All posts by Amanda M

2018-2019 Comes to a Close

Days are getting longer and the hint of summer warmth is in the air! Hard to believe this Sunday is our last Sunday School session of the school year!

As most of you know, our Sunday School program is always evolving.  We are constantly looking for ways to breathe new life into our program.  This year we introduced Outreach Activities at the start of our classroom sessions.  The students worked on activities like “Color a Smile”, painting pumpkins and making greeting cards for Vets and Bucket Fillers.

Speaking of changes, my term as Sunday School director will come to a close this May.  I began leading the program in 2016 alongside Jenniffer Harrington and was joined this year by Kathy Pastiu.  Going forward, Brad and Jackie Davies have graciously agreed to lead the program.  Brad and Jackie have been members of Good Shepherd for the past few years and are actively involved in Sunday School, both teaching in the classroom and leading Youth Fellowship activities.    I am absolutely thrilled to have Brad and Jackie lead our program and look forward to watching it continue to evolve and grow.

Please join us this Sunday for our last lesson of the school year.  The students will be working together on a Youth Fellowship exercise to create bookmarks for our newcomers.  Next Sunday we will honor our students and teacher volunteers during announcements followed by an ice cream party for the students!

On a personal note, it has been my absolute pleasure leading Sunday School for the past three years and incredibly rewarding getting to know your children and watching them grow.  Thank you for your commitment to our program and all of the support you have provided!

-Amanda

 

 

Halfway through and we need YOU!

Hard to believe the Christmas pageant and Holly Fair are behind us and we are halfway through another Sunday School year!  The kids have had quite a busy first half!

Earlier in the year, we mentioned kicking off Youth Outreach Activities in lieu of a bible story (of course, we still welcome Bible Storyteller volunteers).  During those activities, the children have decorated pumpkins for Pitman Manor, colored pages for “Color a Smile”, left their mark on our Outreach bulletin board, and more!  We have a few more outreach activities planned including Valentines for Vets.

img_0570In addition to outreach, we’ve held two Youth Fellowship activities.  Youth Fellowship activities are a chance for children of all grade levels to come together and for a special lesson and project.  Two more are planned for the second half of the year.

How can you help? We’d love ideas for organizations in need for our outreach activities.  We could also use volunteers to lead a Youth Fellowship activity.  Also, we are in need of two to four teacher volunteers for two remaining school year terms.  Finally, we’d love IDEAS!  As is typical for this time of year, attendance is lower.  Perhaps it’s those cold, frosty Sunday mornings or the long list of kid activities that always seem to take over our weekends or maybe something else.  Please reach out to Kathy or me if you have ideas on how to rev up our program and as always THANK YOU for your support!

 

Youth Outreach

A few weeks ago, parishioners met to discuss plans for our upcoming Sunday school year.  One topic on the agenda was our Bible Story program.  For those unfamiliar, at the start of class each Sunday, a parishioner volunteer would spend 10 minutes telling a bible story to the students.  For MANY years Pat Braidwood has dedicated her time leading this activity and scheduling volunteer storytellers each Sunday.  After prayerful consideration, Pat has decided to step down.
Due to this, along with  declining volunteers over the past few years, we’ve decided to repurpose the program slightly.
  •  Four times during the school year, Mother Susan will visit with the children at 10am (former Bible Story time) to discuss various stages of Church year using a wooden calendar. The students will have the opportunity to connect with Mother Susan, while also gaining understanding of how we progress through the Church year
  • We will introduce on-going service projects the children will work as a group (all grades together in the all purpose room) for the first 10-15 minutes. Service projects will range from Project Linus, placemats for Meals on Wheels and various other outreach activities. (Please let us know if you have other ideas for service projects.)
  • During the time of the pageant, children who are in the pageant will use the Bible Story time to rehearse while students not in the pageant will work on the service project.
  • In the event parishioners would still like to volunteer to tell a Bible Story, they are MORE THAN WELCOME to do so!! Please contact Amanda or Kathy if you are interested.  We’d love to have you!
We are excited about the various aspects of our Sunday school program and the opportunity for our children to learn about God’s love and our Church through various activities and programs!

