Monday, December 18, 2017

Resources for Advent 4, Christmas Eve 2017


Your spiritual gifts were not given for your own benefit but for the benefit of others, just as other people were given gifts for your benefit.~ Rick Warren

We are now in the season of Advent, a time that is focused on waiting with anticipation. We wait with anticipation for the return of Christ; we relive in our own lives the expectation of the birth of Christ and his birth in our own heart everyday. We wait with anticipation for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled on Earth. Over these four weeks, the material will be shaped around four themes that are relevant to this time: promise, waiting, journey and gift.

In addition to the weekly resources, have a look at the special Advent page for some ideas and resources on how to celebrate the season well in your home.

Family Closeness
Game:
Pass the Parcel
This old game still gets played at parties but could be a fun game to play at home around the table. It would also be a great way to unveil a gift for your family. Put something nice in the middle for the whole family – like a family movie pass or a note saying you are all going to your favourite restaurant. Wrap it up. Now put multiple layers of wrapping on with small prizes in between such as chocolate bars or sweets.  Blindfold a family member. Their job is to say when to stop passing the parcel. Pass the parcel and when it is stopped, someone gets to take off a layer. You might even like to play music or sing a song while the parcel is passed around.

Sharing:
  • What is the best gift you have ever received?
  • What is the best gift you have ever been given?
  • What is the most precious gift in the world?
Story
With your family, read Luke 1.26-38.
(For a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children, look at

Questions for Discussion:
  • What did the angel call Mary to begin with? Why do you think he called her this? What do you think it means?
  • What do you think surprised Mary the most, seeing an angel or the news he gave her?
  • What things did Gabriel tell Mary about who her baby was?

 Prayer and Celebration
 A prayer for candle lighting during Advent:

O God,
as light comes from this candle,
may the blessing of Jesus Christ come to us,
warming our hearts and
brightening our way.
May Christ our Saviour bring life
into the darkness of this world,
and to us, as we wait for his coming.
Amen.

Family Time
Song Stories

A great way to explore the story of Christmas would be to listen to some Christmas Carols or hymns with your family. One option would be to listen and sing together and just enjoy the music and your family. Alternatively, listen very carefully to the words and to the feel of the song. Discuss what this particular carol is saying about the birth of Jesus. Are there any words or phrases that children don’t understand? Discuss what these might mean.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Resources for Advent 3, December 17 2017


Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home. - C.S.Lewis

We are now in the season of Advent, a time that is focused on waiting with anticipation. We wait with anticipation for the return of Christ, we relive in our own lives the expectation of the birth of Christ and his birth in our own heart everyday. We wait with anticipation for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled on Earth. Over these four weeks the material will be shaped around four themes that are relevant to this time: promise, waiting, journey and gift.

In addition to the weekly resources, have a look at the special Advent page for some ideas and resources on how to celebrate the season well in your home.

Family Closeness
Game:
Alphabet Car Game
Since the theme this week is 'journey', here is a game you can play next time you are in the car. It is a simple game that requires players to find all the letters of the alphabet in order on car number plates. A letter on a number plate can only be claimed by one player, the first to call it out. Multiple letters on the one number plate can be claimed and by different players. Whoever gets to z first is the winner. Find some more travel games for the car at the bottom of this blog post.

Sharing:
  • What are the best and worst things about long journeys?
  • What is your favourite thing to do on a journey?
  • Where is your favourite place to journey to?

Story
 With your family, read John 1.6-28:
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

Questions for Discussion:
  • Who was it that John’s disciples were waiting for?
  • What evidence did Jesus give that he was the one?
  • How did John prepare the way for Jesus?

 Prayer and Celebration
A prayer for Advent
We thank you, Lord God, for the prophets and leaders who looked forward to the coming of Jesus the Saviour.
We thank you for those who prepared the way for him, like John the Baptist.
We thank you for the angels you sent with the message about Jesus;
and we thank you for Mary, who believed the message and was willing to do your will.
We thank you most of all for Jesus, who was born to save us.

In this Advent time, when we get ready for Christmas, help us to hear your message, to be excited that you want to be with us, and help us to be part of your plan for this world you care so much about.
Amen.

Service
Here are some more Advent Service Ideas:
  • Get a group together to sing at a nursing home.
  • Go through your cupboard and give some clothes to a charity.
  • Encourage your children to think of what toys they have that are still in good condition that they might give to a charity.
  • With your family, choose a way to give a gift to a needy family. This may be best done through a registered charity or church. If you can make food donations take your children shopping to buy the food so they can actually see what it is they are giving. Some charities have schemes where people give gift-wrapped presents for children from needy families.

