Trick or Treat?!

What to do

When something horrifying turns up at your door

It’s nearly 31st of October and it’s my first Halloween in America; they take it a lot more seriously here then they do back home. Last Friday I suggested some things you could do at a Light Party if you wanted a fun alternative to Halloween. This week it’s about what you can do when the party comes to you…

Be prepared! There are very few Trick-or-treaters out there who actually want, or are even prepared, to trick you. They just want copious amounts of sweets. I suggest having a supply of individually wrapped sweets near the door and maybe something like glowsticks too. Parents are going to love you for not getting their kids hyped up on sugar and the kids will still enjoy them. Try and avoid nuts in the sweets you give out to be on the safe side and I suggest having identical sweets so that no fuss-pot child spends 10 minutes trying to find the one they want.

The other thing you may want to give away is a small tract that explains the gospel. Again it’s sugar-free so likely to be popular with parents and the ones aimed at the younger kids have wordsearches and puzzles inside to draw your reader in. Here are my faves; you can buy them in bulk right here.

Tract Dressing up

 

“The Dressing Up Box” uses the theme of dressing up to show how God knows what we’re like underneath, but that he can forgive and change us. For younger children.

tract a friend in the dark

 

 

 

“A friend in the dark” is based on Jesus’ words “I am the light of the world” in John 8:12. Comes with puzzles. For 6-12’s.

 

 

Tract the fright

 

 

This colourful tract focuses on the power and glory of Jesus Christ. For teenagers.

 

 

 

 

Now that you know what great stuff you’re handing out you just need people to turn up at your door. Get praying that they’ll ring your bell and that they’ll read these leaflets and want to learn more.

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Seven

is not a lucky number

but it is where we’re up to in the ten commandments

Check out the session for commandment number seven here. Those of you who are much more clued up than I am will have realised that the seventh commandment is ‘Do not commit adultery’ which is not the most straightforward to apply to children who are way too young to get married.

We talk about it as a picture of Christ and the Church; and you could do just that section at the same time as you do ‘Honour your mother and your father’ (fifth commandment) since they share similar ‘it’s important because it’s a picture of God’s relationship with us’ applications. In which case just check out the talk and the activity – that’s the joy of a pic’n’mix system. I’ve taken the faithfulness aspect of that command and drawn a parallel with keeping our promises, which is very relevant when you’re 5-11.

Bright Lights

In Dark Places

An alternative to Halloween

Halloween started as a chance to mock evil and let it have its last moment before the inevitable defeat of the forces of darkness by the King of Light. Therefore, I don’t think there has to be a problem with celebrating Halloween.  That said there is a tendency these days to ‘celebrate the dark side’ and ‘let your inner demon out.’

If you want to put on an alternative celebration, and enjoy everything light and right and good with the world  then try these ideas for a Bright Lights Party.

Come back for more of our ten commandments series on Tuesday and trick or treat tips on Friday.

More than halfway through

The ten commandments

even if you don’t count the bonus session

Yep, that’s right: commandments 5 and 6 are now up! You can find the whole selection here. Including that bonus intro session I keep talking about. I’ve also added a very thoughtful set of truths  about the ten commandments which Steve P wrote for our Sunday School teachers when we were about to commence this series.

Just going to leave you with this poster from the 1956 Cecile B. DeMille’s film version. It’s where a whole heap of imagery we associate with this even comes from including I believe the tombstone shape of the stone tablets (which would be more historically accurate if square) that I have cunningly used for a memory verse craft in session 6.

Loved and Valued

By our creator

and in our churches

Here’s an alarming article on BBC News about the pressure teenage girls are under to perform sex acts.  It’s a blunt and realistic article so be aware of that; the summary points to some of the issues raised but it’s worth reading the whole article.

Are children turning to pornography to educate themselves about sex? Are boys coercing girls to do things they later regret? A 24-year-old secondary school teacher tells the BBC she’s shocked by the stories she hears from her teenage pupils.