High School Guest Speaker Volunteers

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More commonly, churches maintain their youth Christian education program for grades K through eighth.  At Good Shepherd, we believe it’s important (arguably even more important) for our older kids to participate in some sort of youth education program.  Let’s face it, high school is tough–and it seems kids face even more challenges these days.

One of the goals of our Sunday school program is to not only provide our children the knowledge of God’s love, but also understand how His love can help guide them even after they exit the ‘big red doors’ each Sunday.  For our High School students, this means providing the opportunity to hear how our adult parishioners implement their faith into their day-to-day lives.  One way we do this is through our High School guest speaker program.

Last year the students were fortunate to engage and interact with some of our adult parishioners; hearing first hand about challenges, overcoming obstacles, volunteer work,  and other topics that demonstrate the act of implementing the guidance and support they receive through knowing and understanding God’s love.

After each guest speaker discussion, we always receive very positive feedback from the students. High schooler, Victoria Nelson shares her experience with the program.”

“Having guest speakers coming into the high school class has given me a different perspective on how others live their daily lives.  The guest speakers speak on a topic that relates to their job or something they have to deal with; they talk on how their church life and faith helps them get through this thing they talk about.  This exposes us to other careers, organizations, and issues going on that we can do or help with.  When the speakers come into the class, they allow use to have a better idea of why having a faith in the “real world” is important.”

We typically include a guest speaker as each month as part of the high school curriculum.  In order to continue this program’s success, we need your help! Please contact Amanda McNally or Kathy Pastiu if you’d like to be a guest speaker or would like to know more about the program.

Sunday School 2018/2019 Preparations

The classrooms are quiet during these lazy, hot days of summer but before we know it, when the bell rings during the service, the children will soon be flooding through the doors to join their families.  The start of the 2018/2019 Sunday School year is only eight Sundays away and preparations are in full swing!

Registration for the 2018/2019 year is open using the registration link here.  The calendar is now posted and we have some great activities planned, but in order to ensure we have another successful year, we need your help!  Please prayerfully consider volunteering for one of the many volunteer roles within our program.  A few areas you can consider lending a hand…

Teachers:

We know you’re busy so we’ve simplified the teaching process.  Teachers now volunteer for four to five-week terms and are paired with a partner (you are welcome to choose your teaching partner).  Curriculum is simple with no prep needed and although its self-explanatory, we do offer training for anyone interested.

Sign up to teach on the board in the Parish Hall or contact Amanda McNally or Kathy Pastiu.

Bible Story-tellers:

Unable to commit to a teaching term but still enjoy working with kids?  Volunteering to tell a Bible story is for you!  Our story-tellers select a Sunday of their choosing to spend 10 to 15 minutes at the start of the service telling a Bible story to the children.

Sign up to tell a Bible story on the board in the Parish Hall or contact Pat Braidwood.

Youth Fellowship Leaders:

Four Sundays per year we hold a Youth Fellowship lesson with the entire Sunday School. Youth Fellowship can be a lesson based on the lectionary or an outreach activity.

Interested in leading a Youth Fellowship?  Sign up on the board in the Parish Hall or contact Amanda or Kathy.  We can help you choose and plan your activity.

Committee Leaders:

Prefer to help out ‘behind the scenes’?  Starting this year, we will be re-introducing Sunday School committees which will include; Program Events, Teacher Recruitment and Children’s Snack.  More information regarding committees will be forthcoming.  If you are interested in signing up for a committee, please contact Amanda or Kathy.

 

Whether you decide volunteer or simply register your child to attend, we are thrilled you are a part of our Sunday School program and are looking forward to another successful year!

 

 

 

Youth Sunday Recap

Two weeks ago, the youngest parishioners volunteered to take on key roles throughout the service at our Youth Sunday.  Some read, others greeted parishoners as they arrived and some even had the chance to be Lay Eucharistic Ministers!  Youth Sunday gives kids a chance to actually be a part of the service; helping them learn by doing!

Thank you to all the kids who volunteered!  (It certainly isn’t easy to stand in front of the entire congregation!)  Great work!

