Minister of Family and Children"s Ministries
700 Prospect Ave
Cleveland, OH 44115
"Faith formation is understood and perceived as an engaged process of learning and practice integrated throughout all aspects of congregational and daily life." This definition allows for the combining of "head" and "heart" knowledge into a more holistic understanding and embodiment [of faith], rather than creating a dichotomy between these two areas." Children Worship & Wonder is an essential part of this holistic faith formation approach and subscribes to the understanding that churches are creating lifelong disciples.
John Roberto, founder of Lifelong Faith outlines six Best Practices in children's faith formation. While CW&W fits with many of these best practices, CW&W embodies the 3rd of these best practices which says that "Faith formation with children provides an environment that allows children to encounter the living God directly." The worship environment of CW&W was created with this encounter in mind. Stemming from the groundbreaking work of Sophia Cavaletti and her program Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the environment that children enter in CW&W is different than any other Christian education program. We will look further into this in a minute.
Faith formation researchers Rev. Dr. Ivy Beckwith and Rev. Dr. Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi expresses that "vital formational children's ministry is about story, ritual, and relationship." CW&W is based around a unique story-telling format that invites children into God's stories and give them tools to participate in God's bigger story. The worship approach provides rituals and spiritual disciplines that are practiced each week.
Lastly, Dr. Lizardy-Hajbi comments that "there is a strong connection between a congregation's faith formation and its worship." At a young age where children are most open to God's spirit, it is even more essential that children have an experience of worship, an experience of the living God in a community of people. CW&W creates a community of intergenerational fellowship where both the children's and adult's minds, bodies, and spirits, are nurtured and cared for as they worship together.
So What Exactly is CW&W?
CW&W is faith formation worship centered approach with storytelling, ritual, and fellowship that is used with children in churches to help them deepen their relationship with God.
Children Worship & Wonder can be used during the congregations worship service or during Sunday School. Children Worship & Wonder uses the familiar four-fold order of worship with which many congregations are familiar. To begin, the children come into a special worship space, to a storyteller waiting to greet them. They sit in a circle, surrounded by bible stories made just for them, with all materials at their height. Everything in this special place is accessible to the children. The storyteller leads the children in a time of singing and praise. This coming together of the children follows the first order of worship which is the gathering of God's people.
Next they will hear one of God's stories in a storytelling format told with multi-sensory materials that children of different ages, and with different learning styles can enter into and enjoy. As the story is finished the children are invited to share in a time of wonder about the story. They are asked "wondering questions" to help them dive deeper into the meaning of the story and to listen for God's still voice that is found there. These questions might sound like, "I wonder if the Good Shepherd's sheep have names?" Or, " I wonder what it was like to be in the ark for forty days…I wonder if Noah knew that God was with him?" These wondering questions ask the children how they are part of the story and how they are a part of the bigger Christian story. They begin to see that the stories in the Bible are their stories too.
Third, just as in "big" worship the children will respond to God's story. In "big" worship we often respond through prayer, song, offering, celebrating the Lord's Supper, commissioning, and celebrating baptisms. The children have the chance to respond to the Word in a myriad of ways as well. Some of these ways include using the story materials to tell the story they just heard, a story they heard on a previous Sunday and their own story. They may also choose to work with art and craft materials, pray at the prayer table, dance in the dance corner, or build with materials such as clay or blocks. These response materials are there to help them express their relationship with God. After they respond in a way they choose, the children come back to the circle. Here the storyteller lights the Christ candle and shows the children where the story they heard is found in the Bible. Then as a community they pray together and share in a feast.
As they leave the worship center, the children will participate in the last order of worship which is the sending out of God's people into the world. Each child will be given a special blessing by the storyteller as they leave to be God's disciples in their homes, schools, and activities.
This order is followed every Sunday. Because there is a ritual to this time together the children are free to relax into the space and go deeper into the stories. They can truly enter into a time of listening and talking with God. As children move from CW&W into "big" worship, they are familiar with the rhythm and joy of worshiping. They bring this with them as they continue participating in worship with the bigger congregation.
How do I learn to do this?
First, get a copy of the Young Children and Worship book. Everything you need is in this book including the order of worship and patterns for the stories. Second, find a training in your area. You can look for one by clicking the training link on this webpage. If you do not see a training in your area, contact Disciples Home Missions and they will help you find one or help you set one up at your church.
