Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

Forming Faith: The Blog of Christians Engaged in Faith Formation

  • 23 Oct 2016 2:30 PM | Christine Hides

    Rev. Vincent Harris is an elder in the Texas Annual Conference, currently serving at Journey of Faith United Methodist Church. He is a certified Christian Educator in the UMC. Below are his closing remarks from the CEF 2016 Conference. Slides from  this presentation may be found in the member section of the website.

    This season of Pentecost, is a season for the church to be on fire. They were talked about, as people who appeared to be drunk, but not having anything but the Holy Spirit of God moving them.

    It does not matter if you are not understood or appreciated as a Christian Educator. You are living out your gifts in the Spirit. There will always be someone who will try to throw water on your fire. You are special and your spirit is one that is anointed by and with the power of God for a good life.

    The prophet Joel said that in the last days, God will pour out on all flesh [not just leading pastors, or lay leaders, big name, big givers, church pillars, leading families, but all flesh; not just young adults, children, and the seasoned adults, but all flesh, not just the rich, the educated, the privileged, the mighty, the talented, but all flesh] and your sons and daughters shall prophesy and your young men [and women] shall see visions and your old men [and women] shall dream dreams…It shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    If the world has any faith it must come from the real, relevant teaching community that is filled with people with a vision for making radical changes in the lives of others as Jesus did.

    Inspire the living faith (which whosoeer receive, the witness in themselves that have consciously believe), faith that conquers all, and doth the mountain move, and saves who eer on Jesus call, and perfects them in love.

    If the world has any hope it must come from the real, relevant nurturing community that fills the people of God with the Spirit of God that speaks truth to power and heals broken lives –without apology

    If the world has any love it must come from the real relevant praying community that is filled with people who have peace in their hearts, compassion in their souls, and a Spirit of life that cannot be quenched.

    John Bunyan once saw in a vision a man throwing water on a flame of fire and yet the flame continued to burn. He wondered how it could keep on burning, until he saw there was someone behind the door pouring oil on the flame.

    I’m so glad that when this world tries to drown out our Christian education fires, the Holy Spirit is there to keep pouring oil on the flame.

    Sometimes I feel discouraged and it seems my works and my living is in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.

    There is a Balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole, there is a Balm In  Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

    So I’ve learned in moments of testing and trial to pray like the hymn writer,

    Won’t you pray with me:

    Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me

    Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me

    melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

    Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me.

  • 21 Oct 2016 4:02 PM | Christine Hides

    Mandy Hall is a CEF member and Director of Christian Education at Plymouth UCC in Fort Collins, CO. Read more from Mandy at Soul Tending. 

    Last week I had the joy and privilege to attend the Christians Engaged in Faith Formation conference in Nashville, TN.  This conference is hosted by an association of primarily professional United Methodist Christian Educators.  It gathered together people whose experience in Christian education spanned since before I was born to college students discerning their call to ministry.  Some people traveled from the UK while others were Nashville natives. Many worked in local churches while others write for publishing houses or in non-profits.  Some are generalists others work with elders or youth or children.  It truly was a great cloud of witnesses with a deep well of knowledge;  sitting at the feet of the masters, learning, listening, sharing stories.

    At one of our worship services we sung the old hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” set to a new tune.  These old words came to life, were given new meaning, and spoke truth into our gathering space, all because the notes behind them changed.  The message never changed, but a new delivery made the message easier to hear.  

    Surrounded by fellow educators, I was struck by this hymn. We all come from different ministry contexts, yet our call to ministry is the same.  We are Christ bearers, we share the good news, we help you to interpret the love of God in your life.  Our methods differ, our platforms of communication keep evolving, but the message of God’s love is eternal.  At the end of the day, we were all connected and a part of the community of saints.

