Pentecost Celebration: Lesson Plan

PentecostSince holidays and celebrations are naturally exciting events for kids, special events on the church calendar are easy connection points between even young children and the church year. My goal in planning our celebrations is to engage children without resorting to passive entertainment.

Here are a few of my goals for our Pentecost Celebration this year:

  • Celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit- God with us!
  • Celebrate the Church’s Birthday- God gave us a community!
  • Learn the story of God’s miraculous gift from Acts 2
  • Respond to God’s good gifts with worship & prayer

Story: We’ll read the story from Acts 2:1-12 and talk about how God used a miracle to spread the Good News all over the world. God didn’t just make the disciples a little stronger- God came with them in the form of the Holy Spirit! God didn’t leave them, God came with them! Check the lesson page at www.worshipwithchildren.com for updated details on how we’ll tell the story and reflect on the good news.

Decorations: Red, orange, and yellow streamers, table cloths, and balloons to represent the Spirit coming like a fire, plus these cardstock globe cut-outs to represent how the Holy Spirit enabled the church to spread all over the world.

Snacks: It’s not a celebration without feast food!  I’m planning on making strawberry muffins (chopped strawberries look like little red flames!) with a birthday candle on each one as a reminder that Pentecost is the birthday of the church!

Craft: Pentecost begin’s our congregation’s time of focusing on serving our city and our world. To integrate the kids into this, our older elementary class will be coloring a large map poster, writing the Great Commission on it, and inviting our congregation to join them by writing their own prayers on it in Sharpie.

Party Favor: I’ve ordered bubble wands like those handed out at weddings, and I plan to attach red streamers and the Scripture reference to the wand. Bubbles allow us to see the direction of the wind. Sometimes the Bible compares the Holy Spirit to the wind- you can’t see it, but you can hear and feel it!

What are your plans for celebrating Pentecost with children?

 

Lent in Present Tense, Step 2.

Originally Published at Restoration Anglican Church’s blog

A few weeks ago I reflected on my personal blog about the realities of Lenten devotion. The inconvenience of sacrifice brought pain that spiritual endorphins pre-Lent had blinded me to.  I expected to feel holy, but I just felt frustrated. As it turns out, practicing Lent is more difficult than thinking about it before hand.

Now, though, the pendulum has swung and my Lenten observance has become almost wrote; I barely remember it except for a few moments at the beginning and end of my days. It’s become easy for me to find new, Lent-approved distractions to fill the void left from my fasting. I’m both tired of the Lenten season and numb to my particular fast.

I saw this a few days ago when I heard someone mention that she doesn’t even miss the food she chose to abstain from. In an “adopt a healthy diet” sense, this is a good sign, but her fast isn’t necessarily encouraging reliance on Christ.

Here, at the halfway point, lies a great time to reassess and adapt our Lenten practices: Is there a new perspective or habit I hoped to gain from Lent? Is there a spiritual practice I planned to incorporate? What did I hope to gain from this particular form of fasting?

Before Lent, I envisioned spending some extended time in prayer, reading, and reflection, which I haven’t scheduled yet. I planned to commit a Scripture to memory related to my area of justice, and I have yet to pick a reference. With nearly three weeks left, though, it’s not too late to reincorporate these realities into my life. By making concrete plan to spend time in quiet and prayer, I can recenter my heart and mind on God’s work in and through me in this season.

 

It’s also not too late to incorporate Lent as a family. If you chose to make a sacrifice as a family a few weeks ago, it might be time to recommit to prayer for justice. Maybe a family fast didn’t happen this year, but there’s still time to adopt a service project like cleaning up a neighbor’s yard, sending cards or pictures to an ill family member of friend, or choose to pool financial resources to make a donation to a local ministry.

I’m reminded of Christ’s admonition to his disciples that the Sabbath was implemented for people as a day of rest; people weren’t made just to follow the rules of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-27). The season of Lent comes to the church as a time for quiet repentance, a reminder to yearn for justice, and an anticipation of resurrection life in God’s Kingdom.

 

 

Lent in Present Tense

I woke up early the morning after Ash Wednesday anxious about Lent.

Why had I voluntarily complicated my life?
Would I actually be uncomfortable?
Surely Jesus doesn’t want me to be uncomfortable! 

I’m okay with doing complicated things, but I’d like to do them from as comfortable a space as possible. Comfort during Lent is designed to come from Jesus rather than ephemeral pleasure, though.

Approaching Lent in present tense- that is, not dreaming about how it will look next week or next month, but how it looks right now today- has been helpful. Practicing Lent diverges from achieving or perfecting it.

As I was Pinterest-ing resources for our children’s ministry observance of Lent a back in February, I ran across the admonition to pause the crafting, coloring, printing, and gathering resources for Lent and just start observing it. Just do Lent. Resources are helpful (and I’m all about integrating reminders and illustrations into daily life!), but they are not the central thing. The focal point of Lent is dependence on the sustaining work of God.

So what might help us live Lent in the present-tense?

