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First Tuesday of the Month: Answer to a Question I answer a question! I usually answer a question that has come up in email or forums online. Sometimes people email the questions directly. In December I answered this question:
Today’s Question: How do I get my kids involved in online worship?
The question came from a pastor who is also a parent, but I think the “my kids” part could apply either to one’s own children or the children in our care. Here’s my stab at the answer.
Ooof. (I feel like all COVID related answers of mine start with “ooof.”) Solidarity. This is hard. Here are my thoughts on how to get kids involved in online worship:
- Don’t. I said what I said! Just… don’t. If you need someone “out there” to give you permission to not do it, permission granted. It’s so hard to get children engaged in online worship, and many of them are already sitting at screens for multiple hours a day for school. If online worship feels like a chore and it feels like it’s not engaging them and their faith, you can let it go. Letting online worship and children fall away a bit (or completely) will not ruin them for life. There are other ways to keep them engaged in their faith (keep reading!) Maybe it’s not an every week thing. Maybe it’s just once per month. In ordinary times I don’t think I would say “stop going to church” if there was a sense of disconnect, but these aren’t ordinary times. We need to let some things go, and for some, online church might be the thing.
- Make it Interactive. If you don’t have control over the content of the online worship, find ways to make it interactive for those who are watching. Children can RIBBONS during the music, or play INSTRUMENTS or COLOR along during the service. All of these worship at home aids could be given to children in your congregation with the encouragement to use them while they watch the service.
- Make Sure There is Content for Them. If you do have content over the online worship (whether it’s streamed or pre-recorded) make sure that there are ways children can engage, whether its a message geared for them or an interactive/responsive piece or a story time.
- Feature Content by Children/Youth. Are there people on the screen who look like them? Their peers or friends? Themselves? To feel included, it’s nice to be represented.
Many blessings to you as you work to increase the participation of children and youth in your online services! I know it’s not easy. Keep up the good work! TS
On the Second Tuesday of the Month, I do a productivity hack for ministry leaders with ideas and links. Over the year you build up a nice library of them. Sometimes the productivity hacks are related specifically to ministry, and sometimes toward work/life balance in general. In November, I talked about productivity for Advent. See here:
Welcome to Treasure Box Tuesday Premium from Traci Smith. My weekly links are always included after the Premium Content. This is the second week of the month which means it’s PRODUCTIVITY TUESDAY!
For this week I’m going to talk about productivity for Advent and Christmas. This time of year is always crazy for pastors and family ministries and I wanted to give you some of my best musings and tips on this topic. Here are some things that I’ve thought about for many years that have worked for me, as well as some things I’m thinking about this year:
- SIMPLIFY – This is my biggest soapbox this year. (Well, most years, actually, but particularly this year.) Paring down the number of things to do will pay off. Set an Advent intention for yourself, your family and your congregation, and focus on the essential things.
- LET GOOD RESOURCES DO THE WORK – I think using storybooks is a great way to save time and energy. I wrote a post about how to use storybooks HERE. I think building up an Advent/Christmas library is a great use of time and energy as you can. Add a book or two each year and you’ll have a variety to draw from over time. Of course, when I wrote Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas, I had busy pastors and family ministry leaders in mind as well. Whether it’s a great pageant script or the ABCs of Christmas, invest your energy in finding the right resource for your church and you’ll save a lot of time later.
- GUARD THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS FOR YOUR FAMILY IF YOU CAN – After Christmas is over, a hush seems to fall over all of the busyness and excitement of the season. In our family, we often use this time to do some of the things that other families do during Advent, like bake cookies, or watch Christmas movies. It gives an opportunity for the season to last longer, I’m not occupied with church work, and it takes some of the pressure off. Also, I’ve found great deals on Christmas things in those days right after Christmas and we’ve enjoyed them for 1/2 the price.
- DO AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN NOVEMBER — I’ve learned the hard way that waiting for the last minute is a recipe for a lot of stress in December. November is time to get as much done as you can. (Extra credit if you did it in October!)
