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Experiencing Belonging Searching Owning
The Faith Discovery for Children program reflects our calling to create a safe and nurturing environment where children are able to grow in their understanding of God’s love for them and for the world around them. As a Christian community of faith, we are called to honor our children, to meet them where they are in their faith formation, and to walk with them on their faith journeys.
Through a variety of developmentally appropriate and kid-centered approaches we share the stories of our faith; help our children to connect the lessons of the bible to their everyday lives, and nurture the expression of their faith in word and deed.
We offer classes for two age-groups:
[su_spoiler title=”First Steps (for children from birth to pre-Kindergarten)” icon=”arrow”]
This group is all about experiencing the faith of those around them. Our goals are:
- To welcome infants and toddlers to a safe and cheerful environment.
- To greet our families with familiar, nurturing caregivers.
- To tell the stories of our faith that give each child an experience of what it means to be loved by God.
- To nurture relationships with one another.
The Lead Teacher leads the children in their First Steps with lessons involving stories, music, age-appropriate crafts and plenty of free play. These activities are adapted each week to accommodate the children in attendance. The classroom is chock full of toys the First Steps children can play with safely.
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This group is taught by two teachers for maximum flexibility and ability to weave in the youngest ones. Each child now a sense of belonging. They are familiar with the church and enjoy knowing where to go. They are now on a path toward an ever-deepening sense of faith.
Our goals for this group are:
- To experience the stories of our faith.
- To develop an awareness of God in their lives, and in their relationships with one another, but exploring the ways stories of the Bible apply in our times.
- To provide fun, active, age-appropriate avenues for responding to the lessons of the Bible.
- To nurture the expression of their faith in word and deed.
- To engage more fully in the life of the church.
On most Sundays, the readings covered in our time together are the same as those the adults hear in worship. The purpose here is to facilitate conversation within families about what they experienced during the morning.
But ours is a flexible and creative program, sometimes taking up a theme and spending 3 or more weeks on it, using a Workshop Rotation model. Past themes have been: Psalm 23, Abraham and Sarah, The Beatitudes, Caring For and Protecting God’s Creation, and Neighbors in Faith. This year our over-arching theme is SCIENCE AND FAITH WALK HAND IN HAND. (Click on “here” above to read more about this exciting adventure!)
Some lessons lend themselves to presentations using Godly Play, a Montessori-inspired curriculum where stories are told in an engaging way with objects. At the end of the story, the leader asks “I wonder…” questions. These do not require answers, but if offered, there is never just one “correct” answer. Rather, the wondering questions help the children enter the story and ponder their place in it.
A Typical Sunday Morning in Faith Discovery
We have two kinds of “typical” Sundays! On those Sundays when we are pursuing a theme, Sundays start with the families together in the sanctuary for the first 15 minutes of worship. There, children will experience the Prelude, Welcome, Opening Hymn, Call to Worship and Unison Prayer. They then come forward for a Time with Children during which the lesson theme might be introduced by means of a story, a conversation or a song. After Time with Children, they leave the sanctuary with their teachers and go to class.
The other kind of “typical” Sunday morning is rooted in our belief that faith is “caught, not taught.” While hearing and pondering the stories of our faith is important, so is worship. So we try to strike a balance, creating ample opportunity for children to worship in full community. On these Sundays, they stay in worship up to the sermon. Special worship bulletins are created each week to help younger children engage with the service. Just before the sermon, any child who wants to can exit with the teacher. During the brief time remaining, we explore what went on during worship, delving a bit into one of the scripture readings, perhaps doing a related craft, or continuing with an on-going craft.
And then there are Sundays when we are all in worship for the full hour. These services are specially designed to include participation from the children, be it through easily sung hymns, reading scripture, collecting offering, handing out bulletins.
Children in Worship
We encourage the participation of children in worship and staying in worship is always an option. Children participate in worship by signing up to be Bearers of the Light at the start of worship; sometimes children are greeters; older children might read scripture. Twice a year, the children are the worship leaders, Pageant Sunday and Children’s Sunday.
Children in Communion
Children in First Grade and above typically receive communion with the congregation every other month, reversing the usual worship and classroom schedule, first to have their class lessons then to enter the sanctuary during the middle hymn. In October, children also attend an inter-generational service for the entire hour to celebrate World Communion Sunday.
Keeping Our Children and Community Safe
As a gathered community of faith we pledge to conduct our ministry in ways that assure the safety, well-being, and spiritual growth of all our members. We do so out of deep care and concern for the welfare of each and every person who is served by, and who seeks to serve, the ministries of our Church, as all seek to follow the example of the compassionate Christ.
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Children and Outreach
As a fully intergenerational community, we are committed to finding ways to involve the children in outreach activities, whether it’s serving once a month at Bristol Lodge, or helping at Cradles to Crayons, or helping to maintain our own church property. We are represented on the Outreach Committee so that we can coordinate efforts for those projects that can involve the children in ways that would be especially meaningful for them.Examples of projects we’ve done in the past include:
- Making snack-packs for children of mom’s living in temporary housing due to domestic violence.
- Decorating and filling school bags for children in Afghanistan.
- Donating to Heifer International.
- Volunteering at Cradles to Crayons