Thursday, June 15, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for June 18 2017

Some of the most important conversations I've ever had occurred at my family's dinner table.
~ Bob Ehrlich

Family Closeness
First and Last
Pick a category of things. It might be places, or vegetable or movies - whatever you can come up with. Someone starts by saying something in that category. For example, in the vegetable category, you might say 'carrot'. The next person has to say something starting with the last letter of the word already. In this case, 't' – so they might say 'turnip'. Keep going until someone can’t think of anything to say.

These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. The key is to listen. 
  • Do you think it's important to get physical education in school? Why or why not?
  • Why do you, or don't you, like violent movies?
  • What do you think are the characteristics that make a good parent?


With your family read Matthew 10.40-42

Questions for Discussion:
  • What do you think it means to welcome someone?
  • How has your family welcomed someone?
  • What little things can we do to show hospitality to others?

Prayer and Celebration
Prayer Calendar
At the start of each month take a blank calendar and write a prayer concern for each day. You might like to start with world problems and through the week move more closely to issues in your own community. Use the calendar each night at dinner time.

Some useful information and ideas from the Raising Children Network about getting teenagers involved in service.

Family Time
Make a board game
Create your own board game. Use a large piece of white cardboard to draw the game. Create your own rules. You might like to start by thinking about some of the board games you like and how they work.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for Pentecost 2017

 Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them. (Lady Bird Johnson)

50 days after Easter, at Pentecost, the Christian Church is born. A wonderful gift is given from God, for it is the day when the disciples are given the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, wind and fire were seen as signs to show that God was present. If you read the story in the book of Acts, it talks about the Holy Spirit coming as ‘wind’ and ‘fire.’ At Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit filled the disciples with the energy and power to speak so that people from many nations could understand them. It was an event that changed the world. Before the Holy Spirit came to rest on the disciples, they were confused and fearful. They longed for the good old days when all they had to do was follow Jesus' lead. We too are invited to receive this wonderful gift which empowers us to use the gifts we are given from God and to grow in the fruits of the Spirit that make us more Christlike.

Pentecost is a special time, and special times need special attention. Here are some resources to help you be faithful with your family this Pentecost.

Family Closeness
The Glad Game

Played with a touch of a Monty Python, comparisons are made to current situations and those that could be far worse. It can be a lot of fun, and whilst it can at first appear flippant and playful, it can deliberately move people and a family into more genuine attitudes of gratefulness. It can be played not just in one family session, but at any time at all, especially say the moment someone is caught complaining!
  • `I'd like a new pair of runners, but I am glad I have feet.' [What's that phrase?: 'I complained that I didn't have new shoes, until I met someone who didn't have any feet.']
  • `I wish we had a swimming pool, but I'm glad our neighbours let us use theirs.'
  • `I don't like broccoli, but I'm glad Mum and Dad cook dinner and not me.'
  • `I wish I could have a remote control car, but I am glad I have a bike that I can ride all by myself.'
  • `I don't want to go to bed now, but I am glad I have a bed to go to and a home to live in.'. . . .

These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. The key is to listen!
  • What is the most exciting gift you have ever been given?
  • What made it so great?
  • What is the most exciting gift you have ever given? Why was it so great?
  • What is something that you are good at? How do you use it to serve others?
  • What godly characteristics do you find in yourself and in your family: Kindness, gentleness, compassion, patience, hospitality, humour, generosity, mercy, justice, faithfulness, self-control, loyalty, love, trustworthiness, truth telling, straight talking honesty, . . . .  . .
  • Have you ever felt God’s presence in a special way? What happened? How did you feel?
  • Who is someone you know who seems to be filled with the Spirit? What are they like?


With your family read Acts 2.1-21: Pentecost
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

Questions for Discussion:
  • How did the Holy Spirit come upon the disciples? What happened?
  • How do you think you would have felt if you had been there?
  • What strange and special thing happened to the disciples because of the Holy Spirit?
  • What was the purpose of the disciples' ability to speak many languages?

A man returned to his home and played back his telephone answering machine to discover that his message to callers had not registered beyond his initial "Hello." Transcribed, the tape of the exchange between machine and one caller ran as follows:

"Hello." "Hello. Hello. . . hello!" (click.)
"Hello." "Hello, hello. . . hello, hello!" (click.)
"Hello." "Hello, hello. . . You see, operator, he says 'Hello,' but he won't say anything else."
"I'm sorry, sir. We can only connect you with your party. We cannot make him talk to you."
(Donny Silverman)

Prayer and Celebration
This is a day to celebrate and thank the Holy Spirit for all our unique and wonderful gifts.

