"From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised." - Psalm 113:3
On a typical Sunday morning, many families go to church. They participate in worship and Sunday School some catching up with fellow church goers, then head home.
What happens on the way home from church? Do most families talk about what’s for lunch and plans for the remainder of the day? Or do they take a minute to share learnings and experiences that occurred at church?
In order to support a family culture, to carry spiritual conversation beyond the church walls, children and family ministries can offer challenges, projects, and activities to stimulate family conversation. The following are examples that my church, Trinity UMC, has employed to ensure the way home from church is an extension from what happened at church.
Most children love to come forward and listen to a brief version of the message designed just for them. I have also discovered that they love to be given a topic for conversation on the way home.
One week, the message at my church was based on the Parable of the Wineskins. While this is a difficult story for most children to understand, the Children’s Chat was about how Jesus used parables to teach difficult ideas. After hearing the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the children were told that their parents would be learning another parable during the pastor’s message. Their job was to ask their parents what they learned in worship that day.
Sometimes challenges are much lighter. During a series on listening, the Children’s Chat was about the scripture in James where we are reminded to be quick to listen and slow to speak. The assignment was to talk on the way home from church about the best animal ears. I had several reports of interesting conversations that took place.
Projects at home
Gratitude calendars, prayer calendars, and family projects have also provided seed for spiritual-based family conversation. A favorite family activity connected to a sermon series about fear.
During worship, children decorated comfort rocks with reassuring words and drawings. Using palm-size river-stone and acrylic paint markers, the children wrote messages like “Be not afraid,” “God loves you,” or “Trust in the Lord”.
The children took the rocks home with instructions for the family to hide the rocks around town for others to find. Family members were encouraged to talk about ways God had comforted them. Throughout the week, families posted pictures on Facebook and shared their fun experiences of sharing God’s love.
Contributing to worship
During the message at Alternative Worship, children are dismissed to a corner of the room where they work on crafts, games, or activities related to the theme. Periodically, the children do a collaborative art installation that depicts the theme.
For example, during a series on discipleship, the children decorated hoops each week. Paper dolls, stars, footprints, open hands adorned the hoops symbolizing hospitality, worship, following Jesus, and service. Another time, children made Chrismons (ornaments with Christian symbols) to represent message themes during Advent. The Chrismons were displayed on pedestals at the front of the worship area. Bulletin boards, posters, placemats and centerpieces have also been created by children with the hope that these will spur conversation with family and friends about the overall message.
In closing, I believe that these challenges, projects, and activities have been effective because of the incorporation of different learning modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile). Not only has there been increased opportunity for learning, but also a chance for spiritual conversation beyond the church walls.
My prayer is that these encouraged conversations will develop into natural discussions that nurture children in the faith “from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets”.