What happens when jubilant children lead us in worship?

cast of the Jonah musical

We experienced a treat this past Sunday: kids leading us in worship!

Children in worship, the Cherub Choir doing the response to Psalm 8Children executed all parts of worship – ushering, conducting the Call to Worship, playing hand chimes, singing in choirs, and reading scripture. Here the Cherub Choir — representing our youngest — provided the musical reply to a responsive reading of Psalm 8.

Baptism Tucked into the service, was also a baptism of a young child. An appropriate opening to the musical that the kids put on about the story of Jonah! In a baptism, the sprinkling with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, signifies a new life and becoming a child of God. Did Jonah experience his own sort of “sprinkling” to help him see his faith journey?

Being baptized means you join in our community of faith. One of my favorite parts of a baptism is when the pastor takes the child down the center aisle amidst everyone — parents usually in tow — where the congregation repeats their promise to nurture the faith of the child being baptized. Surrounded by love!

Baptism in the center of the congregation

On to the musical portion of the service! The Children’s choirs presented “Oh Jonah!”

You know the story: Jonah is a reluctant prophet who at first chooses not to follow God’s instructions. He ended up in the belly of a big fish.

 
I like how the kids portrayed Jonah (dressed in red) as being “inside” the big fish — surrounded by kids who were the “whale.” That’s a group of angels in orange, hanging out near by to offer guidance to Jonah.

Jonah in a big fish watched over by angels

This is a story about choices and responsibility. When he was “spit out”…with gusto, it was a second chance!

Jonah is almost spit out   Jonah is spit out of the big fish

This time Jonah went to Nineveh and gave the people God’s message. (Look at all of those cool Ninevehites!)

Jonah goes before the King of Nineveh

How does the story turn out?

a blue line


Photo credits:
I created Oh Jonah from a claymation video by Riley Marchand, shared under a Creative Commons License on YouTube. (I altered this screen shot to make Jonah appear much smaller than the big fish.)
Rest of photos from my archives.

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What is this mysterious gift with its hidden meaning?

I wonder what is in this wrapped package?A gift shrouded in decorative wrappings always presents an element of mystery!

Okay, so in this case, there was not that much secrecy. It was, after all, “hand-out-the-Bibles-Sunday” — so you were well aware of what object hid beneath this pretty paper.

Except, even when the paper has been removed, the gift is still mysterious!

Indeed, what is the Bible all about?

It does not provide the answer to all of our questions.

Then how are we to approach it?

Learn with the children… It started in the worship service.

Bibles are distributed in worship

This Bible must be something that is significant! After all, every third grader received a gift of one from the church. It was given out in a reverent sort of way – in front of everyone – in a memorable ceremony with each parent handing their child their gift as their name was called.

Pastor Doug showed us some of his Bibles. He has more than one! This Bible must be really important.

“Pastor

The mystery continued… we discovered that this gift was hidden beneath layers of gift wrap — five layers, to be exact.

layer one - gift wrap   layer 2 - brown

It turns out as we unwrapped, that each layer taught us something about the Bible! After the gift wrap layer there was brown paper. An old-looking wrapper reminding us this is a book of very old stories. There is mystery in wondering why some of these stores were told over and over and over again! And why were they considered so important; important enough to be written down?

The next layer is the funny pages! (Do today’s kids even know what those are?) The comics tell stories, so the mystery is: What story is God telling me, here and now? It is for us to figure out! Thank goodness for dinner table discussion and for Sunday’s Cool to help!

 
Layer 4 - gold paperThe 4th layer is shiny, gold paper. Gold is something valuable. What great value to discover that every story in the Bible points to God’s love for us!

But why!? Why does he love me? I am flawed!

 
Layer 5 - white paperAh, the last layer was a clue: it was nice, clean, new, white. No mystery here; I get a fresh chance whenever I flub up! (Thanks, God!)

 
Checking out their new Bible

Finally, we made it to the final gift: our very own copy of the Bible! We were instructed to find our current Rotation story: The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.

How appropriate that we’ve been studying a parable! A parable is a story with a hidden meaning! I can trust that the mysteries will continue.

I wonder if I will allow the mystery to nourish me?

 
It’s time for the group photo…

The class of 2025!


Photo credits:
Last group photo taken by Tom Gardner.
Rest of photos from my archives.

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Why is Confirmation important?

