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 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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 Programto 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:
Cheddar or peanut butter crackers
Individual pretzel bags
Apple sauce containers or pouches
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
3rd through 5th graders participating in an activity that requires no hands or arms!
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.
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!
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!
Good things are happening at the Church of the Good Shepherd! The year started off with a refreshed Sunday School program…renovated classrooms, bathrooms and even curriculum. No small detail was left unnoticed. There is even a room dedicated to our Youth Group where they can relax, hang out and connect with each other.
Each week the students participate in Buzz. Buzz is refered to as “curriculum in a box”. A five step program is followed for each session which includes games, crafts, stories, acting and more. The boxes are age appropriate, containing 13 weeks of lessons with everything the teacher will need right inside the box! (If you are a teacher volunteer, that means no more hunting for supplies at 8:15am Sunday morning!)
The children love it because it encourages them to talk about what is going on in their lives. They are able to relate to their classmates, learn about each other and see God’s love in action! It’s a modern approach to Sunday School that aligns with each child’s learning style. The students agree, our Sunday School program ROCKS!
Outside of our regular lessons, students are invited to hear a bible story told each week by one of our parishioners. This bible story is the perfect compliment to Buzz since it maintains the balance of a more traditional approach to Sunday School.
Also new at Good Shepherd are shorter, five-week terms. For the teacher volunteers, this means far less commitment. For the students, it means a chance to meet several of our adult parishioners. The downside to a five week term perhaps, is that it can result in many new faces for the children. To help combat this, teacher volunteers visit classrooms the week before their session begins–introducing themselves to the students to help ease the transition.
Finally, with the Christmas season quickly approaching, our Christmas Pageant preparations are in full swing! Mary is rehearsing her lines, Joseph is preparing to navigate his path to the manger, the Soldiers are perfecting their marching and all the children actors are eagerly awaiting curtain call on December 11th. If you are new to the church, this is a great time to see our youth in action! They clearly are what makes our church thrive!
Good things ARE happening at Church of the Good Shepherd…and we’d love for you to be part of it!