Monday, September 18, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 24 September 2017

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16 ESV

Family Closeness
Gather about twenty objects and put them on a tray.  When you are ready to play uncover the tray and give everyone about two minutes to memorise what is on it. Then take it away. Give everyone a pen and pencil and give them a few minutes to write down what they remember on the tray. Children might need helping in writing the names of object. (Youth Ministry Encyclopedia, Lyman Coleman)

What character from a book or television are you most like? How are you like them?
If you had to change your name, what would you change it to?
Who is someone who has made a difference in your life?

With your family read: Matthew 20.1-16
 Questions for Discussion:
  • Why were the people who worked all day upset?
  • Do you think what the landowner did was fair? Why or why not?
  • If in this parable the landowner represents God, what do we learn about God?
  • God’s grace means everyone is loved, forgiven and accepted no matter what they have done. What do you think about this?
  • What do you think about the statement: God gives us what we need, not what we deserve?

Prayer and Celebration
Prayer Placemats
Use your computer to create some prayer placemats for your dinner table. These could simply have three or four different prayers printed on them for your family to pray together at the dinner table. Your children could then colour them in or decorate them. To finish them off, laminate them so they will last longer. If your children are as handy at desktop publishing as many are, get them to design the placemats.

Bonus Family Activity
Crowd Squeezer
Step 1: Spread a sheet or blanket on the grass and challenge everyone to pile on top so that no part of any person's body touches the ground beyond the blanket.
Step 2: If the group succeeds, fold the blanket in half and try again.
Step 3: Continue in this way to see how small an area you can all squeeze.    

Monday, September 11, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 17 September 2017

Parents shouldn't give up doing what is best for their children even when their children are ungrateful. ~Martin Luther
Family Closeness
Stopwatch Games
With a stopwatch and a bit of imagination, your family can clock hours of crazy contests.
  • How long does it take to blow a perfect bubble after you put a new piece of gum in your mouth?
  • How long can you chew your food for before it disappears?
  • How many times can you click in a minute?
  • How long does it take to run around the house?
  •  How many baskets can you shoot in 2 minutes?

  • 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?

With your family read: Matthew 18.21-35
 Questions for Discussion:
  • Is forgiving someone seventy times a lot?
  • Do you think Jesus really meant we should keep count?
  • Who do you think the king might be in this story?
  • Who do you think the first slave might be?
  • Knowing God forgives us, why do we often find it hard to forgive?

Prayer and Celebration
Gratitude Board
On the fridge or at your table, keep a small whiteboard called a gratitude board, and on it things are recorded and dated (whenever someone is passing by) that they want to say thank you for or that they are glad about. These can be used once a week or on a more regular basis as the focus for family prayers.

Bonus Family Activity
Follow the Leader
Depending on the age of your children play a game of follow the leader. The leader goes around the house doing a variety of things e.g. crawl across the carpet, jump through the dining room, climb over a bed, clap hands in the bathroom etc. Everybody has to do what the leader does.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 10 Sept 2017 (14th after Pentecost, Year A)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. ~Deuteronomy 6.4-7

Family Closeness
Blind Draw
Everyone is given a sheet of paper and a pen. You have three minutes to draw a picture of something that everyone agrees to...but you must either close your eyes or be blindfolded or have the light turned out.

  • What is the hardest thing about being (your age) years old?
  • What is the best thing about being (your age) years old?
  • What things don’t boys understand about girls?
  • What things don’t girls understand about boys?

With your family read: Matthew 18.15-20
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

 Questions for Discussion:
  • Why do you think it might be wise to point out someone’s sin against you in private first?
  • What kinds of sins do you think this instruction might cover?
  • Are there things people might do which should immediately be taken to someone in power like a parent or teacher or police officer?
  • Why might it be necessary to take someone with you if someone won’t listen to you when you point out their sin?
  • How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners?

Prayer and Celebration
Prayers of Confession
Prayers of confession are a normal part of a Christian’s prayer life. All of us, including children, do things we wish we hadn’t, or don’t do the things we should. Confession (saying sorry and asking God for forgiveness) is something that parents should model to children. There are various ways we might engage our children in prayers of confession.

Burning Prayers
Your family might like to individually write down things they would like to say sorry for. These prayers might then be placed in a bowl and burnt as a symbol of God’s forgiveness.
The following words might be used to help children have a language for this type of prayer:
 I got really angry today.  I think I know why, and I wish I wouldn’t.  I feel so out of control.  I feel disappointed.  Jesus, I am sorry for any hurt I have caused today.  Help me to be gentle.  Help me to love more and more.  Help me to love.  Help me to put aside the things that hurt others, you, and me.  I am sorry for . . . .  Grant your grace to me, that I might grow more into who I am, and who you call me to be.

