8 April, 2022

Holy Week and Easter Resources

What is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Day, starting on Palm Sunday. It is also the last week of Lent and includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday.

Some helpful resources for your family

Lent + Easter (Strandz) - check out this website for a huge number of ideas to help you journey through Holy Week and Easter, including:

Easter crafts to make with your kids:

  • Enjoy a range of activity sheets, crafts, games and a Passover meal with He is Risen - an Easter Family Activity Guide from minno
  • Check out this website for a Easter scene model with cut-outs and instructions (quite involved - for older kids)
  • Make your own Palm Cross - a fun craft to do with your kids for Palm Sunday
  • Make your own Easter Garden - we made kits for mainly music - includes some conversation starters

Talking with your kids about Good Friday and Easter - this is not easy, however it's important to do. The below articles provide ideas for talking about Jesus' death with your kids in age appropriate ways and without scaring them!

Making Holy Week 'holy' this year - some ideas for helping to make Holy Week 'a thing' and avoiding it just passing you by:

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8 April, 2022

Making an Easter Garden

Note: this has been adapted from this webpage at Sweet T Makes Three

What you need:

  • 1 large terracotta pot base (or large bowl),
  • 1 small terracotta pot
  • grass seeds
  • potting soil
  • craft moss (optional)
  • pebbles
  • small sticks in the shape of a cross (use string or hot glue gun)

Instructions:

  1. Lay the pot on its side toward the back of the large bowl as pictured
  2. Spray the top of the pot and the back half of the large bowl liberally with water
  3. Cover with potting soil as shown then spray soil with water. Pack the moist soil as tightly as you can adding more water if needed
  4. Sprinkle grass seeds over area then top with a little bit more soil to cover the seeds. Spray with more water
  5. (optional) Place moss in front of pot opening
  6. Add pebbles on top of moss (or soil)
  7. Place cross in the soil to the side of the pot
  8. Continue to spray the soil each day until grass sprouts

Optional extras:

  • Make 'Jesus' out of pipe cleaners / Lego etc. and lay him in the tomb wrapped in tissue
  • Use a roundish rock to cover the tomb
  • On Easter Day, remove 'Jesus' from the tomb and roll back the stone

Before making this with your children, read the Easter story together:

As Julie Hintz says in this article, it's important for our children to not just skip from the cheering crowds on Palm Sunday to the joy of the resurrection on Easter Day, but to wrestle with the events of Holy Week in a way that is age appropriate.

Firstly, read the events of the Easter story from a Children's Bible (such as The Jesus Storybook Bible, available to borrow from the church library) and/or watch a video about Easter designed for children such as this one from Saddleback Kids or this reading of the book The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross. Ask your children if they have any questions about what they've read or watched.

For young kids, don't avoid talking about the fact that Jesus was killed, and acknowledge the sadness and confusion that his friends felt, however keep away from the horror of the crucifixion and remember to say that this wasn't the end - Jesus came back to life and his friends were happy again. Also remind them that Jesus is still alive today (kids sometimes think that Jesus died again later...)!

Conversation starters whilst you make the Easter Garden with your child:

  • Ask what the small pot (tomb) is for, and why we need it
  • Chat about how the grass seeds are buried in the soil and could be forgotten (but they aren't... they're actually full of life waiting to burst out)
  • Ask what Jesus' followers (disciples) might have felt at different times in the story (eg. sad, angry, confused, happy)
  • If asked, explain how the cross was a common form of killing people in Roman times
  • If your kids are too young to understand the concept of death, phrases like 'Jesus' body stopped working' may be helpful
  • You could place the pebbles in a path leading to the entrance to the tomb and chat about what the women might have felt when they found Jesus' body was gone
  • Chat about how this was all God's and Jesus' plan all along, that when Jesus died he took away all the things that stopped us from being friends with God (the Bible calls this 'sin') and that when God made Jesus alive again there was now nothing in the way of us being with God forever (Jesus died for our sin instead of us)
  • Use illustrations (eg. caterpillars / butterflies, Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes etc.) to explain the concept of new life coming out of death
  • As the grass seeds begin to sprout (remember to water them!), chat about new life and growth - link this with God making Jesus alive again, and that this new life is also for us - a new life of being friends with God and, through God's Holy Spirit, living life with Jesus right now and forever... how amazing is that?!
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24 February, 2022

Lent Resources

What is Lent?

Lent is the period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) immediately prior to Easter Sunday. It is traditionally a time of repentance and renewal of faith in Jesus.

Why 40 days?

Good question! The number 40 is significant in the Bible, usually referring to a period of testing or trial, eg.

