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Youth and Children’s Ministry

First Parish Congregational Church invites community members ages 12 and up to join us in a fun and easy community service project. We will be creating tied fleece blankets for Action, (https://actioninc.org/) who will share them with those in need of warmth as colder weather approaches.

Newly hired Director of Youth And Children’s Ministry, Jeanne Westcott, will offer kits for you to take home and create, or you may join us with a mask at our chapel location, ( enter address or location description here) on either or/both Saturday mornings, November 14, and 21 between the hours of 10- noon. Directions and fleece are free and finished projects can be delivered on or before Saturday, November 28 and dropped into the bin located just outside the buildings entrance.

Middle and high school youth who participate will be offered a certificate for community service hours in increments of two hours per completed blanket.

Join us so that no one is left out in the cold. To RSVP eamil jeanne.fpchurch@gmail.com or call 978 526 7661 ext. 3

The Best Practices of Faith Formation

Sunday School and Youth Groups have been the prepared and fertile soil beds for planting the seeds of faith, community awareness, empathic development, and church polity for as long as any of us can remember. This, in conjunction with the faith practices of the family, have served children in much the same way that our educational system has. As teachers and supportive adults, we have presented the A B C’s of God’s Word and modeled the characteristics of Christian life to the best of our abilities. At every turn, we hoped and prayed that the messages we tried to impart would indeed be accepted and, perhaps even, devoured by the young minds and souls before us. With enough repetition, and a few games and artistic endeavors thrown in for good measure, it is always our greatest wish that the children before us will acquire the heart and mind to want to know God and to follow in the ways of Jesus.

 

Research and observation have given Christian Education some ideas about methodology to help us meet our primary goal, which is, in fact, faith formation and spiritual awareness. One of the most enlightening ideas, although seemingly obvious, is that children, no matter their age, are already having an experience of God. They are already experiencing “the sacrament of the present moment”, a phrase used by theologian Jean-Pierre de Caussade to describe a child’s full awareness of the presence of God. They know inherently and sensorially the essence of relationship, of belonging. A feeling of connection to one’s self, to parents, to family, to the material world and to God is the basis for feeling comfortable and receptive with teachers and all those who minister.

 

Another of these transcendent ideas is that children like questions. I realize that this isn’t a radical piece of information. Spending an hour with any 3-year-old will tell you how much children like to ask questions. The important part is that adults are under the impression that their primary job is to effectively answer all and any of these questions. Adults are sometimes uncomfortable with unanswered questions. We like to tie up loose ends and take advantage of teachable moments. Children don’t mind having a question go unanswered. In fact, it is in keeping with the previous concept of relational consciousness to present a child’s question back to them. For example, in a recent conversation about the greatness of God, a child inquired, “If God is so great, why didn’t he save all the dinosaurs?” In teacher mode, I might have responded with the science of species development or with the esoteric “God’s plans are not always understood by mere mortals like us”. In relationship mode, I instead answered in a way that is foreign to my teacher self and said, “Why do you think God might have let the dinosaurs die off?”. The conversation that followed matters little but the 8 or 9 minutes of fostering relationship that took place served as an example of what discipleship is: love in action.

 

In the next installment of this piece, we will peek at analytic vs. experiential learning and how, we, the entire church family, can minister to our youngest participants and how they can help us understand how we are all part of the ongoing story of God’s love for humanity!

 

Until next time, Jeanne Westcott, Director of Youth and Children’s Ministry

jeanne.fpchurch@gmail.com