Monday, October 5, 2020

The Secret Ingredient




When I was in college I loved trying out new recipes. There was a cake recipe in my Joy of Cooking cookbook called Mystery Cake. The secret ingredient which gave it a rich flavor and extra moistness? A can of tomato soup. I know, weird, huh? But it was actually pretty good.

As I was thinking back over my posts, I realized that I may be missing the secret ingredient in many of them. Like this one, Keeping God at the Center, which gives us the 4 tools for keeping God at the center of our life. But without the secret ingredient, these tools won't work.

https://www.kidfrugal.com/2018/07/keeping-god-at-center.html


What is that ingredient? The ingredient that makes it all come together? The component that allows the tools to work? The key element that runs throughout the Bible?

Jesus.

What difference does he make?

He purchased/earned/bought us power over sin. Without Jesus, you are going to try to use the tools in your own power. With Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit enters your being, and he helps you to use the tools. He is the difference maker. In fact, he is often referred to as "The Helper" by Jesus himself. But the helper cannot live in us unless we first are reconciled with God. And that is where Jesus comes into the picture.

Jesus paid the price that would reconcile us to God with his own life, so that we could be brought into a relationship with God. It was one of the first things I learned about as a new Christian. I grew up in a church, but I never really heard this good news there. I heard that Jesus died on the cross to show us how to love. That is definitely what he displayed by that act, but the main purpose was not to show us how to love. It was so that we would not have to perish, as Jesus so simply stated it as recorded by John in his gospel. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

 

It had always troubled me that Jesus was afraid to die on the cross, that he asked God to get him out of it if it were possible. Why was he so afraid to die if he was such a hero I wondered? Plenty of people put their lives in harms way to save others all the time. Why did Jesus seem to shrink from it?

He shrunk from it because of the cost. He knew the cost. It was the cost he paid for us, so that each and everyone of us could be forgiven of our sins. His death had a purpose I never learned about in the church I attended growing up. 

The purpose was to enable us to come back into relationship with God, the relationship that had been broken by what the Bible terms sin. In order for that purpose to be accomplished, Jesus had to become sinful. Or, more specifically, he had to take on our sin on the cross. God filled him with our sin. (1 Peter 2:24 "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,...") Taking our sin, separated Jesus from God. Sin is what separates us from God, so when Jesus took it on, it separated him from the father. We will never fully understand what this was like, or even how it could actually be done. But the scriptures are clear that it did take place.

What we need to understand to appreciate this, is that Jesus and God the Father are one. God said, let "us" make man in "our" image. He was referring to his tri-une self.  From all of eternity the trinity had never been separated. Ever. Until that moment on the cross when God laid our sin on Jesus and he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 

When Jesus and the Father were separated, it didn't matter if it were for a nano second or years...all that mattered was that it happened, and it was terrible...for both of them. That is why John 3:16 says that God loved the world SO much that he GAVE his only son. It is a love we will never be able to fully appreciate this side of heaven. Any decent father could attest to you how difficult it is to lose a child. How much more difficult to do it willingly. They were separated. It was excruciating for both of them. So much so, that Jesus begged if there were any other way to do this, then don't make me drink this cup (i.e. - the sins of man).

Agonizing for the Father and son, but blissful for us because of what it purchased for us. Forgiveness of sin, making us holy even though we are not holy, so that we could enter into fellowship with the Father and his Spirit could enter into us. And that is the secret ingredient that is missing in many of my posts, so here it is front and center.


 
Want to make the cake? 

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 10 3/4-ounce can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Confectioners sugar, optional
  • Cooking-oil spray for greasing pan

For the frosting (optional):

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • Grated lemon or orange zest, ground
  • cinnamon or any liqueur to taste, optional

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until well-combined, 3 to 5 minutes. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the tomato soup in 2 parts. Fold in the nuts and raisins. Spread the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack.
  3. If you choose to make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and mix until just smooth and creamy. If the frosting is too stiff, beat for a few seconds longer, being careful not to overbeat it. If you choose, stir in the zest, cinnamon or liqueur.
  4. To serve, remove the cake from the pan and either sprinkle with powdered sugar or cover with the frosting.




Monday, September 28, 2020

Christmas on a Sunday

Every once in awhile Christmas falls on a Sunday. Over the years we have approached it various ways. My most memorable Christmas Sunday was a few years back. That year we gathered the Sunday School teachers in November and asked if they wanted to cancel Sunday School for Christmas morning and just have a church service, since Christmas is also a huge family holiday. One teacher was very vocal that Christmas was the whole reason we had church to begin with and it being the celebration of the entrance of our Savior into the world we should absolutely have Sunday School.

