Listen to Hearts Alive Bible Backgrounds

Teachers can listen to Bible Background’s from each week’s Hearts Alive Sunday School lesson, even in the car.  Below is a link that will be updated  on Wednesdays for the following Sunday’s lesson.  Enjoy!

WINTER C

Hearts Alive Bible Background Winter C Week 8

Hearts Alive Bible Background Winter  C Week 7

Hearts Alive Bible  Background Winter C Week 6

 

FALL B

Hearts Alive Bible Background Fall B Week 6

Hearts Alive Bible Background Fall B Week 5

Hearts Alive Bible Background Fall B Week 4

Hearts Alive Bible Background Fall B Week 3

Children’s Ministry: Practical Tips for Connecting With Parents

By Lindsey Goetz

Children, like adults, are spiritually formed in their day-to-day comings and goings, as they play, learn, and grow.  We are formed by what we do and what we love.  What a parent does at home will have much greater and lasting impact than what we can hope to accomplish in a one hour Sunday morning class. As those who love and work with children, we can each share our own stories of joy and sadness over the ways we have witnessed the shaping power of the home in the lives of our own families and of the children in our ministries.  Most Children’s Ministers, agree– if the parents aren’t on your team, your ability to impact the life of the child is going to be limited.  What are practical ways that we can include, and engage parents in the work of discipleship, both for the sake of their child’s spiritual formation and their own?

Cast Vision–Repeatedly

 We must continually place before parents a vision of the great responsibility and privilege that the discipleship of our families is.  Those of us who have had small children at home can remember what it is like to be overwhelmed by the day-to-day tasks and unexpected circumstances that come along with raising a family.  Throw in a job or two, schooling, and a few other commitments, and “church” can quickly become another item on a checklist of “Things Good Parents Do.”   What are some practical ways to vision cast?

  1. Communicate to the parents how your programming is designed to support or enhance what they are doing at home. When we came into our new position, we sat down and thought about how each element of our ministry fit together to serve, support or resource parents and families. If it didn’t, we have changed it, or  are in the process of changing it so that all that we do can be maximized by parents for the discipleship of their children.

 

  1. Foster places (shared meals, online communities, playgroups, etc.) where stories can be shared of how parents are seeing God at work in their homes and in the lives of their children. When you hear a story like this from a parent in your ministry, celebrate with them and then provide a space for sharing with the community.

 

  1. Work with other staff and pastors to come up with a plan for how spiritual formation can happen at your church. Some churches organize this by grades or ages while others organize it by life events or milestones such as baptism, confirmation, beginning school, etc.  Let parents in on what your thought process is so that they can play off the structure you are using as they plan for discipleship in their home.

 

Take the Pulse Consistently

I still remember the first few weeks after we brought our first child home from the hospital. Just as I was feeling like I had gotten the hang of things, something would change–she would sleep a longer or shorter stretch, need to eat more or less than before, all because she had reached a new milestone.  With the transitional nature of parenting, the needs, struggles, and joys will be different for each family– month by month and year by year.  How are you keeping tabs on the families in your congregation to ensure that they are encouraged, equipped, and prepared for the next bend in the road?

  1. Home Visits— While possibly not practical at extremely large churches, my husband and I have found home visits to be foundational to the ministry we do with families in our church. Our goal is to visit each family in our congregation once every 1.5 years. These visits provide space to connect, to see how discipleship is working in the varying contexts within our faith community, and to listen to the struggles, joys, and needs of the people we are serving.

 

  1. Parenting Mentors. Some churches pair more experienced parents with younger parents for a mentoring relationship. This provides an opportunity for life-on-life encouragement and equipping, as well as decentralizing the work from just the staff.

 

  1. Surveys: Either on-line or in person, keep asking what families need.

Resource Faithfully

As a Children’s Minister, I have found that I am often “in the right place at the right time” as it relates to children and the resources available to parents who are seeking to disciple their children faithfully.  In fact, many companies will send us free copies or samples of resources simply because of our job title.  My husband and I see it as an important part of our role to vet these resources and to pass the quality ones along to the families in our congregation.  There are so many more high-quality resources available to parents and families than there were even just 5 years ago. How do you connect parents with these resources?

  1. Start a well-curated resource library: With the shuttering of many brick and mortar Christian bookstores, it can be difficult to evaluate and choose resources without being able to hold them and flip through the pages. By using free samples and purchasing used books from Amazon, we started our own library. Parents at our church are able to check out books and other resources before purchasing.

