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:

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.


A Certain Brightness

Depression and Hope

and discussion starters

According to the BBC 1-in-4 girls and 1-in-10 boys aged 14 show signs of depression. That means there’s probably someone in your youth groups who is suffering.

The good news is Jesus is Good News for all your young people. If you want to start the discussion off can I suggest my friend Philippa’s blog – A Certain Brightness – as a great place to look for the interplay of hope in times of depression. She’s very real and very excellent. Worth checking out.

Happy New Year!

Remembrances and resolutions

For the blog and for your Sunday Schools too

It’s nearly 2018 – in case you hadn’t noticed. And everybody is in that ‘fresh start’ mode whether it’s buying gym memberships, taking up veganuary or resolving to read their Bible more often. We’re also looking back at 2017 and evaluating the good and bad in ourselves and in the world. If you’re keen to do some of that with your young people and children here are three options:

This brand new session plan for children to get them counting their blessings.

This Bible study for teens on what it means to be a new creation

This easy to adapt weekend away plan, inspired by Joshua, focusing on looking back in thanksgiving and looking forward in dependence.

For this blog: I’m thankful that I get to reuse and rethink children’s work I’ve created in the past and that it can be useful for others out there. And I’m resolving to plan what I’m going to post in advance: It’s definitely not my strength but his grace is sufficient for me, for his power is made perfect in weakness.

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.

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


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)


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!

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