As soon as your program has been scheduled, prepare a calendar with the dates for each session. The more co-leaders and parent volunteers a program includes, the more useful a calendar will be. Post the calendar in your shared meeting space, and duplicate it for each adult participant.
Use the calendar as a "to do" list. For sessions with activities that need assistance from others in the congregation or community, write reminders to contact these people well in advance and to confirm their engagement closer to the session date.
Your communication to families can powerfully boost the impact of Creating Home. Use your calendar to note when you will download, customize, and distribute the Taking It Home resources provided for each session. If the group will go off-site for a Faith in Action activity or take a walk beyond the grounds of your congregational meeting place, mark on the calendar the dates you need to create, distribute, and collect permission forms. Mark the dates when you will email or distribute reminders or requests to parents.
If the group will have different leaders for different sessions, make sure to assign responsibilities for distributing permission forms, requests for volunteers, and other advance communications to parents. Note these tasks and who will execute them on the calendar.
If someone on your leadership team has the expertise to create a shared, electronic calendar, take advantage!
Make name tags for participants and leaders before the first session. Keep extra materials to make additional name tags for newcomers or guests.
The "Word Wall"
Kindergartners and first graders love to see newly learned words. The Creating Home Word Wall, introduced in the Closing of Session 1, offers a way for beginning readers to build a vocabulary associated with home, family, faith, family home, and faith home. Each subsequent Closing suggests new words to add to the Word Wall.
To implement the Word Wall, identify a wall or part of a wall in your meeting space that you can use for the duration of your Creating Home program. The wall space should accommodate up to 30 index cards or post-its and be visible by participants at their eye level. Make a sign to label your Creating Home Word Wall. (Instead, you can use a long piece of paper or cloth which you can roll up and store after each session.)
Story Coloring Sheets
This program provides original illustrations for every core story. These are black-and-white line drawings, designed for the children to use as coloring sheets. When you find a story online, you will see its coloring sheet in the sidebar of that page; download, print, and copy for all participants. Or, you may wish to download and print the packet of all the coloring sheets for Creating Home stories (PDF, 18 pages).
Preparing a Labyrinth
Before the first session, acquire or create a floor labyrinth that will work well in the meeting space. The labyrinth provides a focus for ritual practice and community-building. Placing their name stones on the labyrinth at each gathering demonstrates the presence, and the importance, of each member of the Creating Home community. Using the labyrinth, the children will experience crossing a threshold and gathering at a shared altar. You may wish to use the labyrinth for a walking meditation, presented in Session 1.
If your congregation has a floor labyrinth, reserve it for all the dates when the Creating Home program will meet.
If your congregation does not own a labyrinth, making one together can be an excellent way for co-leaders to ready themselves to lead the program. And, it can be a nice way to engage parents and other congregants in your religious education program. You can mark out a labyrinth with masking tape directly on the floor of the meeting space, if you expect it can remain intact for the duration of the program. Find instructions for laying out a rustic floor labyrinth, in the Chartres pattern, at http://labyrinthsociety.org/make-a-labyrinth.
For a portable labyrinth your congregation can keep for further use, you may draw or paint the labyrinth on a large, light-colored sheet, a vinyl tablecloth, or painter's canvas. A flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth has particular advantages: It is durable and will stick better to the flooring, reducing the chances that children will slip when they walk on the labyrinth.
To make a portable labyrinth, follow the instructions provided in Session 1: On the Threshold. Look in Session 1's Resources section under "Leader Resources" for detailed instructions and links to websites with a variety of labyrinth designs and background information.
Gather stones to use as "name stones," enough for participants and any future newcomers or guests. Find a basket for the stones.
Requirements for Your Meeting Space
Work with your religious education team and congregational leaders to ensure that the program has an adequate meeting space. Multiple activities occur in each session: lighting the chalice, exploring the labyrinth, sitting in a circle for a story or sharing, and hands-on projects for which children need to sit together at tables and share arts and crafts materials. The ideal meeting space for this program is spacious, with multiple areas including a carpeted space for circle time, another floor space large enough for your labyrinth, and child-size tables and chairs. Within the meeting space, decide where you will use the labyrinth, where you will gather the group for opening and closing rituals, and where you will locate the Word Wall if you want to have one.