What's with Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) and Ash Wednesday?

'Shrove' is from the verb 'shrive', meaning to confess, ie. to admit all the things that you have thought, said and done that are wrong. In French this is Mardi Gras - 'fat Tuesday', and for Spanish-speaking people it is Carnival which may have originated from the Latin carne vale, meaning 'to farewell meat' (often given up during Lent) or even 'to say goodbye to the flesh' (possibly giving rise to the modern day trend of giving up something you enjoy during Lent).

In earlier times, many Christians would fast from eggs and milk for Lent; using these up before Lent gave rise to the cooking of pancakes, and hence 'Pancake Day'. This also gave rise to the tradition of giving eggs at Easter when the fast was broken (see this article for more details).

Ash Wednesday is when ashes (often from the burned palm crosses from the previous Palm Sunday) would traditionally be worn, symbolising grief or shame (see Esther 4:1, Jonah 3:6). This marks the start of Lent, a season of repentance from our sin and humble acknowledgement of our own mortality and dependence on God.

Some helpful resources for your family

Lent + Easter (Strandz) - check out this website for a huge number of ideas to help you journey through Lent:

Jesus Storybook Bible Lent Guide - see here for daily readings and activities from the brilliant Jesus Storybook Bible.

Lenten Family Devotions: (Storyboard) - check out this website for a creation devotional entitled Lions, and Camels, and Goats! Oh my! that runs through Lent (using 2020 dates). It’s simple to do and takes 5 minutes to read the daily devotional, ask the question, and then pray. You can use this devotional while you eat dinner, lunch, or breakfast together, in the car, or before bed.

Lent: A Journey to Easter (Anglican Diocese of Auckland) - check out this website for an interactive Lent calendar:

  • Readings and Activities for each day of Lent, split into weekly chunks
  • Content from various authors and artists

Lent: What do Christians remember during Lent? (RE:start) - check out this website for a whole series of pages relating to Lent and Easter:

  • Shrove Tuesday: What do pancakes have to do with Easter?
  • Lent Today: How are Christians learning to 'do Lent generously'? See 40acts.org.uk for more info.

Fasting from, Feasting on Ideas (Building Faith) - some great ideas for fasting from and feasting on for Lent

  • practical ideas to fast from with matching ideas to feast on
  • suggestions for how to use these to grow spiritually

Praying through Lent (Praying in Color) - various different calendar templates to use for a daily prayer practice.

Lent Giving Calendar (My Faith, My Life) - this Giving Calendar (note you'll need to translate the references to US coins...!) helps families:

  • be attentive to, and give thanks for, the abundance of our lives
  • engage in the practice of giving out of thanksgiving for that abundance

Family Lent Ideas (Flame - Creative Children's Ministry) - this blog post (or this PDF) have fun, simple and creative activities for each day of Lent, such as:

  • Play dough prayers
  • Blessings jar
  • Various baking activities
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16 December, 2021

Talking with your kids about traumatic events

We live in a world where each day there are acts of terror and violence as well as natural and man-made disasters where men, women and children are killed.

In today’s media-saturated society, many of our children are more aware of this than we might think. It is important for us to talk with our children about these matters in a way that is age appropriate and in a way that doesn’t cause them to fear. Home should be a safe place for our kids to talk about their fears and concerns, and so here are some helpful tips as you help your children with this:

  • Find out what your kids know, what they have heard
  • Listen to them and encourage them to express their feelings
  • Don't shy away from talking about this at home at an age-appropriate level
  • Reassure them and keep things in context (eg. tiny minority of people who think this way)
  • Monitor your children's exposure to media, especially images and video
  • Focus on the things that we can control to feel safe
  • Lots of cuddles and reassurance of love
  • Pray with your kids and encourage them to pray too

 There are some great resources out there, and here are a few:

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28 October, 2021

Halloween Resources

Halloween: Good or Bad?

Halloween can sometimes cause confusion amongst Christians - is it something to avoid or is it not really all that bad? Hopefully these resources will be helpful for you as you think about your own approach with your children.

Halloween Alternatives (Strandz NZ) - check out this page for a whole load of helpful videos and links, including the song 'Not Afraid' from Rend Co Kids

Halloween Information Sheet (Grow Ministries) - check out this article for a brief summary of Halloween including:

  • The link with All Hallows/Saints Day
  • Why some people dress up as ghouls etc.

Halloween: FAQs (Scripture Union) - check out this article for answers to the following questions:

  • Where did Halloween come from?
  • Should I be concerned that Halloween means children are getting involved with occult practices?
  • My child want to celebrate Halloween with their non-Christian friends. What should I do?
  • How can I show God's love this Halloween?

