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. Once you know which activities you will include in each session, carefully read the activities' materials and preparation sections. Put advance preparations on the calendar and, if possible, assign them.
Plan to obtain any materials that your religious education program does not keep in your supply closets. Note materials that may be difficult to find, or need to be ordered in advance or collected in quantity.
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 visits shortly before the session date.
Communication to families can powerfully boost the impact of Faithful Journeys. Note on your calendar when you will download, customize and distribute Taking It Home handouts 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 the dates when you need to create, distribute and collect permission forms. Mark dates to email or hand out reminders or requests to parents.
If someone on your leadership team has the expertise to create a shared electronic calendar, take advantage! Designate one person to keep the calendar up to date. If different leaders will lead different sessions, make sure to assign responsibilities as appropriate for distributing permission forms, requests for volunteers and other communications to parents. Note assignments of these tasks on the calendar.
Make name tags for participants and leaders before the first session. Keep extra materials to make additional name tags for newcomers or guests.
To lead a session, you will need to download, customize, print and sometimes photocopy materials from the Tapestry of Faith website. These materials may include the text of the central story; handouts for participants; the Taking It Home handout for parents; and leader resources such as arts-and-crafts templates, recipes or scenarios to use in role plays. Make sure you have all the materials you need for a session before the day of the session. Allow yourself time to become familiar with the materials and prepare completely for the session.
The Faithful Journeys Path
This program invites participants on a pilgrimage of learning, a journey to explore how we each can translate being a Unitarian Universalist into actions, choices and behaviors for positive change. Make and display the Faithful Journeys Path before the first session to establish the metaphor and make participants' faith journeys concrete and visual. Participants begin to envision themselves moving forward on the path as they decorate it with trees and place their own footprints on the path with paint. You will also add a green light, for "Go!"
You can make a Faithful Journeys Path as elaborate or as simple as you wish. Find options and guidance in Session 1, Leader Resource 2.
As the program progresses, you will add a signpost to the Faithful Journeys Path during the Closing in every session. Signposts offer a two- or three-word phrase that directs participants to continue the journey with actions that express a session's Principle. For example, "Respect Everyone" is the signpost for Session 2, which focuses on our first Principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person. A leader resource in each session provides the signpost.
Feel free to add your own signposts or other enhancements to help you teach additional concepts of faithful action you believe are important. The path's design accommodates all the concepts presented in Faithful Journeys as well as any other guidance you may wish to offer the group for using their personal agency to act in faith to transform our world.
Use Session 1, Leader Resource 3, Faithful Footprints, and Leader Resource 4, Making Tracks for Faith, to prepare cut-out footprints and wheelchair tracks. You may wish to use a variety of colors. Children will use these to move forward on the Faithful Journeys Path as they experience translating their own Unitarian Universalist values into action. The recurring, five-minute Faithful Footprints activity begins in Session 2 (see Session 2, Activity 1).
Story Basket and Centering
You are guided in each session to fill a basket with objects related to the central story, and pass the objects around to the group to focus participants' attention and build curiosity about the story. Obtain a basket large enough to accommodate items of different sizes and shapes, yet light enough for children to easily pass around, if you choose to do that.
The story basket should also have room for at least one sound-making instrument, such as a chime, rain stick, bell, or small drum. You may want to have both a soft and a loud sound instrument. A calming sound that lingers and fades is part of the centering activity that transitions the group from exploring the story basket to listening to or participating in your storytelling. At other times, you will need a sound-making instrument to start and stop the action during a game.
The idea of providing children with pipe cleaners or other quiet, manipulable objects to use during sedentary, listening-oriented group activities comes from Sally Patton, author and advocate for children with special needs. It is a simple, inexpensive way to include and welcome children who find it difficult to sit still or who learn better while moving. In Tapestry of Faith curricula, we suggest a basket of fidget objects. See Session 2, Leader Resource 2, Fidget Objects, for detailed guidance.
Fidget objects may especially benefit children who are kinesthetic learners, have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, or simply tend to be physically restless or highly social during religious school. Get to know the particular children in Faithful Journeys. Decide whether you wish to make fidget objects available for the duration of a session or to limit access, e.g., bringing the basket out only for activities, such as storytelling, that require children to sit still for a prolonged period of time. There are quite a few stories and listening-based activities in this curriculum that require children's full engagement and active participation. At these times, it may be best not to introduce fidget objects unless there is a child who cannot attend otherwise.
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, sitting in a circle for a story or sharing, stand-up role plays, group games and hands-on projects for which children need to sit together at work tables and share arts-and-crafts materials. For some activities, having a water source nearby will be helpful.
The ideal meeting space for this program is spacious, with multiple areas that include a carpeted space for storytelling; an open space large enough for cooperative group games; and child-size tables and chairs. Identify a wall space where you can post the Faithful Journeys Path for the duration of the program. You will need additional wall space or a sturdy easel for posting newsprint and writing on it.