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Issue 5 – February 2011

IN THIS ISSUE

  • In This  Issue
  • About This Issue
  • Conversations: Charissa Simmons
  • Diocesan Children’s Day
  • Speaking of Resources
  • Reflections from our Diocesan Missioner
  • Journey Through Holy Week
  • Building A Ministry With Children in the Latino Community
  • Godly Play in the Small Congregation
  • Children and Outreach
  • Let the Little Children Come: Children in Worship
  • Stages of Parenting and Church Ministry
  • Coming Up… A calendar of upcoming events of interest

ABOUT THIS ISSUE

by Mary Sicilia, New Wine editor

One of my friends was very skeptical years ago when the altar rail was first opened up to young children who were not yet confirmed.   “My six year old just doesn’t understand it,” she opined.  “And you do?” I recall I responded.   So she allowed her daughter to receive but remained skeptical until the day when her daughter was cranky and pouty on the way to church and so she decided that morning her daughter would not be allowed to take communion.   As they were driving home, her daughter looked over, eyes brimming with tears, and said quietly, “You kept me from God.”   My friend, noting that her daughter had figured out a way to deeply shame her, also recognized in the ploy that at six years old , her daughter understood a great deal more about the Eucharist than she had imagined.

After a hard day of facing crowds with impossible questions and great demands, Jesus rebuked the disciples who thought an unruly bunch of kids were the LAST thing on earth Jesus needed to see: “Let the little children come to me;  do not stop them, for it is to such as them that the kingdom of Heaven belongs.”  (Mark 10:14 – NRSV)  It has been said that children are the future of the church, but the reality is that children are HERE, NOW, in our midst! That is the nature of children – they don’t wait their turn.  They ask the questions no one else dares to ask.  They think thoughts no one else has thought before.  And, if  we let them, they lead the way in helping us understand the width and depth and heighth of the Gospel.   This issue of New Wine is focused on the church in ministry to children.  While you will find our usual features, you will also discover short articles on practical matters concerning children and formation,  kindly written by the folks who work with children’s formation around the diocese and beyond.  I thank them for taking time from their very busy schedules to share  their knowledge with us  and commend their work to you.   

CONVERSATIONS: CHARISSA SIMMONS

Charissa Simmons, Family Ministry Coordinator, Trinity, Cathedral

First, tell us a little bit about your own faith formation?

I believe home is the primary place of  faith formation for children. I am blessed to have parents who not only live their faith, but who were also intentional about doing formation with us kids at home. My father is a Lutheran pastor, so I was raised in the church, and for the most part, I loved church. And I really loved Sunday school. And like many people, the best memories I have of being young in the church are not the things I learned, but the people I knew and the experiences I had. My favorite Sunday school teacher was Mrs. Arnold. I remember she wore the thickest glasses I had ever seen, and she seemed ancient! She was always happy to be with kids; she knew me, and she talked to me like a real person. I still hang an ornament she crocheted for me on my Christmas tree each year. At home we had special traditions around the seasons of the church year. And if a holiday was religious in origin, it was seriously religious in our house! So I grew up in this wonderful atmosphere of God being present, and taking time on a regular basis to remember and acknowledge that. As an adult (formation is life-long!), I’ve continued to find ways to learn and ways to be connected with a Christian community.

How did you come to be Family Ministry Coordinator at the cathedral?   What does the position entail?

I began teaching at Trinity when my oldest child started church school. I kept on volunteering, both as a church school teacher, and later helping with administrative tasks as I became familiar with Trinity’s programs. When Trinity was going through some staffing changes, I was offered a  position, at first part time and temporary, then later full time and permanent.  I had done much volunteering by then, in schools, church, and other areas, but the church was the place I loved to be with children the most. I don’t know if I would say I felt called to this work, but when given the opportunity, I said yes. And I guess saying yes with a joyful heart is a kind of call to ministry.

