Hot off the Press

Crafty Ideas

From Big Picture Bible Crafts

Job 5:12 has never come up as a recommended memory verse, you never see it printed on wallet sized cards or adorning the front of notebooks, and yet I can think of many a Christian and specifically Sunday School teachers who would be encouraged to know they’re not alone in struggling with this part of their walk with the Lord.

The struggle is real.

If, like me, your go to craft is something (anything!) stuck on a paper plate OR you avoid all craft that involve more planning than printing off a colouring sheet OR even if you’re a craft genius who loves browsing pintrest for inspiration then I have the book for you.

The Big Picture Bible Crafts: 101 Simple and Amazing Crafts to Help Teach Children the Bible
If that subtitle alone hasn’t sold convinced you let me point out some extra incentives:
It’s available now on amazon.
The author Gail Schoonmaker is the illustrator of the Big Picture Story Bible and it’s ESV counterpart, among other things, so you know it’s quality and that ‘amazing’ isn’t overselling it.
101 crafts is, at a rate of one craft a week, nearly two years worth of crafts!
You can photocopy and print pages so it’s not super time consuming to use.
I go to church with Gail and she’s awesome.
Because I go to a church where Gail designs crafts for Sunday School I have actual quotes from parents who see crafts like these every week.

“For those of you involved in local church work with children, I cannot commend this book enough. Gail is my daughter’s Sunday School teacher and I am routinely amazed by the crafts that she brings home on Sundays. You will not be disappointed!”
–  B Nieh (Parent)

Get yourself a copy!

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Easter Gifts

There’s more to Easter than eggs
And here are some gifts to help show it

 Kids, in my experience, ask a lot of questions. If you know a child between two and 10 you’re undoubtably answering a lot of questions – and as frustrating as that can be; it’s a fantastic thing! If you find yourself answering a lot of questions about God try  Rob Willoughby’s So, Who Is God? Answers to Real Questions About God.

As the subtitle of Rob’s book suggests this book aims to cover the specific and the theologically challenging from “Does God live in the sky?” to “What is God’s real name?” I really appreciated how the answers include Bible passages, often one OT and one NT, a relevant anecdote from Church history and an application.

You can pull the book of the shelf when a child asks a stumper or you can read your way through; one question a day, and it works equally well. It could be useful at home or for a Sunday School teacher who knows a question is going to come up with this weeks passage and it’d make a great Easter gift for a curious kid.

This book I gave to my 7 year old nephew and would do again. It’s a similar style to the popular Tom Gates series (think an easier to read and more creative Diary of a Wimpy Kid) well-loved by my secondary school reluctant readers as well as primary aged keen beans. Instead of being a fictionalised version of a school kid – it’s the diary of Dr Luke as he investigates the life of Jesus. Luke’s gospel rewritten in a fun, engaging and appropriate manner – what more could you want.

There’s also a £1 snippet of Diary of a Disciple which would make great gifts/prizes for a Sunday School class of 6-10 year olds.

For teens try The Action Bible it’s a comic book style retelling of the Bible, compelling, visually stunning and historically accurate in terms of costume and architecture. Great for full-of-energy-can’t-sit-still-and-read types. There’s also a collaboration with the NIV Study Bible for those who want an actual Bible but one that highlights the awesome and exiting rather than looking serious and stuffy. I’d recommend for girls who want a teen appropriate study Bible without the pink, handbags and ‘hanging out at the mall’ feel.

There’s an Easter Story version that is downloadable as an ebook, at 17 pages long and 99p it would be great for teens that can’t stop looking at their phone/tablet.

Want to give a non-egg but know a book won’t be appreciated? Try some music!
For kids – or church leaders looking for Biblical children’s music – I love Colin Buchanan (you may have noticed) and he’s conveniently compiled his most Easter-y songs into one album Boss of the Cross.

 

Or for an older teen how about the ever hip and enthusiastic Rend Collective. Their latest, Good News, is celebratory and sad, thoughtful and foot-stomping, moving and carries the message.

 

Just so you know; I don’t make money of recommending these to you – I do it ‘cos I love them. Click on the title of each product to be taken to a webpage where you can buy – where I can I’ve used the original publisher’s site or a Christian company to make sure that these people can keep producing excellent products which can help us share the gospel.

Hang around:

There will be new stuff coming soon

and there’s plenty of good stuff already here

I’m not posting anything new this week – my parents are coming to visit, I’ve recently started a mid-week preschool playgroup that requires a lot of planning, I’ve not been super organised and I’ve got some filling in the gaps to do that’s beginning to weigh on me.
Edit: Turns out International Womans Day is the 8th not the 13th as my brain told me. Not super organised is at least organised enough to have prepped a post a week in advance although not organised enough to have checked the calendar.

Next week: the Disorganised Sunday School Blog will be celebrating International Womans Day.
Edit: Because of the aforementioned error there may or may not be anything next week. However the IWD post is up.

Sometime in the future: I’ll post the material for the playgoup and a ‘how to …’ on getting one started. I’ll also post the first of a long series of sermon accompanying worksheets for the entirety of Acts. I’ll reorganise the blog and make sure all the series are complete. I’ll make a list of youth group games for any situation. And I really, really want to write some sunday school stuff for the second half of Daniel (it’s just always at the bottom of my wish list).

Right now: Check out our pic-n-mix style plans for children’s work on John, the Ten Commandments, Parables and Philippians or have a look at our studies for youth groups; Philemon, The Armor of God, Narnia and Pilgrim’s Progress.

Pancake Day!

Shrove Tuesday

and the beginning of lent

I live in America now where they think a pancake should be fluffy – whereas I know adding raising agents to the batter is WRONG – it should be as flat as a pancake.