Family Time
Are trips in the car a nightmare? Why not turn them into a family adventure? Here are a few ideas:

Semi Search
All you need is a sheet of paper to keep score, one person to be scorekeeper and a writing utensil. Each player chooses a colour. Each player's name and chosen colour is then written down on the score card by the score keeper, who will announce when there is a winner. Each player announces each semitrailer on the road that is his chosen colour. One mark, or point, is given for each semi the person identifies as his colour. The game can be played until one person reaches a certain number of points. Most people play Semi Search until one person reaches 50 points, but a longer game can be played for older children.

Travelling Bingo
Bingo cards will need to be made prior to the trip, but only take a few minutes to make. Be sure to make several sets to allow for more than one game of Car Bingo to be played, especially if travelling a long distance. To make the Bingo cards, draw five columns of five boxes centred on the paper. You can use coloured or white paper, whichever is more convenient. Over the top of each column, one letter per column, print the letters B-I-N-G-O. Next, draw or place stickers of various items that may be encountered along the trip. Some popular suggestions are cows, tractors, umbrellas, dogs, horses, sheep, barns, lawn furniture, radio or television towers, different colours and types of cars (such as a red truck or blue station wagon), police cars, ambulances or fire trucks. You want the children, and/or adults, playing to have to search for the objects. Each player is given one card and a writing utensil to mark their boxes. When an object on the card is identified, an "X" is marked on the box for the object. When a person completes a row (up, down, across or diagonal), he or she wins. The game can be played until one person wins two games, or if fewer people are playing, the first to win three out of five.

The State Game
To prepare to play the State Game takes a little more effort than the other car games. However, if travelling a long distance, especially across country, the effort is well worth it. To play the State Game, make a list of all the Australian states on a sheet of paper. Make as many copies of this list as may be needed while travelling. Each player is given one list of the states and one writing utensil. The object is to find as many different states on the license plates of other vehicles as possible. The game can be played once or again played until one person wins two games. Be sure to make plenty of copies of the state lists, as this game becomes popular fairly quickly. 

Guess Mobile
Name a guess master -- the person who poses a guessing challenge. He or she could ask passengers to guess the color of the next passing car, or how long before you get to the next town. Or, with three clues, what it is that someone else sees.

Car Scavenger Hunt
Hand your kids a pack of index cards and ask them to write or draw pictures of 50 things they might see on a trip. Keep the cards for scavenger hunts when players vie to match what they see with the cards.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Resources for Advent 2, Sunday 10 December 2017

 

Wait for the LORD. Be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the LORD.
~Psalm 27:14

We are now in the season of Advent, a time that is focused on waiting with anticipation. We wait with anticipation for the return of Christ; we relive in our own lives the expectation of the birth of Christ and his birth in our own heart every day. We wait with anticipation for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled on Earth. Over these four weeks the material will be shaped around four themes that are relevant to this time: promise, waiting, journey and gift.

Family Closeness
Game:
Everyone closes their eyes and must guess how long a minute is, by opening their eyes when they think a minute is up. Try playing this game using a piece of music. Did players guess a longer or shorter time for a minute? Another way to play is to get everyone to walk between two walls trying to move slowly or quickly enough that they will reach the wall just as a minute is up. If you reach the wall before time, you are out.
(Inspired by Christine Gapes. New Games for Community)

Sharing:
Questions for stimulating discussion in your family.
  • What do you hate waiting for?
  • When do you find waiting most difficult?
  • What do you do to make waiting easier?
  • What can’t you wait for?

Story
With your family read Mark 1.1-8
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

Questions for Discussion:
  • What was the message John the Baptist had?
  • Why do you think John dressed and lived as he did?
  • What do you think it means to be baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire?

Prayer and Celebration
Advent Prayer Pattern
This pattern may be used this week to begin meal times or to begin a family sharing time.
It may begin by asking everyone to quieten down and to think about what it means to wait and to think of one word to describe that feeling. During the prayer, the leader is going to say: “Waiting feels like…” and each person will be free to speak her word aloud. Parents might need to help little ones with a word that describes the feeling of waiting. 
  1.  Music. Choose a piece of gentle music to listen to. Try some different pieces each time to try to find one that expresses a feeling of waiting.
  2. Prayer: All of us wait. Each day brings its own dose of waiting. We wait in the dentist’s office, at sports practice, at school, for parents and children, for brothers and sisters. We wait for dinner to be ready, for the refund, for the text message from a friend. We wait to be big enough to ride the roller coaster, old enough to stay up late, secure enough to be on our own. Our waiting feels like…(give people a chance to voice their feeling) Advent calls us to celebrate waiting. Each time we wait, help us to remember how the world waited for a saviour. Help us to remember we are always waiting for your return. Help us find and recognise you in each other. As we wait. We are Advent people.
  3.  Lord, the N…family is waiting for you. All: Come, Lord Jesus. (From Rituals and Icebreakers. Kathleen O’Connel Chesto.Ligouri)

