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!