Can Legos help build FAITH?

Responding to God’s Word with Plastic Bricks: A Resource You Can Use!

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Emily Slichter Given first told us about using Legos™ to build responses to God’s Word in this post from March 2012.

Building Faith is incredibly proud that Building Faith Brick by Brick: An Imaginative Way to Explore the Bible with Children will be available September 1st from Church Publishing, Inc!

We encourage you to try Emily’s Scripture response method. Two years ago, Emily wrote that she had used it as an after school program, a weeknight class, a summer Sunday school, as an alternative to a dull lesson, and as a parent-child event. In addition, we’ve had educators tell us they’ve used it for Lenten programs and as an antidote for bored children at home with the flu. Children are used to working with Lego™ and that level of comfort allows them to delve more deeply into their own understanding of the Divine Story.

Want some more detail? We turned to a longtime educator who used Legos™ in her church for a report on how it went. Here’s what she says:

Using Legos™ to help children respond to a Bible story is a great, although unpredictable way to have them really thing about the story. Not all stories work – those that work best have definite physical characteristics: Daniel and the Lions or the Fiery Furnace, the parting of the Red Sea, Jesus and the storm on the water, Paul and Silas in prison.

My first time trying this was with Daniel and the Lions’ Den. I read the story, using pictures or objects to make it engaging and exciting.

We went over the story together, the basic plot and the specifics. What did they remember the best? What was the most exiting part? Close your eyes, what does the story look like?

Then I gave them Legos™. I tried to have at least one figure for each child. I simply said, “I want you to build something that reminds you of the story. It can be big or small, it be lots of things or just one thing.”

After a short time, as each finished, I went to them and asked them to tell me about what they made. I praised every one. If they finished early they could color, or build with different Legos™, etc. When everyone was finished, we came back together and I asked if anyone wanted to tell the group what they built. A few volunteered. I asked what they have made and why. Most answers were along the lines of, “I dunno why, I liked it best.” Some sculptures had nothing to do with the story, but the kids were engaged in working on the same task as the rest of the group. I just praise these and move along! At the end of our time together, we acted out the story with movement and sound.

The only problems I saw were that some kids don’t like to be guided on what to build. Other children don’t like to have a time limit, and some simply don’t want to share. While some of these are individual personality traits, using this type of response on a more regular basis would also prepare them for what is expected.

Overall, I think this is an amazing way for everyone to interact with certain Bible stories. In a larger, older group you could have teams choose their own stories from the Bible, read/reflect/build, and then have the larger group guess which story they had chose…a Lego™ charades!

Thanks, Anne!

Have you used Legos™ in your formation programs? Will you continue to use them as a way to engage and respond to God’s Word?

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Thinking About Trying Intergenerational Worship?

The What and How of Intergenerational Worship

It seems as if more and more churches are looking for ways to provide an intergenerational worship experience. Also, more families are looking for churches where they feel comfortable to worship as a family. Worshiping as an intergenerational community is not easy. It is challenging to plan a worship that is intellectually stimulating for the adults and spiritually meaningful for the kids. Often the trap that churches fall into is either dumbing down the message or inserting kid-friendly moments like children’s sermons. Unfortunately, this rarely satisfies anyone.

After all, what is intergenerational worship? Is it merely people of all ages being able to worship together? The simple answer would be ‘yes.’ I believe it is more than that. At the church that I serve, intergenerational worship encompasses the full diversity spectrum of the congregation. Not only does it address the young, old, and everything in-between, but it addresses the young in faith as well as those that have grown-up in church all their lives. It includes interfaith families that are trying to navigate both culture and faith traditions. It includes those that learn audibly versus visually and tactilely. Worshiping as an intergenerational community pushes and challenges us to be aware of how all in worship experience God’s presence; opens us up to the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit; give us permission to not claim to know it all; and exercise grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love to those that we deem different than ourselves.

Children are a gift in worship. They remind adults that God only requires us to come as we are, to ask questions, and to remain curious. Senior adults are a gift in worship. They remind us that life can be hard, but God is faithful. And all ages in between are a gift in worship. They mirror the complex, diverse, and beautiful image of God and God’s creation.

So, how does one go about worshiping as an intergenerational community? Depending on the current makeup of your congregation and your worship style, I propose three tiers.

Tier 1: getting your feet wet

For whatever reason, your church has decided that they want to be more intergenerational. Usually at this stage this means wanting to be more welcoming to families with younger children. However, simple adjustments and changes can make a big impact for everyone’s worship experience.