We each have the character of God growing in us, the fruits of the Spirit, that enable us to minister in every part of our lives. 

Read some of the characteristics of God that grow in us and spend time reflecting on how the Holy Spirit might be growing these in you.

Kindness, gentleness, compassion, patience, hospitality, humour, generosity, mercy, justice, faithfulness, self-control, loyalty, love, trustworthiness, truth telling, straight talking honesty.

Which of these Godly characteristics do you see growing in your own life? Which one of these characteristics do you most need? Which one would help you the most in the way you serve God and others?

Pray today that God’s Holy Spirit might fill you: that the fruit of the Spirit might grow in you. Ask God how you might serve in the world, and ask God to help you to grow in the power of the Spirit.

Volunteering with Children
By Kelly Palmatier,

Volunteering with children is a great way to help them learn about giving back. Children learn valuable skills while "on the job." Homeschooled students, who may have more time available for volunteering, could also enjoy the additional socialization opportunities presented through volunteering. Another benefit of volunteering is children learn about the concerns of the organization and what need it fills in the community. Consequently, the children also have an opportunity to remember what they have to be thankful for.

See the rest of this article on children and volunteering at:
Family Time
Draw Attention to Yourself
  • Using any available materials, make large red or orange Pentecost symbols (paper tongues of fire, kites or windsocks, decorated balloons or pinwheels) to be displayed outdoors. On each symbol, write three gifts of the Spirit you have been given to serve God. 
  • Make a collage of warm colours to remind your family of the story of Pentecost.
  • Make up a dance using coloured streamers to portray the wind, fire and excitement of the disciples when they received the Holy Spirit.
  • Make up a list of words to describe 'fire' and 'wind', and then use them to write a poem
For more resources, visit

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for Seventh Sunday of Easter 2017

The soul is healed by being with children.(Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

This week, prior to Pentecost, we remember and celebrate the ascension of Jesus. This is a really great time to reflect on what it means to have Jesus' authority on Earth delegated to us. As disciples of all ages, we are the hands and feet of Jesus in the kingdom. If we are serious about being faithful with our family, then role-modelling this will be a priority. Your children will discover who they are and whose they are by looking at the everyday things you do. Christianity is a faith which is mediated through everyday things, such as bread, wine, water, light and through the everyday activities of serving, growing, sharing and celebrating.

I wonder what your children might learn about being disciples from watching you? How do you take seriously the call of Jesus to be a witness; to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, to go and make disciples?

Here are some resources, that you might be faithful with your family. We cannot make our children have faith, we can only be faithful with them.

Family Closeness
Using the alphabet letters, choose words that start with that letter, like the list given below, and act it out. Allow them to make up more as you go to add to the choices.

A = alligator (alligator crawl), around, airplane scale
B = bounce, bend, bear walk
C = cat arch, catch, crawl, crab walk
D = lame dog, dance, duck walk, dribble
E = elephant walk, egg roll
F = freeze, fall, frown, frog jump
G = giggle, gallop, giant steps
H = hop, hiccup, headstand
I = inchworm
J = jump, juggle
K = kick
L = log roll, leap
M = march, mop, mule kick
N = nod, neck rolls
O = Octopus (2 players stand back-to-back and walk sideways, waving their arms and legs), on, off, over
P = point, paint, pose
Q = quiver, quiet
R = run, rake, roll
S = skip, sit, sweep, smile, seal crawl, stretch
T = tiptoe, throw, tripod, tuck, type
U = upside down, under
V = vault (leap frog), vacuum
W = walk, wiggle, wink
X = flex, wax, mix
Y = yawn, yell
Z = zigzag, zip, zzzzzzzzzz

  • Have you ever been asked to do something and then had the person who asked you to do the job hang around and watch you the whole time?
  • Have you ever had someone ask you to do a job and then before you could do it they went ahead and did it anyway? How did you feel?
  • Would you rather never play or never win?
  • Would you rather be able to fly or breathe under water?
  • What things do you volunteer to do that help others?
  • What might you volunteer to do this week to help others?


With your family read Acts 1.6-11: Jesus Ascends

Questions for Discussion:
  • What did Jesus says the disciples would receive when the Holy Spirit came?
  • What job were the disciples given by Jesus?
  • Why do you think the disciples stood looking for so long after Jesus ascended?
  • How do you think the disciples felt about Jesus leaving them? 