I oversee all programs at Trinity for children, youth, and families, so essentially I get to work with kids from birth through graduation, and with their parents. Much of this work is in collaboration with other ministry areas, such as music and outreach. True faith formation involves the whole person. Sunday morning church school is a big part, but is only the beginning. Seasonal events, family worship, outreach, liturgical involvement, parent support, music, child care, and much more – it really does take a whole church to form a Christian! And so a lot of my work is volunteer coordination – a joy with all of the many the wonderful volunteers I get to work with. I also serve on the Diocesan Commission for Lifelong Christian Formation.

What do you think are the most important factors in faith formation for young children?

First, that children know they are loved by God — completely, no matter what, for ever. Second, that children know they are full members of a loving community of fellow Christians who will support them. As I say this, I realize it reflects what  Jesus answered when asked what the greatest commandment is:  to love God, and to love one’s neighbor. How do we help children know God’s love and to love God?  How do we help them to know they are loved and to love others?  Children learn what they experience. Children growing up in a loving Christian community see in that community what living as a Christian means – loving God, loving other people.  And of course we need to be mindful of development when working with children. Helping a three year old child to know God’s love is different in many ways than helping a teenager to know God’s love. It’s also important to remember that transformation is God’s work, not ours. Pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is showing you.

I know you do a Parents’ Connection program.  Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and how it works?

We have a class for parents every Sunday morning during adult education time,  though it’s not really so much a class as a gathering time for parents to get to know each other, learn together, and support one another. We sometimes have a program, and sometimes not. It’s a drop in style class, with no homework or preparation required. Parents are busy people, and don’t need another obligation heaped on their already full plates! But the support of other parents in raising faithful children in our increasingly secular society is crucial. And that’s as true for parents of teenagers as it is for parents of toddlers. We’re working toward some more formal programming in this group as we learn what’s most useful for parents. The more we can support parents in their own faith formation, the better we can support their children.

If a parish is interested in establishing a family service, what do you think are the most important components to it?

Keep it short – both in time and stature! For children to fully participate in a worship service, they need to be able to see, to understand the language, to focus without distraction. The liturgy needs to engage children at their level. The liturgy also needs to engage their parents, if they are to fully participate.  Generally, though, if children are engaged, so are adults. Make the service participatory for everyone. Include elements that all generations can do together – movement, music that is easy to learn and sing even if you can’t read yet, sensory components (smell, touch, visuals, sound cues). Let the children see what happens at the altar during communion. Explain what’s going on. This is a great chance for instruction for both kids and adults. Have children, or whole families, participate in leadership roles. Be creative with the liturgy and the space. Whatever you do, do it with integrity.

When you are not busy  doing Christian formation, what do you do in your “spare” time?

Well, I try to spend as much of it as I can with my husband, Erik, and two teenage daughters.  And I like being in my yard, enjoying the fruits of past labor and anticipating a future time when I have the leisure to tend my garden again, and I enjoy doing a  crossword puzzle almost every day.

DIOCESAN CHILDREN’S DAYS

It’s time for Children’s Day and this year’s promises to be more fun than ever!  Posters, brochures, and reservation postcards have been mailed to every congregation.  They also are available on the diocesan website at www.diocese-oregon.org. This year’s program is scheduled for two locations:

*Children’s Day at the Cathedral: Saturday, February 26 at Trinity Cathedral, Portland

*Children’s Day in the Valley: Saturday, May 21 at St. Thomas, Eugene

Theme for this year’s event is Saints Alive! Using a rotation model, the children and the adults who accompany them will explore the theme through a well-planned day of engaging experiential activities including storytelling, drama, music, arts and crafts, games, food and worship.  Bishop Michael Hanley is planning to be with us.   Children’s Day is designed for children who are in grades K-5.  Children will be grouped by age.  You may send as many children as you like, but you must provide an adult chaperone for every five children with a minimum of two adult chaperones from every congregation.  Teenagers from your congregation are welcome to help as additional chaperones. Cost is $5 per person which includes snacks and lunch.  Child care will be provided for preschool children of chaperones.

