January 2018: Faith in the Family activities

January: First month, first miracle!

Pause for thought: Read the Bible story below about Jesus at a wedding in Cana. It was here that Jesus performed his first miracle, changing water into wine when supplies ran out.

In those days, wedding festivities often lasted a week, and it would have been a source of great shame for the bridegroom to have insufficient wine to serve his guests. Mary has great faith that her son will save the host (perhaps a family member or close friend) from embarrassment – although presumably she does not know how he will do so. At first sight, it may appear that Jesus is reluctant to be involved in “saving” the bridegroom from an awkward social situation. But perhaps he is trying to show his mother that his real mission, only just beginning, must now be to fulfill God’s purposes for him, rather than doing what she wishes at home. His journey will lead to the far more significant act of saving mankind by his eventual death on the Cross, when his blood will be poured out like red wine. But that time has not yet come.

As parents, we can encourage our children to put their faith in Jesus and to ask him for whatever they need, whether significant or small – for every aspect of our lives is important to him.

We want our children to grow up to be self-sufficient, but perhaps we also need to remind them that each of us is only human, and likely to run out of resources such as stamina, patience and joy at times. As Christians, however, we need not despair, for we can rely on Jesus to sustain us.

There’s no more wine! (John 2:1-12)

A mealtime story. You will need a jug of water, glasses for each person and a bottle of blackcurrant squash!

Soon after Jesus had chosen his disciples, they were all invited to a wedding in Cana, a small village just four miles from Nazareth. Jesus’ mother Mary was invited as well. It must have been a grand wedding, because there were servants to wait on the guests and a master of the banquet who was in charge of all the food and drink.

The guests all smiled and enjoyed themselves at the feast, but the servants wore anxious frowns. The wine had run out! No more wine! What would happen when people wanted their cups refilled?

Mary must have noticed the worried faces. What an embarrassing situation for the bridegroom! He and his family would be in disgrace and all the joy of the celebrations spoiled! She couldn’t put things right, but she was sure that Jesus would have the answer. Finding him, she touched his elbow and whispered in his ear, “ They have no more wine!”

“My dear mother, why do you tell me this?” replied Jesus. “ My time to act has not yet come!”

But Mary knew her son well. She went to the servants and told them quietly, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.”

Six stone water jars stood nearby. They were huge, each one able to hold twenty to thirty gallons of water. The Jews washed their hands over and over again before eating, because of their strict religious rules, and so now they stood empty.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. (Fill glasses with water.) Then he told a servant, “Pour some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

The servant began to draw the water, but his eyebrows shot up as he saw the cup he held fill with wine! (Add some blackcurrant squash!)

He watched carefully as the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, although the servant knew – for he had filled the huge jar with water only a moment ago.

The master’s face broke into a delighted smile as he called the bridegroom aside. “Most people serve the best wine first and leave the cheaper wine until everyone has had too much to drink; but you have saved the best until now!”

Jesus’ disciples watched this miracle in wonder, and were full of amazement at the power of their new leader. Surely he would bring kindness and joy in place of all the strict rules of the Jewish religion.


There’s no more wine! Read the Bible story together, perhaps just before a family meal. Place glasses for each person, a jug of water and a bottle of blackcurrant squash on the table so that the children can follow “turn water into wine!!” Chat about the story:

Who’s been to a wedding? What was it like at the reception?

How do you think the wedding family in the story felt when they realized there was no more wine to serve their guests?

Who do you think had great faith in this story?

What do you think Jesus meant when he said that his time had not yet come?


Half empty or half full? Sometimes it can seem a bit of a struggle to get through January – in the very depths of winter. If family members are feeling low, half fill a jam jar and explain that it could be described as half empty or half full! On car journeys, etc, practise looking at things from a positive angle. For example:

A/W sad face                                                       A/W happy face

It’s freezing outside . . . but that means we can toast crumpets on the fire!

Christmas is over . . . but

We’re back to school soon . . .

Chat about Jesus filling the huge water jars with the best red wine. Jesus was showing that he would bring God’s love and joy wherever he went.


A family film: If you know that the weather is going to be atrocious one January weekend, why not have a family film afternoon/evening. Get in some popcorn, close the curtains, snuggle up together on the sofa and watch a family film with a wedding at the heart of it! This is a treat that children will remember and could become a family tradition once in a while!


Wedding cake craft  

You will need: tissue paper in different colours, black and other coloured felt-tipped pens, white paper, glue

Have a look at any celebration baking cake tins you may have that fit one inside the other. Look at any photos of a couple cutting a wedding cake.

Cut out rectangles of tissue, each one smaller than the last, and glue on to white paper to make five layers of cake.

Draw around each layer with the black pen and then decorate with patterns such as hearts, circles and wavy lines. Colour in the shapes.

You could draw a wedding couple decoration on top of the cake. Now that you have practiced this, why not make a wedding or anniversary card for someone you know on some folded white paper, using a similar method?


Sensible drinking

It makes sense to talk to our children about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol – especially as they approach their teenage years.

The safe limits recommended by the Dept of Health are:

Men – No more than 14 units per week, no more than 4 units in any one

day. Have at least 2 alcohol free days a week.

Women- as above, but no more than 3 units in any one day.

Binge drinking can be harmful, even though the weekly total may not seem too high.

It might be helpful to ask children to measure out water in a wine glass to see what one unit looks like. A small glass (125 ml) of ordinary strength wine (12% alcohol) is equivalent to one and a half units! Can they work out how many units there are in a 750ml bottle of wine? Would you be under or over the sensible limit if you drank two bottles in a week?

There is more information about sensible drinking on the website www.patient.info



God is interested in every part of our lives and we can ask for his help in big and small ways. Write lots of prayers on colourful sticky notes and stick to a bedroom table or desk. If God answers the prayer, put the note in an empty jam jar beside your bed.

