Friday, April 21, 2017

Faithful Families Update: Second Sunday of Easter


Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.
Dr Haim Ginott

Family Closeness
Game:
Faith Walk
Blindfold your family and lead them through the house on a faith walk. Get them to feel different things around the house. Spin them around a few times to confuse them, then see if they can tell what room they are in. Ask them what they learnt about their home by seeing with ‘different’ eyes (that is, their fingers).

Sharing:
These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. The key is to listen!

If you were told tomorrow that you had won a million dollars, how would it change the way you act or live?
  • If you were told tomorrow that you were going to jail forever, how would it change the way you act or live?
  • If you were told tomorrow that you were adopted, how would it change the way you act or the way you live?
  • If you were told today that you are a special child of God, how would it change the way you act or live?

Story
With your family read John 20.19-31: Jesus appears to the disciples
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at http://www.sermons4kids.com/believe_it_or_not.htm    

Questions for Discussion: 
  • What did Jesus say to the disciples? Why do you think he said this?
  • Why do you think that Thomas didn’t believe all the other disciples, that Jesus was alive?
  • What did Jesus do to help Thomas believe?
  • Why did the author John say these things had been written?

Discuss with your family what was interesting about the story or what made you think. What did the story tell us about Jesus? Try using some “I wonders” that emerge from the story.

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it? 
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Prayer and Celebration
The patterns of prayer and celebration in the home add to the richness of children’s experience of faith – here are some ways you can deepen the lived practices of a faithful life at home.

Meal table practices of sharing and listening, grace and thankfulness with the things we have, like food.
(How might your family begin a mealtime pattern? It can be as simple as a prayer, or even a pause for silence, or include elements such as Bible reading, story telling, creating a special space using candles and table cloths, and always turning off the TV and other distractions.)
Patterns of Celebration
(How does your family celebrate special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries? What are some of the ways that these might be made special? Food. Story Telling. Photos. Prayers of Thankfulness.)
Reading the Bible together
(Growing like Christ requires us to know him and know about him. Reading the Bible with your family and discussing it is a powerful way to open dialogue and grow.)
Sharing stories
(Family stories, stories of faith, stories that teach about virtues and Christian character can be excellent ways of teaching children important values)

Service 
Children need opportunities to learn how to serve. These can begin in the home by providing them with chances to participate fully as family members.
How might children participate more fully in your family? God delegates to us much responsibility in the kingdom of God. I wonder how you delegate responsibility to your children.
Here are some ideas to help you delegate responsibility in your family.
  • Define clearly and creatively the responsibilities being delegated to your children. What is it exactly you want them to do? How often do you want them to do it? Give them a job description, outlining their task, how they are to do it, how often. Put it on the fridge or somewhere prominent.
  • Give them some training. One way is to follow the McDonald’s Model: I do it and you watch. We do it together. You do it and I watch. You do it and I do something else.
  •  Delegate segments that make sense and not bits and pieces. Help your child to see how the task they are doing contributes to the life of your family.
  • Choose the right task for your child. Make sure they have the skills and understanding to do the task.
  • To mutually set goals and standards of performance, expectations must be clearly defined. E.g. when washing the dishes, what does "clean" look like?
  • Give accurate and honest feedback.
  • Really delegate. When handing over a job, allow your child to do the job you have entrusted them to do.
  
Family Time
Tell your children every day how special they are, that you believe in them, that you love them. Write some letters to your children telling them what you think is special about them or encouraging them. Put the letters in a place they might find them or in their lunch box. At bedtime, say a prayer out loud for your children. Pray that God might bless them, that they might feel special and loved, pray that they may become all God has made them to be. Make a pocket out of a paper bag, decorate it and stick it up in your child’s room. Put special messages and notes in it to tell your children you think they are special.

Doing these things might help your children see themselves in a new and special way. In seeing themselves as people who are loved, watch them grow into all that they might be.

(This material is based on and draws from earlier Faithful Families emails by Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning: An Unless Ideas Production.) Unless otherwise noted all material on this blog is copyright Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning

Friday, April 7, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for Palm Sunday 2017


A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit.
Fran├žois Rabelais

Family Closeness
Game:
Blobtionary
Just like pictionary only using play doh. This can be played with two or more. Write twenty words down on a piece of paper and put them in a hat. The difficulty of the word will depend on the ages playing. One person picks out the word and has to make the ‘it’ using the play doh. The other person has to guess what word is being made. No speaking or gesturing to give hints is allowed. Words could include: Dog, Girl, Elephant, happy. Use your imagination. If four or more are playing then two teams can race to make the one word.