    “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.” This is what the church has to offer, this community and sense of connection to something bigger and greater.  I reflected on this while sitting in the airport waiting to board my plane.  I was surrounded by people, and yet I was alone and disconnected in the midst of the crowd.  This is the reality of the world in which we live, we appear to be in community and yet too often we are disconnected.  

    This is why we need the church.  We need to connect to the people of God!  Our faith is magnified by community.  God’s grace grows in the fertile soil of church connection.  We need church to help us see where God is in this world and in our lives.  

    We need you in the church.  We need you to come home and share your stories of encounters with the Holy on the mountains, in your baby’s smile, in the peaceful passing of a loved one.  We need you to point to these glimpses of grace and help us to connect to the movements of the Spirit outside our community.  

    We need the church and the church needs you.  Come and teach us new tunes to the same Gospel words.  Come and learn a new way to sing when your old song looses its meaning.  Blest be the tie that binds, and may each of you be blessed with the love of Christ this day and every day.

  • 18 Oct 2016 7:52 AM | Christine Hides

    DeDe Reilly is a design team member for the 2016 National CEF Conference and  president of the North Georgia CEF team. She serves as Children's Ministry Director & Business Administrator at Wesley Chapel UMC in Marietta, Georgia and represents those who serve in ministry with children at the North Georgia Conference Connectional Table. This article was originally published on her blog,

    CEF is collecting prayer station ideas to be added to an online member library.IIf you have prayer station ideas that you have created, please email them to

    Just last week I enjoyed the company of Christian educators at the 2016 National CEF (Christians Engaged In Faith Formation) Conference in Nashville. After participating in teaching, communities of practice, conversations, worship, workshops, table life, and laughter on the lawn, we finished the last day with an hour of response stations. Outdoor stations, enjoying nature, and giving hands-on responses to gather our thoughts and feelings before worship and returning home. These were those stations:

    cefresponse7Response Station #1 – Kind Hands TV TRAY, STAND UP FRAME

    We are called not only to ‘pray without ceasing’, but also to pray with our whole selves. How we use our bodies when we pray shares what is on the heart of the person who is praying to God.  The KINDNESS that comes from God tells us we belong to His family. We must be KIND because we belong to Him.

    “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

    While standing, rub your hands together gently as if you were putting on lotion. Make sure to turn your wrists in all directions and touch all parts of your hands – between your fingers, the back of your hands, and even your wrists.

    Share with God as you rub your hands, “Thank you, God, that You are kind when you ______ and ______ and ______. Help me to be kind when I ___________. Amen.”

    Additional Resource: Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy With God by Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Prill

    cefresponse5Response Station #2 – 10,000 Reasons TV TRAY, CLOTHESPINS, CUT PAPER & CONTAINER/BASKET, BIG FRAME, STANDUP FRAME

    Let’s COUNT our blessings!

    “For all Your goodness, I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find, …to bless the Lord, O my soul. Worship His holy name.”

    cefresponse8Write (or draw) a blessing from this week at CEF.  Clip it to the frame with a clothespin.

    Additional Resource: Counting Blessings by Debby Boone and Gabriel Ferrer


    Take a strip of fabric and as you tie it onto the frame, share with God your regrets over the last year. Make a conscious decision to let it go and move on.  You may also choose to give thanks for lessons learned.

    “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

    Additional Resource: Praying in Color: Drawing A New Path To God (Active Prayer) by Sybil MacBeth


    Anointing sheep’s heads with oil shielded them from annoying and even deadly insects, so anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment.

    Using the anointing oil, anoint yourself (on the back of your hand, on pulse points, or on your forehead) and recite the 23rd Psalm.

    “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” 1 John 2:20

    Additional Resource: A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

    cefresponse1Response Station #5 – Bubble Wrap Worries TV TRAY, BUBBLE WRAP CUT INTO STRIPS, 2 CONTAINERS, STANDUP FRAME

    Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength. Corrie Ten Boom

    God loves you and knows the desires of your heart. He also knows what you think can keep you from fulfilling His call on your life as you use your gifts and graces back home.