Service
Now is a great time of year as we move towards Christmas to begin to think about how you may serve those in need. Christmas can be a sad and lonely time of year for many people. How might your family serve Christ the King this Advent and Christmas, and make a different in people’s lives at the same time?
Instead of (or as well as) buying gifts for each other, buy an animal for a family overseas.
Serve in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen..
Family Time
Nativity Exploration
In this period as we move towards Christmas, why not use artwork to explore the story of Jesus' birth? Apart from the many Christmas cards that you may receive, the internet also provides a wealth of resources. If you go to http://www.textweek.com/art/nativity.htm you will find links to many depictions of the birth of Christ through the ages. Invite your family to choose their favourite picture and to describe what they like about it. Discuss the different pictures and what you find interesting in them. Get each member to draw their own nativity picture and explain it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Resources for Advent Sunday, 3 December 2017


God never made a promise that was too good to be true.
Dwight L. Moody

This week we enter the season of Advent, a time that is focused on waiting with anticipation. We wait with anticipation for the return of Christ, and we relive in our own lives the expectation of the birth of Christ and his birth in our own heart every day. We wait with anticipation for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled on Earth. Over the next four weeks, the material will be shaped around four themes that are relevant to this time: promise, waiting, journey and gift.

In addition to the weekly resources, have a look at the special Advent page for some ideas and resources on how to celebrate the season well in your home.

Family Closeness
Game:
Pay-Off
This simplified version of Pay-Off can be played with any number of family members. Everyone needs a red token or piece of paper and a black token or piece of paper. Family members will get points depending on what token they and others show. At the start you decide on how many rounds you will play. It should probably be at least five. Each person decides which token they will show but does not let other family members know. On the count of three, everyone will place their token on the table at the same time. Points are awarded in the following way:
  • If everyone puts down red – everyone loses two points.
  • If some family members put down red and some put down black – those who put down black get 2 points, those who put down red lose 2 points.
  • If everyone puts down black – everyone gets 2 points.
Have a discussion after every three rounds about what you put down or to make promises about what you will put down next go. This could be a good source of family discussion about promises and keeping them.

Sharing:
  • What are the biggest promises people make in their life?
  • Why are some promises hard to keep?
  • How do you feel if someone doesn’t keep their promise?
  • What do you think God has promised us?
Story
With your family read: Mark 13.24-37
Questions for Discussion:
  • What do you think this reading is about?
  • What does it mean to be ready?
  • How can we always be ready to meet Jesus?

Prayer and Celebration
This week take a look at the special Advent page to get some great ideas for celebrating this season. Most of the ideas will require some preparation.

Service
The Advent Conspiracy website provides a great way to think about Advent with the charge to: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All. It encourages us to think about how we might reshape the time that leads to Christmas in a life giving and counter-cultural way.

Bonus Family Activity
Begin thinking about how you might do something really special together as a family for Christmas. How might you really spend quality time together, how might you truly give of yourselves to one another. Throughout this blog, there are hundreds of ideas for spending time with your family. Find something special and enjoy the time.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 26 November 2017


Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.
- C. Everett Koop

Family Closeness
Game:
1 to 100
On the left hand side of a piece of paper, list the names of everyone at the table. Two dice are passed from person to person and rolled. When someone rolls a double, they grab the pen and paper, and begin writing the numbers 1 to 100, in order, next to their name. When someone else rolls doubles, they ask for the paper and pen, and begin writing the numbers next to their name. The paper and pen pass around the circle until someone wins by reaching 100. To make the game longer you can get the person who rolls doubles to put on a jacket and hat before they begin to write.

Another variation of this game, that might be used with older children, involves a knife, fork and a block of chocolate. When a person rolls a double, they get the knife and fork, and must cut a single piece of chocolate off the block. The piece must be picked up with a fork and eaten. No hands are to touch the chocolate. Leave the wrapping on the chocolate at the start of the game. To make the game harder you can get the person who rolls doubles to put on a jacket and gloves before they begin to cut.

Sharing:
  • What makes a person a good friend?
  • What do you do that makes you a good friend?
  • What might make someone a good king?
  • What might make someone a bad king?

Story
This Sunday is celebrated by many churches as ‘Christ the King’. It is the last Sunday in the church’s year before the season of Advent, a special time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Christ and his return. Apart from the reading listed below, you might like to read some of the other passages where Jesus uses the image of a king in his parables. Try Matthew 22.1-4 and Luke 19.11-26.

