Thursday, August 20, 2015

In our churchbag......

I was cleaning some junk (old bulletins, etc.) out of our church bag today and decided it was a good time to post what we currently keep in that thing!

Right now we have Q (6) and B (newly 4) using the bag, along with a random couple of other kiddos that sit with us, so our bag is made for older preschool/younger elementary-aged kids.

First off, we expect our children to participate fully in worship during the first part (singing, prayer, scripture reading, etc.).  We don't open the bag and our kiddos stand/sit and particpate just like everyone else.  Usually Daddy holds one kiddo and I hold the other, or at least they stand next to us, with our friends (our church has a large urban bus ministry....) sitting between us.  That helps us keep kids focused and attentive.  If we have extra foster kiddos with us, we disperse them between us.  :)

When communion starts, we let our kids begin to use items from our churchbag.  These items are purposefully included to help our children meditate upon, participate in and understand the meaning of communion and Jesus' sacrifice.  Q goes to children's worship after communion, but B stays in "Big Church" still and continues to use the items throughout the sermon time.

Typically I choose which child gets which item.  This might be because they haven't done a particular item in a while and I'd like them to, because they are too antsy to use playdough well that day, or because I want two kids to share the markers between them.  No matter what, they use what Mama hands them or nothing (and all of this has been discussed, taught and practiced beforehand...there is NO WAY you can introduce new items cold-turkey in the middle of church successfully, in my opinion....)  We've already had a mini lesson with the item during the week.  Or maybe just a short discussion on how to use it.  Friends do a really good job of just following what my kids are doing with a few whispered directions from me/my kids.  I love watching my kids include another friend into what they are doing and very quietly explain what to do!

We use a small canvas bag.  I keep it packed and ready to go on our shelves by the back door and I am in the habit of grabbing it each Sunday on the way to church.

 These cards are laminated printouts of famous pieces of art that depict different scenes of Jesus' life.  I just printed them off, laminated them, and keep them in a baggie.  During communion, I look through them with the child next to me and we talk about each picture and what it is of in a whisper voice.

 This is a sign language book I made--I looked up pictures for signs that go along with church words (worship, communion, pray, bread, sing, etc.) and put the picture and written directions onto cards.  The child sitting next to me and I whisper the directions and do the signs in our laps.  I love that many of the signs are designed based on the meaning of the word--for example, the sign for Jesus involves using your fingers like nails in your palms.  Through using the signs for the words, children can participate in the meanings of the words and concepts in a kinesthetic manner.
 I love art books.  My kids have responded really well to this book, which I picked up at a thrift store.  I often see similar items at the thrift store or Half Price Books, so picking up a used copy of Jesus art by the masters is a great idea.  I like my kids to see the different concepts depicted in different ways.  Of course we have had a discussion (sometimes in the car on the way to church is a good time for this) that these are from the artists' imagination, and that is why different artists depict the same scene different ways.

During communion I invite my kids to page through the books while sitting in my lap/next to me and in a whisper I provide some context about the pictures.  Older kids can look at a picture and then use their Bible to find the text (which is usually listed next to the picture).
 Inside the book I have this picture clipped, which my daughter loves.  It's The Last Supper and has the apostles labeled, and also has a page of information about different symbolism in the painting.  She loves to have this quietly read to her.
 All kids seem to love these simple, vintage books.  They are the stories of Jesus (this one is the crucifixion) depicted through simple stick figures.  Matt or I read the book quietly to the child on our lap during communion or let them look at the illustrations independently.

 We also have 2 small 3-ring binders.  One has writing and drawing prompts.  I keep them in clear page protectors and provide some vis-a-vis overhead markers for the children to write on the dry erase pages.  I also keep spare paper at the end in case they want to draw something from the binder on their own.
CLICK HERE to download the printable "Blood" page.
CLICK HERE to download the printable "Bread" page.

 I have sentence starters and also this page on how to dry a cross (link is on the photo).
 I also love using the coloring sheets on the FLAME website--I usually chose those that pertain to communion or Jesus.

I also made a printable where the child copies Isaiah 55:3 and then traces their hand.

 The other binder has our Playdough Mats--which are ways for younger kiddos (and older, too!) to respond to elements of Communion in a tactile, and age-appropriate way.  I use either the mats from FLAME or some I have made myself, located on the sidebar of this blog.  The playdough is only for completing the activities on the mat, not free play during this time.  We have had great luck with this not being too messy of an activity.  We of course keep the child working right next to us, and sometimes I don't hand them the whole cannister, just small balls at a time to work with.  Also, I try to introduce new mats (and FOR SURE the concept of using a playdough mat) first in our home, not in the communion setting, so I can teach it and demonstrate it.  Often I bring these out at the table while the kids are waiting on me to make lunch or dinner.

We keep a bag of markers.  Sometimes our bag gets left in the car, so I don't keep crayons it it, as they melt.  
 One the bigger kids go to children's worship, I let Beck use the legos during the sermon.  Research on listening comprehension shows that many kids can actually listen more intently and comprehend at a higher level when their hands are busy.  Jim Trelease recommends this in his excellent, most-highly recommended READ ALOUD HANDBOOK.  So Beck is allowed to stay sitting on the pew and work with legos while he also listens to the sermon.  It works great!  He knows if he works quietly he gets to keep the legos, and if he gets wild or loud we put them away and he has to sit in Daddy's lap with nothing in his hands.
I keep the churchbag the same for several months at a time, but after my kiddos begin to lose interest in an item, I change it out.

HERE is a link to some other items that have been in our churchbag.

As you can see, we work to engage/talk (whisper!) with the kiddos all during the communion time to bring their attention to what is happening and why, and to build their understanding.  We consider ourselves their mentors, as we guide them through some child-appropriate elements to help them draw meaning from communion time together.