rituals, and ways of celebrating. Some congregations dress in red and take a church picture. Others release balloons symbolizing the spreading of the Gospel. Some fly kites, make pin wheels, or wave streamers/flags in worship to live out the Holy Spirit’s symbolization of wind in Acts 2, John 3, and in the very Hebrew and Greek words for spirit.

Many denominations provide resources or take up special offerings on this day.  Here are some links to the denominational resources I found. What resources and ways of celebrating this festive day, have you found helpful? Continue reading

Planning for Adult Faith Formation

At the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) Annual Event in Baltimore,  Zeta Touchton Lamberson led a workshop on Adult Faith Formation. Believing that the role of the church is to walk alongside adults through their journey of faith providing resources, opportunities and conversations that will draw them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, the workshop led the participants through a process of developing an intentional comprehensive adult education program. Using the Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith resource (available from Zeta Lamberson at billzeta@bellsouth.net) four areas were identified as important: Biblical Knowledge, Worship & Sacraments, Stewardship & Mission, and Church History/Theology/Doctrine/Polity. The participants used a brainstorming process to identify resources that had been used in their churches in four areas. Following the event the list of resources were compiled and amplified and Zeta has shared them here and would love to know of other resources used successfully with adults. Continue reading