Words from Scripture might be used to help children see that God takes away our sins from us and forgives us.
These could include:
If you sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us. Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world’s people.” (1 John 2:1–2, CEV)

How far has the Lord taken our sins from us? Farther than the distance from east to west!” (Psalm 103:12, CEV)

  • Explore creative ways you could raise the profile of a particular charity that you would like to support.
  • Talk about why it is good to give to charity in secret. Read Matthew 6.2 - 4
  • Discuss how you might get the balance between these two right and why they are both important.

Bonus Family Activity
Collage of Dreams
Use photos, words and pictures from old magazines, glue, sparkles etc to make a collage of the things your family would like to do with their life. This might begin by each member making a list of 10 or 100 things that they would like to do in their life…like skydive or write a book or learn to ride a bike. Alternatively the collage might be about things your family might like to do this year together. Put the collage up somewhere visible to remind you of your dreams and plans.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 3 September 2017 (13th after Pentecost, Year A)

My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~ Clarence Budinton Kelland

Family Closeness
Letter On
Choose a category of things; it could be food, movies, places. The first person says the name of something in that category. The next person must say another thing in that category that starts with the last letter of the thing you previously said. There is a 10 second limit and nothing can be repeated. 
(from The Source for Youth Ministry)

1. Your best friend doesn’t invite you to her birthday party. How do you feel? What do you say to your friend?
2. You are on a school field trip and you just found out that a few of the kids have brought along their pocket knives and are planning to carve their name in a tree. Do you tell the teacher? Why/why not? What do you say to your classmates?

With your family read: Romans 12.9-21
 Questions for Discussion:
  • What do you think about these rules for Christian living?
  • Is doing these things easy or hard? What makes them so?
  • How are we to treat others?
  • How are we to treat enemies?
  • Why do you think followers of Jesus should live this way?

 Prayer and Celebration
Ways to say “I forgive”
At the top of a piece of paper, write the words: “I forgive you.” Ask “What did God do to show He forgives us?” Then encourage your family to list as many ways as they can which show forgiveness to others. The list may include words and actions. Suggestions of words might be, “That’s OK” or “It's all right.”  Suggestions of actions might be hugs, smiles, and handshakes.

Previously my family has spent a day disconnected from technology, prior to making a donation to a charity connected with the famine in East Africa. There are many charities like World Vision who have activities like the Forty Hour Famine that help young people and adults think about what it is like to go without. These are great events but they can at times be difficult for families with young children to engage with. The truth is we shouldn’t need prompting from a charity to help our children think about others.
With my family, we agreed around the dinner table that we would go without technology – TV, computers, games etc – for the day. Now this might seem trivial but the purpose of it was that every time we felt like we wanted to watch TV or go on the computer, we remembered that others in the world are going without a lot more than we are, and that we can use what we have to help. Why do this and not just give money? I am passionate about helping my children to grow as thoughtful disciples of Christ and so I want them to engage in a small action of self denial so they can reflect more deeply on what it means to give.
I wonder what creative ways you might engage your children’s hearts and mind so they may grow to love and serve others?

Bonus Family Activity
Hands and Feet
Draw around the outlines of your children's hands and feet onto cardboard. Cut them out and write words on them that might help them to remember how they help Jesus build his kingdom. They might be words like serve, share, love, grow. Alternatively draw pictures of these things or get your children to draw pictures of these things. Blutack or sticky tape them around the house so that they might be reminded throughout the week that they are workers in the kingdom of God.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 27 August 2017 (12th after Pentecost, Year A)

You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at her parents every time around – and why her parents will always wave back.
~William D. Tammeus.

Family Closeness
...a few of my favourite things
Everyone at the dinner table says five of their favourite things. This could be a favourite colour, number, TV show, movie, animal, friend, toy, food, book. The following night you can test your memory and see if you can remember the 5 favourite things that all the family members told you the previous evening.

  • If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? Why?
  • What is the bravest thing you have ever done?
  • Have you ever wanted to grow up faster? Why? What is good about the age you are now? What would be good about being older?
With your family read Matthew 16.13-20
Questions for Discussion:
[In this reading Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is. This is done against the backdrop of the region of Caesarea Philippi which had numerous temples to different religions including one to Caesar as God. In this passage we hear Jesus refer to himself as ‘Son of Man’, a phrase he often used to refer to himself.]
  • What is the first question Jesus asks?
  • Why do you think he wants to know what others think of him?
  • What is Jesus' second question?
  • Why do you think he asks his disciples this?
  • How does Jesus respond when Peter gets it ‘right’?
  • Why do you think Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone who he is?