We look forward to hearing from you and wish you many blessings as you work with God's children.
"Foundations, Findings, and Futures: Christian Faith Formation and Education in the United Church of Christ Executive Summary"
Rev. Kristina Lizardy Hajbi Ph.D.
"Best Practices in Children's Faith Formation"
John Roberto and Katie Pfiffner
"Formational Children's Ministry: Shaping Children Using Story, Ritual, and Relationship"
Ivy Beckwith (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2010)
"Young Children and Worship"
Sonja M. Stewart and Jerome W. Berryman (Louisville, Westminster John Knox 1989)
"When children grow up in poverty, they are more likely, later in life, to have low earnings, commit crimes, and have poor health... There is significant evidence that poverty has lasting consequences for kids, including educational achievement, cognitive development, and emotional and behavioral outcomes." —John Irons, economist, Economic Policy Institute: "Economic Scarring: The Long-Term Impacts of the Recession," September 30, 2009
Children, unable to support themselves, count on their families, their communities, their states, and their nation to ensure their well being. Taxes are the way we have historically provided quality education, safe and vibrant communities, healthy families, and broadly-shared prosperity, especially when families are unable to provide economic security for children.
Although the federal government can borrow in hard times, states and localities must balance their budgets every year. In order to balance their books, states have been slashing programs including many that provide essential services for children and youths. Early in 2009, the federal government stepped in with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the huge federal stimulus that made large grants to stabilize state and local programming. However, this infusion of funds has run out, and state governments continue to eliminate or seriously reduce services we all take for granted.
The UCC’s General Synod 25 declared, “that societies and nations are judged by the way they care for their most vulnerable citizens; that government policy and services are central to serving the common good; that paying taxes for government services is a civic responsibility of individuals and businesses; and that the tax code should be progressive, with the heaviest burden on those with the greatest financial means…”
Although the economy has begun to recover, states find themselves in the midst of a serious and continuing economic recession. One impact of the recession is that tax revenues have declined along with the decline in the overall economy: foreclosures have reduced revenue from property taxes; job losses have decreased revenue from income taxes; and the economic slowdown itself has diminished revenues from inventory and sales taxes.
Poverty, Inequality and Public Education
April 27, 2013: Sean Reardon, the Stanford University educational sociologist who has done more than most anyone else to challenge the test-and-punish philosophy of current education reform, writes here in a friendly, informative piece, No Rich Child Left Behind. His point: we live in an era when income inequality privileges wealthy children and contributes to an enormous wealth-inequality achievement gap. Reardon's academic research documents that children growing up in extreme wealth and children growing up in extreme poverty are more and more likely to be segregated in very wealthy or very poor communities and much less likely to live in mixed income communities than was true forty years ago. A growing income-inequality school achievement gap tracks this growing segregation. UCLA professor, Mike Rose, who has been writing about educational inequality for a long time responds to Reardon's article here.
March 25, 2013: What Will the Sequester Mean for Public Education?
February 16, 2013: Here is Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz writing about declining social mobility, growing inequality, and the danger of losing the American Dream and a related Economic Justice Note from Edie Rasell, the UCC's Minister of Economic Justice. Also related is a recent UCC Witness for Justice column, American Fantasy.
February 19, 2013: A Congressionally appointed Equity and Excellence Commission that has been meeting for two years released its report, For Each and Every Child. Acknowledging that test-based accountability has not sufficiently improved public schools in America’s poorest communities, members of the Commission declare that our society must address what is a deplorable 22 percent child poverty rate, highest in the industrialized world.
October 2012: Here is an important new article from education writer and respected researcher David Berliner, Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America's Youth. This is a plea to our society to address the devastating impact of family poverty and economic inequality on the life chances of too many of our children. Child poverty in the United States remains 22 percent, far higher than any other industrialized nation, and economic mobility has declined in our society that has become increasingly stratified along economic lines.
The 2012 Justice & Witness Ministries Message on Public Education, "Why the Conventional Wisdom on School Reform Is Wrong and Why the Church Should Care," examines school achievement through the lens of two issues of particular importance as the economy lags: family poverty and racial isolation.