    Take a strip of bubble wrap and pop the bubbles as a symbol of giving your worries over to the One who has called you, will equip you, will go before you, will never leave you, and will teach you along the way.

    “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthews 6: 34

    Additional Resource: Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand


    Play in the sand with your hands and fingers.

    When you choose a word to take with you in your heart, write that word on a glass bead and take the bead with you as a reminder of ‘the fresh word’ you received this week at the 2016 National CEF Conference.

    “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

    Additional Resource: Reimagining Faith Formation for the 21st Century: Engaging All Ages & Generations by John Roberto


    We all follow the saints of our journey. The saints who plowed the fields before us. The saints who spoke truth into our lives when we didn’t want to hear or maybe didn’t know to listen. The saints who have gone on to Glory, yet their influence upon our own calling lives on in us. We are their legacy.

    Tie a ribbon in the net as you give a prayer of thanksgiving for the saints of your journey who have gone on to Glory, yet their influence continues in you.

    “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” John C. Maxwell

    cefresponseResponse #8 – In Honor (SAME STATION #7 AS ABOVE, ADD ON)

    We all share in influencing others for the cause of Christ. We teach, we lead, we speak, and we pray. We laugh, we train, we offer an effective hand off to those coming behind us. They are our legacy. They are the lives in whom we speak truth and influence to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.

    Tie a ribbon in the net as you offer a prayer of hope for those who you are influencing to answer the call to carry the banner of Christian education.

    “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Kenneth H. Blanchard

    As you end a growth event, like a conference, how do you process on the last day to gather your thoughts and prepare to return home to implement what you’ve gleaned and learned?

  • 05 Oct 2016 12:16 PM | Christine Hides

    by Gladys Childs, Ph.D.

    Gladys Childs is the Chair of the Department of Religion, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies at Texas Wesleyan University and the Children's Director & Women's Group Leader at LifePoint UMC in Haslet, Texas. Gladys loves traveling and speaking to churches or leading retreats.  For more information see: 

    In this last of a two-part installment, I will be following up from my previous discussion on who Generation Z is to talk about the implications for Christian education.

    Currently, Generation Z goes from nursery to college age.  Depending on what age group you work with, how you go about updating your pedagogy may be a bit different; but, the philosophical approach behind it will remain the same.  As Christians educators, flexibility is the key to teaching Generation Z.  We need to be learning guides who are able to embrace technology.  Moreover, since Generation Z is use to high speed access to information, our pedagogy needs to move at a faster pace.   

    In terms of being a learning guide, it is a shift away from being the “all knowing authority” to someone who is going along with the students on a journey.  An educator should be a role model and live out what the students are asked to learn.  Generation Z is not as concerned with how much you know; they are more concerned about how much you care about them individually. As such, educators need to take the time to develop personal relationships with their students.  Ask them about their parents, pets, teachers or favorite food.  Go to their sporting event or concert. Simply, let them know you care about them outside of the classroom.

    As I discussed in part one, this generation has come into being during a time of turmoil and with so much on the line, they are cautious.  They want to know why they are learning certain material and concepts and how it will help them in the future.  Therefore, it is crucial to explain why we are learning or doing something and incorporate it into real life situations everyone can understand.  Sharing personal stories of how this information or skills have helped in your own life will also aid Gen Z to see the value of what you are trying to teach.

    To further encourage student motivation and engagement, Gen Z need to put what they learn into action.  Putting their learning into action through mission projects and aiding others is critical as this generation wants to make a difference.  If they can see how being a disciple of Christ can change the world, then they will want to be a disciple.  Learning just to learn is pointless, as Generation Z wants to live out their faith.