Girls go along with sex acts, says teacher

I have yet to put together a youth group session on these issues for this site, but it won’t be far away. What I’ve thought of so far are some things that churches and youth groups can do to counteract this sad trend.

We need to talk about sex
I get why we don’t: our world seems to be obsessed by sex and we have way more important things to talk about. However, that doesn’t grow an atmosphere where a young person under pressure can come to their youth leader or a trusted person in their church and tell them that they’ve been pressured into sex acts; that they need help getting out of a relationship that they think is heading that way; that they’re addicted to porn or they’ve performed acts that they know are wrong.

Be aware of the most vulnerable
The teacher in this article has correctly diagnosed a source of the problem: girls think being asked to perform sex acts is “a validation of their appearance and attractiveness”. All teenagers are at risk of this. But some of those with SEN tend to be more trusting, find it harder to recognise abuse for what it is and gravitate to what they see as normal for other kids their age. It is a sad truth that those who don’t fit in society’s narrow boundaries of conventional beauty are in danger too; that means ethnic minorities, those without hourglass figures, those who don’t have the latest trends, those with acne etc. They don’t see people like them on TV or in magazines so they think they’re not beautiful and are more susceptible to the idea that if someone wants to have sex with you that means you’re beautiful.

The pressure is on boys too
The article focuses on girls being pressured by boys to perform sex acts. But we can’t ignore the damage the world has done to the picture of masculinity. Boys may feel pressure to ask/demand sex acts as a way of validating their own masculinity, attractiveness, as a way of keeping up with their friends. This is the model of male-ness sold by American Pie, The Inbetweeners, The Big Bang theory where even the ‘uncool’ protagonists have girlfriends and copious amounts of sex.

So what can we as a church offer to counteract this message. Better sex-ed than they get in school? A watchful eye over our youth? More to do on a Friday night than have sex? Models of healthy relationships? A listening ear? Absolutely yes, to all those things but at the heart of the gospel is not only salvation for our souls but for our attitudes to sex.

Everyone is made in the image of God
Genesis 1:27 puts it like this:

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

That means that each individual has worth and value as someone-like-God regardless of their appearance or popularity or how attractive they are perceived to be. They deserve to be loved and valued by others simply because of their humanity and they are very, very much loved and valued by God because he made them to be like him. That means we don’t need to look for validation in the mirror or a romantic partner or how good at sex we are. We are valuable to God. We also need to treat others as individuals whom God holds as valuable.

Everyone sins
Whatever you’ve done whether it is sexual, been forced on you, been a desire you had, been consensual doesn’t make you worse than other people. Sexual sin is no worse than any of the myriad of other sins that people in your church are struggling with. We’re all broken so sexual sin also shows up in all of us. Just think of the list of Biblical heroes who have fallen in this area: Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Rahab, David and Esther is in no sense in a healthy monogamous marriage – even before we get to the issue of consent. Sex, no more and no less than any other area is a broken aspect of our world, meaning we’re free to ask for help, confess our sexual sins and that no-one should sit in judgement over us.

There is forgiveness for everyone
Having said that we’re no worse than any one else when it comes to sexual sin, that is abundantly and wonderfully untrue when it comes to Jesus! The one who died to rescue you, did so out of great love, valuing you more than his own life, and set you free from the power and guilt of all your sin, including your sexual sins. This total forgiveness is available for the girl who did something she knew she shouldn’t because she wanted a boys love more than God’s love. This complete forgiveness is available for the boy who spends every night on a porn site. This absolute forgiveness is available for the youth leader who struggles with the masturbation in their own past. This unrestricted forgiveness is available for the ‘lad’ who asks his underage girlfriend for sex even though neither of them want it, and even when they both do.

Our mission to share this good news is so important especially with young people in today’s sad and broken world, not just in words and teaching, but in loving them and valuing them the way our Father does.