Confirmation Class, copyright 2013 by Peter DeHart
A past Confirmation class poses for a photo in the Memorial Garden

Spring time means Confirmation Sunday. I remember the year my eldest was confirmed in the church. The grandparents came from afar, and we had a big party afterwards.

Why was Confirmation so important that we served a cake?

That’s a very good question! How about some discussion questions to pose to your next gathering. Do so around the dinner table. (Or wherever your family & friends are gathered together.)

A boy gives a thumbs upConfirmation? What is that?

To “confirm” means to “make something definite.” When we confirm flight reservations we say, “Yes! I will be on that plane.” It’s like giving something a great big thumbs up! Confirmation at church this Sunday is a chance for young people to say out loud, “Yes, I believe in God!”

Why make such a big deal? (After all, I believe in God.)

It’s a big deal because it’s making a public statement of their belief. Confirmands (what we call those being confirmed) have taken two years of classes to prepare for this special worship service where they will be “confirmed.” In these classes they have studied what it means to be a Christian, a United Methodist, and a member of First United Methodist Church. They started these classes as 7th graders and those who are now 8th graders, may be confirmed — if they are ready.

Why wouldn’t they be ready?

First off, they need to have attended these classes, and worshipped, and done service projects, and gone on retreats (see the full requirements) but also, they need to be personally ready to take this step on their faith journey to say “Yes” to their faith in God. It’s a big decision.

Is that the end of their journey? Are they all done with Sunday school after they get confirmed?

No, it’s not the end! We all continue to need to grow our faith!

What will happen in the worship service?

a youth gets confirmedPart of what happens is called “the laying on of hands.” The laying on of hands is a symbolic act, a ritual that comes to us from the Bible.

The youth kneels up front, and the ministers and their parental units put their hands on the confirmand’s head and/or shoulders. One of the pastors imparts a blessing to each young person. They will say:

'Remember your baptism and be thankful. And may the Holy Spirit Work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.

(Except, if the youth hasn’t yet been baptized, then they will at that point in time be baptized.)

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Here’s a short video about Confirmation from “Chuck Knows Church” produced by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church. (If you are reading this in an email, you may need to watch this video on YouTube.)

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Photo credits:
Group photo of confirmation class, copyright by Peter DeHart, 2013. Used with permission.
Thumbs up by Michael Bentley, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Laying on of hands during a post Confirmation Sunday, from my archives.
The Chuck Knows Church video #43 copyright by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church, used with permission.

Kids grow up so fast!

Wasn’t it just yesterday that those children were no more than babies?
How can we already be approaching the close of another school year??

Clip art showing progression from babe to going-off-to-school

Let’s preserve a”milepost moment” with a tradition!

Every year at FUMC, we recognize a few of these prominent benchmarks. One recently happened at the downtown location.

2015 Kindergarteners

Our kindergarteners are looking forward to graduating to first grade!

To mark this occasion, each child received a gift from the church. Since reading together is an important activity, ahead of time their family chose a Bible storybook, or a book of devotions. These gifts were presented to the children. They had a few minutes to have a first look. Watch the slideshow below. (If you are reading in an email, you may have to click over to the blog to see the photos.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This particular milestone event is also important because moving up to 1st grade means that next fall their Sunday’s Cool experience will be a bit different. The kids had a chance to view these differences in action, as we took a tour of the “Older Children” Cool Disciples!

Here are a few notable differences:
  • Logo for the Workshop Rotation ModelThey will be rotating!
    (This method that we use for Sunday school is, after all, called the Workshop Rotation Model™, which you can learn more about by clicking on the logo on the right.)

    While in Kindergarten, the workshops came to the kids. As 1st graders they’ll be visiting the workshops – physically moving – to a different workshop each week.

  • a page from the church worship bulletin showing the children's infoHow do we figure out where they go each week?
    Starting in 1st grade, kids attend worship until the Children’s Moment. After that, they are dismissed (with a song!) to their workshops. Check out the Children’s Ministries page (it’s usually buff colored) in the bulletin to see where they are headed. Remember, your child’s workshop location changes every week!

    OR (here’s a better way) look ahead of time at home. (Or from your smartphone on your way to church – not the driver of course!) Check out the latest schedule post on this blog. Listed in the schedule post are descriptions of what each workshop will be doing. To generate a little bit of excitement I’d say, make a new habit: check it out on… Wednesdays!