Remember your Fast:  

A fast as described in Isaiah 59 is about solidarity in suffering, both with people who suffer around the world and with Christ who suffered on our behalf. Does my fast encourage compassion toward someone in my community or around the world? Spending time in remembrance and prayer for that group and considering whether there is an action of compassion or justice that I can take with the time, energy, or resources preserved from the fast helps refocus hearts and minds.

Ash Wednesday Watercolor Project

A few of our Ash Wednesday watercolor paintings from the three, four, and five year olds at church.

Meditate on the Love of Christ: 

The message of the Gospel is that Christ has suffered on our behalf to purchase reconciliation and freedom. It’s quite possible to fast with justice in mind and overlook the central gift of Christ. Reading various accounts of the Holy Week (in the different gospels or different Children’s Bible Storybooks), reflecting on the Stations of the Cross, or singing hymns that retell the gift of Christ can redirect a heart toward the source of our hope and compassion.

Lean into the Quiet, Slow Pace: 

When we  say “no” to something because it’s related to a Lenten fast (a snack, a TV show, etc.), point to a different form of observance. For children, this might look like saying something along the lines of, “We don’t have dessert this week, but why don’t we put on some special Lent music to listen to while we eat crackers and cheese?” or, “We’re not watching TV right now, but would you like to light the candles on the table while you color a card or read after dinner?” Learning to slow down takes practice, encouragement, and intentionality; Lent is a natural time in our church year to lean into these slower rhythms of reflection.

 

 

 

Introducing Children to 3 Actions of Lent

Lent is a season of action and activity deep within our hearts. While Christmas and Easter often have lots of outward activity, most of Lent is happening beneath the surface. Children often have deep awareness of ways that they want to grow and learn, with active spiritual lives. Invite them into this season of Lent with the following explanations and action steps:

Turn Around: During Lent, people choose to turn away from something that is sinful. Maybe you argue about seats in the car, complain about doing your chores, or have a bad attitude about going to bed. Lent is a time when you say, “I want to be a person who obeys the Lord! For the next 6 weeks I’m going to ask Jesus to help me not to ____,  and I’m going to ask my family to help me remember!”.

Is there something in your life that you want to turn around from?

Lay it Down: Some people choose to lay aside something that makes them happy or comfortable so they remember that God makes us the happiest. This is called fasting. People give up special treats like candy, television, video games, or a favorite toy. Every time they think, “oh, I wish I could watch tv right now!”, or “I’m hungry for something sweet!” they remember that those things are nice, but the gift of Jesus is even better. While you miss your special treat, you’re pointed toward remembering Jesus.

Is there something that you would like to take a break from to remember God more?

Pick Up: Now that you have extra room from turning from sin and laying down something you love, there’s space to start a new habit to help you Love God and Love Others more. Think about something you want to grow in: encouragement, service, knowledge of the Bible, sharing, gratitude. Then, think of a way that you can practice this for the next 6 weeks. You could encourage others by sending a homemade card in the mail each week or writing surprise, “I love you!” notes to your family members. You could make a big “Things I Thank God for” poster and add something new each day. You could memorize a few Bible verses or listen to Scripture music on the way to school everyday.

How would you like to worship and focus on Jesus this Lent?

(originally published March 2014)

Easy Explanations: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday can be a meaningful time for whole church families to reflect and worship together, but it can also be a stressful time if the focus in “keeping children quiet” rather than inviting them into worship.

Spending 5-10 minutes (even just the car ride!) preparing children for what they might see and hear at the service can help them engage in prayer and worship, too.

What is Ash Wednesday about? 

On Ash Wednesday the whole church prays, “God, without you, we are small and weak. We can’t do life by ourselves, even though sometimes we try. Sometimes we choose to disobey. Help us to choose to follow you. Help us to know how to trust you.”

Why do we observe Ash Wednesday? 

Ash Wednesday is the first part of a season called Lent. During Lent we tell God we are sorry for our sins, and ask him to help us know his love and forgiveness even deeper in our hearts.

What will happen at church on Ash Wednesday? 

At the Ash Wednesday service we get ash marks on our foreheads. This reminds us of when God first made people, he made us out of dust. When we die, our bodies will eventually turn to dust again. Sometimes we forget that we are just dust and think we are stronger. We tell ourselves, “My way is the best!” or “I can be good all by myself!”, or “I don’t want to obey Jesus today!”.

Ash Wednesday is a day of saying with our hearts and our lips, “I’m not good enough. I choose to sin. I’m sorry. Help me to turn away and choose to follow you, God.” After you get ashes on your forehead, look around and see everyone else with their ashes. No matter how young or old or big or small, everyone needs God.

At our Ash Wednesday Service, a pastor will talk about how we worship God in secret instead of to make a show. This is because we don’t do these things so that other people say “Oh! She’s so good!” or, “He must love Jesus a lot!”. When we know in our heart that God says, “I love you! I see you worshiping me!” that’s the best encouragement.