Preaching with All Ages

I got an opportunity to pull together some of the things I’ve been going on about for the last decade and make them into a book. I just got my author copies, so it must be real. The book is about reflective practice and preaching, particularly all age preaching. And it has pictures!

You can hear me talk about the book on this podcast, courtesy of the Church Times.

“Safeguarding the integrity of creation” in children’s ministry

I’m hosting #Churchkidchat this week and, inspired by a great question from Sarah Green about how we might use less plastic in children’s ministry, I thought we’d focus our chat on the general area of making children’s ministry more environmentally friendly. There are a few directions this could go – here are some of them, to get us all thinking:

THE THEMATIC CONTENT of our children’s ministry might be focused on care for creation, sustainability, stewardship of the earth, delight in God’s world, which is identified as an essential aspect of Christian idenity and living in the Five Marks of Mission.

THE PLACE where we do children’s ministry might give us opportunities to engage with the created world in new ways, for example by holding sessions outdoors.  We might go a step further and reframe children’s ministry along the lines of wildchurch or forestchurch, intentionally inhabiting the place so that it is formative of our thinking and praying and action.

THE TIME when we undertake children’s ministry may also be an interesting thing to reflect on – we may or may not have the chance to explore ministry with children at a variety of times and days, but it the changes of the seasons and the relationship between dark and light, growth and decay, warmth and cold can still be explored if our children’s mininstry is taken out of a controlled environment and allowed to be shaped by the natural environment. There may be ideas we can encourage our church families to use at home, for those times when having group sessions isn’t practical.

THE MATERIALS we use can reflect our care for the environment in a number of ways: at a basic level it might mean involving fewer single-use items, less plastic, etc, but taking it on a stage we can also activitly encourage engagement with creation, whether or not the thematic content is specifically to do with the environment.  Just as using colouring pens to make art doesn’t mean our session is actually about the pens, we can also use natural objects (stones, sticks, leaves etc) as the materials for a session that is not explicitly about the materials we use. We may find, however, that using such materials helps us and our children to think and reflect and pray in different ways from when they are given pens to use.

Here are some of the ideas, questions, and resources that we talked about, captured from the twitter feed and put together into a pdf.

CHURCHKIDCHAT eco stuff twitter feed



Epiphany – ideas for children’s groups

This one works well with older children – maybe primary age.  Not so good with toddlers. But can be done well by family groups. It uses a simple origami star craft activity – a video demonstration of this part of it is linked below.

1. Talk about what everyone’s favourite Christmas presents were – what made them just right? What would be the best presents for a baby?

2. Talk about the gifts that the magi brought, and why there were just right, even though they look a little unusual at first.
Gold is precious – it’s expensive, and it lasts, so we use it for things that mean a lot to us, such as wedding rings.  The gold was given as a symbol of our offering of the most important things that we have.  The gold is a sign of something important about Jesus, like a wedding ring is a sign of love.
Frankincense makes the most wonderful-smelling smoke – it’s as if we can see our prayers and songs rising up for God to breathe in and enjoy. All our hearts’ longings, our joys and sorrows, our hopes and dreams, breathed in by God in our prayer and worship.
Myrrh is harsh, but healing  – like the antiseptic that stings as it we put it on, but helps a wound to heal.  It reminds us of hard times – illness, grief – but also of God’s ability to bring healing and life.

3. Give out long strips of paper – maybe 2 feet long, by 3cm wide  (I cut mine from a roll of paper) and pens.  Ask the children or family groups to use just one end of their paper strip for this activity.
Remind them that God gave the magi something they needed – a star to follow. On one side of the paper, ask them to write down something that they still need as a gift, for the coming year.  This isn’t a ‘thing’ like a new toy, but a more personal gift, such as more patience when school work is a struggle, or when younger siblings are frustrating! Or more time to relax (particularly for parents!).  Or help with making new friends, if that’s been a challenge before. Or help making a big decision, or facing a big change.
Remind them that the magi also gave something to Jesus – their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.  On the other side of the same end of the paper strip, ask them to write down a gift that they already have that they would like to offer to God – this might be just a lot of smiles that they can use to brighten up God’s world, it might be a certain amount of time each day just to be with God, or it might be a particular talent that can be offered.

4. Take one of the strips as an example, and follow the instructions in this video ( to make it into a 3D star. (These aren’t hard to make, but you will need to practice in advance – I don’t recommend trying to teach how to do it in your children’s session, as it can be frustrating when it doesn’t work first time!  If you have teenage or adult helpers, you might like to teach them how to do it in advance, so that they can help you make all the strips into stars on the day).
As you start to make the star:
– tie the knot in the end with the writing on, so that it will be hidden in the heart of the star by the time you have finished.
– as you tie the knot, explain that when something was important to remember, people used to tie a knot in a hanky to remind them.
– as you wrap the strip around the pentagon shape, say that when something really matters we want to protect it and keep it carefully, so we might wrap it up.  You might also like to compare it to wrapping a present, or even (going back to the myrrh and the healing) bandaging a sore finger etc.
It’s a good idea to get the children to decorate their stars to make them personalised – they’ll need to be a bit careful so they don’t squash them accidentally!

5. When everyone’s paper strips have been made into stars, encourage the children to hold their star in the palm of their hand, and remember what they wrote in the heart of it.  Ask them to think about what they need and what they have to offer this coming year, and ask God to bless those thoughts.