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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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

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!

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

He is not here he has risen!

And what a difference that makes to all of us

I love Easter – I love the tunes; glorious, triumphant, soaring, key changes and all. I love the celebration; chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, spring colours. I love that the waiting is over; no more ‘giving up’ for lent, no more solemnity or darkness from Good Friday. Most of all I love what it means – Jesus is alive!

Alive and with me.
Alive and victorious over death.
Alive and getting my place ready.
Alive and convincing.
Alive having beaten sin.

Christ is risen; He is risen indeed! O sing alleluia!

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.

Testimony Time

The power of our stories

And some hints on thinking about sharing yours

I have just returned from a women’s weekend away. There was fun, great teaching, weird American food and testimonies of what God has done and is doing in the lives of some of the women there. Some of these were told in full or in snippets from the stage, others as I got to know people and wanted to know how their lives were going or how they’d ended up a sister of mine, some where unthinkingly testimonies as people asked for prayer.

There is real power in hearing what God has been and is doing in people’s lives – when carefully told it counters the conservative tendency to explain the theology without being relatable; the arrogance of assuming we’re somehow better than others; the image of somehow being ‘sorted’ when we still struggle. It emphasis and gives rise to questions about the gospel – forgiveness, adoption, salvation, sanctification, revelation. We can say why we believe and shake people out of their current worldview. We can encourage, instruct and edify each other. There is power in our stories because God is powerful.

On this how to… page are some articles I found useful as well as some tips for sharing your testimony either with your youth group or for getting them to think about sharing theirs.

Onesimus’ story

Wonderful Worksheets

and all the drama of a situation

The last of our first person dramas captures Onesimus’ side of the story Paul tells in his letter to Philemon. I find having a story told in this way, whether it’s read off the page or acted out, is a great addition to reading from the Bible; helping kids connect the historical events to real people who are a lot like them.

I like the worksheets too – obviously or I wouldn’t have written them – as a way of engaging your mind on a different level. I nannied a couple of children who loved to take their dolls to the park then pretend to be Mary and Joseph hiding from Herod. Games, dramas and activities grounded in real truths can help to young children to work out their feelings and responses in a way that being asked a question in a study cannot.

That said I’m a firm believer that even young children can participate in a ‘proper’ Bible study too. Like these youth orientated studies on Philemon.

Let me know what kind of activities you do with the kids to open up their responses. I bet you have some fantastic ideas.