Trick or Treat? Side by Side with God in Everyday Life - Halloween Special (Barnabas in Churches) - if you're after something to step you through thinking about Halloween and how to respond as Christians, then check out this article. It includes:

  • Notes for adults
  • Bible passages
  • Wondering questions
  • Things to chat together about

Redeeming Halloween: How Should Christians Approach Halloween? (intoxicatedonlife.com) - this article explores whether there is a middle ground in the approach to Halloween using three options: receive, reject or redeem. It settles on redeeming the festival and covers areas such as:

  • A brief history of Halloween
  • Caveats to redeeming Halloween
  • What does redeeming Halloween look like?

Building Faith Does Halloween: 10 Helpful Posts (Building Faith - A Ministry of Virginia Theological Seminary) - this page links to a variety of helpful posts about Halloween, including:

Some other options...

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13 May, 2021

Thy Kingdom Come

What is Thy Kingdom Come?

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer initiative held annually between Ascension and Pentecost with the aim of encouraging the church to pray together and specifically for each person to pray for 5 people to come to faith in Jesus. Watch the 2020 wrap-up video to find out more.

"Thy Kingdom Come is a worldwide prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray from Ascension to Pentecost. Since its launch by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 2016, Christians from 172 countries and 65 denominations have taken part in praying for friends and family to come to faith in Jesus Christ. These days have always been full of expectation and anticipation. As the Lord Jesus ascended, He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable the disciples to be witnesses. As they waited for the promise to be fulfilled they devoted themselves constantly to prayer (Acts 1:14). So, the renewed call across the church is to set these days apart to pray, and each individual to pray for 5 people to come to know the love and peace of Jesus Christ." (Source: Thy Kingdom Come)

11 Days of Prayer

Each day of the initiative focuses on one word or phrase. These are:

Jesus - Praise - Thanks - Sorry - Offer - Pray for - Help - Adore - Celebrate - Silence - Pentecost

You can download the main videos, youth videos and children's videos for each day here.

Resources

Here are some resources to help you and your family get on board with this great initiative, including:

  • Prayer Journal 2021 - a brief devotion, prayer and then some reflection space for each of the 11 days
  • TKC App - available for both Android and iOS
  • Strandz NZ TKC Resources - a great page from our friends across the ditch, including resources for family, children, youth and church prayers
  • Cheeky Pandas - a fun-filled 11-part series for kids with a variety of free resources that seek to get children excited about Jesus, the Bible and prayer, and ultimately, help each child build a beautiful life-long relationship with Him… with some panda fun along the way!
  • Family Prayer Adventure Map for 2019 (front, back, stickers), 2020 (map, video guide for the accompanying TKC app (Android, iOS)), 2021 (coming shortly)
  • Bright Prayer Ideas for Families at Home and for Your Church

For more resources on prayer, head to our Prayer Resources page in our Faith @ Home Resources section.

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13 May, 2021

Prayer Resources

What is Prayer?

Prayer is conversation with God. Just as in any relationship, we grow closer to God as we both talk with and listen to him.

Why pray?

Good question! Prayer is not just a 'cry for help' when we're in trouble (although it can be that!) but part of a relationship with the God of the universe. Just as we talk to those we are in relationship with, we pray because we are in relationship with God.

How do I pray?

You can pray anywhere and in any way - out loud or silently, when you're walking, driving or even sitting in the loo. God always hears our prayers and always answers (although often not straight away and sometimes in ways that we don't expect!).

Just as there are many different ways to talk with someone and many forms of conversation, so there are many different ways to pray and many types of prayer. Jesus models prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 (The Lord's Prayer) and we've included some helpful frameworks on this page. Some different types of prayer include:

  • Praise / Adoration
  • Confession / Saying sorry
  • Lament / Grief
  • Intercession / Praying for others
  • Thanksgiving / Saying thank you
  • Asking / Please

If you're not sure how to pray, ask us for a copy of the trypraying booklet - a simple, interactive 7-day prayer guide.

Some helpful resources for your family

20 Answers to Your Questions About Prayer (Kathryn Slattery) - check out this free e-book of Prayer Q&As for kid-friendly answers to questions including:

  • Can I know for sure that God hears my prayers?
  • Can I know for sure that God will answer my prayers?
  • Can God actually talk to me?
  • What is intercessory prayer?
  • Do miracles still happen today?