  • But after the children’s moment in church, there is a large mob of kids – how does my 1st grader survive the crowd?
    We’ve got a system! The first grade Shepherd with the bannerFirst graders are big kids, but the older kids can look bigger! To help out with this, the 1st graders gather in the hallway outside of the Sanctuary. This allows all of the older kids to run excitedly walk ahead to their workshops. A volunteer Shepherd greets the 1st graders outside of the Sanctuary. After the older kids have disbursed, the first grade goes as a group to their workshop.

    On the first few weeks next fall, you may want to help your child find the group and say goodbye in the hall; then once they are familiar with the process, you can let them leave the Sanctuary by themselves.

  • Do I need to sign them in and out?
    Nope. 1st and 2nd graders will wait after class with an adult in their workshop, for pick-up by a parental unit. (3rd grade and up are dismissed to meet their families.) When you pick up your child do at least make eye contact with your child’s Shepherd!
  • What is a Shepherd (and how else can I get involved in this great program?
    Glad you asked! Shepherds rotate with the class. Thus, they get to know the kids and help out as directed by the Workshop Leader (by taking attendance, forming groups of kids for a game, or assigning roles to puppeteers). Ideally Shepherds would serve twice a month from Sept. through May. There are many other ways to get involved. Email to ask more questions!
  • Anything else?
    Why, yes! Continue to nurture your family spiritually. You know you have a hand in this?

    I realize it can be hard to teach kids how faith fits into life. That’s where this blog comes in…

    Helping you build disciples with everyday moments.

    Sign up to have posts sent directly to your inbox. Look up at the top right, for the email subscription box.

Have fun “homeschooling” in the ways of faith and grace!


Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives with the exception of the “blog button” which was adapted from this Creative Commons photo.

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Youth Worship: Be Still & Know That I Am God

This coming weekend the youth lead worship.

Youth worship 2014
Youth Worship downtown 2014

Why should this be a do-not-miss event?

  • Young kids need mentors – mentors beyond their parents; mentors whose shoes they will one day wear. Watching the youth (kids in 7th-12th grade) allows your kids a peek at their (potential) future self.
  • We’ll hear about being calm in situations that look far from peaceful. God is always with us!
  • We encourage attendance on Saturday and Sunday by not holding any Cool Disciples workshops.

Youth Worship 2015 Logo

This year’s theme for Youth Worship is from Psalm 46:10a

Open quote mark Be still, and know that I am God.

How about a little bit of discussion before hand? And by all means afterwards too! How about at the family dinner table (or wherever your family gathers). Use these discussion points:

  • Sit still! When did you last hear that command?
  • Why should we be still?
  • What are ways we can be still? (Be calm, quiet, silent…)
  • What are situations where being still can be especially important? (Bird-watching comes to mind. What about listening for God?)
  • How do you suppose being quiet enhances our ability to hear God?
  • What are ways we can help ourselves “be still” – both our bodies and our minds? Some ideas: Going to a quiet place. “Emptying” our mind of worries. Holding a particular item from nature such as a pine cone or a rock. Breath prayer
  • Should we be thankful for conditions which require us to be still? (I know. I know. You can’t wait to be active again, but I’ll bet now you’ll be able to think of something to do while you are waiting!)

What ideas do you have for being still? Perhaps you’ll meet God.
Youth on the Soulfull Retreat
Youth on the Soulfull Retreat, 2015


Photo credits:
Photos & logo design by FUMC members, © 2015. Used by permission.

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You have a hand in this

A bunch of gifts were handed out recently. Do you suppose that giving a gift will ensure that it gets used?

The 3rd graders and their families receive a new Bible during worship

Oh, if it were that easy!

Even the presentation of these Bibles was special. Will that do it? Will the memory of feeling significant and engaging in an unconventional ceremony remind those kids to pick it up and open it’s pages?

I doubt it.

Let’s review how it went (for an excuse to show the pictures) and then, we’ll talk about how to ensure your new Bible is used.


the top layer is gift wrap
the 2nd layer is brown paper

This gift was wrapped in several layers of paper – each layer having significance, which was revealed, as each layer was peeled back, during the class that happened after these Bibles were received.

The first layer was bright wrapping paper. After all, these Bibles were gifts from the congregation. And really, the Bible can be considered a gift from God! A gift giving us this picture: God is actively involved with his creation, and wants a relationship with us!