In preparation for this year’s Children’s Day events, we encourage you to teach your children Hymn #293 – I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.  The first 25 congregations to send in their reservation postcards or e-mail the pertinent information will receive a hard-cover copy of the children’s book I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.

If you have questions or need further information, please contact Barbara Ross at 1-800-452-2562×111, 971-204-4111, or barbarar@diocese-oregon.org.  We look forward to welcoming you and the children from your congregation on February 26 at Trinity Cathedral and/or on May 21 at St. Thomas, Eugene.

SPEAKING OF RESOURCES

By  Paula Franck, Resource Room Coordinator

FROM THE BOOKSHELF

+ Rhythms of Grace: Worship and Faith Formation for Children and Families with Special Needs by Audrey Scanlan and Linda Snyder. Combining storytelling, arts and crafts, therapeutic play and a celebration of Holy Communion, Rhythms of Grace is a parish program that provides ideas for congregations  wanting to include special needs children in community worship. The book provides a year’s worth of monthly scripture-based sessions along with feast days like Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost that could be used by anyone wanting creative ideas for children and families.

+ Be Tween:  Exploring Faith and Christian Life with Older Elementary Children by Joyce MacKichan Walker and Linda Lebron. Developing programs for older elementary children, or “tweens,” is a special challenge. This book presents eight sessions designed to provide spiritual instruction, biblical training and community building for this special age group. In addition, there are eight sessions for parents of tweens to offer support for the adults who work with young people.

Other Books From The Resource Room Available For Loan.

  • Ambassadors for God:  Envisioning Reconciliation Rites for the 21st Century. Liturgical Studies 5
  • Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith. Diana Butler Bass
  • The Final Deadline:  What Death Has Taught Me About Life. Chris Glaser
  • The Great Emergence:  How Christianity is Changing and Why. Phyllis Tickle
  • Humble and Strong:  Mutually Accountable Leadership in the Church. Gerald W. Keucher
  • A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story. Diana Butler Bass

Audio Book The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’ Final Week in Jerusalem. Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan

Lent and Easter Resources for Children

  • Children in Lent: A Resource Book for Home, School and Parish. Anne Marie Lee
  • Best of Blessings:  Lent, Holy Week and Easter:  Worship Programs for Children of All Ages. Ginny Arthur
  • Hosanna!  Calendars, Crafts and Creative Projects for Lent and Easter. Sharon Lee

Games to Give Away :  We are running out of space in the Resource Room for new materials, so we have several games for children and youth that need homes including: Scruples, Bible Challenge, Conversations To Go, Life Stories and several more. Contact Paula Franck (resource@diocese-oregon.org) if you are interested in having any of the games.

WEB RESOURCES

+Building Faith: An Online Community for Christian Educators is an invaluable website that you will want to bookmark and refer to regularly for best practices in Christian formation.  http://www.buildfaith.org

Church Publishing Incorporated created buildingfaith to be an on-line community for Christian education and faith formation leaders. Clergy and lay professionals and church volunteers from different denominations can share knowledge and best practices, offering each other encouragement and practical tools. Users needn’t cast aside their distinct doctrines or beliefs. Instead, the focus is on the commonalities that we share. The content within this community is both original and collected from other respected blogs and websites. We will consistently maintain and update this site, ensuring that content is relevant, engaging and accurate. Keeping to our high standards, we will offer diverse, inclusive, respectful, ecumenical and positive reflections related to Christian formation. Your input is invited in this same vein and we are eager to help our wider community join the conversation. buildingfaith moderator, Sharon Ely Pearson, M.A.C.E., has been involved in education for over three decades in the public and private school sector as well as many religious education and faith formation arenas. Currently, she serves as the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated, providing training, resources and consultations to churches throughout the United States. She can be reached at spearson@cpg.org.