 

  1. Introduce resources to children during programming as appropriate. Our family loves the Sing the Bible with Slugs & Bugs CD’s. Every single one of us. My not-yet-two-year-old will call out the refrains of songs from the backseat as she hears the first notes coming through the minivan speakers. When I discovered that few people in our church were familiar with Slugs & Bugs, I looked into booking a concert and purchased all the CD’s for our children’s ministry. We then made Slugs & Bugs the soundtrack of our Summer Sunday School and our Summer Kids Club (VBS).  At the end of the summer, we had Randall Goodgame come for a Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible Live! Concert. By then, the kids who regularly attend Sunday School were superfans.  More than just passing on a great resource, this thrills me because many of Randall’s songs are just straight Scripture. In our children’s ministry, we have memorized well over 10 verses this Summer, just by singing.  Knowing that those children have the very words of God deep in their hearts is beautiful and life-giving and makes those challenging weeks seem worth it.

 

  1. Book Clubs- Select a small number of books or other resources and invite people to sign up for parenting or family “resource clubs” for feedback. Depending on the resource, families can get together to analyze, troubleshoot, rejoice, and encourage along the way.

Communicate Clearly

To be honest, this is the area where I struggle the most.  I highly value communicating with parents, but I am also tired and often fall short of my grandest plans for excellent parental communication. I would love to hear what it looks like for you to communicate clearly with the families in your church regarding the material and experiences their children are having.  All too often I fear my “take home sheet” is trampled on the floor before a parent ever lays eyes on it.

  1. Plan ahead— Planning ahead allows you time to communicate events, programs, and even curriculum to parents in a way that respects their time while also giving them the chance to make parenting within the context of the local church a priority.
  2. A communication survey: ask parents how they would most like to receive information, how often, and what kinds of things they want to know. And the dreaded question “How do I keep those papers from ending up on the floor?”
  3. Follow Through With Action

Obviously, communicating with parents in a culture where all of us are overworking and under sabbathing is difficult.  It takes counter cultural persistence and effort.  But the responsibility we have to children and families to faithfully serve, equip, and walk alongside them in the journey of discipleship is well worth the effort.  How do you keep families in the loop?  What are you planning to try after reading this article?  Are any ideas stirring in you?

Lindsey is a Hearts Alive writer and curriculum specialist.  She and her husband are the Children’s Directors for First Presbyterian Church of Aurora, IL.

Did You Have A Relationship With Jesus as a Child?

We asked this question to our Hearts Alive writing team.   Their answers inspired and amazed us.  We hope that their testimonies remind you of the awesome responsibility we all have as Children’s Directors and Sunday School teachers.  Thank you to David Sanford for sharing his story with us today.

Q: Did you have a relationship with Jesus as a child?

A: Unlike most other Hearts Alive writers, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Just the opposite. My father is still an atheist. His lectures were always the same: “There are no rules. Don’t obey anyone. Don’t even obey me.” When I fully committed my life to Jesus Christ at age 13, however, I found out my family had a rule: You can’t be a Christian. So, I was kicked out of my dad’s side of the family for 37 years. It was pretty surreal.

Then again, I was old enough to vividly remember reading the Bible cover to cover the first time. Imagine not knowing even the most famous Scripture stories. When I got to the beginning of Genesis 45, I wept at Joseph’s heartfelt love for and forgiveness of his brothers. When I got to the story of David and Goliath, I cheered. When I got to the story of David and Bathsheba, I felt so ashamed to bear his name. When I got to the end of Revelation, I put my Bible down and thought, Wow, I didn’t get all of that. So, I picked it back up and started over. Nobody had told me to read only three Bible chapters a day, so I read it cover to cover in as fast as 27 days. Except for one stretch, I’ve continued reading it avidly all of these years.

Q: How did that affect your childhood or teen years?

A: Coming to faith in Jesus Christ changed the whole trajectory of my life. I have a lot of cousins about my age. So, I know how my life would have turned out without Christ. Thankfully, the Lord has won one family member after another to Himself. I only wish we all would have done so as children.

Q: How did you get to know Jesus?

A: A friend in my neighborhood invited me to attend his Sunday school class. He stopped going after a while, but I’ve been in the church ever since. That’s the difference between hearing the truth and really listening to it. That’s why I’m so jazzed about the Hearts Alive curriculum. It brings Scripture stories to life for children. And not just as great literature, but as life-changing gospel truth. One of our core objectives is to see children fall in love with Jesus. I’m so thankful for Mrs. Rosemary Phillips, my first Sunday school teacher, who helped me do just that. Again, it literally changed the whole trajectory of my life.

The Harvest is Plenty!

A Children’s Director’s Guide to Recruiting and Maintaining Sunday School Teachers

By: Deborah Bell Rodahaffer

Eighteen years as a Director of Christian of Education, mentoring Christian educators, and today, as Minister for Parish Life, have taught me that recruiting Sunday School teachers and all who serve should begin in prayer.  I pray that God will send me the right person for the position. When a candidate does come my way, I ask that person to pray about his or her commitment to this ministry.