So we planned an Intergenerational Breakfast and it was the highest attendance we had all year.

We set up a continental style breakfast. The pièce de résistance were the homemade cinnamon rolls one of our ladies made. We had fruit salad, juice, hot chocolate and coffee as well. 

We used cloth tablecloths and simple centerpieces to make things a little special. It was simple, yet classy. I found everything for the centerpieces in our resource room. Polyester fiber fill, plastic snowflakes and battery operated votive candles. The little snowflakes were made from white paper and a snowflake punch. Walmart and Michael's carry these.

We played several games. 

  1. One was drawing a Christmas tree and fireplace on a paper plate on top of your head. 

  2. The other was piling up snowballs (marshmallows) on a wide wooden Popsicle stick. 

 




We met in the children's area instead of the fellowship hall, and I think this helped the event to be more incorporating of the generations. Some children were there with their families, but there was at least one who came without parents. Adults intermingled and played games with the children whether or not they were related. We even had people come to this that did not normally come for Sunday School. The best thing was that this could be an all-inclusive event. Those with disabilities could be incorporated as well.

My favorite moment came when one of the boys let out a huge yawn, and without missing a beat I asked, "Are we boring you?" What was special was that he was non-verbal. He rarely attended church because while non-verbal, he was not non-noiseful. I am not aware of the level of his handicaps, but at that moment, in the warmth of everyone joined together in one big class area, I interacted with him like any other child, which of course he was, but we so often forget that. It flowed naturally, effortlessly in the atmosphere of the gathering. 

There is a time and place for intergenerational programs and there is also a need for age appropriate teaching. If your church regularly has a Sunday School, an event like this would be great once a quarter, or even 3 times a year. It helps the children to connect with the rest of the church, and helps the church connect with them too. And it is an opportunity for an all-inclusive gathering of everyone in your church.




Monday, September 21, 2020

DIY Scroll

I wonder if Andrew Clements ever dreamed that there would be so many new words in the English language when he wrote the children's book, Frindle published in 1996. It was a book about how a new word gets acknowledged as a new word. Today we have words and terms that my computer's dictionary doesn't even recognize. Terms like DIY and words like repurpose. I looked it up, and repurpose really is a word. According to the online etymolgy dictionary, it became a word in 1983, long before google became a word.

 

But I digress. This is about repurposing that packing paper that comes in all the online stuff we order today. (I wonder when online became a word.) I left file drawers full of this paper at our old church. The first time I unwrapped something wrapped in yards of it, I thought, "This can surely be useful for something." I smoothed out the 10 foot length of it and rolled it up. Sure enough, I found uses for it. 


 

It works great for making a scroll because it is already wrinkled when you get it. All I had to do was cut it in half to make my scroll the height I wanted. You could add dowels at each end, but I didn't bother for this lesson. We just rolled it up from each end, and viola!...a scroll. 

 

I let the children write the Bible verse on the scroll for this particular lesson. It was when Jesus unrolled the scroll and read from Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth. Letting them write it themselves, copying it from a Bible, helped them to connect with the story. When we acted it out and "Jesus" read from the scroll, they knew what he was reading had come from the book of Isaiah because they had copied it themselves.

You can check out the whole lesson on rejection at Nazareth here.

 


I have also used this packing paper to make a cave. Full instructions for that are here.


I could have even made this tree from that packing paper, but I repurposed this black paper from a road we made for a VBS. You can search this blog with the word repupose to see what else we have repurposed. And by the way, in the book Frindle, frindle becomes a word for pen.

By the way, if you are still reading this, instead of getting a new church building, we repurposed these walls for about $500. So instead of a tree today, you will find these themed walls in our kidmin place. Here's what it looks like now:




You can read about our remodel project in several posts I wrote. Click here for one of them.


Monday, September 14, 2020

Missions, Missions, Missions

 


One summer, back when most churches had VBS's, we were not able to hold one. So my pastor husband said we should do a big fall outreach for children, and he asked me to be in charge. I love that kind of thing, so I was psyched to plan a children's outreach. Then we had our Sunday School teacher's meeting to plan for the fall classes, pick a date for the outreach and discuss the upcoming mission's conference later that fall. One of the teachers thought it would be a great thing to do something for the kids with the missionary since the one coming was especially good in relating to children. 