Commandments 3 and 4

Disaster Averted

By not being an actual disaster in the first place

I wrote up Ten Commandments – 3 and then immediately saved Ten Commandments – 4 over the top of it. I called myself a numpty a few times, which unsurprisingly didn’t help, then wrote out Ten Commandments – 3 all over again. Fortunately it’s a lot easier to write out then it is to think up the ideas so it didn’t take that long the second time. And I was more succinct on take two and less inclined to ramble now so there’s definitely an upside!

 

Toddler groups

Let the little children come to me

and also mums, dads, grandparents, nannies, care-givers …

I have way more experience of toddler groups than is probably normal for a thirty-year old non-parent. I’ve helped run two different ones and regularly gone to two more as well as helping out with some ‘spin-off’ ministries. They are fun! And really important for sharing the gospel and helping the community we live in. Whether you run it for free or take a nominal charge to cover drinks and biscuits it’s a great witness to the love God has for is people and an accessible way to share his word. Also these groups really need people who aren’t bringing their children along because, unlike a parent, they have all their hands available to them!

Here’s an article giving one (fairly typical) example the workings and opportunities of a toddler group.

If you’re starting a new group one of the easiest ways to get the gospel across is to read from a really good children’s Bible as your group story time. Sit all the toddlers and parents down with a drink and a biscuit and read your way through a chapter of either:

Jesus Storybook Bible
The Jesus Storybook Bible

Or

Big Picture Storybook BibleThe Big Picture Story Bible

Songs suitable for little ones aren’t that hard to find; why not start with

I reach up high

Jesus is my friend (album)

or

10-9-8 God is Great

or adapt a familiar nursery rhyme to fit your theme for the day. Ally who ran a toddler group I attended every Wednesday for a year was brilliant at this and I probably sing ‘Old man Noah had a boat’ as frequently as ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’.

Songs and stories are easiest if you have a projector and a big screen that you can gather in front of but during a building project we spread ourselves over two rooms and sang all the songs while holding up a card and read stories and showed the pictures round. It worked just as well, and even felt little cosier and more intimate.

This was meant to be a short post to show you the article and tide you over until I’ve completed the next set of Ten Commandments; but I enjoyed toddler groups so much that I couldn’t help but give you all the info!

New Series!

As promised

The 10 commandments are here

Find an introduction to the ten commandments,  plus commandments one and two right here. Obviously there’s more to come.

I really enjoyed both planning and teaching these: it is hard to get that balance between obeying God yet not being legalistic about it and our personalities probably draw us to one side of the line or the other – at times I swing wildly between ‘meh, God will forgive me so it doesn’t matter’ and ‘I must try harder to be more obedient’. It’s not about finding the acceptable middle ground either but about the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

How fantastic is that! The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is changing my sinful self. And that same Spirit is the one who teaches with us and helps us communicate these powerful difficult truths to the children in our churches.

Thinking about adopting…

Home for Good’s new study

aimed at those thinking about future adoption

This isn’t strictly a Sunday School matter, but it matters to me and I imagine to most people concerned with teaching children faithfully and seeing them trust Christ at a young age.

Home for Good works to support foster and adoptive parents, looked after children, and their churches. Read more about them here.

The Foundations Course, coming soon, is a study and aimed at those looking to adopt either now or in the future. Take a closer look and sign up for notifications here.

Even if you’re sure that’s not you, take a look and pass it along: there are 4000 children in the UK waiting for adoption and maybe you know their future parents.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ

Coming soon…

The 10 Commandments

In just 11 sessions

Prepare to be amazed by the character of God!

Watch the trickiest balancing act in the world: On the one side ‘obedience to God is great’ and on the other ‘Christianity is faith not works’.

Marvel at the mysterious eleventh session.

See ‘Do not commit adultery’ made relevant to under 11’s.

Crafts!

Drama!

Songs!

Come back next Tuesday for the first installment in our latest series.