The King’s Banquet
There was once a king who invited his subjects to a royal banquet. The king told each guest to bring a flask of wine, explaining that all the flasks would be poured into one large wine vat, from which the banquet's beverages would be drawn. One of the king’s subjects thought, “What will my small flask of wine mean? Instead of bringing wine, I will bring a flask of water. When my flask of water is added to all the wine, it will blend right in, and no one will know the difference.” On the night of the banquet, all the king’s subjects assembled around the food-laden tables. The king welcomed his guests, and then summoned his servants to serve the wine from the one large vat. The glasses were all filled – with water. For every one of the king’s subjects had brought water, not wine, reasoning that one little flask of water would blend right in with all the wine, and no one would know the difference.
At the ascension, the message Jesus gave us was (in today's language): “It's over to you guys now.” Jesus has placed into our hands the responsibility of working in the kingdom of God. We are now expected to be active participants in growing and building the kingdom. Of course the promised helper, the Holy Spirit is with us with gifts and power for the job. We however have been handed the authority to do the work of Jesus on earth.

Prayer and Celebration
Balloon Prayers
A really great way to pray with your family this week might be to use some balloons. Get enough balloons for a week or a couple of days. Write or draw your prayers on pieces of paper and place them in balloons, blow the balloons up and tie them somewhere in your house. Each day might have different themes: I thank God for things he has done for me. I thank God for things he has made. I ask God for help for others. I ask God for help for myself. I say sorry to God.

Here are some service ideas that are focused on older people in your community: 
  • Adopt a grandfriend and regularly visit them with your family.
  • Have your children make a penfriend in a nursing home.
  • Find activities your family might be able to do in a nursing home such as an arts project.
  • If you have a friendly pet such as a dog or cat, see if you can take it to a local nursing home or home of an elderly person.

 Family Time
 Paper Doll Activities
For each family member, draw an outline of a person on a separate large piece of paper. (If you have a large enough paper, lie down on it and trace around your body.) Each person adds drawings, words and/or magazine pictures to tell about him or herself. As family members work, comment, "As a child of God, you are special! The drawings, words, pictures on your outline show some of the ways God has made you special."

For more resources, visit

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 21 May 2017

There's nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child. 
Frank A. Clark

Family Closeness
I’m thinking of an animal
'I'm Thinking of an Animal' is similar to the game Twenty Questions, except all the questions and clues pertain to a living creature. One player thinks of an animal, and the other tries to guess which animal it is by asking no more than ten "yes" or "no" questions. If you guess correctly in ten questions or fewer, you get to think of the next animal. If not, the first player divulges the answer and then thinks of another animal. No one really wins, and the game is over when you don't want to play anymore. If you're playing with your child, you may not want to put a limit on the number of questions s/he can ask. Instead, think of it as a way to teach him/her about an interesting subject. Also, when choosing an animal, consider the age of the child. An older player may know all there is to know about easy-to-guess animals, such as cats and dogs, and may need the challenge of harder choices, for instance egrets and yaks. But most 3- and 4-year-olds will recognize only the most basic creatures, such as lions, tigers, and bears.

  • Has telling the truth ever got you in big trouble? What happened? Would you do the same again?
  • Have you ever told the truth and had no one believe you?
  • Have you ever told a lie and been found out? What happened?
  • Have you ever felt that telling the truth was the wrong thing to do?


With your family read John 14.15-21: Loving Jesus

(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

Questions for Discussion:
  • What do you think are the commandments of Jesus?
  • How does loving Jesus make following His commandments easier?
  • What rules do you find difficult to keep?
  • These words of Jesus were meant to comfort his disciples by letting them know that the Holy Spirit would be with them. How do you feel knowing Jesus is still here for us?
One summer evening during a violent thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small boy into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, "Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?" The mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. "I can't, dear," she said. "I have to sleep in Daddy's room." A long silence was broken at last by his shaky little voice: "The big sissy."

Prayer and Celebration
There are many ways and patterns of prayer.  Praying with Pat-C-ana is just one [pronounced Patsyanna].  It was originally written by the Rev Richard Browning for use by children at church and school. The prayer below can be used as a way of remembering and teaching which finger represents which type of prayers.