 

 

Seven weeks in…

Seven weeks of the 2017/2018 Sunday School year are now behind us!  In those seven short weeks we’ve already finished the first term, held a Youth Fellowship, listened to guest speakers in our High School class, and begun preparations for our Christmas Pageant!  We are certainly busy at Good Shepherd!

With all these activities we plan for the kids, I often think about the intention.  Mother Susan spoke two Sundays ago during the homely about our Good Shepherd family.  She stated church can be–should be–for a lifetime.    Why do we hold Youth Fellowships four times a year?  What do we really want our children to leave with when they exit their classroom and head through the double doors into the service?  Most likely, we all have various opinions of what we hope our children take away each Sunday.  For me, I want two things.  I want them to know Jesus loves them and I want them to know they have a family at Good Shepherd.

I’ve been attending Good Shepherd since the age of seven and have grown up with many of the parishioners who attend today.  When I walk through those doors each Sunday I feel at peace; I feel safe.  I feel no matter how stressful the work week has been or how much craziness life in general brings; feeling God’s presence and seeing the familiar faces of those I’ve known for many years or have just met just a few months ago–lets me know I’m exactly where I need to be.

So for me, that is what I hope your children get out of our Sunday School program.  I hope they feel the comfort that spirituality and family can bring.  And I hope that years from now, when I’m sitting in that first pew on the left side, I look back and see the faces of the “kids of Good Shepherd” sitting with their kids.

NOW FEATURING: Good Shepherd KIDS!

Another summer has flown by and the start of Sunday School for the 2017/2018 season is just around the corner–this coming Sunday, in fact!  It seems like just yesterday we were thanking our teachers and applauding our students for a great 2016/2017 year.

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We kicked off the new season with a successful Homecoming BBQ last weekend.  It was wonderful to see our church family come back “home” to our parish; sharing a meal and catching up.  Thanks to our Vestry for all the yummy food and our congregation for all the delicious desserts!

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I have to say, I am super excited for this school season!  Our schedule is packed with exciting Youth Fellowship lessons, bible stories, new Buzz curriculum boxes for each classroom (including Preschool!), Outreach projects and even a few Youth Sunday’s where the kids take on lead roles throughout the service.

Speaking of exciting activities planned, we’ll be having our first (well…first in at least 10 years) Bring a Friend Sunday on October 1st.  We are inviting all of our Sunday School kids to bring a friend!  Each child that brings a friend will be entered in a raffle for a gift card and other goodies!

I hope you join us next Sunday.  I’ll be downstairs in the classrooms if you have any questions or would like to chat.  And if you haven’t yet registered, its super easy! Just click the link at the top of the Sunday School page that says “Sunday School Registration”.

Looking forward to a fantastic Sunday School year!

 

 

Sunday School Commitees

While Sunday School has taken a break for summer recess, it’s the perfect time to tell you about our Sunday School committees.

Our Sunday School is led by Amanda McNally and Jenniffer Harrington, however,  they do not run the program alone!  Seven committees make up the entire program, each an important component to a thriving Sunday School.  We invite you to read through the description of each committee below.  In early August we’ll hold our 2017/2018 Sunday School planning meeting and we hope you to attend!  If you are interested in joining a committee, we’d love to have you!  Fresh ideas and eager hands are what make our program a success!

  • Student Registration/Attendance : Without students, we have no Sunday School program.  This committee is responsible for driving attendance and scouting new attendees through social media, mail, email and various other methods.  This commitee is also responsible for ensuring consistent attendance.
  • Teacher Recruitment:  While students are critical to our program; we need folks to teach them!  This committee is responsible for maintaining a full roster of teacher volunteers as well as helping with teacher training and appreciation.
  • Bible Story Committee:  At 10am each Sunday, our students begin Sunday School by gathering as a larger group to hear a bible story as told or read by a parishioner volunteer.   This committee is responsible for identifying, scheduling and notifying the volunteers.  They are also responsible for providing recommendations to determine which stories are told each school season.
  • Children’s Snack:  At the end of the service, the children gather with their families in the Parish Hall where a snack table is set up especially for our youth parishioners.  This committee is responsible for set up of the table and coordinating snack donations.
  • Youth Fellowship/Special Events:  Our Sunday School program goes well beyond classroom learning.  Several times a year our students participate in Youth Fellowship group lessons and other special events or outreach.  This committee is responsable for developing those events and coordinating the details.