Sharing:
These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. The key is to listen!!
Which are you like…and why or how?
This one helps older children use their imagination:
  •  a couch or a rocking chair
  • green or yellow
  •  pizza or icecream
  •   Saturday or Wednesday
  •  an onion or an apple

Story
With your family read Matthew 21.1-11: Jesus enters Jerusalem
 (for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at http://www.sermons4kids.com/cheers2jeers.html

 Questions for Discussion:
  • What did Jesus ride on into the city?
  • What was the name of the city Jesus rode into?
  • What did the people put on the ground in front of Jesus?
  • Why do you think they did this?

Discuss with your family what was interesting about the story or what made you think. What did the story tell us about Jesus? Try using some “I wonders” that emerge from the story. (I wonder how Jesus felt? I wonder what was going on in this story?)

Once upon a time, two weevils travelled from the farm to the big city to seek their fortune. Upon arriving, the first weevil got a job in the movies. As time went by, he moved to bigger and better movies until he became internationally renowned as a great movie star. The other weevil, however, was unable to find any employment and, as time passed, he faded into total obscurity. That was fifty years ago. But today, do you suppose anyone remembers that weevil who was once a great movie star? No! But we do remember the other one - the one who was a failure - for, even today, we refer to him as "the lesser of two weevils."

Prayer and Celebration
This week, we focus on prayers of praise and adoration. Think about the adoration Jesus was given as he entered Jerusalem.  Sing a song of praise together at the dinner table. Find something to wave in the air while you are singing. It could be a palm branch or something you find close at hand like a tea towel or t-shirt. Remember that the people who waved palm branches at Jesus found whatever was at hand. Name all the things that are great about Jesus and why you think he is special.

Service
Throughout any year there are many days that are dedicated to different charities or issues in society. There are websites like http://www.ourcommunity.com.au/calendar/ that list these days that are occurring in your state, region or country. This can be used as a tool to broaden the horizon of your children about the many needs in the world and the ways people seek to address them.
  • Look up what is happening in any particular week.
  • Explore the organisation that is sponsoring it or the issue behind it.
  • Pray as a family for the needs highlighted by the day or week, being celebrated and for the organisations working in the area.
  • Consider attending events or running your own to support a particular need.
  • Think about ways you might contribute or donate to make a difference.

Family Time
Palm Crosses
Many churches celebrate the coming Sunday (the Sunday before Easter) as Palm Sunday. On this day we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey and people placing branches on the ground before him. This week, why not make your own palm crosses at home as a way of helping your children remember the story.

Below is a link to a YouTube video that will show you how to do it. There are many other websites online that will show you how to make them.


(This material is based on and draws from earlier Faithful Families emails by Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning: An Unless Ideas Production.) Unless otherwise noted all material on this blog is copyright Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning

Friday, March 31, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 2 April 2017


The question for the child is not "Do I want to be good?" but "Whom do I want to be like?"

-  Bruno Bettelheim


Family Closeness
Game:
Trust Walk
Blind fold members of your family and lead them around the house or the garden. Ask questions such as: What does this feel like? What kind of music comes to mind now? What does this remind you of? Do you feel safe?

Alternatives:
Smell – collect some interesting smelling things from around the kitchen, see if your family can guess what they are.
Taste – same again using different flavours.
Touch – gather a variety of common objects from around the home and see if your family members can guess what they are by feeling them.
Sound – do the same with a variety of sounds. If you have a tape recorder, record sounds from around the home.

Sharing:
These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. The key is to listen!!
  • What is one thing you don’t think you could live without? Why?
  • If you could only take three things to a desert island, what would they be?
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  • What does it mean to adore something?
  • Do you remember a time when someone praised you for something you did? What did it feel like? Did you like it? What are some of the words that might express praise?

Story
With your family read John 11.1-7, 17-45: Jesus and Lazarus

(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at http://www.sermons4kids.com/thats_what_friends_are_for.htm

(The lectionary readings for Lent are very long, especially for very young children -  the whole reading is John 11.1-45 – if you want to read the whole passage with your family, it can easily be broken into three episodes  - 11.1-16, 11.17-37, 38-45.)

Questions for Discussion: 
  • How long had Lazarus been in the tomb before Jesus arrived?
  • Why didn’t the people want to roll away Lazarus’s tomb stone?
  • What did Jesus do before he called out Lazarus?
  • How did Mary and Martha react differently when Jesus arrived?

Discuss with your family what was interesting about the story or what made you think. What did the story tell us about Jesus? Try using some “I wonders” that emerge from the story. (I wonder how Lazarus felt coming back from the dead? I wonder why Jesus raised Lazarus?)

A few years ago in America, a letter appeared in a national newspaper that was sent to a dead person by the Department of Social Services. It read: "Your food stamps will be stopped in March because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances."

Prayer and Celebration
We are now in the Season of Lent, the forty days preceding Easter Day. This is traditionally a time of repentance (saying sorry and turning from sin). The resources for prayer and celebration for the next six weeks will focus on ways your family might “celebrate” well this season. Lent is a good time to focus on God’s care and provision and on our dependence on him, but also on saying sorry.