    While embracing technology may come second nature to Gen Z, for the rest of us it may be a bit more difficult.  However, it is important to try and engage students through that which they are familiar.  Encourage students and parents to use any apps associated with your curriculum.  Have a student/parent meeting in which you download apps that encourage bible study and theological growth.  Use Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and other apps to encourage theological reflection during the week.  I would recommend taking a look at a site by Matt Miller that shows how to integrate technology into your learning.  He even has an article on “Deep Learning With Google Tools.”  Just because you use technology does not mean it has to be shallow.

    With the rapid pace of technology, Generation Z processes information at a faster rate. Therefore, an educator needs to create a climate to engage students quickly.  Learning needs to include a variety of pedagogical techniques to keep the students stimulated and focused.  If you need to spend more time than normal on a topic or if a student is wanting to go off on a related tangent, let everyone know you are going to be going a bit slower or let the student know you will address his or her question later and give the reason(s) why.  If everyone understands the "why" behind what you are doing, they will not mind a slower pace. 

    In summary, Generation Z needs teachers who are willing to learn alongside them and who care about them deeply.  Information needs to be taught within the context of real life situations and supported by technology.  And, Gen Z needs application of material through opportunities to serve others. 

  • 30 Sep 2016 10:53 AM | Christine Hides

    Rev. Victoria Rebeck is a United Methodist deacon who serves as director of deacon ministry development and provisional membership support for the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Nashville, Tenn.

    If your experience is anything like mine, your church will send the chair of the finance committee to stand up during worship on a couple of Sunday mornings this fall to talk about how we’ve fallen short of the budget, how expenses have gone up, and how we need to give more to feed the budget.

    The clergy remain silent through all of this.

    Two failures with this:

    • Giving is about discipleship, not money
    • Churches with a greater amount of generous givers have clergy who openly speak about the spiritual discipline of generosity

    When we send the finance committee to take care of stewardship, we demonstrate that we have no idea what stewardship is. We’ve also given stewardship leadership to the wrong people.

    The finance committee has an important, Wesleyan task, and that is accountability. They keep track of funds and assets coming in and going out for mission and ministry. They require those who spend the money to demonstrate that they’ve used it for the purpose intended. They help us invest wisely. They provide us with reliable information so we can trust the church to spend our gifts for Christian mission, as we intend.

    The purpose of giving is NOT to feed the budget.

    The purpose of giving is to practice the Christlike attributes of generosity and humility and to extend compassion and justice to people anywhere in the world. It’s a spiritual discipline. And the task of leading spiritual disciplines is rightfully assigned to clergy and lay. (Deacons: giving is historically your area of leadership.)

    Here are some steps to get your church to reclaim giving as a spiritual discipline.

    Reclaim stewardship for faith formation ministry, where it belongs.

    Jesus spent much of his teaching on generosity. It is not difficult to find examples. At baptisms, we renew our covenant “faithfully to participate in the ministries of the Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” Faith formation in the Methodist context is the daily recommitment to our baptismal vows, in the context of a community that supports us and keeps us accountable (what John Wesley called “social religion”). Giving helps us trustfully let go of material goods and helps us grow in Christ’s likeness. Make sure that generosity is part of your faith formation curricula for all ages.

    Learn and model the discipline of Christian generosity.

    Our teaching goes much farther when we practice what we preach. Develop a specific plan for how generous giving will be part of your lifestyle. John Wesley has familiar advice in his sermon “The Use of Money” : gain all you can (but never at the expense of your own or someone else’s well being), save all you can (don’t waste it on the ephemeral or unnecessary), and give all you can (for what we have belongs to God, and we are to render to God what is God’s). Take a look at your expenses. Are some of them unnecessary and unsatisfying? How much can you set aside per month for your church or for another favorite cause? One purpose of your money-earning work is to raise funds for a cause that stirs your soul. Knowing you are helping to build the realm of God by supporting a compassion, justice, and spirituality organization (or caring for someone unable to earn a living) is a joyful, fulfilling feeling.

    Teach generosity as a spiritual discipline.