So that became our children's outreach to replace VBS, and of course, since I was supposed to be in charge of the outreach event, I was put in charge. I was a little ticked off. It was not what I had envisioned, and it certainly was not what I had agreed to do. Ever felt that way? It seems to happen to me a lot. But in hindsight, it was God's plan. So I encourage you to be sensitive to God when plans don't go as you had planned. What follows is the inter-generational event we came up with before we had ever even heard of the word inter-generational.

I always work with a planning committee for events. Some people hate committees, but I love them because you get so many good ideas and you develop things together. That is what the church (body) is all about, working together to do more than we can do alone. I try to look for a lot of ideas and bring them to the meeting and then let the team go crazy. Usually that means they tell me to keep my feet on the ground. But I love the process of working through plans with other and seeing our dreams come to life together.

Since I am writing this during the pandemic of 2020, most of this event could not be done as we did it. However, I encourage you to be creative and figure out ways to adapt some of it. Check out the adaptation article I wrote for lots of ideas as to how to make this festival "pandemic friendly."

Prep

PASSPORTS: We created "passports" for the children. They were required to visit each booth once before they went back to a booth a second time. They got little international stickers at each site. Here is the PDF we used. We ran the covers off on card stock. 

 



TAKE HOME BAGS: We purchased balloons that looked like a globe (earth day balloons) and ordered a helium tank from a local welding supply company. The plan was to bag up leftover odds and ends from previous carnivals and attach them to the inflated balloons as an anchor. The balloons were displayed in the sanctuary on both sides of the platform. This was for a photo opp of the whole group at the end of the event which we submitted to the local paper. 



DOOR PRIZES: We had some large items donated, so we decided to offer some door prizes. You got tickets for registering at the front door and kids could put them in the prize bucket of their choice. We awarded the prizes in the closing assembly, which encouraged people to stay. You had to be present to win.

 


FOOD: We wrote to the missionary that would be coming and asked for some recipes. We chose empanadas for Argentina, and then added a few other countries with recipes we already had. The internet is a great source, as is your local library.

Here are the categories of what we planned:

  1. Food - we had empanadas (Argentine style), Brigadeiros (a Brazilian sweet), alfajores (a Peruvian cookie) and pizza.

  2. Argentinian Experience - this one wasn't listed in their passport, but our missionary brought items from Argentina and clothing. He explained the different items to children and let them try on the clothing. It was a big hit.



  3. Service Activities - since this festival was missions themed, we included some activities that taught the children to give to others. 
    1. Card Making - we made cards for a local nursing home. We got a list that had the name of every resident on it, and made sure that cards were made for every single one. Even our adult helpers made cards when they had a chance. The residents loved getting them. Children not only made the card, but many wrote a little note in their card.

    2. Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes - we had a whole room set up with items they could fill boxes with. This project took a lot of preparation. Our youth group had a bottle drive to raise money for it. Then the youth went shopping on a Saturday morning at the Dollar Tree and each one was given about $25 and some guidelines for what to buy. We also used some of the money they raised for postage to help mail the boxes. The congregation brought in items as well and also plastic shoe boxes for the event. As children filled a shoe box, they brought it into the sanctuary where we made a big pyramid of them for a photo op at the end of the event.


  4. Craft - I found a book at the public library (every frugal children's workers favorite place) called Around the World Art & Activities: Visiting the 7 Continents Through Craft Fun. Children made a Gaucho Belt. The kids loved these. It took a lot of prep work, but we had youth help one night, and we also sent some home with our older women who liked to cut things for us. I will give a separate post as to how to make them. This book is out of print now, and very expensive to buy used. I suggest the library. Most libraries can borrow it from another library if they don't have it in their collection. I have included detailed instructions in the Gaucho Belt post. (coming soon)

  5. Games - we used two games from South America and then included some regular carnival games. 
    1. Brazil - Hit the Coin. You had a dowel with a coin on top of it and children threw a small rock to try and hit the dowel and knock the coin off. We have flag stands for small flags, so we stuck a dowel in this to make it stand upright. You could also use a bucket of sand.

    2. Brazil - Peteca. This used a Brazillian shuttlecock we purchased online. You just had to toss it into a basket, but it was a piece of equipment the kids had never seen or handled.