+ Father Matthew Presents http://www.fathermatthewpresents.com/index.html

The Rev. Matthew Moretz, Curate of Christ Church in Rye, New York, presents a series of 4-6 minute YouTube videos that present the faith and teachings of the Episcopal Church in a manner that is fun and engaging as well as informative for all ages. Topics include the sacraments, the sign of the cross, the Book of Common Prayer in 4 minutes, the Stations of the Cross and many more. Great for church programs as well as your own personal information and enjoyment.

Contact Paula Franck, volunteer Resource Room Coordinator, by e-mail (resource@diocese-oregon.org) for further information about resources available for loan.

REFLECTIONS FROM BARB

by Barbara Ross, Diocesan Missioner of Lifelong Formation

Our theme for this issue of New Wine from the Vineyard is “The Ministry of the Child” a phrase that comes directly from A Children’s Charter for the Church, a document developed through the efforts of Christian educators in twelve dioceses working with what was then The Office of Children’s Ministries.  It was adopted at General Convention in 1997.  A copy of the charter can be found at http://www.episcopaldioceseoregon.org/files/child_charter.pdf.

The Children’s Charter, as it is affectionately known, has changed the way we think about children in The Episcopal Church.  Having grown up in the church, I have seen these changes first-hand, beginning with the so-called “new” prayer book adopted in 1979 – now 32 years old!  The theology of the 1979 prayer book returned to recognizing baptism as a primary sacrament of the church which means that children are full members from the time of their baptism.  It took some time for this to be recognized throughout the church and that helps explain why my own two children began receiving communion as infants in the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, but were refused communion as preschoolers when we first moved to the Diocese of Oregon.  This, I am happy to say, is no longer the case in most of the congregations in our diocese, and The Children’s Charter helped that process along.

The Children’s Charter is divided into three sections:

  • Nurture of the Child
  • Ministry to the Child
  • Ministry of the Child

The bullet points under all three are important, but a sometimes overlooked change has come with our understanding of The Ministry of the Child.  We now recognize that children are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge, but are spiritual beings who are born with a very deep connection to God and who have a ministry to adults that is every bit as important as our ministry to them.  This is the basis for spiritual formation programs such as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Godly Play.  It also is a foundational principle of our own Children’s Day events which are designed to be formational for the adults who attend as well as for the children.

Our Children’s Day events are coming up quickly:

  • February 26 – Children’s Day at the Cathedral at Trinity Cathedral, Portland
  • May 21 – Children’s Day in the Valley at St. Thomas, Eugene

Registration brochures were mailed to every congregation and they also are available for downloading from our new diocesan website at www.diocese-oregon.org.  Please share the information so that all children and grandchildren – and the adults who care for them –   have the opportunity to attend. There is nothing like the faith of a child to invigorate our own!

A JOURNEY THROUGH HOLY WEEK

by Megan Jones,  St. Paul’s, Salem

Making Holy Week accessible to children can be challenging. Even most adults are unable to come to all of the Holy Week services, and even when children do go to the services, they can be confused by the Maundy Thursday feet-washing or the Good Friday somberness. In addition, as with so many holidays, at most schools Easter has become a secular observance, celebrated with eggs and chocolate bunnies up to and including Easter Sunday, then ending abruptly. Nothing against chocolate bunnies, but kids need more. Many parishes use a dramatic, participatory reenactment to bring children into the experience of Holy Week. At St. Paul’s in Salem, we call ours “A Journey through Holy Week.” For the last couple of years, we have held it on the Wednesday before Easter, during our Wednesday afternoon activities.

The Journey starts on the road to Jerusalem. The children walk down the road (hallway) and receive palm fronds, which they wave as they welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna!” They receive a memory bag, into which they will put mementos of each experience. Here, on the road, they put palm tree-shaped confetti into their bags. They then have their feet washed as the disciples did, with all the combination of appreciation and discomfort that foot-washing always elicits. If they don’t want their feet to get wet, or if they are wearing tights, they may have them “air-washed.” After their feet have been dried, they take a small piece of towel for their bag. They then move to sit on a rug amidst all the Jewish-style decorations placed for the Last Supper (each year is a little different – rugs, cloths, menorahs, Torah scroll are all appropriate). Sometimes songs are sung, or music is playing in the background. They share matzo and “wine” (grape juice), and receive a piece of matzo and a cut-out chalice for their bags. They then travel to a darkened room, where they hear of the sadness of the disciples at the Crucifixion. They receive a purple bracelet as an adult says “remember”. And then the Resurrection! The lights come on, the blinds are open, the empty tomb is revealed and everyone rings bells, shouting “Alleluia!” The last item in their memory bag is an Easter egg, containing a cross (sometimes confetti, sometimes a necklace – whatever works).