    We tend to incorporate generosity in our lives reactively rather than intentionally. We see the sad faces of dogs and cats and children during late-night commercials, and we kindly donate to help them. Those gifts are good. But we can do much more for the world if we plan our giving. If, like me, you are not yet up to the level of tithing (10 percent) to your church, make a plan to raise your pledge by a certain percentage every year until you reach at least 10 percent. What else do you care about? Determine how much you will donate to that cause a year and set funds aside so you can make that gift. The church (and other beneficiaries) will learn they can rely on your gift and can make intentional plans accordingly. You will have the satisfaction of knowing you are making a bigger difference.

    Teach stewardship as something more than financial generosity.

    Giving back to God what is God’s is about not only the money we earn. It’s about the other free gifts we get—beautiful creation, water, air, relationships, etc. Encourage your church members to reflect and act as caring stewards, not simply users, of these gifts.

    If you are clergy, speak and preach about the baptismal vow of giving.

    Research by empty tomb, inc.,  has found that when clergy preach about giving, members are more generous and regular in their giving. The purpose is not just to get money. It’s to make plans to build the realm of God. The United Methodist Church, for example, offers many resources  to help clergy preach and teach with integrity on this discipline. Another resource is Henri Nouwen’s A Spirituality of Fundraising (Upper Room Books, 2011). It’s hard to question the spiritual integrity of Henri Nouwen! Because giving is a spiritual discipline, it is appropriate for the lead pastor to know the members’ giving patterns.

  • 20 Sep 2016 7:43 PM | Christine Hides

    By Gladys Childs, Ph.D.

    Gladys Childs is the Chair of the Department of Religion, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies at Texas Wesleyan University and the Children's Director & Women's Group Leader at LifePoint UMC. Gladys loves traveling and speaking to churches or leading retreats.  For more information see: 

    In this first of a two-part installment, I will be discussing who Generation Z is and what to expect from this latest generation.  In the second part, I will discuss the implications for Christian Education.

    Generation Z can be defined as individuals born after 1995 to the present.  They are a unique generation who are not like Millennials.  Some liken Gen Z to the Greatest generation of the early 1900's.  Gen Z were born into a world of turmoil and technology and while they offer the world a bright future in many respects, keeping their attention and teaching them may not necessarily be easy and may require some adjustment in pedagogy.

    Generation Z kids have never know a world without internet, cell phones, and iPods.  To them, technology is not a tool, technology is “being” it “is.”  Due to their constant use of technology, Gen Z think spatially in 4D (think of 3D plus effects.)  They would prefer to communicate with symbols and images.  This age group wants technology that is easy to use and will solve their problems and provide them with relevant people or information.   And, because of the rapid pace of the technology, their brains have developed the ability to process information faster.

    Because of their connectivity, Gen Z often lack situational awareness.  Therefore, they cannot easily follow or give directions.  Also, they have low to no tolerance for being without digital resources.  With all of the access to immediate information, they will struggle to take the time to determine the validity and reliability of said information.   And, their attention spans are short.  You have about eight seconds to catch their interest or they will move on to something else.

    Generation Z would prefer to stay indoors instead of going out to play.  In fact, play is considered a “tool” for health.   Robert Macfarlane, in his book Landmarks, talks about how recent editions of the Oxford Junior Dictionary have deleted “nature words” that were determined to be irrelevant to today’s kids such as “acorn,” “dandelion,” “fern,” “nectar,” “otter,” “pasture,” and “willow.”  Instead words such as “broadband,” “blog,” “cut-and-paste,” “MP3 player,” and “voice mail” were included.*

    This group was born into a world of turmoil: 9/11, economic recession, parents loosing jobs, school shootings, ISIS, and global warming.  Due to these experiences, this group is very much concerned about their future.  Elementary students are already thinking about college and how they are going to afford it, how are they going to buy a house (most plan to live with their parents), and what kind of job is needed to have a financially stable life.  Moreover, Generation Z is very community and environmentally conscious.  They want to help make things better, not only for themselves; but, for those around them.  Gen Z has less a sense of entitlement than their Millennial predecessors.  With their thoughtful ways and motivation to work and serve others, they are being related to the Greatest Generation. 