The second layer is ordinary brown wrapping paper! This old-looking wrapper reminds everyone that this is a book of very old stories; stories that have been told for thousands of years. Some of the stories are so old they were told even before people knew how to write! That is pretty old!

Ah, but we can always ask ourselves: What is God saying to me, here and now?

the third layer is the comics

The next layer is the funny pages! The comics tell stories. So does the Bible. We should always ask ourselves: why did people think this story was so important that it must be written down?

the next layer is gold paper

The next layer? It was gold paper, representing treasure. The Bible is a treasure more valuable than gold! Even gold cannot buy what we can learn from the Bible. And even more golden: In it’s pages you see that God is up to something big!

Finally! We are at the last layer – a blanket of fresh white paper. This layer represents a new start — growth. Adding to your understanding of who God is and how he wants us to “see that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God” (Micah 6:8).

And the final layer comes off… to revel the Bible!

the final layer is ripped off revealing the Bible

And the digging in starts…

A  child looks for the Gospels a child checks out the Bible notes
She knows the quick way to find the New Testament! Look at all of the special notes!

They’ve opened up the Bible! How can you be sure this happens frequently?

  • Set aside a time every day to read it. Make it a habit. You read books to your kids everyday, how about including the Bible in the line up? Or perhaps pull it out at the dinner table. Readers can take turns with a verse or two.
  • Take it with when you’re going someplace where there will be time to read.
  • How about encouragement from a non-family member? Ask one of the third graders (or any kid) when you greet each other in church: “What interesting thing did you learn from your Bible this week?”
  • Subscribe (up at the top, on the right when viewing the blog page) to receive an email every time there is a new post (which will generally include a new idea to use your Bible).

3rd graders with their new Bibles

We have hope that our children will read the Bible, not to read a book of rules, but to discover and connect with God! What are your ideas for ensuring the Bible is opened?



Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to support@wordpress.com. Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.

Moving up

Some used-to-be-little kids will soon pass a milestone!

Moving up from Kindergarten to 1st grade! On Sunday we recognized this event. Since many are starting to become readers, they received a gift from FUMC. Ahead of time their family chose a Bible storybook, or a book of devotions. Here they are with their gift books.

Current Kindergarteners with their gift books

They also previewed (via a tour!) what Cool Disciples would be like when they become 1st graders in the fall. Here are a few notable differences about being “upstairs” Cool Disciples:

  • the Workshop Rotation Model logo

    They will be rotating!
    (This is, after all, called the Workshop Rotation Model™, which you can learn more about by clicking on the logo on the right.)

    While in Kindergarten, the workshops came to the kids. As 1st graders they’ll be visiting the workshops – physically moving – to a different workshop each week.

  • How do we figure out where they go?
    the children's page in the weekly bulletin

    Starting in 1st grade, kids attend worship until the Children’s Moment. After that, they are dismissed (with a song!) to their workshops. Check out the Children’s Ministries page (it’s usually buff colored) in the bulletin to see where they are headed. Remember, your child’s workshop location changes every week.

    OR (here’s a better way) look ahead of time at home. (Or from your smartphone on your way to church – not the driver of course!) Check out the schedule post on this blog. Listed in the schedule post are descriptions of what each workshop will be doing. To generate a little bit of excitement I’d say, make a new habit: check it out on… Wednesdays!

  • But after the children’s moment in church, there is a large mob of kids – how does my 1st grader survive the crowd?
    We’ve got a system! The first grade Shepherd with the bannerFirst graders are big kids, but the older kids can look bigger! To help out with this, the 1st graders gather in the hallway outside of the Sanctuary. This allows all of the older kids to run excitedly walk ahead to their workshops. A volunteer Shepherd greets the 1st graders outside of the Sanctuary. (Look for the person holding the orange 1st grade banner.) After the older kids have disbursed, the first grade goes as a group to their workshop.

    On the first few weeks next fall, you may want to help your child find the banner and say goodbye in the hall; then once they are familiar with the process, you can let them leave the Sanctuary by themselves.

  • Do I need to sign them in and out?
    Nope. 1st and 2nd graders will wait after class with an adult in their workshop, for pick-up by a parental unit. (3rd grade and up are dismissed to meet their families.) When you pick up your child do at least make eye contact with your child’s Shepherd!
  • What is a Shepherd (and how else can I get involved in this great program?
    Glad you asked! Shepherds rotate with a class. They get to know the kids and help out as directed by the Workshop Leader (by taking attendance, forming groups of kids for a game, or assigning roles to puppeteers). Ideally Shepherds would serve twice a month from Sept. through May. There are many other ways to get involved. Email to ask more questions!
  • Anything else?
    Why, yes! Perhaps your family has already implemented this…
    blog button
    Do your at-home-work!

