Generations in Faith Together

What! No Sunday School?

Hoffman GIFT postThis article is written by Rev. Scott W. Hoffman and reposted from Hope4CE blog

Our Christian Education committee (through some weeping and gnashing of teeth on the part of some) decided to stop Sunday school and replace it with a program we call GIFT (which stands for Generations in Faith Together).  The vision of GIFT is to get people of all generations (preschool, elementary, youth, college, young adult, middle aged, senior citizen, etc.) to gather for some sort of educational event once a month between September and April/May.

Our first GIFT event was held last fall, so this is still very new to us.  We have had programs after worship (with lunch included), on Sunday afternoons, on Sunday evenings, and even on a Saturday morning (a food packing event with Stop Hunger Now that was probably the most well received). We will take some time later this summer to evaluate what we have done so far, learn from our mistakes, and build on our successes.

I grew up in a small church in southwestern Pennsylvania with about 125
members.  In a place like that there is no such thing as “intergenerational
ministry”-it’s just ministry.  When you only have so many people then
everybody (of all ages) does almost everything together.  It was a great
blessing to my faith development to be surrounded by folks my own age, cool
teenagers, my parents’ friends, and people I considered my extra
grandparents. As a pastor I want that for the members of our church.  I want young and old alike to see the love in one another and, in doing so, to see the love of God.

Scott W. Hoffman
Pastor/Head of Staff
Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church
Columbia, Maryland

Intergenerational Resources – If you need some resources for planning intergenerational events, contact at Presbytery of Coastal Carolina’s Resource Center.


Stepping Stones in Faith: Milestones along the journey

One Church’s Process to Identify the Basic Milestones on the Journey of Faith…by Zeta Touchton Lamberson

Over twenty years ago in my early days as Minister of Education at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA we began to talk together about what were the most important concepts to teach our children, youth and adults. We needed a plan and a goal. So we formed a committee! But what a gift this committee became to me and our ministry together. For as we met over more than a year and a half we began to solidify what became the foundational book of our Christian Education at Peachtree – Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith. I don’t remember the term milestones at that point in time but our work does seem to relate to the emphasis that is now found in many churches in providing milestones for the journey of faith.

As we got started I did some research to see if there was a document in existence that listed what the important concepts of our faith were and at what age they should be taught. I remember having a conversation with Liz McWhorter at the PC(USA) national offices who told me they had always talked about creating something like this but never had that she knew of. She challenged me to create it. So we began our work together at ground zero and it was well worth it.

Our first step was to define our goals for Christian Education and Discipleship. To do that we began by looking together at some theological principles. From the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA) I identified ten major doctrines of the church –

  1. The Trinity,
  2. The Incarnation of Jesus Christ,
  3. Justification by Grace through Faith,
  4. Scripture as the final Authority for salvation and the life of faith,
  5. God’s Sovereignty,
  6. God’s Choosing (Election) of the People of God for Salvation and Service,
  7. The Covenant Life of the Church,
  8. A Faithful Stewardship of all of God’s Creation,
  9. The Sin of Idolatry,
  10. The Importance of Obedience to the Word of God.

We discussed these doctrines and how they were lived out in our lives.

At the next meeting we provided each member of the committee with an Idea Gathering Sheet that included a list of concepts. We asked each person on the team to take this sheet home and to spend some time thinking about what they thought should be included under each item. The sheet included: General Theological Principles or Facts, about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit, about Worship, about Stewardship, about Mission, about the Bible, about the Church and about the Presbyterian Church.

Then we also asked them to think of specific Bible Stories and Bible Characters that they thought were important forStepping Stones w Bible Hymnbook-2 everyone to know. Also to think of Bible verses that they thought were important for people to be familiar with and/or memorize and what Songs/Hymns/Music they thought should be familiar to all. The lists people returned were amazing! We compiled all their lists and then spent some time thinking together about what might be missing. We had a woman who had taught the Bethel Bible Study for many years to our adults and she was amazing at helping us to fill in the gaps. One of the most amazing things that came from that brainstorming was a list of the major bible stories and where they are found in scripture. I use this list constantly!

From that discussion we came up with a simplified list of theological principles we thought were basic to our life as a disciple of Christ. The theological principles were intentionally simplistic. This was to be a basic document. The areas seemed to fall neatly into several areas so we decided to emphasize the following: The Trinity, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Worship, Stewardship & Mission, The Bible, the Church, the Presbyterian Church and Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

Next we took some time to think about what should be taught at what age. We began to divide the concepts by four major age categories: by Kindergarten, by Fifth Grade, by Twelfth Grade and as a mature Adult.   After discussing our divisions and making some adjustments we then subdivided them by eight smaller age spans:

  • Two & Three Year Olds,
  • Four & Five Year Olds,
  • First & Second Grade,
  • Third & Fourth Grade,
  • Fifth Grade,
  • 6th-8th Grades,
  • 9th-12th Grades
  • Adults.

As we did this we found that we had certain concepts, parts of worship and key facts that fit into each. Music was very important at Peachtree so we emphasized songs/hymns that should be taught at each age. Our musicians in the church were a great help as we developed this list. We also thought there were certain scriptures that ought to be familiar by a certain age. We fleshed these lists out with the understanding that they were building blocks. We identified thirty three passages of scripture that we thought were foundational. Stewardship and Mission were also central to the ministry at Peachtree. We believed that incorporating our beliefs about stewardship and mission as areas of faithful obedience to the word of God was central to the formation of Christians who live out their faith through action.

Recognizing that everyone comes to the faith at different times in their life we decided that our document needed to include all that we said was important. At that time Peachtree was growing fast with lots of people new to Christianity so we had those individuals in mind as well as our families with children and youth. So we pulled together all the items we said were important to know and understand and included them in our document. We divided it into five sections: Bible Information, Worship & the Sacraments, Stewardship and Mission, Church History/Doctrine and Peachtree Presbyterian Church.

Finally we included a section that included progress reports. One for children and youth and a Faith Assessment Guide for youth and adults. The progress report for children and youth was meant to be used by families to encourage them to work on these items together. I admit we did not successfully follow up on this but I like the concept. The Faith Assessment Guide for youth and adults was meant to be something to get people started who did not have the foundation to build upon. I have continued to use that document in a variety of ways through the years.

Once we finished the document we took it to the Session to be adopted. I will never forget members of the Session responding that as they looked over the document they realized that there was much they still needed to learn. And I took that opportunity to encourage them to get involved in a small group study where they could continue to stretch their faith. That had been one of our hopes that people would read the document and have a desire to continue to grow as a disciple of Christ.

From the time Peachtree published Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith in 1994 the goal has been that it would be a resource to the church. When I left Peachtree I was granted the rights to this document and all the remaining copies. Copies are available for $15 plus the cost of shipping by contacting Zeta T. Lamberson at My policy has been that churches are granted permission to use up to three sections of this book as is as the church develops their own resource with the exception of the music which was included under the Peachtree copyright as long as an acknowledgment of Stepping Stones on the Journey of Faith is included in the resource produced.   Every church is different and my encouragement is that each church go through the process of developing your own document for it is a very powerful experience.

Once the document is finished then the process needs to begin to assess your current program and how well these concepts are being taught. Where are the holes? How could you include them in your educational ministries? What curriculum includes these concepts? We discovered that no curriculum included all we valued so we began to explore other ways to include these concepts in our program. We found opportunities as we included these concepts as additional activities, mid-week programs, VBS emphases, worship experiences, special programs for children, youth and adults, etc. Be creative in finding ways to include what you value so that they become central to your educational ministry. And be sure to evaluate the effectiveness of what you are doing at least every five years.

Zeta Touchton Lamberson, Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian and President of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE)

Creating a Walking Tour of Your Church Building

Reposted from

By Diana Davis

 Summertime’s coming, and you might be surprised how many people in your community would enjoy a walking tour of your church building. Whether it’s large or small, your church building is a beacon in your town.

Who would take a church tour?

  • Schedule a special tour for parents as they drop their children off for Vacation Bible School or daycare.
  • Invite people who live near the church to a neighborhood coffee and church building tour.
  • Plan a history-focused tour, and send an invitation to the historical society, senior adult center or school history classes.
  • Invite city leaders for a tour and lunch. I led our church’s tour as part of the new members’ orientation class.
  • Consider a tour for guests after the worship service.
  • A downtown church could offer building tours for festival-goers.
  • In a tourist town, advertise building tours in “things to do” listings.
  • Post an exterior sign to invite anyone in the community to an annual tour.

To plan a church tour as an outreach, carefully research interesting facts, historic information, architectural details, and current statistics.

  • When was the building built?
  • Is the steeple the highest point in town?
  • Was this the first church in the county?

One church showed me a pew in their balcony that is the longest pew in America. Study your denominational websites.

The majority of the tour, however, should focus on the story of a life-changing God and His impact on lives today, so the tour guide must be knowledgeable about your church’s ministries.

Recruit enthusiastic, personable church members as tour guides, and provide a laminated card with key talking points and facts for reference.

Prepare attractive handouts, such as a site map, church brochure and witnessing tract. As the guide leads guests through the building, she or he can point out all the things that occur in that part of the building. She or he may pause in an attractive area, such as a prayer garden or foyer, to share interesting stats and stories.

Tell how many volunteers it takes to staff the Bible classes and how many people attend Sunday worship. Share about how many missionaries the church supports. Mention exciting, positive news, such as the new singles Bible class or upcoming mission trips. Tell about ministries, such as your food pantry, businessmen’s luncheons or sports leagues. They’ll enjoy hearing about church planting projects, staff members, church camps and annual events.

If weather permits, the tour may include exterior points of interest.

The tour guide must know his audience. If the tour is for daycare parents, emphasize children’s programs, teacher training and safety plans. An older audience may like to be seated for a few minutes in the worship center, while the guide describes the worship service and architectural features.

Make the tour interactive. Ask a volunteer to shoot a basketball as you explain how the gym is used in ministry. Ring the church bell. Touch the water in the baptistery as you explain its significance. Introduce staff members as you pass their offices. Show missions magazines and church newsletters. Invite them to use the library or prayer chapel.

The church building is the place where God’s people gather to worship. Conclude the tour by reading Psalm 122:1, praying for the guests, and welcoming them to worship God at your church on Sunday. A church tour as outreach—now that’s a fresh idea!

© Diana Davis 2012

The BBQ Church Experience: WOW! A Place Where BBQ & Worship Meet

What I Love about BBQ Church –                                                

By John Vest on Jun 10, 2015 06:42 am

Two years ago I orchestrated a “BBQ Church” worship experience at the Fourth Presbyterian Church afternoon jazz service. The liturgy was modeled on “dinner church” services at St. Lydia’s in New York and Grace Commons here in Chicago. The jazz worship team thought it would be fitting to do this again for my final worship service at Fourth Church. So I slow smoked a bunch of pork shoulder in the church courtyard overnight and provided some simple sides. Some people brought additional sides potluck style. Rain prevented us from doing the service outside, but it was actually kind of fun to be squeezed into the church dining room with Fourth’s amazing jazz band right there among us.

Photo by Hardy Kim
Photo by Hardy Kim

Once again, I loved this service. My last morning worship services and the congregational meeting that dissolved my call were emotional and poignant, but with BBQ Church I ended my tenure at Fourth my way, with a bang. Here are some highlights:

  • The atmosphere was totally casual and relaxed. People chatted as they gathered and the jazz band played the prelude. They lovingly booed me when I mentioned it would be my last service. In some ways we were making it up as we went along, and that was perfectly fine.
  • It was among the most diverse congregations we have gathered at Fourth Church. There were jazz service regulars, folks that showed up for my last service, tourists and other folks who wandered in off the street, and guests of Fourth’s social service center who joined us and felt right at home.
  • People were having fun. Folks clapped their hands to the music. Some people raised their hands in praise. (That doesn’t usually happen at Fourth Church.)
  • It was interactive and prioritized conversations around the dinner tables. At the beginning of the service I invited people to share things they were thankful for through mutual invitation. I delivered a short sermon followed by an opportunity for discussion. The prayers of the people were done around tables, again by mutual invitation. I loved seeing people engage this way, especially the tables that most reflected the diversity of the congregation.
  • We felt like a community. Something special—indeed, something sacred—happens when people gather around common tables to share a meal.

I could worship like this every week.

Selecting Children’s Bibles

From Hope4CE blog

May 14, 20151 Comment

At a recent gathering of the East region the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, Elizabeth “Lib” Caldwell, retired professor of Christian Education at McCormick Seminary, led a discussion of things to consider when choosing a children’s Bible.

She offered a variety of criteria, or lenses, through which to examine children’s Bibles. First, consider the content and the length of the story.

  • What translation is it based on?
  • Is it faithful to the text or does it add material?
  • Does it cite the text?
  • How much of the story is told?
  • In its simplification or rephrasing is the main point of the story preserved?
  • Will it hold the reader’s (listener’s) attention till the end?
  • Are there too many or too few details?

Then, look at the illustrations.

  • What kind of illustrations are used?
  • Are they characters? Are they drawings? Are they artistic?
  • Are they multicultural?
  • Do they invite children into the story?
  • Do they make the story come alive?

Next consider the interpretation that is happening.

  • How do they title the story?
  • Does it really tell what the story is about or does it point to a particular ‘message’ to be conveyed?
  • Is it inclusive?
  • How is God presented?
  • Does it attempt to find Jesus in every story, from both testaments?
  • And finally, does it offer helps for parents? Does it give resources for parents to help engage the child? Does it invite both parent and child into the story? Does it offer ways to continue the conversation about the story, applying it life?

Lib cited several great resources for exploring this topic in greater depth. Her list included Text, Image, Otherness in Children’s Bibles, What is the Picture?, Caroline Vader Stichele and Hugh S. Pyper, eds, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012; Children’s’ Ministry in the Way of Jesus, Csinos, David M. and Ivy Beckwith, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013; “Reading the Bible with Children and Youth”, Elizabeth Caldwell in Currents in Theology and Mission, August 2013, Volume 40, Number 4; and “How to read the Bible with children”, Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, in Christian Century, March 6, 2013.

Her top two favourite children’s Bibles are The Deep Blue Kids Bible, Nashville: Common English Bible, 2012 and Shine On: A Children’s Story Bible, Elgin, Il: Brethren Press, 2014. Both offer simple, faithful texts, engaging illustrations and offer ways to engage the story beyond the printed page.

Priscilla Andre-Colton, Director of Christian Education, Old Presbyterian Meeting House, Alexandria, Virginia

Take Out Church

Taking your faith on vacation…Take Out Churchcopied from gracefilledchaos

We have been thinking of new ways to engage families in spiritual formation during the summer time.  So many families travel on weekends during the summer and that means missing worship and all the formation that happens at church on a Sunday morning.  How can we empower families to learn to worship together and to remember to take their faith with them on vacation?   How can we take church out on vacation with us?  Out of these questions grew the Take out Church box.  We will be giving a box to every family in our church this summer and inviting them to engage with us online to share how God is moving in them while they are away. Click the link below to read the rest of the post.

Sunday School & More…Can a Congregation Imagine ‘Something New’?

This article was found on the Faith Formation Learning Exchange web site (Lifelong Faith Spring 2013) and was authored by Karen Gieseke who has a Master of Arts degree in Children, Youth & Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. She currently is the Children, Youth & Family Ministry Coordinator for the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The church council annual retreat agenda and conversation included the expected business items: calendar planning, stewardship drive, building maintenance, and budget issues. But an unplanned and unexpected conversation began. The dialogue turned to Sunday School and included the challenges of recruiting and retaining teachers, the children’s unpredictable attendance, the weariness of those attempting to lead the program, and the honest but unspoken question of “Is it worth it?”

This conversation is occurring in church settings across the country. Whether at a council retreat, a committee planning meeting, a weekly staff conversation, or among the volunteers committed to nurturing the faith of children at the expense of nurturing their own faith, the same questions continue to surface. Where are the families? Will the children’s attendance last after Christmas? How can we recruit energized teachers committed to a schedule? And most importantly, is God’s story being heard and experienced in a way that fosters a growing and rooted faith, and an identity as a child of God that is known and lived?

The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry names the faith of the whole congregation as one of four elements in exemplary youth ministry, asserting “. . . it is the culture of the whole church that is most influential in nurturing youth of vital Christian faith” (Martinson et al., 14). It is the attitudes, behaviors, and customs of the whole Body of Christ, all people of all ages, that is needed in planting, growing, and nurturing Christian faith. The stories of all validate both purpose and identity within God’s family, whether young or old. “. . . care of children as practice of faith transforms us adults by summoning us to be committed to the well-­‐being of children— not just our own but all children—as an essential dimension of the common good of the human family” (Miller-­‐McLemore, xv). Our faith gives witness to God’s story throughout life’s journey, and doesn’t begin and end with specific benchmarks—or age delineations—on life’s timeline. But many ministry programs draw lines between age groups, imitating North American culture which employs age to guide whether one is “in or out,” including movie ratings, restaurant menus, and purchasing discounts. This same attitude, behavior, and custom in congregations reflects current culture and “causes those in our churches not to want to be with other generations because they have been told they don’t need to be” (Beckwith, 132). But the model and practice of separating from each other and each other’s stories has led to a place where Christian identity and a maturing Christian faith are on shaky ground.

So can we imagine “something else” other than what our current culture offers our families and congregations? “What if we began to live as people who believe what we preach—that Jesus is Lord, that his life, death and resurrection binds our futures with his, and that the kingdom of God is at hand. . . a community that embodies the world as God intends it to be?” (Root, 212). Some congregations are doing just that, bringing together the cloud of witnesses of all ages.

The above-­‐mentioned council retreat resulted in a brave and bold decision. The council leadership decided to “cancel” the current Sunday School model for a year and try “Something Else”. They believed in the gift of community and the richness in telling and sharing stories, and understood the current program struggled with both sustainability and rooted faith formation. So they began a journey together, and invited the congregation along to try “Something Else.” Grace Lutheran Church in Waseca, MN experienced a year of risk, reward, opportunity, and promise (http://www.wasecagrace

An organic team of leaders, most in their 30s and 40s, created weekly intergenerational experiences paired with the narrative lectionary stories from the worship texts, tying together conversations and experiences each week, and named these opportunities Something Else. An example of this pairing developed within the Passover story, as brainstorming conversations explored the Passover text related to the Gospel story of Jesus’ dialogue with the disciples “that from now on his blood would be enough.” The life-­‐ giving words and example through God’s story evolved into the opportunity to hold a community blood drive, something the church had never done. Through collaboration with the Red Cross, a community wide life-­‐giving experience unfolded. Children and adults worked side-­‐by-­‐side, as city residents who were not church members, gave generously of the gift of life. The men’s Bible study and the women’s group came alongside the younger families from Grace Lutheran and all joined together with the Something Else Team in the planning and oversight of the blood drive. Volunteers from multiple ages joined hands at complementary activity stations which focused on assembling personal health care, baby care, and school supply kits.

Coincidentally, the same day as the event was New Member Day at Grace Lutheran. So rather than the usual “brunch” experience, the new members joined in, shoulder to shoulder, with all ages in this life-­‐giving opportunity, which originated in God’s story in Egypt, continued through the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, and now offered life to people today.

