Catch it if you can!

The New City Catechism for Kids

Cat-eh-kism: difficult to say, difficult to spell

A catechism is a method of learning Biblical truth in the manner of question and answer. When I first learned about this I was somewhat sceptical: I didn’t think it was particularly bad but it seemed somewhat like teaching things without explaining what the things meant – I grew up in a church where we said the Nicene Creed every week and I can still happily repeat it (pretty nearly) correctly but I had no idea what half of it meant. It was a think I said not a thing I understood.

That is a very real danger with catesizing but the New City Catechism has worked hard to overcome that by producing a curriculum to help learn the Q&A and to explain the meaning of them and to show the Biblical basis for each answer! Let me break it down for you:

  • 52 Q&A’s so it can be learnt/taught one a week for a year
  • Cute little kids book for young readers to browse through
  • An app that helps you learn it – including songs
  • Curriculum includes prayer, activities, discussion, application and link to a Bible passage
  • Simple funky illustrations to jog the memory

I’ve had a look at their sample chapters of the curriculum and it looks great as something a family can work through together as a devotional time each week and useful as a starter for a Sunday School plan. I particularly liked the instruction to “mix and match the activities in the lesson to fit your time frame” (an idea this blog strongly promotes!), the inclusion of a leaders prayer for prep time (something I am too prone to forget!) and a “Some questions that might arise include:” section.

Two important things to note:

  1. It is definitely aimed at older kids – lots of the activities are reading/writing based and the language of the answers is quite grown up. Younger children may well be able to learn the catechism with the help of songs but I’d leave teaching it until 8-ish or able to read and write fairly well.
  2. It is definitely written for kids who already know the Bible well and can call Biblical events to mind to answer questions and are used to looking through a Bible.

If you’re interested have a look at their website.

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Playgroups:

We’re not playing around

They’re a lot of hard work and totally worth it

I’ve just written How to Start a Playgroup: it’s not comprehensive because context will change a lot of things but it’s a great starting point if you’re wanting to set one up and a good checklist if you’re already running one.

There’s also the first of our preschool appropriate Bible story series; God Rescues. Clicking that link will provide you, not only with stories and pictures in a powerpoint, but also with toy selections, songs and craft ideas for each week. If it’s useful then subscribe because Jesus Rescues will be coming soon and there’ll be more after that.

Also I’m leaving this article here because whether you’re thinking of starting a new group or have been running one for a while it’s so good to be reminded of how God uses our efforts to change lives. The story here is typical of people I know whose journey to meeting Jesus started at a playgroup.

Why I’m pro

Kids in Sunday School

Firstly check out Tuesday’s post: Why I’m pro kids in Church for the other side of this argument. Then read through this blog right to the end for what my ideal scenario would be.

Sunday School can reach kids in a way church for all cannot
Imagine giving a sermon,you’ve explained the passage and now you’re thinking through the application: If you’re retired, in work, unemployed, at school, studying, married, single, a parent, at home and if you’re three! That’s a lot of ground to cover and the worst at picking up what applies to them are the youngest – they’re also the most likely to walk away with the ‘I just need to be a better person’ message, because that’s what grown up application sounds like. It’s also a great place for them to learn Bible study skills, practice reading the word out loud, see how their different skills can be useful in building one another up. It’s also a great place for them to get to know adults other than their parents well, I visited my old church after 9 months away and my Sunday School class and youth group were the most delighted to see me because they knew me.

It’s easier for kids who don’t come from Christian families
If you’re brought to church by some neighbours or as a friend of a child from a church family – the whole thing is a bit weird! Sunday school can be easier because a) it’s more like school b) there are fewer people to get to know c) someone is explaining what’s going on and what’s going to happen next d) there’s more opportunity to be taught and less opportunity to do the ‘wrong’ thing. It’s also often easier for the parents to accept and taking home crafts and worksheets gives them a chance to tell their parents what they’ve been learning.