However you prefer your pancake today is a good day to consider what you’ll do over lent. Similarly to advent it’s a time of preparation – Easter is coming! We can look forward and celebrate the time of God’s rescue and the historical event we can look back on and say ‘Yes – this is why I believe!’

Here are a few ideas for lent-prep:

Fast
If you’re going for all 40 days give up something that takes time and use that time to study and pray instead. Try fasting from dessert; a daily TV show; youtube; wearing makeup; computer games, shaving etc.
Another way to fast is to give up something important to you and tell God – ‘you are more important to me than this’. Most of the above list falls into this category but here are some non-time consuming options: chocolate, coffee, selfies, shopping for clothes, alcohol, meat, Facebook etc.
Or fast from food for a day, pick a day where you can be quiet and use mealtimes (or the whole day) to pray. This article is helpful if you’re a beginner like me.

Take up something new
Here are a few Lent based devotionals helping you to prepare for Easter:
#LiveLent is the Church of England’s devotional – you can sign up for text or email devotionals here.
BibleGateway.com has their Lent Bible Reading Plan
There’s a prayer guide from Open Doors
An ebook of Tim Chester’s Lent devotions (if you haven’t been organised enough to get a paper version)

With your youth group or Sunday school
Make a count your blessings jar: write one thing every day through lent that was a good gift from God: put it in the jar. At Easter read and remind yourself of all the blessings then thank the Giver. As a group; have a joint jar and put in one thing each from the week.
Make a prayer calendar: On each day write the name of someone to pray for. It’s easy to fill in 40 days as a group and with teens you can co-ordinate and remind people online.
Learn a section of scripture together. Practice it when you meet and decide how much you’ll learn y next week. Isaiah 53 is Easter appropriate.

I haven’t forgotten it’s black history month – our next inspirational Christian will be here on Friday. Subscribe so you don’t miss out.

Black History Month

Rosa Parks

The faith of the woman who helped change America

February is Black History Month and the Disorganised Sunday School is celebrating by posting some info on excellent Black Christians; both historical and modern day. Too often the face of Christianity is ‘some white guy’ and we’re viewed by many parts of the world as a white western religion – which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s very early in church history that Peter makes this declaration:

I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

God doesn’t limit his welcome to white westerners: he welcomes all! And so should we.  Highlighting Black believers this month is to help me (a white western Christian) expand my horizons a bit. Too often I default to CS Lewis and Tim Keller (old white men) when looking for quotations and I’ve seen it in sermons too; outside of the Bible the people who get quoted are old white men.

So here’s my pledge: I’m not abandoning the old white men but I’m expanding beyond just them to women, people of colour, young people and children when I quote. I’m going to pay special attention to those I’m normally biased against (unintentionally) because I believe that you don’t have to be an old white man to have something worthwhile to say about Jesus. This month’s info sheets and youth group sessions are here to help me, and hopefully others, counter that bias in ourselves and inspire the girls and minority cultures in our youth groups by showing examples of faithful Christians they can more easily relate to.

We’re kicking off with Rosa Parks. If you just want her biography and quotes click here. If you’re looking for a youth group session you can run around this remarkable woman click here.
And if you want a good short read her book Quiet Strength is available on Amazon. It’s more reflections than biography and I certainly found it thought provoking.

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.

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!

The end of the journey

Pilgrim’s Progressed

and we reached the end of this series

Weeks four, five and six of Pilgrim’s progress are up!

As part of the story Bunyan wrote this song (well not this exactly but it’s pretty similar) and I think it’s fantastic in its teaching. I do find the traditional tune stirring: it is also pretty fun to rap! Here it is for your encouragement:

He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, you do defend us with your Spirit,
We know we at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

I really hope that this is true of me and all of us on this journey with Jesus; not in our own strength but reliant on our king, our guide and our protector!

New Series!

A Pilgrim’s Progress

and how it helps us realise what it really means to be a Christian

I cried the first time I read it.

When Christian loses his burden in the shadow of the cross: I broke down.  I knew what that felt like and to my embarrassment I knew (and still know) I was picking up that discarded burden again and again; fighting Jesus for the right to carry it. That’s why although PP isn’t one of my favourite books – I really value it as an allegory. There are no perfect Christians here only redeemed sinners struggling along.

I hope that this series, which is a heavily abridged version of the story accompanied by questions to link it to its Biblical inspiration and apply it to our lives, helps your young people. It may prepare them for struggles ahead or help them to realise they’re not trusting Jesus yet.

It’s largely adapted from Geraldine McCaughrean’s retelling of the classic, although I turned to the original for help sometimes. I also used Jason Cockroft’s beautiful pointillist illustrations in my powerpoint where I could (because they’re stunning!) but since I have no rights to them I haven’t shared them. You could buy the book and scan them in as I did. That’s why, in my version, Christian is young and Hopeful is female – it matched the illustrations.

More in this series next week.

Distinctives

Living a life that’s different

because that’s what following Jesus looks like

Here’s another short youth work series: Distinctive Living. I adapted Vaughn Roberts book Distinctives into five short studies for teens. The idea being; it’s hard as a teenager to stand out from the crowd and they need all the encouragement they can get that it’s a) not just them and b) the right thing to do.

It’s worth checking out the book, not only for the two chapters I didn’t adapt, but also for the in-depth thinking, explaining and examples that I couldn’t remotely do justice to in half an hour. I may adapt Purity in a World Obsessed with Sex and Certainty in a World in which Everything is Relative at some future date: the only reason I haven’t already is that I had a five week term and those two were harder. I myself occasionally use the book for my morning devotionals as it’s nicely divided up with thoughtful questions on each chapter. And it’s not just teenagers who need to be reminded that living distinctively is plausible, possible and profitable.