    Because they have been affected deeply by the world's troubles and have a grasp on the realities of economic insecurity, they are critical of information they are asked to learn and they are critical of the things they are asked to do.  They want to know what value information, activities, and programs will have to their future.  If it is not relevant to their health and well being (in all its forms) then they are not going to want to waste their time.   Moreover, they are afraid to take risks.  If they risk, they might fail and there is too much riding on their future and there are too many world insecurities to make mistakes. 

    In summary, Generation Z is motivated and thoughtful.  They are willing to work hard, if there is a substantive reason for doing so.  Technology is connected to all they do and they have a short attention span because of it.  While Gen Z may not be able to give you directions to where they live, they would be more than happy to work at a soup kitchen or clean up a nearby park.

    *Robert Mcfarlane. Landmarks. (as cited in Friedman, 2016).


    Cook, Vicky. (2016). "Cultivating a 'Nexter' Culture of Learning." Presentation at Texas Wesleyan University.  August 26.

    Friedman, Thomas L. (2016, September 7).  "We are All Noah Now."  Retrieved from:

    Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millenials. (2014, June 17).  Retrieved from:

    Pandit, Vivek. (2015). We Are Generation Z: How Identity, Attitudes, and Perspectives are Shaping our  Future. Dallas, Texas: Brown Books Publishing Group.

  • 14 Sep 2016 8:00 AM | Christine Hides

    by Barbara Bruce

    We are living in a world of unprecedented change.  We are breaking all types of aging records and hopefully working hard at undoing the stereotypes that accompany “ageism”.  The church must respond to the needs of their aging populations.  I am privileged to teach at Licensing School, Course of Study and a Certification in Older Adult Ministry in the Upper NY Conference.   In virtually every Faith Formation teaching/learning situation the majority of my students report that their congregations are comprised of people who have lived many summers.  In the first two settings, I include a segment on “Why Older Adult Ministry?  Why Now?”  By giving pastors a glimpse of the statistical information, it has been eye opening for them to see beyond their local ministry.  Most often pastors report to being at a loss for methods dealing in ministry by/for/to their ever growing senior population. They are feeling overworked and unqualified to deal with this new world of aging.

    These folks sitting in their pews are people who have served the church for many years in various capacities of servant leadership; they are people who are facing the unknown and uncertain end of life issues; they are recently retired or facing retirement and not sure how they will live out their lives (beyond the golf course); they want/need to know how they can make a difference; they are people who are facing the many issues that come about as they age.

    The church is in an enviable position of answering many of these needs.  We can offer what the secular world cannot.  We can and must offer spiritual guidance, finding meaningful ways for folks to serve within and beyond the walls of the church.  We can train folks to help the church offer respite times for caregivers.  As disciples we can and must discover ways to help folks live their lives in meaningful and productive ways.

    I will be presenting this fall of 2016 a course on the why’s and how’s of Older Adult Ministry to Lay Servants in my Conference.  This opens a new venue for people beyond pastors who need this information.  It will provide helpful strategies to work with boomers (the first wave of boomers began turning 70 on January 1, 2016 at the rate of one every 7 seconds) and those who have surpassed that age threshold.

    We are walking into the unknown world of aging, Spirit led and feeling our way as we go.  We, as servant leaders, have an opportunity to spread the message that God’s grace is for all people of all ages.  Amen and Amen.