From the thumb to little finger
we pray with PAT-C-ANA:
Praise and adoration -
Thank you, thank you.
Confession saying sorry:
    its forgiveness that we need.
Asking 'n asking: for others then for me.
From the thumb to little finger
we pray to God the Father.
The prayers below help to unpack the type of prayer to use with each finger:
Praying with PAT-C-ANA

Thumb: Praise and adoration
Awesome Lord and Father, the earth is yours and all that is in it. You are our God and we are your people;

Index finger: Thanksgiving
Thank you for life and love, for a home to live in and a family to love.

Middle finger:  Confession
Forgive us when we hurt others, and when we offend you.
Help us to love like you love us.

Ring finger:  Asking for others
We pray for…
my family and friends and those that I love.

Little finger: Asking for me
And lastly for me, I place myself into your loving care.

This week encourage your family members to serve each other. Get them to think of one nice and helpful thing they could do for the parents or siblings. Here are some ideas:

Make someone’s bed for them
Do someone else’s chore
Pick up someone else’s mess
Clean up the dog or cat waste.

Family Time
Bible Story Theme Night
Think of a Bible story - like Noah’s Ark or the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Think of how you might have a family fun night focused on the theme of the story. This might include: Themed food, games, music, decorations, the telling of the story with costumes. Let your imagination run wild.

For more resources, visit

Friday, May 5, 2017

Faithful Families Update for Fourth Sunday of Easter 2017

Children seldom misquote.  In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said. 
~Author Unknown

Family Closeness
Long Word Search
Find a long word (eg. hippopotamus, catastrophe) and give everyone a pencil and paper. Try to make as many words as possible from the letters of the long word. Rules: All words must be at least three letters long. A letter may only be used more than once in a word if it is contained in the main word more than once. Set a time limit. (From TV Free Activities for Kids by Di Hodges)

These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family.
  • 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? 

With your family read John 10.1-10 (Jesus the Gate)

(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

Questions for Discussion: 
  • How does the shepherd look after the sheep?
  • How do the sheep respond to the shepherd?
  • Who do you think are Jesus' sheep?
  • What do you think it means for Jesus to be a gate for his sheep?
  • What does this reading say Jesus came for?
 In 1st century Palestine, shepherds would often stay out in the field with their flock of sheep for a long time. In order to look after his sheep at night, the shepherd would make a low enclosure out of stones with a small opening. At night, the shepherd would lie down in front of the opening to keep the sheep in and the wild animals or thieves out. The shepherd became the gate to the pen, protecting the sheep with his own body.

If the shepherd was near a city or village, he might take his sheep to a large holding area where many flocks would stay for the night. The watchman had a duty to guard the flocks and not let anyone in, except the shepherds in the morning. When the shepherds came, they would call their sheep and,  knowing their master's voice, they would follow him out of the pen into the pasture.

Prayer and Celebration
Praying Psalm 23
Pray the 23rd Psalm with your children and the members of your family. Instead of using my or me, use your child’s name.
For example: The Lord is John’s shepherd, John shall not want etc.
You, Lord, are ______ shepherd.
_________ will never be in need.
You let __________ rest in fields
of green grass.
You lead _________ to streams
of peaceful water,
and you refresh ________ life.
You are true to your name,
and you lead _______
along the right paths.
___________ may walk through valleys
as dark as death,
but ______________ won’t be afraid.
You are with _________,
and your shepherd’s rod
makes ____________ feel safe.
You treat _________ to a feast,
while ________ enemies watch.
You honour _________ as your guest,
and you fill __________ cup
until it overflows.
Your kindness and love
will always be with __________
each day of _________ life,
and __________ will live forever
in your house, Lord. 

“Get a drive going”
Recently I visited a church-run organisation in the city I work in called The Mission to Seafarers. They have an amazing ministry of hospitality and care for those who work on cargo ships. When the ships are in port, the seafarers come to the centre for some recreation, hospitality and friendship. In an island country like Australia where the vast majority of imported goods come by sea, these people who work on the ships have an important but often tough and lonely role. While I was there, I became aware of the different items that The Mission uses or provides for the seafarers. It included books, dvd’s, magazines, clothes, all kinds of things really. Often we have an abundance of these goods sitting around the house that we are unlikely to use again. With your family, why not start a drive amongst your family and friends for these kinds of goods in your community? Find out what charities or services are in your area, find out what they need and if they are happy to receive goods from you, then GO FOR IT. Not only will you be providing necessary items for a good cause but you will be raising the profile of it in the community. 

