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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Old school, new school

 

Christian educators and other leaders are using every tool to reach children and their families during pandemic

August 10, 2020

Children using weekly Sunday School materials e-mailed to families by The Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky. (Photo by Leslee Kirkconnell)

When members of the Christian Education Committee at Pisgah Presbyterian Church in Versailles, Kentucky, met to discuss options for their children during the pandemic, they decided to try something radical.

Knowing most church families have at least one parent (sometimes both) working from home while trying to home school their children — and that if kids spied one more thing to study, they might run — the committee went old school.

Pisgah is sending letters in a packet sent to each child. Inside is a biblical story featuring a character who must overcome a great struggle. Included are optional family discussion topics, such as how the story relates to what family members are experiencing now.

Callie Northern, Pisgah’s director of Children & Family Ministries, said they want each family member to know that “God is always with us.” To help them believe and trust this, the letter also includes optional activities for families to build the story together — with play dough, drawings and ways to act it out.

“Several parents have been very appreciative of the letters,” she said. “One family said they love giving the lessons to their children’s grandparents to study together.”

Pisgah’s old-school approach is just one of the many creative ways that Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations and worshiping communities are reaching out to children, youth and their families during this critical time. Other examples:

First Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, started two online youth groups for grades 4–6 and 7–12. During check-in, the Rev. Chrissy Westbury, the church’s associate pastor, asks for their “roses and thorns,” giving them the opportunity to share their fears and concerns — and what they found hopeful. “If we can’t be there for them during what will be a defining and traumatizing moment in their lives,” Westbury said, “how can we expect them to find any relevance in the church?”

Youth at The Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky, are writing notes to isolated members of the church. In addition to meeting weekly online, they’re discussing activities they can do when separated, like a virtual movie night. With a particular browser add-on, everyone can watch and chat in real time together about the movie. “We’re also emailing weekly ‘grace and gratitude’ multi-age (curricula) to all family members,” said Leslee Kirkconnell, the church’s director of Christian education. “This is an excellent time to help parents be the primary faith educators we know them to be.”

First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, Florida, features lessons for young children on its Learning Center YouTube channel. They also have weekly online Waumba Worship for young families and young adults (“Waumba” means “Creator” in Swahili).

Certified Christian educator Jenna Campbell of First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma, has constructed a website containing helpful resources for parents, children and youth on topics including family life and seasons in the life of the church.

An intergenerational collaborative effort at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland, Michigan, among the church’s chancel choir, two local high schools and Central Michigan University led to people in each group singing together Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” on Easter Sunday. Memorial’s senior pastor, the Rev. Matt Schramm, and the director of Worship and Arts, Megan Farison, joined in. Watch the video stitched together by MPC’s worship intern, Elijah Schweikert.

The Presbyterian Mission Agency’s associate coordinator for Christian Formation, Stephanie Fritz, said she’s amazed at how educators and faith formation leaders across the denomination have been resourcing and leading faith communities. She said many are looking ahead to summer to find alternatives to Vacation Bible School and traditional mission trips.

“We need to look at them as leading the conversation about how our churches and faith communities will look different as we emerge from this,” Fritz said.

Paul Seebeck, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Reaching Children During Pandemic

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Mike Kirk, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Stacie Kizer, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation

Let us pray:

Lord, we thank you for those who weather the storms and take on risk and sacrifice to reach the least. May your blessing and protection be always on them as they live out your example. Amen.