Please prayerfully consider joining one of our committees!  Look for an announcement soon regarding our August planning meeting.  We’d love to have you!

 

 

That’s a Wrap!

In just three short days, we will be closing the chapter on the 2016/2017 school year.  As I sit here preparing to celebrate our teacher volunteers this Sunday and award our spectacular students the following Sunday, I can truly say I am overcome with emotion.

Last August, on some of the hottest days of summer, several dedicated parishioners spent weeks scrubbing, painting, hammering, hauling and preparing for our 2016/2017 school year.  Several nights were spent gathering in the conference room poring over ideas, survey results and countless curriculums (no really….countless).  We planned committees, dissected small details and dug in–finalizing the kick off of the school year.  No detail was left unplanned and it truly did “take a village”.  We had two simple goals: more teachers, higher attendance.

Just three days shy of our final day, I am so unbelievably proud to say…mission accomplished!  We had more than THIRTY FIVE teacher volunteers this year (and even had two teachers per classroom).  Our attendance on a few weeks hit over 40 and averaged in the low thirties.  Some days our high school room was ‘standing room only’.

I am so proud of the work done by our committee members Elizabeth Nelson, Pat Braidwood, Jen Handley, Lori Bathurst, Dana Szilier, Jack Daugherty and Chris Southwick and the incredible generosity of all our teacher volunteers!  And I am so very thankful for my Sunday School partner, Jenn Harrington.

I hope you all join us this Sunday for a wonderful tribute to our teachers and next Sunday as we recognize our students.

I’m looking forward to the 2017/2018 school year!

-Amanda

 

 

Sunday School Second Half Wrap Up

Hard to believe we are winding down the 2016/2017 Sunday School year.  We kicked off the second half of the year introducing several new iniatives, activities and an outreach opportunity.

In January, we began our High School Guest Speaker program.  We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to this program.  Topics have been quite diverse ranging from volunteer opportunites,  batteling illnesses,  stress management and more.  Attendance has flourished in our High School class with some Sunday’s at standing room only!

In February, our kids participated in a Youth Fellowship on Miracles.  Lori Bathurst and Dana Szilier led the group in an interactive discussion followed by two activites.

In March, we introduced the Sunday Paper.  This weekly periodical is sent home with the students each Sunday offering lectionary based stories and activites–a great complient to our Buzz curriclum.

April has been quite busy as well!  Many generous parishoners donated snacks to help us prepare Snack Bags for the Angels of God Snack Bag program.  This program provides snacks to less fortunate youth in the Gloucester County area.  On Palm Sunday, the kids decorated brown paper lunch bags and filled them to the brim with lots of yummy, healthy snacks!  Bags were then donated to Angels of God in Pitman.  During the Youth Fellowship, the students also took part in a Palm Sunday story and craft–certainly a busy day for our kids!

Following our Easter Sunday service, the kids were treated to an Egg Hunt hosted by our Youth Group.  The children eagerly anticpate this annual tradition and love searching for eggs filled with treasures and treats.

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This coming Sunday starts the final teaching term for the 2016/2017 school year.  The last day of Sunday School will be May 7th.  We will be continuing with Buzz curriculum as well as the Sunday Paper for the 2017/2018 school year.  As always we welcome and appreciate your comments, thoughts and feedback!

 

 

Sunday School Outreach

Remember peeking into your brown paper lunch bag at school?  The hopefulness and anticipation over whether your mom packed your favorite snack or sandwich (or sometimes the unexpected dread when you realized your dad packed you the leftover meatloaf).  Seeing that brown paper lunch bag–sometimes colorfully marked with our name on it or maybe a note tucked inside–can be a small element of surprise in an otherwise predictable day.

For some kids, getting that brown paper bag filled with treats and snacks is a bit of a luxury; one that they don’t have a chance to experience as often as they should.