With your family read: Matthew 25.31-46
Questions for Discussion:
  • Who is the Son of Man? (Jesus)
  • What things did Jesus say people did or didn’t do for him?
  • Who did he say they did these things for?
  • When we serve, care for and love those who need our help, we serve, care for and show love for Jesus. What do you think about this?

Prayer and Celebration
In his book, ‘The hour that changes the world,’ Dick Eastman outlines twelve different types of prayer that, if prayed in five minute blocks, enables one to pray effectively for an hour.   For me, the most powerful aspect of this idea is the realisation that there are many different ways to pray. This is an important thing to teach children who often use thankfulness as their default prayer setting. While there is nothing wrong with this, it is of benefit to broaden their prayer horizons.

Praise and Worship

The first type of prayer is praise and worship. Maybe the easiest way for children to get a grasp on this is to describe it as: telling God how wonderful He is and why. Get your family thinking of all the fantastic things about God – His creation, His wisdom, His Son etc. As a form of praise and worship, go around the table getting each person in turn to say a word describing what God is like and a reason He is so great. For example: God, you are powerful because you made all creation.

Service
Now is a great time of year, leading into Advent, to begin to think about how you may serve those in need. Christmas can be a sad and lonely time of year for many people. How might your family serve Christ the King this Advent and Christmas, and make a difference in people’s lives at the same time. Here are a few quick ideas:
  • Place a present under a charity Christmas tree that gives gifts to children.
  • Provide a box to Operation Christmas Child  http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.au/
  • Think of inviting someone in your neighbourhood, who might be alone at Christmas, to spend it with your family.

Bonus Family Activity
Family Time Line
To help your family think about good things God has given you, work together to make a family time line. Draw a line in the centre of a long sheet of paper. Choose a starting date to write at the left end of the line. Your time line may cover a week, a one month period, or the school holidays, or a year. To help family members think of time line events, ask questions such as: “What was something we did that we really enjoyed? How did someone help us in a special way? Who are some new friends our family made?” Display the time line on a wall or door. Allow younger children to enjoy drawing pictures to illustrate the time line. (From Adventures for Growing Families by Wes & Sheryl Haystead.)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 19 November 2017


Children need models more than they need critics.
~Anon

Family Closeness
Game:
Tumbling Tower
Collect 10 to 20 empty boxes from your recycling bin (or other empty packages like juice bottles or egg cartons). Make sure they are completely empty and seal the topics with sticky tape. The first person picks a box and sets it in place. The next person puts a box on top of it and so on. Keep going until the tower falls over. The person who topples the tower is out and a new round begins.

Sharing:
  • What words do you like? Why do you like them? Is it the sound or what they mean or how they feel when you say them?
  • What is your favourite saying?
  • What words do you most like to hear?

 Story
With your family read: Matthew 25.14-30
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

Questions for Discussion:
  • What do you think of this story?
  • Why did one of the servants bury his talent?
  • What do you think is the message of this story?

Prayer and Celebration
North, South, East, West
Get a compass and a map and work out where North, South, East and West are. Find out what communities or countries are in those directions. Try and find out some of the needs of those places. When you pray face each of the different directions and pray for the needs of the places in those directions. This is something you might do over several weeks.

Bonus Family Activity
Dance Night
Rent a dance DVD and learn a new dance together.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 12 November 2017


Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that Sunday School is intended to ease them of their personal duties. The first and most natural condition of things is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. ~Katherine Walden

Family Closeness
Game:
If I went to Mars...
This game can be played with a range of starting statements such as:
If I went to Mars, I would take...
I went to the shop and I bought...
I went on holidays and I took...

The first player makes up something that they took or bought and says, for example:
If I went to Mars, I would take a green apple.
The next person makes something up and adds it to the previous person's, for example:
If I went to Mars, I would take a green apple and a hat.
Each successive person adds another thing to the list while reciting all the objects previously named. When using this with your family, see how many times you can go around the table before someone makes a mistake. How many objects can your family remember?

Sharing:
These questions are to stimulate a sense of openness, sharing and discovery about your family. The key is to listen! A simple pattern to use might be:
  • What is the best thing and the worst thing that happened to you this week?
  • What is something that you might say thank you to God for this week? (One for the adults particularly to share: Where have you been aware of God’s presence in your life this week? What “God moments” happened to you this week?)
  • What is one thing you think you are good at? Tell the members of your family something you think they are good at.

