Have you ever felt like you got landed the job of doing children’s church or Sunday school because you have young children, or there’s no one else volunteering? And that you feel out of your depth because your day job isn’t being a teacher? That was me fifteen years ago. It felt like I got dropped in the deep end, but when you have your own children’s spiritual wellbeing to think about, and you’re the curate’s wife, you’d lend a hand! Nowadays I no longer find it daunting, just because experience has taught us what works and what doesn’t for our little group of children. In this post, I shall try to tease out some of my methods, in the hope that it may be of some help to those of you who find yourselves in the privileged position of “doing children’s work”, particularly in a small church or small group, or are thinking of starting out. Continue reading “Undeserving Zacchaeus – Lesson for all of us”
Part of living in a village is that everybody seems to know everybody’s business – the children at Kids’ Club tell us that they often see me or my husband walking our dog past their houses and their school. Last year we welcomed home a friendly golden retriever pup with a lovely temperament. However, he is an inquisitive energetic dog. Being first time dog owners, there’s still much to learn about dog training and how to keep your dog under control in public places, especially when our “puppy” Brett is now a big exuberant one-year old who likes to run up and greet everyone. My new hobby seems to be watching dog training videos and reading up about the various approaches that dog trainers use. I particularly like the more modern positive reinforcement method, built on the premise that one would be more likely to repeat a behaviour if that behaviour produces a favourable outcome.
I wish I’d discovered this YouTube channel much sooner, because here the dog trainer Zak George shows you how to get your dog to pay attention to you. He doesn’t use force, and it is clear from the videos that he loves every dog he meets and works with. He explains that it’s much better to train a dog to want to listen to you. Rather than using external physical correction or punishment such as choke, prong and shock collars, he builds the dog’s desire to comply from within. Because dogs are smart enough to recognise that as soon as these restraints are off, you have no control over them, and they can do whatever they wish then. He shows dog owners how to communicate clearly to their dogs, and make training sessions fun so that dogs love to learn. Dog owners who use positive reinforcement methods have a much better relationship with their dogs. And that’s what I am hoping for – I want my dog to love me, and to love doing what I tell him to do! Continue reading “Walking my dog and being friends with God”
It’s Ascension Day tomorrow. I thought I would do something a little different this year for our activity session. You know how as parents, your home often ends up with a mountain of your children’s artwork and you loathe to consign any of them to the bin?
Well, this afternoon’s Kids’ Club activity won’t add to that problem! Not only that, it held the children’s attention very well – I haven’t seen such industry for a while as we decorated mini gingerbread men, turning them into Jesus and his disciples.
Here’s a step-by-step account of how we made these yummy treats should you wish to try it out… Continue reading “Yummy Ascension activity”
Just before Christmas on a dark winter’s evening, where we were battered by the wind and rain on our walk after school to the Church Rooms, the atmosphere once indoors couldn’t have been more different. It was one of excitement and high spirits as one of the kids was telling everyone over drinks and biscuits about her birthday the day before.
B: It was a surprise – my Mum took me to get my ears pierced and I got this pair of earrings!
E: I got mine done but it went wrong and they had to take it out and do it again!
(There was a detailed discussion about getting piercings for these 7 to 8 year-olds.)
B: I’m going to have a sleepover party and you’re coming (pointing to H and L).
(Again, there was a whole discussion about sleepovers.) Continue reading “Invited to Party in Heaven!”
In my last post, I mentioned that at Kids’ Club we played a game of matching different fruits to the branches and leaves of the plants or trees that they came from, and introduced the idea of bearing fruit. I explained to the children that the fruit we bear are the qualities we show, and that Jesus said people recognise what kind of “tree” we are when they see what kind of fruit we bear, because a good tree bears good fruit.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”
Following up from that last session, we looked at how we bear good fruit. I recapitulated on the topic of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and explained that it’s rather difficult to constantly keep in mind all of the good qualities or the good fruit we want to be producing – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. So I showed the children a picture of a grape vine with grapes hanging from its branches, and reasoned that the fruits don’t actively think, “Hmm… I’m going to be grapes. I must grow, and I must grow to be grapes.” It all happens naturally as the grapes grow from the branches, just as the branches grow from the main vine. This is what Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” Continue reading “Jesus is the vine, we are the branches”
Sitting here in the autumn sunshine, looking out at the glorious colours the leaves have turned, I realise that I had better share with you what we did at Kids’ Club near the beginning of the school term. While summer was coming to an end and the leaves were starting to put on their autumnal colours, the children were gathering conkers from underneath the big tree on the corner of the school grounds. The inspiration for a Kids’ Club session came to me and I thought of what Jesus said in the Bible,
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bears good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” – Luke 6:43-45
There’s a lot to think about here, but with the current group of children at Kids’ Club, because of their younger age, it is necessary to keep things simple and to the point. I was trying to find a fun game to engage them. They could all relate to gathering conkers from the school playground, and have come across different fruit. So, in preparation for a quiz, I went foraging for conkers and some big leaves from the conker tree (horse chestnut) with the “help” of our new puppy (who’s occupying a lot of my time and hence the delay in writing posts!). I also went round to the other group leaders Arthur and Rita’s to ask for some twigs and fruit from their fruit trees – apples, pears, and tomatoes. From my own garden, as it’s so overgrown with weeds, I found plenty of brambles with blackberries! I also had some elderberries from the elderflower bush, some blueberries (shop-bought) and a small branch from my blueberry bush. Continue reading “What fruit tree are you?”
Last week at Kids’ Club, Arthur read to the kids from the Children’s Bible about Ascension Day – when Jesus went up to heaven 40 days after Easter Sunday. We usually ask the children to listen carefully because at the end of the story there would be questions, and if they answered correctly there would be a reward (usually involving sweets). You would have thought that the promise of rewards would help the kids concentrate and listen well, but where the enthusiasm was there and they all raised their hands to answer questions, the responses were often pure guess work. Needless to say, they received a lot of hints from the helpers – God forbid that anyone should miss out on a sweet!
This made me think that perhaps as grown-ups we are not any better. You see, when Jesus was with his disciples, he told them what was going to happen – that he was going to be killed and then raised to life, and that he was going away. Right up to the moment that all these things happened, and even a bit afterwards, the disciples hadn’t taken it in. If they heard what Jesus said, they hadn’t processed it. I imagine that the disciples loved being around their Teacher, and they can be forgiven in wanting Jesus to remain with them forever – life was going to be so good when the kingdom of heaven comes. After all, Jesus did teach about the coming kingdom an awful lot. Perhaps much like we dangle the carrot at Kids’ Club with the promise of sweets if correct answers are given, and the children know that they will be rewarded anyway. Who isn’t excited by that thought?
To me, the Ascension speaks of God being a loving and wise parent. Let me explain – Jesus always carried out God the Father’s plans, which reach far beyond the here and now. He wasn’t there only for his disciples whilst he walked on this earth, as he clearly stated that he had “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen”. (John 10:16) Jesus’ ascension meant that God could send the disciples the Holy Spirit, without whom they would not have been empowered to preach the gospel. Like a good parent, Jesus prepared ahead for the time when his followers would have to cope without him being around physically. He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) But he also said, “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) . Continue reading “What does the Ascension mean for us?”