Angels of God, a local community outreach organization just a few blocks away from Good Shepherd, offers the Angels Snack Bag Program to local underprivileged daycares and preschools or to qualified families visiting Angels of God.  Volunteers of the program collect, assemble and decorate lunch bags filled with nutritious snacks.  As part of our Palm Sunday Youth Fellowship, we are asking the Sunday School children to help us be “Snack Angels”.  In order for this outreach exercise to be a success we need your help!  Before Palm Sunday on April 9th, we will be collecting healthy snacks.  Some ideas:

  • Raisins
  • Granola bars
  • Cheddar or peanut butter crackers
  • Juice boxes
  • Individual pretzel bags
  • Veggie chips
  • Apple sauce containers or pouches

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Snacks can be dropped off downstairs in the Teacher Resource Room in the Youth Group wing or in a box in the Parish Hall labeled “Angels Snack Bags”.  On Palm Sunday, the Sunday School children will be tasked with decorating and assembling these bags.

Please contact Amanda McNally if you have questions.

 

Youth Fellowship

Four Sundays a year, our Sunday School children gather together to participate in a group lesson.  This lesson is not only a chance to deviate from the standard curriculum and venture outside their classrooms into the parish hall, but most importantly a chance to connect with each other without the ‘grade level boundaries’.  The youngest children love having a chance to partner with their older peers.  The older children are excited to help the younger ones with a project or activity.  It truly is an opportunity for the next generation of Good Shepherd to build a sense of community.

This week, February 12, will be our third Youth Fellowship Sunday of the school year.  Lori Bathurst will lead the children in a lesson about Miracles.  Traditionally, our Youth Fellowship lesson features group discussion and typically a game or craft.  Teachers from each grade level assist the Youth Fellowship leaders; working with each child individually and in smaller groups.  When the bell rings, the children are usually busy putting the finishing touches on their project or wrapping up an activity with a group of their peers.

Youth Fellowship lessons are just one of the ways we try to enhance our standard Sunday School curriculum.  These sessions support one of our goals which is ensuring our kids have a sense of fellowship and belonging.

We hope your children join us this Sunday, February 12, 2017, to participate in Youth Fellowship and a chance to engage in a lesson about Miracles!

 

High School Guest Speakers

Remember your high school years?  The nervousness that surrounds going to a ‘bigger school’, the pressure of exams and eventually applying to colleges, the excitement (and sometimes dread) of starting your first job, and of course the normal ups and downs of the friendships you make throughout your teenage years.  High school can certainly feel a bit like being on a rollercoaster.

At Good Shepherd, we want to ensure our teen parishioners have a strong spiritual foundation to build on as young adults.  Our goal is to have these parishioners excited to hang out with their church family.

Unlike the younger grades, our high school program (which includes grades 8 through 12) is based on a discussion approach.  The students typically read through and discuss that week’s gospel lesson.  Often times, the conversation leads to current events, concerns the students have in their everyday life, or issues they may be facing.  They have an opportunity to connect with each other in a safe environment and maintain a sense of community.

To enhance our high school program, during the second half of the year we introduced guest speakers.  Topics like stress management, volunteer programs, managing anxiety, heading to college, addiction and faith are discussed.  The guest speaker spends a few minutes sharing their background and experiences and then invites questions from the group.  The result is a step beyond their typical school curriculum–a chance to really dig in to their faith and find encouragement from others who have ‘been there’.  The centerpiece of each discussion involves–most importantly–the speaker’s relationship with God.  The students seem to really enjoy meeting and hearing the perspective of various adult members of our parish.

We want to continue to grow our high school program so if you have suggestions for discussion topics or other ways to enhance our curriculum, we’d love to hear from you!

 

What’s all the ‘Buzz’ about?

Boing putty, frogs that fly, Nerf darts, koosh balls, pastel coloring crayons…what do these items have in common?  Believe it or not, they are just a few of the items included in our Buzz curriculum boxes.  Sure, you’ll find the tradititional Sunday School supplies like Bible stories but beyond that; this curriculum is certainly not the traditional Sunday School.

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Contents of the 3rd through 5th Grade Buzz Box

So what’s it all about?  Why do the kids love coming to their classes each week?  Here’s a quick tour of Buzz….

Regardless of grade level the flow is pretty much the same.  Each lesson starts with conversation starters.  For the younger parishioners, these are pretty basic.  “What did you do this week to show God’s love?”  “How does God show love for you?”  For the older kids, it’s a chance to chat with their peers about what’s on their mind.  “What are you excited about this week?”  “What is worrying you?”  These questions lead to great discussions and create an atmosphere of building relationships and making connections with each other.