Story
With your family read: Matthew 25.1-13
Questions for Discussion:
  • This is a parable about being ready to meet Jesus.
  • What made five of the bridesmaids wise?
  • Who do you think the bridegroom is in the story?
  • The job of the bridesmaids was to meet the groom. Why were five not ready?
  • How can we always be ready for Jesus?

Prayer and Celebration
This week, learn a new prayer off by heart, together. Write or find a prayer that you can use with your family every night at mealtimes and family sharing times. The prayer does not have to be complicated, but simple enough for everyone to remember. It might include some lines of thanks or praise or asking. Here is one prayer you might learn together.

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for all the benefits you have won for us, for all the pains and insults you have borne for us.  Most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day. 
St Richard of Chichester [1197-1253]

Bonus Family Activity
Show and Tell Night
Get each of your family members to share something. It could be a picture they like, a hobby or interest, something they have learned, a joke or story, something they have made or made up, a game, something they found in the back yard.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Faithful Families Resources for 5 November 2017


In every conceivable manner, the family is the link to our past and bridge to our future.
Alex Haley

Family Closeness
Game:
Stand Next To…
This is a game that will have your family moving about. Either one person does the call or everyone takes turns. Someone calls out: “Stand next to something that...” and finishes the sentence with whatever they can come up with: “is green”, “has the letter A”, “belongs to mum”, “smells good”, “is edible”. Your imagination is the limit.

Sharing:
  • What is something that makes you laugh?
  • If you could own only three things, what would they be?
  • What is boredom? Why does it happen?

Story
With your family read: Matthew 23.1-12
(for a way of explaining/talking about this reading with children look at

Questions for Discussion:
  • Have you ever heard the phrase “walk the talk?”
  • What do you think it means?
  • What did Jesus say the Pharisees did wrong?
  • How might Christians show off?

Prayer and Celebration

A Prayer of Humility for children adapted from the Litany of Humility:

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
Help me to look for what is good in others and forget what is bad in them.
Help me to put others first and not worry if I'm not picked or am ignored.
Help me not to seek approval and not worry about being the centre of attention.
Help me not to be afraid of not being liked or worry about being hurt or not believed.
Help me to look beyond myself, even if it's not my turn, and to help others.
Deliver me, Jesus, from all of these and make me as holy as I should be.
Amen
~Author Unknown

Bonus Family Activity
Read a Book Together
Pick a book. It doesn’t need to be a long one and read it out loud together. Some of Dr Seuss’ longer ones might be suitable – for instance, The Five Hundred Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins or Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Monday, October 23, 2017

Faithful Families resources for 29 October 2017


In bringing up children, spend on them half as much money and twice as much time. ~ Author Unknown

Family Closeness
Game:
Zip Zap
This is a  basic game consisting of two words: "Zip" and "Zap". Someone will begin the "flow" by turning to the person next to them and saying "Zip". The flow will continue in the same direction with everyone saying "Zip" until someone decides to reverse the flow by saying "Zap." At that time, the person who just got "zapped" will look at the "zap"-er and say "Zip!" Flow then reverses from its original with everyone saying Zip again. Example: The "Zip" starts clockwise around the circle until one person looks the other way and says "Zap." Then the "Zip" flows counterclockwise until someone else says "Zap." 


Zip continues the flow, Zap reverses it. 



If someone says the wrong word, mumbles, stalls, or looks the wrong way for the word they said, they're out. Continue playing until down to two players. 

(From The Source for Youth Ministry)

Sharing:
  • What is or was your favourite nursery rhyme as a child?
  • What is or was your favourite outdoor game to play as a child?

Story
With your family read: Matthew 22.34-40
Questions for Discussion:
  • What does it mean to love God with all your heart, mind and soul?
  • What might this look like? Sound like? Feel like?
  • What does it mean to love your neighbour as yourself?

Prayer and Celebration
Squeezy Prayers
One way to pray is to use "squeezy prayers." Everyone holds hands in a circle. An adult will begin the prayer. When they have finished, they squeeze the person's hand next to them to show it is their turn. They may pray out loud, or silently, or may squeeze the next person. When the squeeze has reached the starting person, they may say another closing prayer or just Amen.

Here are suggestions for ways of using the squeezy prayer:

Using a squeezy prayer, ask God for something that is needed in the world… like peace, or understanding or for help in a particular problem in the world.

Using a squeezy prayer, say thank you for a good friend or friends. Say them by name and even say something you like about them.

Using a squeezy prayer, say thank you for something that you are good at, like a gift God has given you.
  
Bonus Family Activity
Story Night

Dedicate a night to telling stories. Ask each member to bring and tell a story. This could be something that happened to them, a story they have made up or the retelling of a story that they have read. Stories are not allowed to be read.