  • Assess your current worship structure. A great exercise for your elders or worship committee to do is to observe worship through the eyes of someone visiting your church for the first time. From the moment one walks into the church, during worship, after worship during fellowship time, write down how you felt? Was there someone to greet you at the door and hand you a bulletin? Were you expected to know certain rituals of worship like when to stand, sing, or pray or was that explained to you? Did people greet you during fellowship time?
  • Think about what makes all feel welcomed and comfortable in worship. Consider allowing drinks and food in your sanctuary. Kids hardly go anywhere without a juice cup or a bag of Cheerios or Goldfish crackers in their hands. Not to mention, allowing adults to have caffeine may do wonders to the worship experience.
  • Consider your worship space. Is their ample room for parents to park their strollers? Allowing strollers into the sanctuary invites families to worship while their child sleeps and allows them immediate access to things the child needs. Having said that, is their ample room for those who need walkers, crutches, or wheelchairs? In my city, parking space is a prime issue, but it shouldn’t be in a worship space.
  • Provide options. Not all kids or parents for that matter feel comfortable putting their kids in the nursery or Sunday School, especially if it is their first time visiting. By simply having a table with crayons and coloring pages gives families an option to worship together if that is what they prefer. Adults need options as well. By simply inviting them to worship and engage as they feel comfortable, allows them to worship as they are and experience God in freeing ways.
  • Make a covenant. It’s not easy worshiping as an intergenerational community. Kids’ noises can be loud and distracting. There may be parts of worship that you just don’t care for. These things can focus our attention away from the wonderful benefits an intergenerational community brings. By making a covenant, where the church acknowledges the challenges and yet embraces the benefits, can be a wonderful resource to all. Here is the covenant that my church annually agrees to. It only takes one bad experience or dirty look from someone to ensure that the parent holding a crying baby never comes back.

Tier 2: ready to make intentional changes to worship

So, you’ve gotten your feet wet, lived with the possibilities, and now want to experiment a little more. The best opportunities to try something new are on special Sundays like World Communion, Baptism of the Lord, Advent, or Lent. Parishioners are more open and accepting to try something new when there is a clear theme. Here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Consider providing segregated times. This may seem counter-intuitive to having an intergenerational worship, but it is okay to have moments in worship where kids and adults are segregated for a specific amount of time. My church holds an optional Sunday School program for the first 35-40 minutes of worship, in which they return to worship to participate in communion, baptisms, and community prayers. This allows the kids to participate in parts of worship that are naturally interactive (meaning after the sermon time.)
  • Plan baptisms, communion, and prayers to be interactive. Allow the kids to sit up front when there is a baptism. For communion, I have had the kids come up and help me bless the Lord’s Supper. Community prayers can be done in different ways other than verbally sharing joys and concerns: have them come up to light a candle; write or draw their prayer on a card; or plan an interactive prayer station.
  • Make singing hymns or songs a teachable moment. No matter if you have an organ or a band, most people can’t read music (like me) or quickly catch on to the tune. Take this opportunity to actually teach the hymn or song. Many times, my music director will teach the chorus while the choir sings the stanzas. This is a great way to build up music appreciation for both adults and kids.
  • Evaluate your sermon and preaching style. If your style of preaching gravitates more towards dissecting the Greek or Hebrew roots of a particular word in the bible, consider balancing that with telling a story. Storytelling is a great way to engage people and connect your point to how they can apply it to their lives. Storytelling can come in different forms: written, verbal, or visual.

Tier 3: we’re loud, we’re proud, we’re intergenerational and there is nothing you can do about it.

You have now embraced your identity as an intergenerational worshiping community and are ready to permanently incorporate ways to worship intergenerationally. Then you should know that it is more than about making worship more kid-friendly. In fact, it actually has less to do with that and more to do with keeping things simple, applicable, and accessible. Whatever you plan, make sure you:

  • Provide different entry points into worship for all ages. Whether an adult or a child, everyone has a different comfort level in worship. So people should  be able to enter into prayer, listen to a sermon, sing a song, and engage in worship where they are spiritually, physically, and mentally.
  • Remember these 2 ingredients when planning worship: make it interactive and consider how it involves all five senses of touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing. Theological concepts and biblical stories can be abstract. By allowing people to engage in biblical stories interactively, it connects people’s lives to God’s word.
  • Involve everyone and give them an out. While everyone should feel invited to participate, everyone should feel just as invited to not participate, yet still feel part of worship. For example, when my church sets up interactive prayer stations, we also allow people to stay seated in the pews to sing along or meditate to taize songs being sung.

Here are some examples of what I have done incorporating the above:

  • Instead of a sermon, my Head of Staff and I invited parishioners to ask us any question about God, the bible, and theology. Both adults and kids participated. My favorite question was when a kid asked, “Why is the church so tall?”
  • During my sermon, I told a story that involved an orange. I had the ushers pass out an orange for each parishioner and invited them to smell, feel, and taste the orange as I told them the story.
  • Frequently throughout the year, we set up 3-4 interactive prayer stations for adults and kids to participate in.
  • In October, we are expanding worship and focusing on hunger beginning with World Communion Sunday. Our cinema group will be showcasing the movie “Food Stamped.” We will be challenging participants to take the hunger challenge where they live off a food stamped budget. To give them resources, there will be lunch offered featuring recipes that one can make on a food stamped budget. And our stewardship team will encourage participants to donate what they would usually spend on groceries to our weekly food pantry program.

Go Make Disciples – More Than Membership

WATER WAY: WELCOMING NEW DISCIPLES

 Waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water. . . A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way.  (Isaiah 35:6 -9)

Why “Water Way”?  