Prayer and Celebration
Intercessory Prayer 

A useful image for intercessory prayer is a stretcher.  From Mark 2.3-12, some people lowered their paralytic friend through the roof into the presence of Jesus. This is a good image of the work of intercessory prayer.  That is, don’t labour too hard with the words to use, simply do the hard work of placing or ‘lowering’ the person into the presence of Jesus.

Place on the stretcher someone you know who needs help.
Lower on the stretcher someone who you can love better this week.
Put onto the stretcher a place that needs peace.
Put onto the stretcher one who needs healing.
Put on the stretcher a hope of yours for your life.
Lord in your mercy, receive our prayer.

At the moment we are confronted in the news with images of people struggling in Syrian refugee camps. Considering the luxury that so many of us live in, I want to encourage you to dig deep to help those who are not in a position to help themselves. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in a situation like that. There is nothing more I can say on this except we who have resources need to use our abundance in whatever way we can to help. There are many charity organisations out there taking donations for this crisis so let's do what we can.

Bonus Family Activity
Family Time Line
To help your family think about the good things God has given you, work together to make a family time line. Draw a line in the centre of a long sheet of paper. Choose a starting date to write at the left end of the line. Your time line may cover a week, a one month period, or the school holidays, or a year. To help family members think of time line events, ask questions such as: "What was something we did that we really enjoyed? How did someone help us in a special way? Who are some new friends our family made?" Display the time line on a wall or door. Allow younger children to enjoy drawing pictures to illustrate the time line. (From Adventures for Growing Families, by Wes & Sheryl Haystead.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 20 August 2017 (11th Sunday after Pentecost)

If you haven't time to respond to a tug at your pants leg, your schedule is too crowded.  
~Robert Brault

Family Closeness
Tapping hands
Each person crosses their arms over those of the person next to them and places their hands on the table. One person starts by tapping once and others follow in order of hands in one direction. When someone else taps twice, the direction reverses. If you tap out of turn, the game starts over. How many times can you go around the table?

Would you rather… 
  • How many people from different countries do you know? When might it be difficult to be friendly to someone who is different from you?
  • What is the best thing that happened to you this week? What was the worst?
  • What unexpected thing happened to you this week?
  • What is something new you learnt today or this week? 
With your family read Mathew 15.21-28

Questions for Discussion:
[This can be a hard or confusing reading to hear. Jesus seems not only to ignore this woman from a different religion who needs his help but says some seemingly negative or antagonistic things to her. Is it possible Jesus knew how deep her faith was, that she would not be discouraged, and desired her to demonstrate this? In the end Jesus points out how great her faith is and gives her what she wants. It is interesting that so many of the religious leaders rejected Jesus but this foreign woman believes.]
  • Why do you think Jesus ignored the woman at first?
  • What was Jesus saying about why he shouldn’t help her?
  • Why do you think Jesus thought the woman’s faith was so great?
  • When have you shown persistence and perseverance in your faith life? 

Prayer and Celebration
Actions for a variation of The Lords Prayer

Our Father in heaven, [finger pointing up]
You are a holy God. [open palm pointed high, head dipped reverently]
Come and rule our hearts. [open palm brought down to rest over heart]
Do what’s best on earth [finger pointing down]
as in heaven. [rotate arm to point finger upwards]
Please keep us alive with food. [hand as bowl, other doing a scooping action to mouth]
keep us forgiven with you [closed hand warmly rotating over heart]
and forgiving with others. [same hand, finger pointing to all around in sweeping action]
Keep us holding your hand [one hand into the other hand]
and safe from all wickedness. [two hands up, elbows straight and a firm shielding action]
You’re in charge! [strong action, two hands pointing up]
You can do anything you want! [both palms open out, raised]
You are God, for ever and ever. [hands get further apart like measuring something bigger and bigger]
Amen.  [closed fist brought down on an open palm].

Anglican Board of Mission – Australia
One mission organisation in Australia that does fantastic work is ABM-A. Their vision is: ABM wants to see people everywhere experience the wholeness of life God offers in Jesus Christ, and to this end support our Partners as they participate in God's mission. Their website is worth checking out and in particular under their resources menu is a section called “watch” that has videos of some of the work they do. Some of these videos would be appropriate to show family members around the table.

Bonus Family Activity
 Camp Out Night
If you own a tent, pitch it in the backyard one night and take the family out there to sleep. Do some fun things like story telling and board games. Do all the things you would do camping out.