It matters what we believe.
Some beliefs are expansive
and lead the way to wider and deeper sympathies.
Some beliefs are like the sunshine,
blessing children with the warmth of happiness;
some beliefs are bonds in a universal brotherhood,
where sincere differences beautify the pattern;
some beliefs are gateways
opening up wide vistas for exploration.
Some beliefs nurture self-confidence and
enrich feelings of personal worth;
some beliefs are pliable like the young sapling,
ever growing with the upward thrust of life.
It is important what we believe.
And what a child believes is also a serious matter
— not a subject for jest or sentimentality. — Sophia Lyon Fahs
Children, though natural questioners, are not skeptics, for whom doubt is an end in itself. Children are as open to belief and faith as they are to questioning. They are looking, as we are all looking, for things on which they can depend, values they can faithfully live by, ideas that make sense, things to believe in. — Rev. Earl Holt in Religious Education at Home
IN TODAY'S SESSION...
We affirmed the relevance and meaning of church attendance for individuals and asked the children to consider these for themselves. We began a long-term project of creating our own individual Window/Mirror Panels, which we plan to exhibit at the conclusion of the program. As usual, we played a game. This time everyone was a winner of ten jelly beans. Surprisingly enough, the title of today's story was "Jelly Beans." It comes from our Quaker brothers and sisters and reminds us that kindness often is what people need. The story also helped us demonstrate how church and what we learn here can help make our lives happier and better. We asked some adults why they come to church and why it is important that children to come to church, regularly. Finally, we began a Faith in Action project to help relieve world hunger by each of us putting aside seven cents a day.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about...
Ask your child(ren) what they found most meaningful about church today—having this conversation directly after church tends to yield the most information. They may share something that happened outside of the religious education program. That is appropriate. Ask them what they have liked the best during your family's relationship with this congregation, or what they remember most.
Share what prompted your initial attendance and why you are part of our congregation now. Share something your child may not know about your childhood religious upbringing and how it affects the choices you make for them. Explain in a meaningful way why it is important to you that your child attend church with you. Using the phrase "church matters" in the conversation might surprise them.
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER . Try...
Create a "seven cents a day" bank for each family member. Place banks where coins are likely to be discovered and added to the bank—grandparents and cousins are not to be excluded! Search the congregational newsletter for other social justice efforts if your church is not involved with hunger work. On the Unitarian Universalist website, research projects that help alleviate poverty and hunger. Talk about where else in your daily lives issues of hunger or poverty arise and where else are you called to attend to them? How does church or religious education attendance connect to your family's response to hunger or poverty locally or in the larger world?
As a family, choose an organization to receive the money you will collect over time.
A FAMILY RITUAL
Develop a Sunday-after-church or Sunday-before-church ritual. Choose one small activity or food treat that your family can include into Sunday morning churchgoing. It is vital that your child (not just you) perceive this as a treat. Involve your child in developing the ritual. Consider realistic timing—before church or after—especially if the ritual involves a stop for food. Consider the seasonal activities that happen on Sunday, such as sports, that might interfere with the ritual. Some suggestions:
- A trip to a bakery or doughnut shop
- Hot chocolate with whipped cream every Sunday morning
- Riding bicycles or scooters to church
- A stop at a playground or library after church
- Breakfast or lunch at a special place
- Donating non-perishable food to a shelter that has Sunday drop-off times
- Buying flowers for home or for a neighbor
- Singing special funny songs in the car
- Looking for a specific person at church
- Playing after church with a friend you know only from church.
A FAMILY GAME
Church Charades. Charades originated in France. It is a great game to play with your children, as you have to act silly! To play a church-focused version:
- Form two teams (even two can play, pantomiming for each other).
- Each team thinks of a church-related phrase or a congregational activity to be acted out, and writes it on a slip of paper. Examples: grounds and maintenance committee, worship, singing "Spirit of Life," walking in a peace march, coffee hour, reading, playing, holiday pageant, ushering, flower communion, child dedication ceremony.
- Teams collect slips of paper in the bowl or bag and give them to the opposite team. (When two people play together, each should act out their own phrases or activities and see if the other person can guess.)
- Decide on a time limit, or individual time limits, to suit players' ages and pantomime abilities.
- Teams take turns drawing slips of paper. Each time, one team member pantomimes for teammates to guess the word or activity.
- Before you start, review the pantomime descriptors so all can use and understand them:
- "Sounds like... " — Cup your hand around your ear.
- "Little word." — Bring your thumb and index fingers close together. The guessers should now call out every little word they can think of ("on," "in," "the," and," ... ) until you gesticulate wildly to indicate the right word.
- "Longer version of the word." — Pretend to stretch an elastic.
- "Shorter version of the word." — Chop with your hand.
- "Close, keep guessing!" — Frantically wave hands to keep the guesses coming.
- With older children, you can communicate in pantomime how many words and/or syllables are in a phrase they are guessing. For number of words, hold up that many fingers; hold up one finger to pantomime the first word. To show that a word has X syllables, lay X fingers on your forearm. To act out a first syllable, lay one finger on your forearm.
- Score by keeping track of how long it takes each team to guess the right answer; the team with the fewest minutes wins. To make it easier, just keep track of how many correct guesses each team makes before time runs out.
- Then, start acting silly!
Make congregation-related tee shirts for every member of the family. Purchase some plain tee shirts and fabric paints and/or fabric markers. Spend a few minutes talking to one another about what parts of being a member of this church are fun, meaningful, or special. Help one another create symbols for those feelings or thoughts. Each person designs their own tee shirt with the name (or part of the name) of your congregation and symbols that convey why the church is important. Each person can use the symbols the entire family came up with or only those that are personally meaningful. Wear the tee shirts to a congregational gathering or any other time.