Some Children’s Ministries put a notice in their church bulletin to recruit teachers.  However, I have found that “scouting” for teachers has worked in my ministry.  What I mean by this, is I observe prospective candidates for several weeks and see how they interact with children and adults. If they have good people skills and a servant’s heart, I invite them to serve.  I prefer candidates who have been active in the church for at least a year. Think outside of the box when looking for teachers. Some of the best Sunday School teachers I know are lawyers, artists, gardeners, librarians, college-aged parishioners, and dads.

INITIAL MEETING

I find that a one on one meeting in one of the church meeting rooms is the best environment for both you and the candidate to discern if this is the ministry for them.  Here is a guideline for what I cover.

 

  • Offer a written job description outlining expectations including time commitment and go over each point with candidate allowing ample time for questions.
  • Always use the word ministry rather than volunteer. Leading children to love and know God may be the most important ministry of your candidates’ lives.
  • Acknowledge that you value this candidate’s ministry before it even begins because you entrust the candidate by offering a sacred responsibility in leading children.
  • Be clear about YOUR role in his/her ministry. (You will provide training, curriculum, materials needed each week, advocacy, and on-going support.)
  • Have sample curricula available to look at together and send home with candidate.
  • Tour the Sunday School room where the candidate will teach/lead.

 

Candidates may be reluctant to accept position because they do not feel “qualified”. Remind candidates that with God’s help everything is possible and that you prayerfully considered the candidate for the position before you approached them. Together you will make the experience of teaching young children exceptional for students and teachers.  Accept the candidate’s “yes” or “no” response with love knowing that you both entered this process of teaching/leading children through the power of prayer and through that, the decision will be the right one for both of you.

 

PARENTS AS SUPPORT

Do not ask a parent to teach in his or her child’s class. Unless a mom or dad of young children has a real desire to teach, allow them to be involved in other church ministries until their children are older.   Do encourage parents to be part of a Sunday School support ministry that can help you outside of the classroom.  This team is vital in helping purchase supplies, pre-prepare arts and crafts activities, providing snacks, and hosting events for teachers.

 

MAINTAINING

Maintaining and helping your teachers to grow in their ministry is as important as finding the right people to teach.  The following ideas may work in your ministry, they worked in mine:

 

  • Regular training sessions with all teachers (with lunch, dinner, or dessert is best) Have frequent discussions about their teaching including all questions they have about lesson plans, scripture readings, etc. Send them articles or recommend books that will help them in their ministry.

 

  • Immediately respond to any situations involving children or guardians where you need to take the lead.

 

  • Make quick weekly check-ins with teachers by email or text (What was best about your Sunday? Any concerns about students, family members? How is your week going?)

 

  • Create an environment where teachers have a minimal amount of prep work. Make sure that you or your support team have decorated, cleaned, set-up classrooms each week. Crafts and activities along with a prepared snack should be ready to go.  Have “restroom runners” so that teachers do not need to stop classes in progress (reminder – bathroom doors should be propped open when children are in the restroom). Teachers should be able to focus on teaching and being present to the children.

 

  • Encourage the faith life of your teachers with opportunities for bible study and retreats. Take a personal interest in them and make it a habit to pray for and with them.

 

  • Help teachers to focus. Remind teachers that teaching younger children needs to be fun. When children have fun, they will want to be present and they will retain more of what they learn. What is most important about Sunday School with younger children is that the children feel safe, feel valued, and know that God loves them.

 

HONOR TEACHERS:

It is important to commission church school teachers in front of the congregation the Sunday before or the Sunday church school begins.  The Rector/Minister and Christian Formation Director should participate in the Commissioning.  As teachers we are evangelizers and this critical role should be elevated.  Other means of recognizing teachers is by highlighting their ministry with bulletin board displays with photos and short bios (include comments from children and parents) or including them in newsletters that go out to the congregation.

Send notes or cards to your teachers (birthdays, anniversary of teaching start date) or small gifts from time to time. Say “thank you” every chance you have because that is the best way to honor anyone’s ministry.

 

Debbi Rodahaffer served as Director of Christian Formation for children, youth, and adults at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Louisville, KY, for eighteen years. She currently serves as Minister for Parish Life at The Episcopal Church of the Advent, Louisville. During her twenty years in lay ministry, Debbi served as president of Forma: the network for Christian Formation, and as a three-time deputy to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. In the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, she served as chair of the Christian Formation Ministry, on All Saints’ Conference Center board, on the Standing Committee, and on The Commission of Ministry. Debbi currently serves on Kanuga Conference Center’s Christian Formation Conference Planning Team and hopes to have an opportunity to talk with you about all things formation and hospitality next June 2019 at Kanuga, Hendersonville, NC.