- PREPARE FOR NEXT YEAR IN JANUARY – I don’t do a lot to prepare for the following year, but there are a few things I do to try and make the season easier for the following year. I wrap up all of our Christmas and Advent books (we unwrap and read one per day during Advent). I store wrapping paper and tape and other 1/2 priced packaging things all ready to go. I try to store and label things well so the next year they’re ready.
Do you have an amazing Advent productivity hack? Send it to me at [email protected] I’d love to read it!
Good luck, everyone! You got this.
On the Third Tuesday of the Month I do a Faith at Home newsletter article. The idea is that you would copy and paste it for your families in an email or put it in as an article for a printed newsletter to them. Permission is given for you to copy and paste and include, as is. Here’s what I put in October (to be used in November)
November Focus: Gratitude
As we head into the month of Thanksgiving, we return to a very important spiritual practice. Gratitude is the practice of giving thanks. We can give thanks in so many different ways.
- Paper Chain – Each day make a link with something you’re thankful for written on the link. See if it can stretch all around a room.
- Gratitude Tree – Write your gratitude on leaf shaped ornaments and hang them on a tree outside. (Put a branch in a vase for an easy tree!)
- Alphabet Gratitude – List one thing you are grateful for that starts with the letter “A” and then continue with the letter “B” until you’ve reached the end of the alphabet.
- More than Words – Draw a picture of something that makes you feel grateful.
Memory Verse: This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
Faith Practice Spotlight: Gratitude Cafe – This practice comes from the book Faithful Families, Creating Sacred Moments at Home. Each person gets a warm beverage (tea, hot chocolate, and coffee) and takes turns talking about what they’re thankful for. The warm drink makes you slow down and savor, and adds to the practice of gratitude.
Links on Gratitude:
- 30 Days Thankful
- Snuggle Time Fall Blessings
- Paper Leaves (for your gratitude trees!) You could also just tape them to the walls.
The fourth Tuesday of the month is Encouragement Tuesday. I give something inspiring or encouraging for you to think about. It’s usually something written, but I’ve done videos before as well. I’ll be mixing it up in 2021! December’s encouragement was about permission.
Encouragement Tuesday: Permission
One of the values I have been teaching about from Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas is the value of keeping things simple and letting go. I’ve seen churches creating beautiful Advent-at-Home kits with my books and organizing absolutely stunning Advent experiences for their congregations. Good on them. Good on you, if you’ve done that. Take it from me, though, you don’t need to go crazy this Advent season. There’s nothing you can do that will take away the sting of this COVID Christmas. There’s nothing you can to do make all of the hardship disappear. Perhaps, you’ll be called just to sit in the middle of them mess with your people. That’s enough.
In her book THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION, Brene Brown talks about the importance of giving oneself permission for things. Permission to fail. Permission to keep quiet. Permission to feel all of the feelings.
What will you give yourself permission for this Advent and Christmas? Will it be permission to skip doing something you usually do? Perhaps it’s permission to grieve. Permission to be sad. Permission to not give 110% to your job. Permission to serve cold cereal in a bowl for dinner. I’m serious.
When we stop striving for someone else’s ideal and give ourselves permission to let go we can make space for the beauty of imperfection (or, as Brene says, the gifts of imperfection) to shine through.
It might sound a little goofy, but if you’re the journaling type, you could make yourself an actual permission slip for this Advent. Permission to _________ or Permission to not_________.
If you’d like to share your permission slip with me, I’d love to read it. You could send it to me at [email protected]
I like the way JERUSALEM says it here:
You got this, TS
The fifth Sunday of the month I do a printable for you all to have for your congregations. It’s different every time! My hope is always that people will save these for use from year to year. In October I sent out this gratitude printable:
There you have it! Remember that when you sign up for Treasure Box Tuesday for a year, you get all of those types of resources x12! Great stuff to your inbox all year long! It’s just $5/month or $50/year (two months free for the yearly.) You get all the resources + a Facebook Group + 25% off in the Etsy store. (Which is also expanding in 2021!)