Ball Prayers
Use a small ball to throw around to different family members. The person who throws the ball begins the prayer. “Thank you God for…” and throws it to someone who then finishes the prayer with one or two words e.g. Family, rain, happiness. Keep throwing it around for as long as you can.

Thanking God often, and naming all the things we have to be thankful for is, I believe, one of the most important Christian prayer habits we can develop, especially in a consumerist society that encourages us to focus on what we don’t have as opposed to the abundance we have been given by God.

Service
Start a mini project with your family to discover the local charities or service organisations in your neighbourhood or local area. Find out what they do, who they help and how people can contribute to them in terms of service or goods.

Encourage your family to go without a particular treat for a week or a month. Save the money you would have spent and donate it to a charity that you have discovered.

With your family, donate some things you no longer need to a local charity such as LifeLine or Salvation Army. Encourage your children to think about what toys or clothes they no longer use that they might give away. Talk to them about how some children have no toys.
  
Family Time
Table Patters
This week, work on building a meal time pattern with your family. More than anything else, this is about making meal times a special time. This might include turning the TV off and turning on the music, setting the table with some special things, lighting a candle, sharing a prayer, telling a story. Your family sharing time could be based around the dinner table and include the meal as one of the activities.

This material is based on and draws from earlier Faithful Families emails by Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning: An Unless Ideas Production.) Unless otherwise noted all material on this blog is copyright Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning

Friday, March 24, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 26 March 2017

Children are like kites
You spend years trying to get them off the ground.
You run with them until you are both breathless. They crash ... they hit the roof ... you patch, comfort and assure them that someday they will fly.
Finally, they are airborne.
They need more string, and you keep letting it out.
They tug, and with each twist of the twine, there is sadness that goes with joy.
The kite becomes more distant, and you know it won't be long before that beautiful creature will snap the lifeline that binds you together and will soar as it is meant to soar ... free and alone.
Only then do you know that you have done your job.

Family Closeness
Game:
Alphabet Soup Game
Grab a packet of alphabet soup. With your family find the letters to spell out the Lord’s Prayer together, or the names of the four gospels. Alternatively, have a race to spell your names or some other words. This game works best when the alphabet soup has been soaked in water. Messy but fun.

Sharing:
These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. The key is to listen!
What is your favourite time of the day? What makes it special? Do you have a favourite place to be during the day? Why do you like it? What is your favourite place in the whole world to be? What makes it special?
Have you ever wondered how lead is put inside a pencil? How do you think it is done? Do you really care? What ordinary things have you ever wondered about?

What is the best gift you have ever received? Who gave it to you? What was it for? Why did you like it so much?

Write down these sentence starters and put them in a bowl. Pick one out each night and ask your family members to complete the sentence.
  • If I could ask God any question it would be...
  • I often wonder if God…
  • If God could say something to me, it would be...

Story
With your family read John 9.1-41
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at http://www.sermons4kids.com/to-god-be-glory.html 
  • What did the disciples think caused the man’s blindness?
  • What did Jesus put on the man’s eyes before he was healed?
  • Why did the Pharisee’s find it so hard to believe the man was healed?
  • What do you think Jesus meant when he said “I am the light of the world?”

Discuss with your family what was interesting about the story or what made you think. What did the story tell us about Jesus? Try using some “ I wonders” that emerge from the story (I wonder how the blind man felt when he was healed? I wonder what he thought about the Pharisees questions?  I wonder what it would be like to see for the first time?)
  
For 51 years Bob Edens was blind. He couldn't see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming. "I never would have dreamed that yellow is so...yellow," he exclaimed. "I don't have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite colour. I just can't believe red. I can see the shape of the moon--and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapour trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is." (From Max Lucado, God came near.)
  
Prayer and Celebration
We are now in the Season of Lent, the forty days preceding Easter Day. This is traditionally a time of repentance (saying sorry and turning from sin). The resources for prayer and celebration for the next six weeks will focus on ways your family might “celebrate” well this season. Lent is a good time to focus on God’s care and provision and on our dependence on him, but also on saying sorry.

Prayer Pot
Cards are made, and on them are the names of people and things that are really important to the family.  It may just be photos of family members; it may include particular projects or things that have a focus in the family, for example a certain missionary, or World Vision child, or a major event coming up, or particular people who are in need of special prayers. These cards are placed in a special bowl or pot.  On any one night, three cards are taken out and used as prompts for conversation or prayer. Children who are learning to pray might be given sentence starters like:
  • Lord Jesus, thank you for...
  • Creator God, please help...
  • Heavenly Father, in your hands we place...
  
Service
One of the profoundest ways that we might share our love of Christ and our love of life with others is not through words but through our loving actions. Here are some suggestions for your family to share with those who live around you.