    Barbara Bruce is an educator who is passionate about teaching/learning strategies that enhance  and encourage aging well.  She serves as the NEJ representative to, and co-chair of, our Discipleship Ministries Committee on Aging and Older Adult Ministry.  Barbara serves on the Upper NY Conference committee on OAM.  She teaches locally and nationally at seminars and retreats on this critical ministry and very timely topic. Her website is

  • 09 Sep 2016 8:28 AM | Christine Hides

    “And the tree was happy.” Perhaps like me, this short sentence evokes for you powerful feelings of nostalgia and loving relationships. Shel Silverstein’s words in The Giving Tree transport me to my beloved Camp Sumatanga, where my weeks as a United Methodist camper in North Alabama grounded me in Christ-inspired service and life-long community. Another legacy of this book is its inspiration for my life’s vocation, Picture Book Theology (PBT). I still love The Giving Tree, that’s why I featured it on Day 68 of my Picture Book a Day for a Year series.  But I must tell you… newer picture books are even better than The Giving Tree and getting better every year!

    On the PBT website,, I encourage those inchildren and adult ministry to discover the evocative, spiritual content of children’s picture books. PBT is a resource with hundreds of featured books, varied ideas for use, valuable scripture connections, and a vast search 

     engine. Most of the books are secular, with amazing theological content swimming just below the surface. They are also the  hardest to find without a title or author. Many PBT books are what I call “God books,” books about the nature of God. Think Old Turtle by Douglas Wood or the books of Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Some of you are nodding your heads right now.

    Even those who think kids’ books are just for kids can learn to find connections to everyone’s spiritual journey in picture books. The concept of prayer can be expanded through the simple classic The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crocket Johnson. The benefits of lamentation can be explored via Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Thank you very much, Judith Viorst! Jeff Brumbeau’s Quiltmaker can inspire youth who are considering service vocations. And E. B. Lewis’ depiction of a well-known African-American spiritual can broaden a child’s potential for shining their own little light. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

    The beauty of PBT is that many of these treasures can be found for free in your local library or easily purchased online. You probably have some of them already; perhaps you haven’t looked at them with PBT eyes. I’ve done that for you! Besides my work on the website, I also offer adult and children’s lessons inspired by some of the best of PBT. These lessons work great as fill-ins when you need to take a break from the usual routine of your ministry activities or as a summer series.

    Want another great reason to check out PBT? Maybe like my church, you have a hard time finding curricula that meets your specific theological needs. My church family is two blocks from 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where four young girls were killed in 1963. For this heartbreaking reason, our diverse family of faith is eager to teach and learn about themes of social justice, so I have dozens of such books at PBT. Perhaps your church is in need of healing from an emotional issue such as a leader’s death or a sudden crisis. As a school psychologist, I highly recommend beginning a small group’s healing conversation with a picture book. In this context, issues can be brought forth in a non-threatening manner. Many such books are on the PBT website. Want to introduce your children to a Christian role model? Robert Coles’ book about Ruby Bridges tells a story they won’t forget. Ruby even prays for her tormenters who yell at her as she walks to her newly integrated elementary school. What a hero!

    PBT is fun, but that’s not why I work so hard to bring it to you. Making personal connections with scripture via relatable characters, engaging plots, and interesting non-fiction information encourages long term learning. The benefit that is gleaned with PBT is strong, broad, and deep learning. It’s the kind of Christian education that sticks with people, young and old, because it is especially meaningful and accessible, and really, really FUN!

    Hanna Schock is a CEF member and the creator of Picture Book Theology. She is also the writer of Manna & Mercy: An Elementary Curriculum based on Daniel Erlander’s popular book for adults.  Because of her training as a teacher and school psychologist, Hanna is passionate about Christian education that is easy to relate to, is rich with meaning, and leads to deep learning.

  • 31 Aug 2016 12:59 PM | Christine Hides

    This is the third of a series of posts on CEF Communities of Practice (CoPs). Both online and face to face communities are equipped through the member section of this website. Find your community today!

