This year's series of monthly reflections will offer insights and ideas from faith formation and youth leaders around our Southern New England Conferences, CT, MA, and RI as we move toward a more complete partnership!
This month's reflection is from Ms. Nicole Hosford, Christian Education Director at the Colchester Federated Church. It reminds us that VBS is a powerful context for faith formation and in some ways, is the gift that keeps on giving! (see below)
Read her reflection and discover why she says, "The energy this year was truly OUT OF THIS WORLD!"
VBS - The gift that keeps on giving!
From Karen Ziel, Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership, editor:
While it may seem odd to have a Vacation Bible School headline at the top of a September In Partnership mailing, I hope you trust that there is a reasonable explanation.
While you all are deeply immersed in calendar refinements for the year and distributing those tools, while you're blessing backpacks and preparing to begin your year in Children's Ministry and Youth Ministry, we wanted to share this reflection from Nicole Hosford, the Christian Education Director at the Colchester Federated Church. Not only is Nicole a gifted leader but she and her clergy partner, Pastor Lauren Lorincz, have a wonderful synergy and collegiality that extends to and includes their playful sides, recently expressed this summer in their very well crafted VBS!
In our new series for the year, Practitioners Reflect, you'll hear from leaders around the Southern New England landscape who have something to share that we believe has wider application to our many formation ministries.
In summary, why choose to incorporate this reflection in September?
In addition to being a powerful evangelism too, there are transformational practices found in successful VBS programs and partnerships such as those that Nicole names in her reflection. We know you'll enjoy it!
In addition: Here are 5 Things! known to be valuable.
1. We know that a child's play is their work. As they become more connected to the community of faith, their developmental tasks for growing in faith are more whole and complete if those experiences incorporate play! Across our state, I have witnessed the power of play in VBS settings to engage children in learning in meaningful and effective ways.
2. In a different context, learning deepens. We may teach the very same stories in VBS that we incorporate on any given Sunday morning, but the casual and creative nature of the VBS context deepens learning. In addition, it provides for colleagues and lay leaders like Nicole, her crew, and Pastor Lorincz to deepen their collegiality and experience synergy. How can we plan for more opportunities like this during the year?
3. Group experiences with peers of various ages are valuable for learning. More defined age and grade level groups offer beneficial opportunities also, so why not mix it up? There are times when the 4's and the 4th grade youth need a more developmentally appropriate setting, yet we can intentionally incorporate opportunities and contexts for groups that represent a broader age range.
4. It's an opportunity to uniquely affirm and support the work and gifts of our volunteers. Often there are lay leaders on our VBS teams who can't participate on Sunday mornings. There are many reasons for this, yet an open and creative volunteer management style can engage these creative and gifted leaders to offer creative and playful experiences year round. Let's be sure to create spaces for music, science, the creative arts, drama and more! (Even if you aren't using a Rotation Workshop Model)
5. Community partnerships and mission! These are two essential elements that we hear were incorporated effectively at CFC's 2019 VBS, To Mars and Beyond. These two elements can be elements present in our Children's Ministry on Sunday mornings too, with a little careful planning and creativity, it's possible!
The John P. Webster Library remains a valuable resource for leaders in all roles in the local church setting, for local church members and volunteers too! Director Jennifer deSimas invites you all to visit the library, located at First Congregational Church, 12 South Main St., West Hartford, CT.
Their catalogue can be searched online and there are many ways to access these valuable resources, including by mail! And, don't forget the Ruth Dudley Resource collection for faith formation and the Book Group sets offered!
This month, Jennifer reviews Breathe, Mama, Breathe and The Universal Christ.
Confirmation Retreat Weekends!
There is still time to save a spot for your favorite weekend! Perhaps fall is your favorite time to gather youth as your program journey begins, perhaps you have a two year program and your favorite time is mid-way through the first or second year. No matter the option you choose, the weekend provides an important opportunity for deepening connections among and between youth in your congregation and the wider church, between adult leaders and advisors and their youth, and forges a relational bond that is unique to the retreat setting! Find out more about the program and reserve spaces for your favorite time of year here!
Because You Asked....
QUESTION: A reader writes, "Are there resources our congregation can use to assist elementary age youth to know more about gender identity and non-binary youth while sharing the values of our faith and full inclusion of every child of God?"
ANSWER: Yes, there are! These are just a few of a number of good resources, some are faith based and others are not.
Here's an article for parents and other caring adults.
Resources from the Gender Spectrum website are very useful!
Suggested resources, a book-list and more can be found here at the Religious Institute website!
And finally, a wonderful 'curriculum' by Kathryn Goering Reid and Ken Hawkley Children Together, for children in grades 4-6.