Praying with your family

Different models for prayer

Praying for your family

Other helpful resources

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4 December, 2020

Advent & Christmas Resources

Advent - a time of preparation

There are many different ways of marking Advent at home. The resources listed on this page are intended to provide some ideas that you could use in your family, and so help your children (and yourself) prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world. Many of them are available on the Advent Resource Table in the church foyer.

Christmas Family Faith Trail (Uniting & Lutheran Churches) - a great resource to explore a variety of activity stations and discover new ways to grow your family's faith at home, featuring:

  • structured activities for pre-school primary and all-age
  • Bible readings, prayers and reflections
  • 5 stations for each week in Advent and Christmas week

De-clutter December (growministries.org) - this special December calendar (2019 version) is designed to help you de-clutter your month, prioritise your activities and focus on things that matter most for you and your children at this time of year.

The Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Guide (Sally Lloyd-Jones) - check out this article for what's in this resource (updated for 2020), including:

  • Illustrations from The Jesus Storybook Bible
  • Bible verses and reading plan for each day
  • Instructions for making the calendar

Christmas Bible Reading Plan for Kids (intentionalbygrace.com) - check out this page for more information about this helpful reading plan for the last 2 week of Advent, aimed at kids aged 8-12. The plan can be downloaded here.

100 ways to celebrate Christmas (sa.uca.org.au) - check out this page for a sample and download link.

The Jesse Tree (whychristmas.com) - check out this article for more information about Jesse Trees.

  • The photo above is one made with our children throughout Advent in 2017.

A Simple Advent Journey for the Family (refocusministry.org) - a simple Christmas "Advent"ure with a "Reverse Advent" theme...

  • This Advent Season, gather your family each day for a moment to read a Scripture, say a prayer, or do an activity listed here and add to your “Reverse Advent” basket (you'll need to click the link to find out more...!)
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25 May, 2020

Pentecost Resources

This video was made for the 2020 Pentecost session of KBG (Rec-Yr6) - enjoy!

What is Pentecost?

Pentecost is the day when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. We can read about this in the Bible in Acts 2:1-13. Pentecost is 50 days after Easter (10 days after Jesus' Ascension) - you could say it was the church's birthday with over 3,000 people becoming followers of Jesus on the one day!

Some helpful resources for your family

Note that this page seeks to provide ideas and resources for Pentecost only and not the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives or the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.

Pentecost (Strandz) - check out this website for a huge number of ideas to help you celebrate Pentecost, including:

  • A Pinterest page - loads of ideas of crafts, colouring sheets, baking and decorations!
  • Celebrating Pentecost - a resource full of activities and ideas - from the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand

Pentecost crafts to make with your kids:

Talking with your kids about Pentecost - the below articles provide ideas for talking about Pentecost with your kids in age appropriate ways that don't freak them out!

  • 3 Teaching Points for Pentecost (buildfaith.org) - a helpful article highlighting that Pentecost was the 'birth day' of the church, that it showcases the Trinity and that it shows that Jesus kept his promise
  • God Sends Help (The Jesus Storybook Bible) - an animated re-telling of the story 'God Sends Help' read by David Suchet
  • Talking about the Holy Spirit with your kids (a video from What's in the Bible?) - Phil Vischer talks about how we can talk with our kids about the Holy Spirit right through the Bible, not just at Pentecost...
  • How to teach kids about the Holy Spirit (gatherandgro.co) - some really helpful suggestions including Bible verses that talk about what he does
  • Come Holy Spirit: 3 Prayers for Pentecost (buildfaith.org) - some wonderful ways to pray in the home, providing insights into the role of the Holy Spirit today
  • Pentecost cartoon worksheet (cartoonchurch.com) - a bit of fun although a little abstract as well... :)
  • The Holy Spirit (a video from The Bible Project) - best for older kids and youth and traces the person of the Holy Spirit right through the Bible
  • What is Pentecost? (What's in the Bible?) - a helpful video and article covering the origins of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit Today and Talking with our Kids about the Holy Spirit
  • God's Wonderful Gift - a great video from Bible App for Kids for younger kids in particular
  • Bible Stories | The Holy Spirit (a video from Holy Moly) - best for younger kids and includes mention of the way early Christians used the fish symbol

Making Pentecost special this year - some ideas for helping to make Pentecost 'a thing' and avoiding it just passing you by:

  • Pentecost Playdough Mat (Flame Creative Children's Ministry) - a practical and fun activity for younger kids including questions for thinking and prayer ideas
  • Flame Finger Labyrinth (Strandz) - a simple and helpful way of thinking, listening and praying
  • The Day When God Made Church (Paraclete Press) - a great book from our church library - read the first part of it online in PDF format here
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