Next, the “theme” of the lesson is introduced.  The theme is the main point of the Bible story for that particular week.  Bible stories included in Buzz are often those that are lesser known, which is helpful for keeping kids engaged.

Following a short discussion of the theme, the rest of the lesson is really guided by the kids.  Through a quick game, the students decide which activites they do.  There is a wide varitey of activities and they are different each week.  Everything from acting out a skit, to playing with clay, dancing or more traditional arts and crafts.  With Buzz–if the students are losing interest–the teacher is able to re-engage them by moving them right on to the next activity.

After the activities, the students wrap up with a prayer.  Depending on the grade level, students will perform an activity that helps them select what to focus their prayer on that particular week.  This might be a prayer for their family or a particular concern they would like to work through.  When the bell rings at the end of class, each student is given a small card with an activity they can do at home.

It’s clear our students love Buzz, but what about our teachers?  Feedback we’ve received from teachers has been consistent.  They love waking up on Sunday morning knowing their lesson is already planned and the supplies are organized and waiting for them right in their Buzz box.

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Some of our Preschoolers

We will be using Buzz for the remainder of 2017.  During the summer, the curriculum commitee will meet to evaluate student and parent feedback and decide if Buzz is the curriculum of choice for next year.

As always, we value and NEED your feedback!  Please reach out to me (Amanda McNally) with any comments or concerns you have.  If you are considering teaching next year, we welcome you to sit in on any one of our Sunday School classes to catch Buzz in action!

 

“…And THAT’S what Christmas is all about.”

The day after Thanksgiving seems to bring about a laundry list of to-dos.  There are Black Friday deals to chase, cookies to bake, presents to wrap, and of course all the parties and gatherings to attend.  At Good Shepherd, the Holly Fair kicks off all the festivities.  But each year on the weekend following the Holly Fair something magical happens–our church family and friends gather to see our children tell the Christmas story.

Rehearsals begin in early November.  Children are assigned their roles and work diligently with parent volunteers after each Sunday School lesson remembering their lines.  They practice at home, on the way to their sporting events, sometimes even at the dinner table. All while the craziness of Christmas is in full swing.

Then, the second week of December the kids of Good Shepherd dress as shepherds, angels, townspeople and of course Mary and Joseph.  Parishioners chat over a homemade lunch while the children recite their lines one last time before hitting the stage (aka…the Altar).  Following lunch, everyone is invited to grab their seat for the big show.  The lights are dimmed, the Altar is transformed into Bethlehem and a manger is tucked behind the curtain.  The Christmas story begins to unfold as the children–who have worked so hard over the past few weeks–tell us what Christmas is all about.

Somehow this annual tradition allows for us all to do something truly magical during the holiday season.  It allows us to slow down and breathe.  We are reminded the shopping, baking, cleaning, and craziness is all secondary.  Celebrating the birth of Jesus is truly our number one priority–but what makes the pageant particularly magical is watching our children give us this gentle reminder.

 

Holly Fair, Pageant Practice and Youth Fellowship…Oh My!

What do you get when you combine the annual Holly Fair, pageant practice and a Youth Fellowship lesson? Lots of fun and organized chaos!

This past Saturday we held our annual Holly Fair. The Holly Fair is always the ideal way to kick off the Christmas Season! Many of our parishioners take part to ensure the Holly Fair’s success. This year our youngest parishioners bused tables in our notorious Holly Fair restaurant (well at least in Pitman during the first week of December), helped children create Christmas crafts in our St. Nick shop, and sold their own wares at their Youth Group table in the Parish Hall. Rounding out the event was a vist from St. Nicholas himself! By the end of the day there were plenty of smiling faces and tired feet.

Sunday morning kicked off with a Youth Fellowship lesson about service and giving during the Christmas Season. Following the lesson the children gathered to rehearse for this Sunday’s annual Christmas Pageant.

Throughout all the excitement and activities the children shared laughs and smiles; evidence that the youth of Good Shepherd is truly what makes our parish thrive!