The children who have experienced this Journey in previous years remember it and look forward to it each year. I will never forget the first time my son participated, and came back to me, excitedly taking each item out of his memory bag and using it to tell me the story. I am grateful to be a part of it now. It is a wonderful experience for the adults who help to create this, strengthening our faith as it can only be strengthened when we participate in the faith of children.

LET THE CHILDREN COME: CHILDREN IN WORSHIP

by The Revs. Helen Richard (St. Martin, Lebanon), Maron Van (Resurrection, Eugene), and Maureen-Elizabeth Hagen (St. Luke the Physician, Gresham), Deacons

In many of our churches, families tend to sit in the back.  Especially in larger churches, this often means the children cannot see much of what happens during the Great Thanksgiving – the part of the liturgy most likely to engage action-oriented learners.

One answer might be to create a child-friendly zone at the front of the nave – one with carpets, soft toys, drawing materials, and the Sunday Paper. Architectural and other constraints seldom make this a practical solution.   (St. Luke the Physician in Gresham has refurbished the underused chapel area in the back of the church to accommodate families with small children and this has worked well.  It certainly shows visitors that we have considered their special needs.)

The priests at our churches (The Revs. Carol Sedlacek, Tasha Garrison, and Jennifer Creswell) regularly invite the children (and their parents) to gather around the altar following The Peace.   Not only are the children able to see what is happening more clearly, but they (and the larger congregation) learn more about why we do what we do.  We prepare the table with our best linens and vessels because we are getting ready for our guests and this is all about hospitality… or This is Christ’s Table and Christ turns no one away. In each case, the liturgy used comes from the Book of Common Prayer, with some additional elements to aid comprehension.

It may appear that some of the children are not really listening, but they usually absorb every word and are being formed deeply by the liturgy.  Many churches also offer special instruction on the liturgy.  Godly Play has several lessons which help children understand the liturgical year and the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist.  Other churches offer special instruction in Communion, on vessels and vestments, and other aspects of liturgy.

What strikes each of us above all is the eagerness with which the children receive Communion.  They eagerly stretch up their arms with joyful anticipation.  They know this is very special; through receiving they know they are full members of the Body.  As we serve these little ones, we too begin to understand clearly what it means to be part of the Body of the Christ.

BUILDING A MINISTRY WITH CHILDREN

IN THE LATINO COMMUNITY

by Deacon Kristina Burbank, St. James, Lincoln City

Since its inception in August 2010 the Parish of St. James/Santiago in Lincoln City has been richly blessed through the presence of its children.  Children of the Latino community have come as an answer to many prayers.  To an aging parish, the children have brought the sound of laughter and play.  With a people seeking renewal they have shared a marvelous spiritual curiosity and a great openness to new things.

The birthing of St. James/Santiago came as a gift from God and in God’s good time.  This culturally diverse community entered through the door of existing ministry [the St. James Meal Program and a partnership with Oceana Family Literacy Center], and through the leadership and pastoral sensitivity of bi-lingual interim rector, The Rev. Laura Truby.  This past July, several Latino students from the Oceana Center—both adults and children—performed traditional Mexican drumming for our Meal Program diners.   The room was packed with friends and parents, and the great joy and energy of the drummers came near to lifting off the East Room roof! Julio Espejo, a native of Peru and one of the parents in attendance that evening, struck up a conversation with Rev. Laura, expressing the local Latino community’s deep desire for a place of worship and sanctuary.  Rev. Laura immediately brought his concerns to the people of St. James, and within a month the first ‘Misa en Espanol’ was celebrated and a newly minted sign reading “St. James/Santiago” stood beside Highway 101.  Open parish meetings with Hispanic Missioner Padre Beto Arciniega helped place our mission within the broader context of “The Episcopal Church’s Strategic Vision for Reaching Latinos/Hispanics”.  From these conversations grew an appreciation of the incredible diversity of Latino/Hispanic culture and a resolve to seek unity in the midst of that diversity.