                                         WELCOMING NEW DISCIPLES:

            FAITH FORMATION FOR NEW & RENEWING BELIEVERS

 https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/whatwedo-catechumenate/ 

The Holy Spirit is calling people to come follow Christ for the first time or to be more deeply immersed in baptismal living. 

The Water Way follows the spirit of the ancient Christian catechumenate, an apprenticeship in The Way of life lived by followers of Jesus Christ.

The catechumenate is not a set program, but a spiritual process to train disciples, tailored to fit questions and needs of the those whom the Lord sends to us with the resources of the church–scripture, worship, reflection, witness, and service in relationship with others in Christ.  There is no set curriculum to buy.  There is simply the Spirit and the gifts of the church.

What Is This Way of Discipling?    

What Is the Catechumenate? This way of making disciples is an intentional one that invites people into the faith journey and walks with them from where they are to help them become immersed, or more deeply immersed, in the river of life.  

To introduce the catechumenal Water Way,  see this informational PowerPoint introduction. You will find the notes on the slides helpful as you share this with others in your church. 

Attentive to movements of the Spirit, the Water Way progresses through stages of faith’s formation that are like those of any relationship:

The church celebrates and marks passage on this journey with certain rites in worship that signify how important baptismal living is to the Christian faith.

The Water Way is not a set program that runs people through its course like a new members’ class.  It realizes and works with how faith is formed–in a way that meanders and plunges like a river across the trajectory of one’s life. Companions along the way serve as guides, though, to help people along faith’s journey toward more faithful living.

Because this way of making disciples is attentive and intentional in the Holy Spirit, the entire church becomes transformed as it lives out Christ’s great commission to make disciples, baptize and teach them how to live in accord with God’s life-giving way in the world.  

 Interested in Learning More?  

Get a copy of the book Go Make Disciples: An Invitation to Baptismal Living.  This is an easy-to-read guide helpful for starting this practice of ancient wisdom for today’s church.  

Because the catechumenate is not a ready-made program, but a process tailored to fit those the Spirit brings us, the best way to learn about how to do a catechumenate is from other people who are doing it.  Get a group of interested people in your church to come to a training event sponsored by the North American Association for the Catechumenate, Portsmouth, Va., September 25-27, 2014.  

Praying with IMAGINATION! Imagine yourself in the Story

Article from Ministry Matters web site – written by Kasey Hitt – a spiritual director having been drawn to spiritual direction after finding herself in the middle of read more…

Consider this: Everything that has ever been created was once imagined.

The imagination is a powerful, often overlooked, gift from God for creating loving relationships with God, our neighbors and ourselves. Whether we are listening to a sermon or preaching one, whether we are leading prayer or praying alone, too often we stop with words that only engage our rational mind and will. While words and will are important, it is the imagination that pulls the heart with its feelings and passion into the process of creation. When we allow God to bring together the heart and mind, we find a creative power much greater than will-power and much deeper than words.

In the 16th century, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a knight turned priest and theologian, recognized in himself and others the imagination’s power in having a transforming relationship with Jesus. In my ten years as a spiritual director, I, too, have seen how the imagination offers people the power to move from wanting a deeper relationship with God and wanting transformation, to actually having a deeper relationship with God and actually being transformed!

As we get to know Jesus through our imaginations, he becomes more than a historical figure or name we pray to or through. He who we believe to be real and alive, actually becomes so in our own lives and stories! People are often surprised by the Jesus they meet, for they discover him to be different (or something more) than they originally thought he would be!

Building on the work of St. Ignatius, here are two ways to meet with the living Jesus:

Imagine Yourself in Jesus’ Story

  • Pick a story from one of the four Gospels. (ex. Jesus Calming the Storm in Mark 4:35-41 or Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42.)
  • Before entering the story, ask God to let the Living Word “come alive” to you. As you read or listen to the passage, imagine yourself in the place where the passage is happening. What do you see, hear, smell, touch and taste? Let your imagination unfold. Who are you in the scene (are you one of the characters or do you remain yourself)? Allow the scene to go wherever it goes, even going beyond the Scripture passage itself.
  • Respond prayerfully however you are moved. You might write down (or draw) any insights you have gained, any connections with your life, thanking God for whatever was received.

Imagine Jesus in Your Story 

  • Imagine the place you would like to invite Jesus into. Picture yourself there or you might literally go there. Take in the surroundings with all of your senses.
  • Now imagine inviting Jesus into this place. In your imagination, see him come in, greet him and allow him to greet you. You might notice what he looks like, where he chooses to sit, stand or kneel. Watch as he takes in the surroundings. What does he say or do?
  • You might have a conversation with Jesus, he may have something to show you or he may simply want to be there with you. Allow the scene to unfold in your “mind’s eye” for as long as needed.

Says Richard Foster, author of “Celebration of Discipline

“To believe that God can sanctify and utilize the imagination is simply to take seriously the Christian idea of incarnation.”

So go beyond belief and try it. Accept this free gift and allow your imagination to be part of your spiritual practice then watch as what appears in your inner world begins to change your outer world! 

Suggested resources: