Will Our Children Be Generous?

 Today, tomorrow, and every day, children will be exposed to over five thousand messages geared to get them to spend their money on themselves. These messages try to convince children they are worth what they possess. Who will send them the messages about the benefits of being generous people who share and save their money as well as spend it? Who will teach them that they are valued by God just the way they are, regardless of what they own or what they wear?

There are no guarantees that generous parents will raise generous children. Even parents who intentionally practice and teach faithful stewardship habits cannot be assured that their children will be equally motivated to be good stewards in their adult years. However, there are things parents can do to influence their children’s attitudes and actions as co-stewards of the family household. Presbytery’s Resource Center can provide some help with practices and studies too help.

Presbytery’s Resource Center has the following resources to encourage stewardship in children and families.  Let me know if I can send a resource your way.  To search Presbytery’s Resource Center’s database, go to http://presbycc.org/resources/

  • Let the Children Give Time, Talents, Love & MoneyBook by Delia Halverson. Ideas for church leaders and teachers to engage children of all ages in the important task of stewardship. The various activities, designed for multiple settings and situations, will help children understand and accept the responsibility to use their many gifts in ministry.
  • Giving Together: A Stewardship Guide for Families – In her follow-up book to Getting it Together, Carol Wehrheim presents a concise, accessible resource to help families better understand the importance of stewardship: in the family, in the congregation, in the community, and in the world. Reminding us that stewardship is about much more than money, Wehrheim clearly illustrates a more holistic understanding of the concept to include careful consideration of the choices we make that show the role Christian discipleship plays in our lives. Including both a participant’s section and a leader’s guide, Giving Together is ideal for small group or family study.   
  • Kids Have A Lot to Give: How Congregations Can Nurture Habits of Giving and Serving for the Common Good by Eugene C. Roehlkepartain – Congregations clearly have a tremendous opportunity to guide young people to get into the habits of giving and serving. And while much is already happening, much can still be done to strengthen the ways congregations nurture these commitments.  After highlighting some key concepts and outlining the challenges, this 35 page resource offers some concrete ways that leaders in congregations can be more intentional and effective in nurturing generous spirit in youth.

Celebrating All Saints Day

Reposted from BuildFaith.org
On November 1st the church remembers the saints of God – all faithful servants and believers. The day honors saints who have died and of all Christian persons. All Hallows’ Eve, October 31st (from which our Halloween comes); All Saints’ Day; and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd – the Day of the Faithful Departed), are connected and are often celebrated together.

Here are some ways that you can celebrate All Saints Day at home or in church:

1. Find a saintly calendar
Look at a list of saints listed by month and date. In the Episcopal Church, Holy Women, Holy Men. This volume gives a brief overview of the person’s life, as well as readings appointed for the particular feast day.

2. Make a visual display of saints
Once you identify saints in any period of history (including our own) who have displayed their love for God, you can display that visually.  Some ideas:

• Picture display
• Mobile
• Altar-hanging
• Parade of costumed persons showing how they help or serve
• Banners (hung or carried in procession)

3. Honor the elders in your community
Many groups, especially Asian-Americans, use All Saints’ Day as an opportunity to remember and respect family members who are elderly or who have lived in other generations. This might be the occasion for telling about where our families have come from and lived, what their lives were like, and what values we honor that they have passed on to us.

4. Study your name
Our names are symbols of who we are, and our Christian names tell who we are in our new life in Christ. Whether or not we share the name of a well-known saint, a study of our names and their meanings can help us see ourselves as particular saints of God whose lives are offered in loving service.

5. Make a display of names
A design of everyone’s name in a congregation or family can make an interesting All Saints’ Day bulletin board or Sunday bulletin cover, or other display. Photos can be made into a mobile or PowerPoint presentation to help convey our common Christian calling to be saints.

6. Create images or drama from Scripture
Biblical illustrations of Jesus’ calling of the disciples, or Jesus’ invitation for people to follow him, are excellent discussion starters. Going a step further, we might create art or drama projects about these scenes, and how we too can be followers of Christ today. Think of people in your local community whom are examples of discipleship today, especially those who offer quiet and unnoticed acts.

7. Walk among the departed
Visit a cemetery and read examples of how friends and loved ones have honored the dead on tombstones. Consider making rubbings from the gravestones (with appropriate permission and using the proper tools).

8. Search your church for stories
Look at the memorials in your church and talk about the stories behind them. In many churches, you will find windows, books, liturgical items, and more, which were given in honor of past parishioners.

The ideas on this post are published in The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education, 3rd edition 2009: Morehouse Publishing.

Sharon Ely Pearson is an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI). She is the author/editor of several books, most recently The Episcopal Christian Educator’s Handbook and Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theologies of Confirmation for the 21st Century. When not traveling for work or pleasure, she enjoys tossing tennis balls to her year old black lab, Chobe.

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500 for Baby

Reposted: 26 Oct 2015 from The Sustainist email post by Eric H. F. Law, Kaleidoscope Institute For competent leadership in a diverse changing world www.kscopeinstitute.org

For every baby born to a Maine resident since 2013, the Alfond Scholarship Foundation invests a $500 Alfond Grant for his or her future qualified higher education expenses. Maine babies born prior to 2013 were eligible for the Alfond Grant if a NextGen account was opened for them by their first birthday.

The $500 Alfond Grant for your baby’s future education is a legacy gift from Harold Alfond to benefit future generations of Maine children. Mr. Harold Alfond believed that all children deserved the opportunity to achieve higher education and recognized that one of the biggest barriers to attending college is cost. So he created this gift as a great start to help families prepare for college early. He believed that you could transform individual families and the State’s future prosperity by helping all Maine’s children aspire to higher education.

While the babies and their families in Maine are blessed by the Alfond Scholarship Foundation, what about the babies in the rest of the states in the U.S.?  Here is an idea for churches to consider that would increase the long-term currencies of wellness and relationship.  What if every church in the U.S. offers every baby born in their neighborhood a grant of $500 to start a college saving account?  This investment of our currency of money will begin a relationship with every family with a newborn in your neighborhood.  The church members can continue to build the currency of relationship with these families by offering support for raising the child at different stages of the child’s development fostering spiritual, physical, social and economic wellness.

I did some math. There are about 4 million babies born each year.  There are about 300,000 churches of all different denominations.  On the average, each church needs only to offer about 13 scholarships a year – $6,500 per year of investment into the future sustainability of the good people living in your neighborhood.  If an individual church cannot afford this, clusters of churches in the same neighborhood can pool their resources to do this.  Another option is to offer the scholarships through the regional denominational organizations such as the diocese, presbytery, district, conference, and synod.

Taking Field Trips in Worship

Exploring the Sanctuary…Reposted from Carolyn Brown’s “Worshiping with Children” bloghttp://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2015/10/taking-field-trips-in-worship.html

Great minds are working together – again.  Last Wednesday Jeanne Gay commented that she often takes the children on field trips in the sanctuary.  I’d already been thinking about a post on just that option for this week.  So, …

Instead of talking to the children in their seats or bringing them to the front for a “children’s time,” gather them somewhere else in the sanctuary.  Just the change from “the usual” will focus their attention and moving around in the sanctuary will build their sense of comfort with the whole space rather than just where they sit.  Below is a starter list of possible destinations and reasons for going there.

Visit furnishings and special places in the room

>  Meet at the font to walk through your baptism rite or speak about a baptismal theme.  Invite each child to dip a finger in the font, draw a cross on their forehead, and say “I belong to God.”

>  Meet at the Table to explain the Eucharist or to discuss why the Table is always there, what is and is not placed on the Table and what it means.

>  Gather near the pulpit or lectern to talk about why it is the shape and place it is and what is said from that place.  If there are not too many children give each one a chance to stand in the pulpit to see the congregation from where the preacher sees them (and the congregation a chance to imagine future preachers).

>  Pick up the offering plates and move them around the sanctuary demonstrating how they are used.  If possible, send a child with each usher to pass the plates and bring them back to the Table for the sung and prayed dedication.

>  Meet at the organ or other musical instruments.  Talk about how that instrument is used in worship.  Maybe interview the musician.

>  Gather in the choir loft.  Introduce the choir and what they do in worship.  Let the children see what the choir sees every Sunday.

>  If there are special Bibles in the sanctuary, go to them.  Tell the children about them.  Look up today’s text in it and read it from the Bible with the children close enough to read over your shoulders.

>  Visit special windows, plaques, statues, banners, or other art displayed regularly or seasonally.  Explain why it is in your worship space and what it means.

>  Gather at the back door, even in the lobby to introduce the ushers and greeters and their work.  If you are wearing a mic, the adults in the sanctuary can follow the conversation without being able to see the children.

>  Or, go to the back door to discuss what happens as worshipers arrive.  Stop to get bulletins.  Suggest marking the hymns and scripture readings while waiting for the service to start.

>  Or, gather at the back door to find the worship bags.  Unpack one, pointing out ways to use it.  Be sure that every child who does not already have one today, gets one for the rest of the service.

>  If there is a robing space just off the sanctuary (and your mic will be picked up there) visit it to explain the robes and stoles that worship leaders wear.

Demonstrate, explain, and practice parts of worship such as

>  Processionals and recessionals

>  Benedictions

>  Sacraments

>  Seasonal rites such as lighting Advent wreathes

Match where you read one of the scripture readings for the day with the place you read it.  For example, we will soon hear the story of the widow who put two coins in the offering.  Note that the offering plates were not passed but placed by the back door in Jesus’ day.  Give the offering plates to the children and go stand near the back door as a group.  Read the gospel story from there.  Then, reclaim the plates and send the children to their seats.

If you have a balcony, it is often the place young families sit.  So, one Sunday instead of asking them to come down to you, go up to them.  Lead them in a children’s time geared to the worship theme of the day.  Or, after noting that when sitting in the balcony it can feel like “real worship” going on downstairs.  Insist that they are fully part of the worshiping church and are as much a part of God’s worshiping family as the people sitting downstairs.  (This is makes the downstairs worshipers more aware of the upstairs crowd.)

What destinations can you add?

All Saints Day: Wisdom and Wonder

reposted from article by Sara Yotter & Linda Staats 

In honor of my father (Linda Staats)

IMG_2171 (1)

The term CROSS†OVER means two or more things brought together for a new purpose. When wearing a crossover shoe one can transition seamlessly from walking to jogging into aerobics. A crossover car features the best of a passenger car and a sport utility vehicle allowing more flexibility. This resource, Cross†Over, is exactly that…the *Wisdom of the Elder and the Wonder of the Child interacting in the same space, sharing the same experience – being the Body of Christ.

Worship leaders and Christian education coordinators – be courageous! Combine the ideas offered below and create something new. If education hour is the same time as worship, suspend Sunday school so all ages can gather in worship. Bring elements of worship into learning, bringing all ages together for a multi-generational, faith-sharing time. Combine both and create one “Cross†Over” seamless experience for All Saints Day, November 1, 2015.

THE THEME Give an overview of your time together and the purpose of gathering all ages and generations for worship, learning and the sharing of faith.

Explain that All Saints’ Day is one of the major festivals of the Christian Year. This feast serves as a celebration of all God’s servants and faithful believers, Christians who have come before us and those living among us. The communion of saints is made up of people from Bible times until today – those who try to follow Jesus and do the things that Jesus teaches us to do. It is a tradition in many congregations to remember those who have died during the previous year with the reading of names and the lighting of candles.

All Saints Day invites us to hear the witness of faith by people as recorded in our Scriptures and as posted on Facebook, reflected upon in blogs or sent as tweets.  This day is also an opportunity to honor those in our families, congregations, communities, and around the world, who are “heroes by faith” every single day.


HOSPITALITY Even if it is not your norm, for this Sunday, use nametags. As people arrive, invite each to add a colored dot to his or her nametag that matches the year or decade one was born. Welcome everyone – households with children and those without, households of one, empty nesters, multi-generational households – always aware of the first timers and single participant.

A faith community has the potential to gather six generations and ten decades

Provide traditional treats for Day of the Dead in Mexico, such as sugar skulls and pan de muerto.

Serve Soul Cakes (plain cake donuts. In an earlier time, instead of saying “Trick-or-treat,” children would say: “A Soul Cake, a Soul Cake, have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!” It is believed that a clever medieval cook wanted to make Soul Cakes designed to remind people of eternity, so she cut a hole in the middle of round cakes before frying them, thereby inventing donuts!

WORSHIP & GATHERING SPACE AESTHETICS Around the world, marigolds or chrysanthemums are flowers special for this celebration.  Lavishly decorate your worship or learning space.

Joy Reigns, Edgewater, MD

The altar is the Gathering Table for worship. If this is the education hour or a  learning environment only, then create a Gathering Table. The Gathering Table lets people know from the moment they enter the space, the theme for the day. Place on the Gathering Table: a Bible opened to the text or story, denominational hymnal open to the listing of Saints celebrated during the year (ex: ELW p15-17), a candle, basin of water to remember one’s baptism, plus any props one will use to tell the Story or reminders of the Story to take home.

Invite people to bring a picture of someone deceased in the last year. Photos could include famous people in one’ society in addition to friends and family members, pets and living Saints who serve one’s community and risk their lives to keep everyone safe, such as fire fighters, police officers.

Gift from Bethlehem Lutheran, Aberdeen, SD

Prep for “Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses…” Hebrews 12:1 As people enter worship, invite them to write on precut “clouds”, the name(s) of those who has influenced his/her life of faith, living or who has died. Children might draw a picture of someone they know who loves them or has told them about Jesus. Place the clouds on the walls around your gathering space or worship space.

When saying the words from the proper preface: “By the witness of the saints you show us hope of our calling… And so with (say names written on the clouds) and all the saints, with the choirs of angels and hosts of heaven…. “ In these words is an opportunity to remind the assembled of the great cloud of witnesses.

WELCOME, Greeting and Gathering Time (or during Sharing of the Peace) Invite people to introduce themselves to one or two folks of another age, or colored dot – representing someone of another generation:

Share your name and if you know the meaning of your name or whom you are named after. Our names are symbols of who we are and remind us that we are called as particular saints of God to offer our lives in loving service.

SING the following familiar song by Louis Armstrong. Invite individuals, or small groups to spontaneously create new 2nd & 3rd lines for additional verses. Have a basket of tambourines and musical instruments ready to use. Invite people to clap, march in a circle or in place.

Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In When the saints go marching in. Oh lord I want to be in that number, When the saints go marching in.

When the air is pure and clean, When the air is pure and clean. Oh lord I want to be in that number, When the saints go marching in.

When we all- have food to eat, When we all have food to eat. Oh lord I want to be in that number, When the saints go marching in.

CALL TO WORSHIP This call to worship is by Janet Morley. Posted on the blog RevGalBlogPa “A Place for Prayer”

Teach the response ahead of time for those who are pre-readers.  Practice. “Your response today will be “we praise you, O God.”  Try it now…

L: For all the saints who went before us who have spoken to our hearts and touched us with your fire,

ALL: we praise you, O God.

L: For all the saints who live beside us whose weaknesses and strengths are woven with our own,

ALL: we praise you, O God.

L: For all the saints who live beyond us who challenge us to change the world with them,

ALL: we praise you, O God.


L: Breathe in and out three times in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN. (Take deep breaths in and out pausing between each name of the Trinity.)

Confession Pose

L: Sitting in your pew, or on the floor if your space allows, hold your hands together underneath your knees and bend forward as far as your body will allow your head to get close to/or touching your thighs. Take quiet time of reflection for all the “do-overs” from this past week. (Music in the background) After a brief time, invite folks to stand, if able.

With our whole selves…

Forgiveness/Absolution Pose

L: Stand with legs shoulder width apart and arms reaching up to God. In this pose we funnel God’s forgiveness and love that is already given directly to us.  We reach and stretch with all our fingers and humbly receive God’s forgiveness.

Preach to the heart and the ear

Gratitude Pose

L: With hands flat, touching one another in front of one’s body, slightly bowing in a posture of gratitude, leader says, “God has wiped away our tears and our regrets. Let us be full of joy. Thank you God!” All: AMEN!

HEAR GOD’S STORY: Reading of the Word

♦ Revised Common Lectionary: Isaiah 25.6-9. Psalm 24. John 11:32-44 the story of Lazarus. (If focusing on Isaiah, do check out this idea using the book, The Greatest Table, September 30)

♦ Narrative Lectionary:  1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29 and Mark 10:42-45

♦ Hebrews 1, “by faith…,” a great could of witnesses and a recounting of the faith stories of Christian ancestors.

♦ Joshua 4:21-24 “When your children ask, what do these stones mean- tell them!” 

SERMON or TEACHING Time All Saints Day is celebrated in different traditions in our communities and around the world. Consider offering a message that reflects the cultures in your neighborhood or our contemporary society as suggested below.

Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, is celebrated particularly in Mexico.  The Smithsonian has a Latino Virtual Museum iBook for free, including videos.

If you have a Mexican/Latino congregation worshipping nearby or on your campus, invite the pastor or members of the congregation to share their traditions for celebrating these special days.  Ask the children to be translators!

There is a section of the Pixar movie Book of Life that shows the joyful festivities of Day of the Dead, in the Land of the Remembered.  You can see it on YouTube.  In the Philippines it is a celebration of those who have died and an intentional time to strengthen family with camping at the cemetery and lots of meaningful togetherness time.  Check out this quick 3-minute video to learn more:

Consider presenting media that most households with kids will relate to – the third highest grossing movie of all time, Furious 7 (as of 9.15) For those who are not car movie fans, this franchise is huge!  Paul Walker, one of the main actors in this 15-year movie franchise, was killed in a car crash before this movie was finished.  The ending was rewritten with a tribute to Paul.  See You Again played on the radio for weeks in the spring of 2015.  The ending scene of Paul’s vehicle going down a different road and then the camera panning up to heaven is powerful and could easily be used for All Saints Day. (caution, a few words of inappropriate language)

Or you could choose to make this a teachable moment and honor the generations in your midst. Check out this beautiful idea from Faith Formation Journeys.

Who are the faces of the generations in your faith community?

The readings for this day from the Revised Common Lectionary focus on grief. Invite a grief counselor to be a guest preacher for the day.  Provide an opportunity during the Cross+Gen gathering to continue the conversation. Invite someone who is part of a congregation grief group to speak about their journey of faith during the loss of a loved one.

Who is someone who has influenced your life or helped you in a positive way Whose name did you place on a cloud? Why?

RESPOND TO GOD’S STORY Side-Walk Memorial Project “When your children ask, what do these stones mean- tell them!” Joshua 4:21-24

Provide 4×6 note cards for households or individuals to write the names of loved ones who have died (one name per card) plus the DOB & DOD and one sentence that symbolizes the person’s career, skills, interest or passion. Using chalk, design and create “memorial stones” using the squares of the sidewalk surrounding the church to incorporate the information on the note cards. If no sidewalks or inclement weather – use squares of newsprint then post the memorials to the walls surrounding the gathering space.

You may plan for this activity in two ways:

  1. As people enter worship have a table with an explanation of the Memorial Stone Project. Invite people to write the name(s) and DOB/DOD of those they wish to honor on the note cards, including the one-sentence tribute. During worship, the “Memorial Team” made up of mixed generations (or it could be a youth ministry project) designs each tribute on the squares of the sidewalk surrounding the church or on large newsprint then displayed in a gathering space where all will enter following worship.
  2. Following worship or during a Cross+Gen learning hour, groups of 4-5 people of mixed ages each take a card and together design a “memorial stone” in honor of the person written on the note card. If you do this activity as household units, be intentional about forming new “households” of single individuals. Or encourage existing households to include single individuals as the adopted cousin, aunt/uncle or grandpa/grandma. Leave no one behind or alone!

PRAYERS Invite folks to audibly name saints (in addition to the ones who have passed away in the last year) that have touched people’s lives. During worship the children could draw pictures of saints they have known and bring them forward during the prayers.

Call out the names on the clouds (Cloud of Witness activity) near where people are sitting or standing. Offer the names up in prayer. Have people turn to one another and briefly share about someone who is like a a saint to him or her.

While music is playing, invite people to light candles or LED candles on a Side Table in the worship space or on the Gathering Table, in memory of relatives, friends, even pets who have died or in honor of those people special to us in our daily lives.

Read the list of Saints’ in your denominations Hymnal or Prayer Book incorporating the suggested response.

“We give thanks for the many people who have gone before us, and are with us even now: a great cloud of witnesses who have tried to live God’s love every day, and with their lives, have shown us how to be followers of Jesus.” Seasons on Line

CREED In the Apostle’s Creed we profess in the communion of saints.  As you say the creed gather together, invite folks to remember who else is saying these words of faith with them this day.

COMMUNION & SHARING a MEAL Gather everyone in one large circle around the Altar or Gathering Table, from oldest to youngest, using the colored dots on nametags as a guide or simply calling out the various decades.

Remind folks that in the Apostle’s Creed we believe in the communion of saints. Sharing communion around the altar invites us to think about whom else is sharing in this holy meal from generation’s past and present. This is a “Circle of Blessing” and of generations, a community of faith where stories are shared and faith is nurtured.

Serve “pan de muerto” bread for communion. This bread is a specialty for Day of the Dead.  Buy it at a local Hispanic grocery or make it using this recipe.

BLESSING Make the sign of the cross on one another’s forehead or hand, or place a hand on their shoulder and say, “You are a beloved Saint of God, today and always.”

All Saints Day is an opportunity for community outreach. As Cross+Gen small groups or households write letters of thanks to those Heroes by Faith in your neighborhood who risk their lives to keep you safe: your local police officers, those serving at your local fire station, emergency room at the nearest hospital, crosswalk patrols, veterans, etc. Consider delivering something edible and homemade.

Create Memorial Stones on the sidewalks that surround your household’s dwelling. Dedicate them to family, friends or pets that have died. Invite neighbors to join you. Serve apple cider and donuts.


Building Faith: All Saints or another resource

Birthing Cross+Gen Ministry Facebook page

Loyola Press

Sundays and Seasons

Text Week (Children’s Section)

Worshiping with Children

SONG for All Saints Day (is also a book)

  1. I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew. And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green; they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too.
  2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, and his love made them strong; and they followed the right for Jesus’ sake the whole of their good lives long. And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast; and there’s not any reason, no, not the least, why I shouldn’t be one too.
  3. They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still. The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, in church, by the sea, in the house next door; They are saints of God, whether rich or poor, And I mean to be one too.

Dear friends, Be prepared for the unleashing of the Holy Spirit as all ages and generations experience and celebrate Christ in the lives of those before us and among us.    Sara Yotter & Linda Staats 

* Credit to Rich Melheim for the phrase “Wisdom and Wonder….”

Permission is given for congregations and households to use and expand upon the ideas offered in this resource. The title and phrase “Cross†Over,” resources and the ideas contained within are not to be sold or used for profit. Please give credit when applicable. 

Faith Words Matter: Helping Teens Articulate Faith

Reposted from BuildingFaith.org by Jann Treadwell on October 14th, 2015

girls teens

“We adults can help youth reshape their thinking by putting a name to their experience that will help them see how God is at work.”

Thought, Word, Act
A long time ago I heard the notion, “Thoughts lead to words; words lead to action; action leads to habit; habit leads to character.” Thoughts and words are basic to our humanity, basic to the ability to express our observations, feelings, and experiences. Thoughts and words also help shape our faith. One of the issues that stands in the way of “faith-shaping” is our failure to use faith language to describe an experience.

Even as adults we do not always recognize, much less acknowledge to ourselves and others, how Christ is at work in our daily lives. A first step is to recognize God’s ways with humanity, and then put those thoughts into words for others to hear. Articulating our faith helps us to shift our perspectives and form the lens through which we observe and live.

Guiding Teens with Faith Language
As youth leaders we must help our youth create their own faith lenses, by raising their awareness of ways that Christ is present. It is our obligation to help youth practice using faith language to describe what is happening around them. Faith language matters…. especially when culture constantly challenges our faith. Practicing faith language can be done in multiple ways, but here are three that come to mind:

We can lead by example
We share our own stories of God’s faithfulness with the youth, hoping that they will recognize similar times in their own lives and use the vocabulary of faith to describe them. During my last call, one of the activities done on a regular basis was “On the stage with…” Every six weeks or so during youth fellowship, Jr. and Sr. Highs and adult sponsors would gather on the stage in our fellowship hall to hear one youth and one adult share part of their faith journey. We always took volunteers and discovered that once this had been done a few times, even some of the more shy members of the group wanted a turn.

The two people would be determined a week or two out, and they would choose a particular passage of scripture or a song (sometimes secular) that had meaning to them and how it helped them through a difficult time. The role of the adults was to formulate questions to ask the group after each story: “When have you had an experience like Jill’s? How did you handle it? Where did you see God in the midst of it? What helped you get through it? How did Jill’s scripture passage speak to you?” The sharing on these evenings was rich with faith talk and inspiring to all.

We can name actions with Faith Words
When we use faith words with our youth, their own actions and observations become sharper in ways that may have not occurred to them. We adults can help youth reshape their thinking by putting a name to their experience that will help them see how God is at work.

One memory I have is of Tim, who professed to be a skeptic when it came to faith issues and who felt attending Sunday worship was not important, though his parents made him come. One Sunday he came up to me after worship, very excited to share that he had gone to the hospital the day before to visit James, a member of the youth group who had been hospitalized. While he was there, two other youth from our group came into the room. He felt good about the experience. I said, “Tim, the three of you were being The Church to James. You did a good thing.” By naming the faith action he took, Tim’s perspective changed and an exciting experience was shifted in his mind to a deed done in Christ’s name.

We can teach teens to articulate belief
We should always be inviting our youth to articulate what they believe and modeling how that sounds. Use faith words deliberately. As you plan with the youth: “What do you think God is asking us to do?” As you end a day on your mission trip: “Where did you see Christ in someone else today?” Before you close with prayer at the end of youth fellowship, invite reflection: “This past week, how has God moved you to do something in God’s name? Where will you especially need God’s presence in the coming week?”

Our prayer is for the youth to become more attuned to how God is working in their lives and are able to articulate their thoughts in faith language. May their actions reflect this new awareness and may it become habit-forming and shape their character into all God intends them to be.

Jann Treadwell is a retired certified educator in the Presbyterian Church (USA), 2010 Educator of the Year for the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators, and author of “Unbound: The Transformative Power of Youth Mission Trips.