It takes a load off the parents
I mentioned having kids in the service to a parent the other day and got this reply “I know that if my kid was in the service I’d hear about 65% of it – on a good day” another Dad nearby hear 65% scoffed and said “more like 30”. These are good parents with good kids who aren’t looking for Sunday School to be entertainment but parenting is hard if you have to curb the wriggles, explain words, pick up the coins dropped next to the collection bag, help them find the right page, pick them up to see song words, change a stinky nappy etc. It can be somewhat distracting and it multiplies with every child you have. Having children in Sunday school doesn’t relieve parents of the burden of teaching their children but it gives them a time to be taught as well.

There are people who were made to teach kids
Yeah there are people teaching in Sunday Schools because they’re filling a need and I am grateful for those hardworking self-sacrificial people: the church needs them. There are also people who thrive on the challenge of prepping a lesson, thinking of crafts, drawing pictures and, in short, teaching children!

It makes inclusion for SEN children so much easier
Smaller groups and separate environments make it easier to accommodate the necessary changes you may have to make for kids with SEN. And yes there needs to be time for them to integrate and get used to normal church but Sunday School is the best place to learn their needs and take care of them.

It’s a chance to train up future leaders
It’s weekly evangelism and Bible study leading with up front leadership thrown into the mix.  It requires good planning and creative thinking, careful anticipation and on-the-on-the-spot thinking, boundless enthusiasm and careful consideration plus a tonne of prayer. And for young leaders especially but others too doing those things for children is a less intimidating crowd in front of whom you’re putting new skills into practice.

Why I’m pro

Kids in Church

All through the service; every service

On reading that title you’re probably either thinking: “Yes, obvs” or “What?! Are you crazy?!” I’m super interested in knowing which category you fall into – leave a comment and let me know!Whichever camp you fall into keep reading long enough to let me explain my reasoning for this:

It’s a family affair.
Not only in that families come to church but that the church itself is a family. One marked by a deep Jesus-like love from each member to all other members, regardless of race, background, language, relationship status, gender or any other category we’re put into. I expect we’d be pretty horrified if someone suggested we divided the church by any category other than age. Having that wide variety of people together in one place is a part of being a family.

They learn what it means to be in church.
Stand up to sing. Sit for everything else. Listen to the sermon. They’re pretty basic things but they need learning and take practice. I still need to take notes in order to follow a sermon and I find it difficult to curb my natural fidgets during prayer. It’ll mean patience from everyone else and maybe doing things a bit differently (see my next point) but although it bored me to tears occasionally I now count it a blessing that I heard the Nicene creed every week: I still know it by heart.

It encourages teaching and communication between parents and child.
During a service this might look like a brief explanation of what something means, who is talking, why we do this; as well as reminders to sit still, or help to find the right page in their Bible. After the service it’s asking the questions like: what surprised you in the Bible passage today? What was your favourite song? Why do you think Jesus said that? Is there anything we talked about you’d like to pray for? What do we need to change about our lives? It teaches a child that God is not simply for an hour on Sunday but for the whole time – it widens our perspective too, particularly if we encourage them to ask us their questions too. If parent and child are hearing the same thing it can be talked about the rest of the week.

It challenges church leadership.
Okay, so it is too much to expect a child to sit quietly through a 30 minute sermon aimed at adults. I’m not actually advocating that: I’m in favour of changing up how sermons work.Here are some ideas I’ve seen that work: Use powerpoints as a visual focus for those who find just listening tricky; divide the sermon into 3 ten minute sections or two of 15; have sermon sheets for literate kids and refer to them; ask questions kids can answer; have a signer (totally fascinating and makes those who are able to hear listen harder to make the links), apply it to all ages. Other tricky things, get kids involved in them (check out these ideas). Explain what you’re doing and why; if you have to give a reason – especially one a 3 year old can follow – it stops you doing things just because you’ve always done them.

It eliminates the need for Sunday Schools.
I’m a Sunday School teacher and I have been for 13 years – I love it – I blog about it and yet… It would be so nice to hear the entirety of a sermon series; it would be great not to spend a small fortune on snacks; not to half-watch tv because I’m simultaneously cutting up crafts; not to spend my days googling colouring sheets and then editing them or drawing them because of some trivial inconsistency; to read the Bible without automatically planning how I’d teach it. It’d be a major save on resources and people with the skills and desire to teach children can still do that during the week.