    “Leadership is the most complicated thing you will ever do in your life, why do you think you can do it alone?” Simon Sinek

    I grieve the loss of colleagues who have thrown in the towel and decided to leave professional ministry. Seven colleagues in the last 6 months. Five colleagues in the last 2 weeks. Each one led fruitful, effective ministry. All but two served in multiple local churches. One went through the process and was ordained.  Understanding that some are called for a season and life changes make for priority shifts, I still grieve the loss of their leadership.

    According to an ongoing Lifeway survey, the average term of a children’s pastor is 3.6 years. The #1 catalyst which offers a longer term of service in the professional call into ministry: connection outside your own local church.

    In a conversation several years ago with a preschool director involved in weekday ministry with children, I asked why she didn’t come to the monthly preschool director networking lunch. She replied, “I don’t need anything.” The way I saw it?  She had so much to share! Within 18 months of that conversation, she, too, left professional ministry. I don’t even know if she’s worshiping anywhere or using her gifts within a local church anymore.  Sigh…

    Hebrews 3:12 reads in the NIV “See to it, brothers (and sisters) that none of you (y’all = a statement meant for the group of us) has an unbelieving heart (our tendency to discouragement, unbelieving, needing something more, and disillusionment) that turns away from the living God (because without one another, we drift.)”

    Without one another, we drift. How far we drift depends on the relationships we build face to face, not Facebook to Facebook, or Instagram to Instagram, nor blog to blog. Social media is not enough. Building connection is time consuming, intentional, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. But O the value of sharing table life, a meal, a trauma, losses, disappointments, gains, ideas, celebrations, words of truth and encouragement with one another face to face .  I mean truth like what was shared with me a few years back, “I don’t know why in the world you are letting that situation take up so much space in your head. Let it go, girl, let it go!”  I let it go.

    I challenge each of you reading this to make building professional relationships outside your own house (local church) a priority where throwing in the towel is not even an option. Network with others regularly in face-to-face gatherings. Join professional organizations not for what you can get out of them, but for what you can bring to the table. Make gathering for lunch or breakfast a priority in your continuing education. Linked-in doesn’t count, social networking doesn’t count, face-to-face counts. If there isn’t a gathering in your area, call the church down the road a piece and ask to speak to their children’s ministry lead. Invite him/her to lunch, or tea, or coffee, or breakfast….share some table life. Start one. Go ahead….you can do this!

    DeDe Reilly is a design team member for the 2016 National CEF Conference and  president of the North Georgia CEF team. She serves as Children's Ministry Director & Business Administrator at Wesley Chapel UMC in Marietta, Georgia and represents those who serve in ministry with children at the North Georgia Conference Connectional Table. She is the CEO, CFO, and COO of the Reilly Bed & Breakfast with her husband  of 32 years and a rescued beagle. She blogs about children's ministry at

  • 24 Aug 2016 4:26 PM | Christine Hides

    This is the second post on the value of CEF Communities of Practice (CoP's). Communities are now forming in the member section of this website. Find yours today!

    When I first moved to Portland about 3 years ago, I began to search around the area for colleagues in youth ministry.  I found a group that was meeting once a month in a local coffeehouse and they graciously invited me to join them.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself in to, was it a covenant group?  A social group?   What I found was a great group of passionate youth ministers to meet with.  

    We engaged with each other around the complex issues of youth ministry, in particular how to connect with students in the spiritual but not religious culture of the Pacific Northwest.  We shared stories of success and failure, swapped program ideas, held each other accountable and lifted one another in prayer.  As we started to become more comfortable with each other we decided to find ways that we could work together.  We planned programs, held events together and eventually started to put together information that we could share with youth ministers in our larger Methodist connection.  

    This has been one of the most helpful groups that I have ever been a part of in my ministry career.  Until recently we haven’t known how to identify our group but after learning more about the new direction of CEF we feel comfortable calling ourselves a Community of Practice.  I look forward to continuing our work in the field of youth ministry, sharing our learnings, and finding  ways to take our Community of Practice in new directions.  

    Rev. Jeff Lowery

    United Methodist Deacon

    Portland, OR

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