I recently asked Rev. Laura what she might consider to be at the heart of our ministry to Latino children.  She responded:  “I would say supporting their faith development as Christians, like any other children, while understanding that they are challenged with bridging two cultures and languages and are coming up with their own hybrid or fusions of the two.  They have their feet firmly planted in both, and that needs to be recognized in our approach.  They need an affirming and relaxed context in which they can process their life experience in light of the faith.”

“Having grown up in a cross-cultural context myself in Bolivia” she added, “I understand how the human element transcends the specificity of culture.  Connection has nothing to do with sameness in language or background or ethnicity.  It has to do with the heart, with the spirit.  With the desire to enter into each others’ worlds in order to learn and appreciate and be enriched.  We miss much when we don’t expect that the other has anything to offer us.  We have so much to gain from engagement with from Central or Latin Americans, from simply being in their presence and enjoying them.  Perhaps more than anything else, Bolivians taught me that if only I can be poor in spirit, I will be immensely enriched!  If only I can respect and delight fully in the other, I will experience the very kingdom of heaven.”

In the months since August, the children of St. James/Santiago have enjoyed culturally diverse celebrations, artwork and literature. This year All Saints Eve and El Dia de los Muertos were concurrently recognized.   During Advent, the Jesse Tree and the Virgin of Guadalupe stood side by side.  And in celebration of the Virgin’s Feast Day on December 12th, children performed traditional Mexican folk dance at the local community center, and then joined in a joyful and colorful procession during Sunday Eucharist. The confidence of these children—their willingness to explore new roles—reflects  the strength and cohesiveness of the family units within Santiago.  Even the youngest children are welcome and well-integrated in both Eucharist and the Convivio which follows.  Many of the older children are now serving as acolytes and lectors, while others lead the Prayers of the People and serve as ushers.  All of this occurs within the supportive embrace of family.

The children of St. James Santiago—who helped drum in a new era with such joy and verve–remain among us now both as students and as teachers reminding us all that God is indeed doing a ‘new thing’. Thanks be to God!

Resources:

  • “The Episcopal Church’s Strategic Vision For Reaching Latinos/Hispanics”
  • “Godly Play” is available in Spanish.
  • A number of culturally diverse coloring/story books are available on line
  • Padre Beto Arcienaga, Hispanic Missioner

GODLY PLAY IN THE SMALL CONGREGATION

by Barbara Tensen Ross, Diocesan Missioner for Lifelong Christian Formation and Godly Play Coordinator at Prince of Peace, Salem

“I love Godly Play and I wish we could do it in our congregation, but we are just too small.”  I hear that comment on occasion and it always puzzles because my experience has been just the opposite.  I believe Godly Play is a wonderful program for small congregations because it is so open-ended and can be used successfully with a wide variety of ages and numbers of children.  Prince of Peace, a mission congregation in West Salem that rents space from a Lutheran Church, has had a successful Godly Play program for more than 10 years.  The original program met in the narthex of the church and used materials handcrafted by a very dedicated parishioner.  Over the years, memorial funds have enabled us to invest not only in the basic materials outlined in Godly Play Volumes 2, 3, and 4, but also to start a second class for older children using the enrichment materials in Volume 7.  We now have two classrooms – one for children PS-2nd grade and the other for our 3rd-6th graders.