Budget Cuts Threaten Public Education
May 23, 2013: Ongoing inequality in Pennsylvania school funding, debates about union contracts, and discussions of privatization wreck havoc on the public schools in Philadelphia: Who's Still Killing Philly Schools? The Status Quo is Now State Control and Permanent Crisis.
March 25, 2013: What Will the Sequester Mean for Public Education?
Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Programs: Will We Cut or Enrich Programming?
February 13, 2013: In his State of the Union message, President Obama proposed expanding government subsidized pre-Kindergarten for children in poor and moderate-income families. Expanding access to early education should be a priority, as it is known that the achievement gap widens well before children enter Kindergarten.
- Here is the NY Times report on the President's proposal.
- Here is a very moving commentary on the history of the debate on federally subsidized pre-school.
- And here is a commentary by Harvard's David Deming on why expanding access to pre-school must be the priority: our society serves far too few children.
November 2012: William Mathis, at the National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado at Boulder, briefly summarizes the research and makes a strong case for expanding Preschool Education to make it universally available across the states. Mathis warns, "However, in inflation adjusted dollars, overall funding per child served is lower than a decade ago."
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) State of Preschool 2011, an annual report, describes cuts in funding, for the second straight year, in 26 of the 39 states with public prekindergarten programs. These cuts are due to state budget shortfalls.
Writing for The Center on Law and Public Policy, Hannah Matthews reports Recent Child Care Growth to Fade; Startling Drop in Assistance Projected.
Light a Candle for Children Prayer Vigil is an annual fall advocacy and prayer project of the Family and Children's Ministries partnership of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This year's vigil begins on September 14th, five weeks before the National Observance of Children's Sabbath weekend on October 17-19 sponsored by the Washington DC based Children's Defense Fund (CDF).
This year’s theme is “Precious in God’s Sight: Answering the Call to Cherish and Protect Every Child.” The 2014 Children’s Sabbath focuses on how we can ensure every child a strong start in life by investing in early childhood development. Needless to say, these are rough times for children and there are numerous other issues relating to children’s health and safety which need our prayer and advocacy. A free worship, faith formation and advocacy resource packet for Christian faith community can be downloaded at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/programs-campaigns/faith-based-action/childrens-sabbaths/. Thousands of congregations from multiple faith communities unite during Children’s Sabbath weekend to simultaneously witness for children through prayer, education, and worship.
As usual, this year’s Light a Candle for Children Prayer Vigil booklet written by UCC and Disciples faith leaders and edited by Disciples pastor Rev. Tim Graves will be available for download at: http://lightacandle.blogspot.com/ or available on Facebook at: “Light a Candle for Children Prayer Vigil”. Light aCandle daily meditations can also be received by email or the RSS feed. Also available is a brochure with tips for implementing the Light a Candle Vigil in your congregation.
It is important to note that our Family and Children's Ministries Light A Candle for Children vigil and advocacy program and the Children's Sabbath Celebration is a part of a growing children's advocacy movement that seeks to unite communities and religious congregations of all faiths across the nation in shared concern for children and a common commitment to improving their lives and working for justice on their behalf.
If you are interested in becoming involved our ongoing United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) children's advocacy efforts please contact one of our three Ministers for Family and Children's Ministries including myself, Rev. Dr. Kate Epperly (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rev. Olivia Stewart Robertson (email@example.com) or Rev. Dr. Olivia Bryan Updegrove (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You are encouraged to use and adapt the Family and Children's Ministries' Light a Candle for Children Vigil and Children’s Sabbath Celebration resources in whatever ways you feel are most appropriate for your congregation. Remember, a congregation does not need to have children among its active members to be engaged in children's ministry!
Making Our Churches Safe for All, is a guide to help your church design policies and procedures to help prevent abuse of children. Additional resources are recommended in this guidebook, which can also be ordered in glossy, printed form from the UCC Insurance Board.
The web page of the UCC's Parish Life and Leadership is also filled with resources to support the creation of your congregation's safe-church policy. Contact your own church's insurance carrier if you do not carry insurance through the UCC Insurance Board.
One way to help protect children and youth from child abuse is to provide the ministry of human sexuality education in your congregation.
Your congregation can find further resources to help prevent child abuse and neglect at the Faith Trust Institute. Abuse prevention resources include a Teen Dating curriculum, "Love: All That and More."