    3. Duck Races - this was a fun one. We had a kiddie pool full of water and ducks floating in it. Each child got a water pistol and had to squirt their duck across the pool against other ducks.

    4. Face Painting
    5. Bean Bag Toss
    6. Open Doors - This is another fun one. Someone made a little cabinet with a door on it that had a real doorknob on it. Kids were given a ring of keys and two or three chances to try and find the right key to open the door. If they got it open, they got a small prize that was inside. Otherwise they got a consolation prize. 


      Children visited the booths for 90 minutes (this was actually longer than necessary). Then everyone gathered in our sanctuary and the missionary dressed a few children up and then spoke to the group about Jesus.


 After our missionary shared with the group we had a couple of drawings (this encouraged people to stay for the whole event), we took a picture of the children with the OCC boxes and then all of the children took home a helium filled balloon with a bag of goodies attached to the ribbon, acting as a weight.

 

I had a lot more pictures from the event, so I made the video below to give you an idea of how it went.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Ministering To Children During the Covid-19 Pandemic


The global pandemic of 2020 has been challenging for all of us. When I began the KidFrugal blog, it was to resource others. Even though we are now retired, I still participate in some children's ministry, and I continue to read and research. Coming from a small church background we always had to rethink things. I never knew if I would have one kid or 8 kids. But over the years we were able to adapt and provide quality time for the children that came.

Ministering during a pandemic is similar in some ways. You have to re-think everything. Think outside of the box. How can we "touch" kids when they aren't even coming on campus? How can we connect. What about when we re-open?

I have already written a few posts about re-opening with kids in your services for those of you that will not be having separate children's ministries yet. You can check out worship bags here and ways to engage kids in "Big Church" here and specific ideas for worship bags here.

Today I want to give you some resources from Melissa J. MacDonald. If you aren't familiar with Melissa, aka as "Miss Mel" to many children, you owe it to yourself to read her book or listen to some of her teaching material.

Below is a 30 minute training video that Melissa did entitled, Engaging Kids Over Video. There are some really good pointers in this video. Melissa is straight forward, and engaging, which is what you want to be on video. She will give you some great ideas how to be personable even in a video. Some of her pointers include:
  1. Smile
  2. Connection not perfection
  3. How to be personable - if you are in your office, talk about some of the personal items in your office before you get into the lesson. Introduce your dog if your at home. Let kids see something about YOUR personal life in the video.
  4. Lighting
  5. Watch the video for more.





In addition to speaking and making videos, Melissa also writes. She is a regular columnist in Children's Ministry by Group and has a book entitled, Missing: An Urgent Call for the Church to Rescue Kids. 
 
Melissa also offers many different training opportunities like boot camps, coaching and seminars. Find our more at her website: Melissa J. MacDonald.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Virtual VBS Incrediworld Day 1




I just recently finished filming a 5 day VBS for the local church we attend. This is day one, the creation story. In it, I use my signature mailbox and flashcards to engage the children. I accessed the images for the flashcards from FreeBibleImages.comhttp://www.freebibleimages.org/. The images I chose came from this page.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/193IepovXgbI6dB40X8FxUugLk8AlyDcE/view?usp=sharing


Here is a link to the 11x17 visuals I created in PDF form.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WOpay0DMRZgzzyfvUhwP11-BBh6uwEyM/view?usp=sharing
Here is the link for the flash card, And there was evening and there was morning, the ___ day.



Incrediworld VBS is by Answers In Genesis and is available for free this summer due to the
Covid-19 pandemic. You can access your copy here.

You can watch the whole lesson below (my intro got cut somehow, but it's still OK).





Sunday, July 5, 2020

What's In Your Bag?


Worship bags and worship boxes are nothing new to the church scene. However, I am willing to bet that they are new to a lot of people since the Covid-19 appearance and the changes we have had to make in ministry. Most churches have not reopened their children's churches. And even when they do, there are going to be some parents who will want to keep their children with them in the pew.

Friday, June 5, 2020

8 Ways to Engage Children in "Big Church"


Location, location, location. These are three most important words in real estate.

Connect, connect, connect. What are these the three most important words in? Intergenerational services. You could say, "Engage, engage, engage." too, but I like the connotations of what connecting means. So even though I entitled this "engage," I want the purpose of the engagement to be to connect children to the big picture of church. This entails realizing that they are a part of something bigger than their children's church or Sunday School classes. It means realizing that there is a body of believers that they are a part of. The more you can connect them to that body, the more they will feel a part of it. And the more they feel a part, the better the chances that they will maintain a life long connection with a local body of believers. Even beyond that though, children should be a part of our churches NOW, not when they are grown up. So I will give you ideas in this post, but more important than doing these things, is developing a church body that values the collective body, which includes children, the disabled, ethnicities, and, well you get it, all that are a part of the body of Christ.

