Sunday, May 16, 2010

Milestone -- Standing Stones

My husband Bob and I had a great time on Thursday and Friday evening in Goshen, IN talking with the members of Greene Road Church about faith, children and milestones. When we entered the church a display cabinet caught our eyes. On the wall on shelves were 20 stones. Written on each stone is a child’s name and the year they were baptized. When the child makes profession of faith that date is also engraved on the stone and the stone is given to the individual.

These stones are selected by a member of the church, cut and polished by a mason in the church and then the design is made by another member on the computer and sent to an engraver. The congregation is invested in making these stones! These stones are displayed in the church lobby in a cabinet and serve as a testimony both to the people who’s names are on them and to the rest of the congregation that they are part of the spiritual lives of these people, that they have made a commitment to them in baptism and that they are important to the other members of this church.

What a great way to see milestones events recorded!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Milestone Ideas

Recently I received an email from Massachusetts asking if any church had a Faith Milestone program. I don’t know if I answered that email very well. Every congregation has some Milestones such as baptism and profession of faith.

Here are a couple of ideas that may enrich your Milestone program:
  • Two great songs to sing during a Milestone celebration are “One Generation Calls to the Next” by Greg Scheer or “By Faith” by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend.

  • A church in Michigan is presenting a Bible to each of their fifth graders. The Bibles were on display in the fellowship hall for two weeks. Congregation members were invited to underline a favorite verse and put their name by the verse in each of the presentation Bibles. The Bibles were then presented to the fifth graders during our worship service.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School

The Fabulous Reinvention of Sunday School by Aaron Reynolds was recommended to me a couple of times so I purchased the book but never read it until this week. Reynolds has worked at Willow Creek so his vision of Sunday School is for large groups with an emphasis on performance of the story. He presents this as the only way to do Sunday School. This isn’t my situation so the beginning of the book was a little slow for me.

But when Reynolds focuses on how to tell a Bible story, the book came alive for me. Reynolds gives many bold, useful examples and ideas for how to tell a story. He has advice for adding sound and lighting and even for sprucing up the classroom environment. I found the ideas very helpful, practical and fun.

Even though I really liked parts of the books on storytelling I take issue with the some of what he writes. For example:
Make sure the application is in every lesson. If it’s not, give some real thought to adding it in. Because our job isn’t just to tell [the child] the story of Gideon. Our job is to make sure she knows that the story about Gideon …is a story about [that child].
Reynolds does not discuss on what a good application is or why an application is needed. I also think some of his applications miss the mark. In the above quote I would change that to say “that the story about Gideon.. is a story about God.”

While I have some real reservations about what he says about applications overall the book is fabulous, as advertized in the title. I wish I had read it long ago.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Bible in 66 Verses

I came across this really interesting blog post called the “Bible in 66 Verses” on the Lutheran Forum. The author, Sarah Wilson, selected a verse from each book of the Bible that summarizes that book’s content.

I’m not sure how to use it, but I think this is a really interesting way of thinking about the books of Bible. Young people and adults could really rise to the challenge of selecting a verse for the book that they are studying or different church families could chose a book and then select a verse for that book so your congregation could share with each other. The author lists her verse choices and while I haven’t been through the list with a fine-toothed theological comb, I sure enjoyed reading the list and thinking about why that verse was chosen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Faith and Coasters

Recently my husband came back from a meeting in Minnesota about Spiritual Formation. He brought home a package of drink coasters. Normally coasters don't merit a blog post but these are especially cool. They ask questions in English and Spanish about faith -- discussion starters. Here are a sample of the questions:

• Does God plan and control life or is life shaped by choices and chance?
• Describe what is is like to talk with another person about God.

I have always loved the Faith Talk Cards produced by Youth and Family Institute (now Vibrant Faith). These coasters reminded me again to share our faith stories and share our experiences of faith. I wonder if I could get our congregation to spend 5 to 10 minutes at a potluck talking about faith.

The coasters are available for purchase from Vibrant Faith.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Growing in Character, Skill and Knowledge

In May of 2008 the Staff Ministry Committee finished its work in developing a credentilaing process for church staff ministry leaders who are not ordained. Last week a Credentialing Committee met to interview the first four candidates for the process!

The Credentialing Committee is made up of two people who are experienced ministry staff (after the initial process these will be ministry leaders who have been credentialed), along with one member each of the Staff Ministry Committee, the Office of Pastor-Church Relations, and the faculty or staff of Calvin Theological Seminary or another college or university associated with the CRCNA. The Committee also includes one pastor from the classis of the candidate, though not from the candidate’s congregation.

My interview was at 3:30 pm—an hour I began to regret when at 3:00 afternoon drowsiness hit and my eyelids started to feel heavy! But the interview was friendly and encouraging, with questions about my faith statement, strengths and weaknesses, and why I desire to be credentialed. Over half of the bi-national committee joined us by phone from around Canada and the United States, reminding me of the scope of the credentialing process. Once credentialed in educational ministry, my credentials will hold true for every classis in the CRCNA.

After the interview I received a call from Jeanne Kallemeyn, staff ministry specialist, and member of the Credentialing Committee. She welcomed me into the process and emailed me information on the next steps—choosing a Learning Partner (LP), assessing my current level of skills, knowledge, and character for ministry, and developing an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) for growth. The credentialing process includes a summary of core requirements in each of these areas that will guide me as I work with a Learning Partner to design an ILP.

This is an exciting process—one that could bless individuals, churches, and the whole denomination as educational ministries are strengthened!

If you’re interested in becoming credentialed in church education contact Jeanne Kallemeyn at or 616-726-1152 for more information.

written by Jolanda Howe, CRC Educator

Monday, February 22, 2010


Six people from our church attended Worship Symposium at Calvin College this January. The group included our pastor, my husband and me. On Friday afternoon I sat next to Amy, one of our church members, before a vesper worship started and we began sharing. She commented that we should all get together and share what we had seen and heard. I mentioned this to our pastor who was all for the idea -- “Any time volunteers are willing to get together and talk about worship, it is a good thing.” So after several emails back and forth we identified the one date in the next two weeks that worked.

As my husband and I talked about how to organize the meeting we thought about writing down all the ideas on a white board but it seemed too much like a meeting where we were trying to get something done instead of a time to share. We talked about making a topic list ahead of time and hitting the topics we were interested in: Prayer, Visual art, Music, Worship, Psalms but again that was maybe too organized for what we were trying to accomplish. At last I decided to just run through the schedule, day by day and see what struck the participant each day. That may not have been the best choice. We began by reviewing Thursday, followed by Friday and by that point we were off on tangents about the things we learned at symposium. I don’t think we ever talked about Saturday. But we did have a great discussion anyway.

So what did we learn? The biggest thing I learned is that gathering to debrief is a great thing – and maybe not having the debrief super-organized helped in the long run. Our discussion quickly focused on a topic I never expected: drama in worship and making better power point presentations. As a group we gathered around these ideas and generated the next steps for our church. We are checking into materials to do a drama at our church. We are talking to the tech committee to see if they are enthused about improving our visuals. We also are now accountable to each other to move this forward. We as a group are accountable for this – not me alone.

The next time I do this, though, I would ask each person before the meeting to think about one thing that struck them during Symposium and begin the meeting with those highlights. Then after giving everyone a chance to speak we could then open the discussion to the whole group. The hour and half was very well spent. Best of all, the ideas we discussed are now owned by the whole group, not by just one person. We are all excited about a couple of new ideas and how we can incorporate that into the life of the church.