Family Time
Having a family night is a fantastic and fun way to focus on your family growing together. What is a family night? It is simply putting aside one evening a week or a month or whatever regular interval suits you to do something together that everyone will enjoy. Make sure the dates you pick are in your diaries and give them the first priority – try to plan well ahead. Give each member a turn to plan the program for the evening. Make it a rule that there is to be no complaining or fidgeting and that everyone is to cooperate and participate. This is especially important for the younger children whose self esteem may be damaged by older children's comments. Don't forget to talk about the purpose of the family night. Two key purposes could be 1. To have fun together. (Family night should be the most anticipated night of the week.) 2. To worship the Lord together. This is an opportunity for parents to model Christian devotion to their children. (The Big Book of Family Fun, Gwen Ellis.)

Here are some ideas for fun family nights. All of these take a little planning and resource gathering…but if your family has fun and grows together, it will be well worth it.

Celebration Night
Throw a party for your family or for a particularly special day. Decorate the room, eat special food, play some games and generally do what you do when you have a party.

Outing Night
Go on a special adventure with your family to somewhere different than the local shopping centre.

Project Night
Provide materials for the family to make a project – art, drama or anything that comes to mind. Making puppets is one idea.

(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 28, 2017

Faithful Families Update for Third Sunday of Easter 2017


We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that she is someone today. 
 ~ Stacia Tauscher

Family Closeness
Animal, Vegetable or Mineral
Think of something that fits into the animal, vegetable or mineral category. The categories are Animal (people, animals, insects), Vegetable (anything that is a plant) and Mineral (any object that isn't alive). Your family then must ask you questions to work out what it is. This could be limited to twenty questions but doesn't have to be. All the questions must be answered with a yes or no, except the first which asks whether the object is animal, vegetable or mineral. This is a great game to teach your children, but they may need a little coaching; it is OK to give them some clues. This is a game for all ages.

These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. 
  • What is a small thing you have done that made a big difference to someone?
  • What is something small someone does for you that makes a big difference to the way you feel?
  • Remember a time when you were surprised by something. Tell the story to your family.
  • What is one small thing you could do for your family members to make a difference to their week?
  • One of your friends never gets any treats in his lunch box and always asks you to share yours. What do you do?

With your family read Luke 24.13-35: The road to Emmaus
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at 

Questions for Discussion: 
  • What village were these two followers of Jesus going to?
  • Why do you think they were leaving Jerusalem even though people were saying Jesus was alive?
  • What did Jesus do that helped the disciples see who he was? Why was this action important?
  • How does the follower’s mood change throughout this passage of scripture?
The renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore (1821-1883) lost his passport while travelling in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. "All right," said the official, "we'll give you a test, and if you pass it we'll allow you to go through." Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word!

How might people recognise us today as followers of Jesus? 
Prayer and Celebration
A simple way of praying this week involves your family using their imagination to see the things they wish to pray for. One of the adults will lead this and may choose one or a variety of the prayers listed here.

Invite your family to use their imagination to create in their mind a picture of that thing or person they wish to pray for. Below are some ideas for things you can pray for.  After saying the phrase, leave some space for silence as your family sees the thing they wish to pray for. You might like to finish with the Lord’s prayer.
  • A hurt that needs healing…
  • A friend in trouble…
  • Something to say thank you for…
  • A problem that needs solving…
  • Something to say sorry for…
  • Someone to say sorry to…
  • Someone who needs my friendship…
  • Someone who needs words of praise…

As a family or in your church think about how you might bless the lives of those who live around you. Reflect on those people in your local area, who may be your neighbours or go to church with you, who serve in the community. Examples might be teachers or police officers, charity or emergency workers. Think of ways that you might let them know they are valued. This could include small things like making a thank you card together as a family or making a biscuit or cake for them to take to work to share. How often do we stop to thank those who look after us every day, who take risks for us or do jobs that really aren’t that pleasant? Acting in this way builds habits of thankfulness and empathy in ourselves and our children.
Family Time
Love Poster
This week, create a Love Poster. On the top of the poster, write: "Love one another as I have loved you." Brainstorm practical ways family members can love each other the way Jesus loves your family. (Share bathroom time, take out the wheelie bins without being asked, say nice things to each other, etc.) Discuss the cost of each activity. (How will you have to change to live out what your family wrote down?) At the bottom of the poster, write the word "Sacrifice." Discuss the meaning of the word and how love demands sacrifice. End the discussion by reading John 15:9-14. Emphasize Jesus died for us because he loved us and was willing to sacrifice everything for us. Larry Broding (Copyright 1999-2002)

(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