How did doing Something Else affect the congregation? After the blood drive experience, one young boy from Grace Lutheran was heard asking “When are we were going to do something like that again?” An older woman from the women’s group shared in an email, “Thanks for letting me be a part of the team,” and a church council member, reflecting back on this year of doing Something Else, said his favorite experience was the blood drive ministry.

Could ‘Something Else’ be Imagined? Confirmation is celebrated within many Christian congregations and most frequently designed for youth. The tradition of this ministry runs deep and is often a cornerstone, or benchmark, in faith. Unfortunately, current culture seems to hear the message of a “graduation” of sorts, away from the Christian community rather than an “entering into” the community. In response, variations in content delivery and activities have been added over the years to create meaningful opportunities seeking to “root” one’s faith, rather than complete it. But findings reported through studies suggest a frail faith foundation in our youth as “. . . adolescent religious and spiritual understanding and concern seem to be generally very weak. Most U.S. teens have a difficult to impossible time explaining what they believe, what it means, and what the implications of their beliefs are for their lives.” (Smith, 262).

At Peace Lutheran Church in Eyota, MN,

“Livin’ the Faith” is offered as the something else for a traditional confirmation framework ( Peace Lutheran, a mission start church, had few if any congregational traditions or history. Many in the community had little or no expectation of how specific ministry programs should unfold. The initial attempt at a “traditional” confirmation model resulted in telling many of the participants they had “failed” to meet the requirements, a message in direct opposition to the message of grace which is foundational to Christian faith. The result was re-­‐imagining something else for these steps and moments on the faith journey.

Peace Lutheran melded the current congregational culture with several foundational blocks from another church’s confirmation experience, and launched “Livin’ the Faith.” This opportunity, open to all from 9th grade through adults of any age, offers a nine-­‐week journey rooted in reflecting on faith with the outcome focused on the ability to state “what I believe.” Additionally, for anyone less than eighteen years of age, a parent or mentor is a partner in the weekly 90-­‐minute conversation which focuses on a theme and invites a weekly writing reflection that asks, “Why does this matter to me?”

As Livin’ the Faith evolved, adaptations resulted including deeper Biblical exploration through the reading of both Genesis and Luke, and the creation of more space for intentional and personal conversation as the group size grew. Large group reflective conversation each week became increasingly challenging as more people joined together. To adapt and listen more intently, the pastor now invites the participants to text him their questions as they dialogue with their parent/mentor, providing space for more voices to be heard and engaged with during the conversation. The adaptive innovation resulted in an unprecedented willingness for transparency about one’s faith and the questions arising. The nine-­‐week experience culminates in an optional Commitment Sunday celebration. Peace Lutheran’s pastor candidly admits he’s not sure of the long term outcomes, but is confident the experience invites a variety of narratives to journey together and calls the individuals to respond with what they believe about their own personal, Christian faith and relationship with God.

The freedom to imagine something else resonates throughout God’s story, beginning with Creation and moving God’s people into the innovations of the 21st century. The willingness to imagine something else in the here and now “. . . allows us to wait with confidence, to name our anxieties without fear, and to make room for new life and possibilities as Christ works, unseen, to usher us into an unknown future. . . and the future belongs to Christ. Fear not.” (Root, 217)

Into what future something else might God be inviting the faith of your whole congregation?

24 Lifelong Faith Spring 2013

Lifelong Faith Spring 2013 25

Works Cited

Beckwith, Ivy. Formational Children’s

Ministry. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010.

Martinson, Roland, Wes Black, and John

Roberto. The Spirit and Culture of Youth

Ministry. St. Paul: EYM Publishing, 2010.

Miller-­‐McLemore, Bonnie J. In the Midst of

Chaos-­‐Caring for Children as Spiritual

Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-­‐Bass, 2007.

Root, Andrew and Kenda Creasy Dean, The

Theological Turn in Youth Ministry.

Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011. Smith, Christian and Melinda Lundquist

Denton, Soul Searching-­‐The Religious and

Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.