A successful Godly Play program requires two kinds of investment.  Certainly the materials are the most obvious cost, but they are not insurmountable.   A program can start with a very few presentations, some of which can be handmade and/or collected from your local Goodwill store.  Other materials can be purchased a few at a time using special donations or memorial funds with the understanding that each purchase made truly is an investment as it will serve the children of your congregation for years to come.  And Godly Play materials can also be borrowed – sometimes from a neighboring congregation and more recently, from those we now have available for check-out from our diocesan Resource Room.

However, the other critical investment that needs to be made is in your people.  Godly Play is not a curriculum than one just decides to use.  It is every bit as experiential for the adults who lead it as for the children and the adults need to experience it under the guidance of a trained Godly Play leader.  My recommendation is to train a team of at least 2-3 people and your priest if at all possible.   In the Diocese of Oregon, we are fortunate to have many opportunities for this.  Trinity Cathedral hosts Godly Play trainings and retreat days on a regular basis led by Caryl Menkhus, a nationally-recognized Godly Play trainer.  And if you prefer to have on-site trainings, members of our diocesan Ministry of Christian Formation are happy to come to you.  Let us know how we can help.

CHILDREN AND OUTREACH

by Maureen-Elizabeth Hagen, Deacon, St. Luke the Physician, Gresham

At Baptism, we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves and to strive for justice and peace, respecting the dignity of every human being. Living into these promises takes a lifetime.  Community service and social action are crucial components of children and youth formation.

Learn – act – reflect are crucial aspects of Christian Formation.  We learn in many ways: through study, doing, participating, emulating.  From Sunday School, sermons children learn the stories of the Good Samaritan, the sheep and the goats, and hear the prophetic vision of justice.  From the earliest of ages, we help them to understand that we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world and that we are to see the face of Jesus in the Other.  By sharing in a congregation’s (and family’s) diakonia children and youth learn through doing.

Outreach begins in preschool.  Children hear the stories.  We find opportunities where they can make contributions.  Even the youngest children can help decorate cookies for the food pantry, make valentines for a woman’s shelter, put together toiletry kits for the homeless, bringing cans for the food bank.  By elementary age, we find kids setting places for a community meal, putting together backpacks for kids, organizing a Pennies for Peace campaign, learning about other cultures.  By middle school, children often take more active roles, participating in urban plunges, mission trips, Heifer projects, feeding people in shelters, and more.  By high school, youth expand their horizons through building houses in Mexico, raising funds for orphanages in Uganda, and volunteering directly for NPOs in their community (like Habitat for Humanity and Katrina Relief).  They begin to search for systemic solutions.  This is the perfect time for them to engage in Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters, Interfaith Advocacy Day, Millennium Development Goals, Amnesty International, and many other efforts designed to bring about change at the local, national, and global level.

Critical to these activities is the need for reflection.  After children and youth participate in a Thanksgiving community meal, we need to encourage them to think about this experience, what they learned, how this connects to their faith and Baptismal Covenant.  What might God be calling them to include others in God’s abundance?

STAGES OF PARENTING AND CHURCH MINISTRY

by Sharon Ely Pearson

In his insightful book, Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again), Wayne Rice draws a comparison between church programming and parenting.

Stage One (ages 0-2) – This is a Catering stage where parents care for a child’s every need.

Stage Two (ages 2-10) – This is a Controlling stage where parents establish absolute control over their child setting up boundaries, so children obey for the sake of the Lord.

Stage Three (ages 11-14) – This is the Coaching stage where parents “let out some rope” as a child enters adolescence, while keeping authority.

Stage Four (ages 15-18) – This is the Consulting stage where parents do less micromanaging of teenagers giving them more natural control.  There are still limits allowing teens to make mistakes in a safe, grace-filled environment at home.

Stage Five (ages 18 +) – This is the Caring stage where parents let their child(ren) go.  It is time for them to start living on their own as a young adult.  All a parent can really do is care and pray. And become a friend and mentor.

Following a description of these stages, Rice offers a connection between parenting and church programming:

Stage One (Nursery) – Parents are responsible for their children, but the church helps provide support, education, childcare during worship times etc.

Stage Two (Children’s Ministry) – Parents are encouraged, taught and given tools to pass on their faith to their children at home.  Children’s ministry should be there to encourage and equip parents.

Stage Three (Middle School Youth Ministry) – Parents are encouraged and equipped to continue to build relationship with their child and pass on faith to them.  The JH ministry exists to reinforce what is happening at home, provide “rites of passage” into church membership, surround them with mentors and introduce them to adult ministries in the church.

Stage Four (High School Youth Ministry) – Parents are encouraged strongly to stay connected to their teens having “faith conversations” at home.  The high school ministry is there to support parents providing opportunities for parent-teen dialog in intergenerational activities and begin to integrate teens into the life of the body of Christ.

Stage Five (Adult Ministries) – Students take their place alongside other adult members in the church body by becoming members of the church, congregational leaders, life-time learners, and committed followers of Christ.

All of this makes sense, but have today’s parents given over the responsibility of teaching faith to their children to the church? The challenge before us is to build bonds of sharing responsibility with parents as the spiritual caregivers of their children first and the local body of believers being present to support, equip and love the coming generations into the body.

(Editor’s Note:  This article originally appeared in the blog, Building Faith and appears here with the kind permission of Sharon Ely Pearson.  See Speaking of Resources above for information on how to subscribe to this very helpful web resource)

COMING UP…

Christian Formation Dates for your 2011 calendars

  • February 18-20 – Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) – Christ Church, Lake Oswego
  • February 26 – Children’s Day at the Cathedral
  • March 14 – EMO Interfaith Advocacy Day in Salem
  • April 2 – Central Convocation’s Mission & Ministry Fair at Good Samaritan, Corvallis
  • April 4 – MLK Walk in downtown Portland
  • April 8-10 – Bishop’s Ball at Trinity Cathedral
  • May 9-11 – Clergy Conference at the Oregon Garden
  • May 14 – ECW Spirituality Day at St. Bartholomew’s, Beaverton (25th anniversary)
  • May 21 – Children’s Day in the Valley – St. Thomas, Eugene
  • October 10-13 – Western Christian Educator’s Conference at Lake Tahoe
  • November 10-12 – Diocesan Convention at the Salem Conference Center

For further information about any of these events, please contact Barbara Ross, Missioner for Lifelong Christian Formation at 1-800-452-2562×111, 971-204-4111 or barbarar@diocese-oregon.org.

Godly Play at Trinity Cathedral

+ March 12 – Godly Play Lenten reflection and personal retreat day – Trinity Cathedral

+  April 2 – Godly Play Intro – Trinity Cathedral

+  May 7 – Godly Play parables – Trinity Cathedral

+  July 7-9 – Godly Play core training – Trinity Cathedral

SAFE Church schedule set for Spring 2011

We sare midway into our SAFE Church spring schedule. Registration for the following trainings is available at http://www.episcopaldioceseoregon.org/node/130. Thanks to all of the congregations who have offered to host.  Additional trainings will be scheduled in the fall.  For further information, please contact Barbara Ross, Missioner for Lifelong Christian Formation at 971-204-4111, 1-800-452-2562×111, or barbarar@diocese-oregon.org.

Safeguarding God’s Children

  • Sunday, March 13 – All Saints, Hillsboro, 1:00-5:00
  • Sunday, March 27 – St. Barnabas, Portland, 1:00-5:00
  • Saturday, April 9 – St. Paul’s, Salem, 8:30-12:30
  • Saturday, April 9 – Emmanuel, Coos Bay, 8:30-12:30

Preventing Sexual Harassment of Church Workers

  • Saturday, March 5 – Grace, Astoria, 8:30-12:30
  • Saturday, March 19 – St. Mark’s, Medford 8:30-12:30

Preventing Sexual Exploitation in Communities of Faith

  • Saturday, March 5 – Grace, Astoria, 1:00-5:00
  • Saturday, March 19 – St. Mark’s, Medford, 1:00-5:00

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