Today with the event of Covid-19, as churches are facing re-opening, they are also facing incorporating children into the worship services. I did write a similar post a few years ago about alternatives to children's church, but I have included more ideas in this post. So here are 8 ideas for connecting and engaging children in "Big Church."

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Butterfly Project



My regular readers may be aware that we retired from full time ministry in September. This entailed finding a new church and then getting involved. Hence, not many new posts...until now. Our new church had a genius idea I want to share with you during this COVID-19 crisis. This will still be great after the pandemic too, but it is particularly useful now.

This project was a mailing, but not just any mailing. The church purchased magic flying butterflies. If you aren't familiar with these babies, they are paper butterflies with wind up wings. The sender "winds the wings" up and places the butterfly in a card. When the receiver opens the card, the butterfly comes "flying" out.

You can order these butterflyers all over the internet, but we got ours at this website.
Cards were purchased at the Dollar Tree where you can get them 2 for $1.00. You could also make your own.

To make this project really special, parents were notified ahead of time that the card would be coming in the mail. You could email or text the parents, but they simply posted it in the Facebook group for their children's ministry. The children's director announced that something would be coming in the mail for the children and asked parents to film them as they opened their cards and then send the video to the church. Someone at church put the footage together and made one video which was shown during the online church service. It was a delightful surprise, and we got to "see" some of the children we hadn't seen for quite awhile. Below is the video that was shown in church.



This is a win-win project. It sends joy into the home where it is captured on film and then sent back to the church where it is shared with all. It benefited the congregation, the children's ministry, the children themselves and families.
  • The congregation benefits by getting to see the children's ministry (it created an inter-generational moment during the church service). 
  • The children see themselves shown during the "big peoples" church and thus feel a part of it. 
  • The ministry is kept before the church (they often do not see what goes on in kidmin). 
  • Finally the children & their families receive joy when they get the cards in the first place.
Have you done any mailing projects? Let us know in the comments below.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tube People Starring in Isaac & the King


When I was in college my roommate gave me a note that said, "Procrastination is the thief of all time." Yes, I am a procrastinator. I kept thinking that I would redo the video for this post, but I realize that is not going to happen so, without further ado, here is part 2 of my tube people special.

I must admit, when I rolled these babies out I wasn't sure if they were going to go over or not. After all, "tube people," really? I like them, but I am a bit of a nerd. Not cool. Not a hipster. So I have been thrilled to see that this post has actually been more popular than my green screen post, which is, uh, more for the techy generation. And that encouraged me to do part 2 of this post.

I videoed myself acting the story of Isaac and the Wells (Genesis 26) to give you non-thespians an idea of how to use these tube people for story telling. Basically, you get the narrative down in your mind, and then you can even add lib a little. Like Rebecca telling Isaac that if they have to move one more time she's not coming. Maybe I took a little too much liberty there, no woman would have ever said that in those days, but it does sort of bring Rebecca to life for the kids. Once kids understand a story, you can let them act it out themselves. The key is to be uninhibited.



As I wrote in the original tube people post, you could use peg dolls, Lego people, or many other things to be "people" to act out Bible stories. Below are a few pictures of other ways I have made characters for story telling.

These "tube people" are made with Ian and Sue Coate's images. They are free on the websites listed below.

You can download the Coate's Bible images on Free Bible Images or on their own website, Free Christian Illustrations . Both of these sites are worth exploring for a multitude of good illustrations and Bible figures. You can find them for almost every character and event in the Bible.


The images I used for these are no longer available, but you can use images from the sites listed above
As I became more advanced in making the paper action figures above, I would make a copy of the image and then "flip" it in Word or Publisher. I ran off both copies and pasted them front and back so you could see the figures from both sides. These were a lot of work, but I saved them in a tote to reuse. You could also flatten the paper clip for storage in file folders.

Here I made flannel-graph figures with free printable Bible people.
Same printable people made into "tube people."
You can find the free download for the Bible people printable at The Activity Mom.

If you would like to see another demonstration of dramatizing a Bible event with paper figures, check out my Elijah and the Prophets of Baal post.