    That’s where you nurture your family spiritually; homeschooling in the ways of faith and grace.

    It can be hard to teach how faith fits into life. That’s where this blog comes in…

    Helping you build disciples with everyday moments.

    Sign up to have posts sent directly to your inbox. Look up at the top right, for the email subscription box.


Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives. (Sorry for the group photo quality. I tried but it can be hard to get a decent picture of a ready-to-go group!)

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A book to be loved

A book that hopefully will be loved, and used and worn to pieces…

A 3rd grader proudly holds her Bible

How can we ensure that happens? That a Bible is utilized, consumed and worn right out?

  •  First, give to all of the third graders, a gift from the church: a Bible of their own. Distribute these Bibles in an in-front-of-everyone sort of way. This ensures that not only will recipients and their immediate caregivers feel the reverance, but everyone sees how important these kids are to us, and how serious we are about God’s word!
  •  Second, hold a special unwrap-the-Bible event for the 3rd graders and their families. Right off the bat announce that their shiny, brand-new, au courant Bibles are sheathed in numerous layers of various types of paper! Purposefully unwrap each layer while teaching its significance; each covering sheet introducing an aspect of the Bible.
The first layer of wrapping on their Bibles Layer two is revealed!

For example: What could a layer of comics-paper bring to mind? The Bible is full of stories. Carrying around a Bible is like carrying around a library!

Check out the photo I took! Little sister watches closely
Taking a close look A family pix

  • This milestone event has a third step.

    Use your Bible at home.

    Steps one and two were initiated by the church but step three is in the hands of all families. Oh yes, if your child attends the Cool Disciples program, they will learn a lot, but YOU, not the church, are the primary faith educator for your children.

    Where can you start?

    • Allow your child(ren) to catch you reading the Bible. Actions speak louder than words.
    • Read the Bible together. Often.
    • Talk about what is read. For our current Rotation story on Abraham and Sarah read these passages in Genesis: 12:1-9, 13:14b-18, 15:1-7, 15:18a, 17:1-9, 17:15-17, 18:1-15, 21:1-3. Look here for a reading plan for our story. Subscribe to this blog (see up above, on the right) to receive an email of each new post.
    • God made a covenant with Abraham. Make a covenant with your child to study and learn about God together.

    Be the first one to ask for a replacement for your worn out Bible!

    The 3rd grade class
    The class of 2023!


    Photo credits:
    Photos from the families of FUMC. Group photo by Joe Spaly.

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Don’t wait for Confirmation class!

Last Sunday we celebrated Confirmation Sunday, the unique worship service where a milestone is reached – our youth affirm the faith of the church as their own!

a youth gets confirmed
Pastors & parents place their hands on a kneeling youth as she is confirmed.

 

Nineteen youth became professing members. Among their assertions…

They said, I do to:

  • a rejection of all evil,
  • regret for their sin,
  • confession of Jesus Christ as their Savior.

And I will to:

  • serving as Christ’s representative in the world,
  • and faithfully participating in the ministries of the church.

How did they get to this milestone in their faith journey?

How did they come to this powerful, public pronouncement?

 

Was it the spent weeks in Confirmation class, learning everything there is to know about the Christian faith.

Well, I’m hoping that we didn’t pin all of our hopes on a few months of classes! Or even a few years of Sunday school. It takes more than that.

Their faith will stick won’t it?

Well we can’t be sure. It is between God and each individual, but you can up the odds.

Don’t do like I did. Don’t leave the religious teaching to the “experts” at church. Don’t be hampered by your own lack of understanding (who am I to teach??) Don’t wait for Confirmation class to start the journey.

Here are a few basic examples of what you can do for your kids now:
Their age (roughly) Your words Your actions
Birth “God loves you” Your care provides a foundation for trust in God.
Toddler “God created all things” Point out all of God’s creation all around them.
Preschooler “The Bible tells us about God and his son, Jesus Christ.” Read Bible stories at home.
“We can talk to God whenever we want and he will listen.” Model and teach about prayer.
And the list goes on…

Don’t wait for Confirmation class!

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Photo credits:
Photo from Confirmation Sunday from my archives.