Invite another family who you are friendly with to church followed by a BBQ.

Bake something for your neighbours – maybe biscuits or a cake. (Do you know your neighbours? Where I live, I have had six sets of neighbours on one side in the space of five years.)

When you see people moving in, why not invite them over for some food or take a cake or biscuits over to them or some cold drinks.

If you know of an elderly or chronically ill person who is having difficulty with their garden, why not get your family to adopt them. That is, regularly (as a family) go and mow the grass, weed, clean up and maybe plant some flowers.

Family Time
Cook a Meal Together
This week, why not get your children to help you cook a meal or something special like a cake or biscuits? It could be as simple as putting the toppings on a pizza or mixing something in a bowl. With older children, why not get them to help you make something more complex? Make it a fun time, put some music on and don’t worry too much about mess. Enjoy eating whatever it is you cooked together.

(This material is based on and draws from earlier Faithful Families emails by Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning: An Unless Ideas Production.) Unless otherwise noted all material on this blog is copyright Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning

Friday, March 17, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 19 March 2017


One day an expert was speaking to a group of students on time management and he used this illustration. Firstly he took out a wide mouthed jar, then he produced about a dozen large rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. 
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." Then he said, "Really?"  He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel.  Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him.  "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!"  He replied.  And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.  He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.  Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?" "No!"  The class shouted.  Once again he said, "Good!"   Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.  Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!" "No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point.  The truth this illustration teaches is this: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

Family Closeness
Game:
What is it?
Select 20 objects from around the house. Wrap them in cloth – any old scrap will do – and attach numbers to each. Try to figure out what each object is. (From Youth Ministry Encyclopaedia by Lyman Coleman. JBCE)

Sharing:
Questions for stimulating discussion in your family:
A question to discuss with your children (4-8)
Your teacher asks who spilled juice during snack time. You did. Do you tell?
A question to discuss with your youngsters (ages 9-12)
You find five dollars on the pavement near school. What do you do with the money?
A question to discuss with your teenagers.
Your friend got a copy of the answers to the questions on tomorrow's math test and offers them to you. Do you take them? Why? Why not? What do you say to your friend?

Write down these sentence starters and put them in a bowl. Pick one out each night and ask your family members to complete the sentence.
I know God loves me because…
I’m glad that God…
I wish God would…
Story
With your family read John 4.5-15: The Samaritan Woman at the Well
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at http://www.sermons4kids.com/thirst_quencher.html

Questions for Discussion:
  • Why was the woman surprised Jesus asked her for a drink?
  • Why is water so important?
  • What is the living water Jesus talks about? Any ideas?
  • Why is what Jesus offers us – life in the Spirit and eternal life – so important?

[Help for parents: The living water Jesus talks about refers to all the things that flow from faith in Jesus. These include the gifts of grace and the Holy Spirit. Both these things lead to life and life everlasting. Just as water gives us physical life – the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual life, dwelling within us and making us into a new creation.]

After giving a woman a full medical examination, the doctor explained his prescription as he wrote it out. "Take the green pill with a glass of water when you get up. Take the blue pill with a glass of water after lunch. Then just before going to bed, take the red pill with another glass of water." "Exactly what is my problem, Doctor?" the woman asked.
"You're not drinking enough water."

Prayer and Celebration
We are now in the Season of Lent, the forty days preceding Easter Day. This is traditionally a time of repentance (saying sorry and turning from sin). The resources for prayer and celebration for the next six weeks will focus on ways your family might “celebrate” well this season. Lent is a good time to focus on God’s care and provision and on our dependence on him, but also on saying sorry.

Encourage your family to pray by using their imagination, picturing in their head the people or things they wish to pray for.
Picture in your mind something that happened this week that you want to say thank you for.
Picture in your mind a person who is special to you that you wish to say thank you for.
Picture in your mind all the beautiful things in creation that God made that you want to say thank you for.

Service
Many churches have a food pantry for people in need. When you go shopping, especially if you take your children shopping, invite them to choose an item to place in the food hamper. It doesn’t matter if they choose something that you might not think appropriate...like Coco Pops...even people in need like Coco Pops.

Family Time
The Bag that’s me
Create a paper bag collage out of newspaper or magazine cuttings. Paste on the outside of the paper bag any cuttings that symbolise how you appear on the outside. Put inside the paper bag any symbols that reveal who you are on the inside. Spend ten minutes tearing out things from a magazine – words, photographs, slogans – anything that reminds you of yourself. Then take about five minutes pasting your cuttings on the outside or inside of your paper bag. Share with your family what is on the outside and inside of your bag. Children can just use pictures of things that they like. (From Youth Ministry Encyclopaedia. JBCE)

(This material is based on and draws from earlier Faithful Families emails by Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning: An Unless Ideas Production.) Unless otherwise noted all material on this blog is copyright Stephen Harrison and Richard Browning