We can learn from them.
Just going to leave this here:

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

Maybe having little children around and seeing how they receive the kingdom of God is a good idea…

Let me know what you think in the comments: What have I missed? Do you agree or disagree?  and come back on Friday for

Why I’m pro kids in Sunday School

I know I said I wasn’t posting but…

Safeguarding Tips

from a parent and youthworker

There is middle ground in the world of safeguarding: it lies somewhere between let-everyone-work-with-young-people-and-don’t-bother-checking to the-bureaucracy-trap-where-no-one-is-allowed-in-the-church.

A church needs a safeguarding policy and all church leaders and helpers need training to protect themselves and the kids – not negotiable. If you’re not sure you’re doing it right checkout CCPAS, if you know the policy but want some practical advice see my friend Hannah’s Blog on the subject here.

This month

Next week is the start of Ramadan, a month where Muslims across the world will be fasting and praying that they will grow closer to God. What a great prayer! And we know that many of them will be earnestly seeking:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. – Matt 7:7

We know from experience that Jesus answers this prayer – he did it for us! And through the word of God and the person of Jesus he continues to reveal himself to us.

It’s a great idea to encourage the children and young people in your church to pray too: Firstly for their Islamic friends; that God would answer their prayers and reveal himself to them during this month. Secondly for those witnessing in Muslim countries where living differently can make their beliefs more obvious and their lives more dangerous.

Unrelatedly I’m having a month off, both so that I can travel and catch up with old friends without this nagging feeling that I should be producing something for the blog and so that I can start on a new and exciting project… More on that story much, much, much later!

While I’m gone have a browse of the youth work, Sunday School stuff and How to…s using the menu at the top of the page – Enjoy!

A little bit crafty:

With toddlers

and with lots of paper plates

So I confessed previously that my idea of a craft is to stick something on a paper plate: you can see for yourself how true that is here. I’ve uploaded simple crafts to accompany each Bible story and 5/8 involve paper plates: I prefer to think about it as innovative-with-my-resources rather than stuck-in-a-rut.
I’ve also added powerpoints to help engage the kids while you tell the story: I’ve been learning them and using the ppt to prompt me but you could read it while pointing out things in the pictures or print them out with the words on the back; whichever you prefer!

Updating 20%…

8 Great Rescue Stories

for playgroups and crèches

Last week I posted 8 rescue stories written for, and tried out on, 0-4 year olds and their caregivers. This week I thought I’d add the song powerpoints and the toys we used to fit in with the theme…

Then I realised it’d be the looooooooooooongest page in the world.

So you can now click here for the list of Bible stories in that series and then click on the name for all the details. Currently I’ve only got as far as God’s Big Boat (Noah) and God’s Way Out (The Red Sea). More to come soon…

:Edit: Update on the update; they’re all updated to the same pre-craft and powerpoint stage now!

New Material!

For Preschool Playgroups

and Church Crèches and other alliterative toddler groups

(I’ll be honest with you – even if the group isn’t alliterative you can still use this.)Right now we have 8 Old Testament Rescue stories written especially for – and tested on – 0-4 year olds. I’ll be adding re-worded songs, toy suggestions and crafts which reflect the theme of each story over the next few weeks (so subscribe below). As well as a ‘How to…’ on running one. You can check out our other How to…s here, there are some useful for any age ones on inclusion.

It’s Autism Awareness Month in the USA

Here are some ideas

for how to make your Sunday School class more autism friendly

There’s never going to be an exhaustive list of ‘things to do’ nor will those things work for every child – I’ve compiled this list of maybe-this-or-maybe-that type things that I’ve found useful to think about when working with autistic kids.

Even if you don’t have any autistic kids in your Youth Group or Sunday School it’s good to think about what changes you can make now to make your space more welcoming for a visitor or a new kid who might struggle otherwise. And there are definitely some changes you won’t be able to make until you know the young person in question – don’t worry about it. You’re communicating God’s love to them, and their parents, by trying – as with any other situation any mistakes you make are not bigger than his grace!