“You treat me to a feast while my enemies watch. You honour me as your guest and you fill my cup until it overflows.” Psalm 23.

Vicki Howie




Faith in the Family for December

Story: Jump for Joy!

Jesus and his cousin John were hunting for twigs to make a campfire.

“How old are you, John?” asked Jesus. “I’m eight.”

“Nine,” replied John. “I’m always ahead of you, remember!”

Jesus laughed. “And we both belong to the same family, don’t we?”

“That’s right. Our mothers are related to one another.”

“But your mum – Auntie Elizabeth – she seems much older than mine,” said Jesus.

“I know. My parents had me when they quite old. They’d almost given up all hope of having a baby.”

“Well, an angel told my mother she was going to have me,” said Jesus.

“Snap!” exclaimed John. “Except an angel told my father that I was going to be born.”

“I know!” said Jesus. “Let’s ask our Mums to tell us the family stories around the campfire tonight!”

* * *

Auntie Elizabeth began first. “Well, the angel came to Uncle Zechariah when he was all alone inside the holy temple in Jerusalem. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ said the angel. ‘God knows that you and your wife are longing for a baby. Well, Elizabeth is going to have a baby boy at last! You must name him John.’”

“What else did the angel say?” asked John.

“He said that you would have a very important job to do when you grew up. You would get everybody ready to welcome a new king. Oh, how we all longed for a good and wise king.”

“But Dad didn’t believe the angel, did he?” said John.

“Not at first,” answered Auntie Elizabeth. “The angel was indignant and told him that he wouldn’t be able to speak until after you were born. But sure enough, I soon found out that I was going to have a baby!”

Next, Jesus wanted his mother Mary to tell her story.

“It happened about three months before your cousin John was born,” she said. “ I looked up and saw an angel. I must have looked very worried, because he told me not to be alarmed.”

“Just as he did to Zechariah!” added Elizabeth.

“And then he gave me the most earth-shattering news!” exclaimed Mary. “He told me I was going to have a baby boy who would be a great king. ‘How can this happen – I’m not even married to Joseph yet,’ I asked.’”

“You were forgetting that nothing is impossible for God!” said Jesus with a smile.

“That’s right! The angel explained that the baby would be God’s own son and he told me that Elizabeth was going to have a baby too!”

“Is that why you went to visit her?” asked John.

“Exactly. I wanted to share my news with someone who would understand . . .”

“ . . . and as soon as she arrived, the baby inside me jumped for joy!” said Elizabeth.

“That was me!” said John, grinning. “Make way, everyone, make way for Jesus the King!”

(c) Vicki Howie


December: Get ready for Jesus!

 Pause for thought: Take time to read the Bible story above which imagines a conversation between the boy Jesus and his relative, John – later known as John the Baptist. Perhaps the two boys loved to hear the story of the angels announcing their forthcoming births and often asked their parents for a storytelling session!

On the recent Parentalk course, we learned the importance of creating a sense of belonging with our children through shared memories, laughter and traditions. Family traditions and routines give a sense of security and build strong family identity. Christmas is a great time to introduce treasured traditions from your own childhood or to create new ones, especially if they point towards the birth of Jesus. Examples might include lighting an advent candle at supper every night in December, or reading a nativity storybook together each Christmas Eve. Memories of such traditions may last a lifetime!

John the Baptist was given the job of going ahead of Jesus, helping people to recognize who he was and enabling them to open their hearts and minds to him. Perhaps, as parents, we can help our children to do the same.


Jump for joy! Read the Bible story above together and think about the similarities and differences between the announcements of the two special births.

Why do you think Zechariah did not believe the angel?

How do you think he told his wife Elizabeth about the baby when he

could not speak?

What do you think an angel looks like?

Do you think God can do things that seem impossible to us?

Why do you think God wanted someone to go ahead of Jesus?


The story of my birth: A week after John was born, Elizabeth and Zechariah asked some family and friends round to help name the baby. Their guests wanted to call him Zechariah, after his father, but Elizabeth remembered the angel’s words and said his name should be John. Someone brought Zechariah a writing tablet, and much to everyone’s surprise, he wrote down, “His name should be John.” Suddenly he was able to speak again, and he burst into a wonderful song, explaining that John would go ahead of Jesus, preparing the way for him.

Have a storytelling session in which you tell children any stories about their births. Where were they born? Were they early or late? Who came to visit them? How did you choose their names?


Christmas Angels: Why not decorate your tree together as a family with some carols playing in the background. If you have an angel for the top of the tree, chat about the Angel Gabriel who announced the births of both John and Jesus.

You could make table angels to show everyone in your family where to sit for the Christmas meal. Make a cone out of a coloured circle of card and decorate the base, the hem of the angel’s dress. Fold white paper in half for the wings and cut out the head of a spoon shape. Unfold and edge with a gold marker. Glue to the join at the back of the cone. Draw a heart shape big enough to write the name of a relative on and glue to the front of the angel. Draw round a coin for the angel’s head on white card and add a long neck. Cut out and draw and colour a smiling face and some hair. Snip the top of the cone so that you can insert the neck and tape in place. Place on the table so that the angels smile at your guests!


Christmas party game: Divide into teams. Explain that each team is going to introduce a mystery guest but without saying who they are. Give each team one of the ideas below and allow them several minutes to work out what each member of the team is going to say about them. The other team must guess who they are speaking about. For example:

Person 1: Our mystery guest is someone who works very hard at this

time of year.

Person 2: He is famous for his kindness to children.

Person 3: He dresses in an unusual way.

Person 4: He lives in a very cold part of the world.

Other team: Is it Father Christmas?


Other mystery guests could be: Paddington Bear, A member of the Royal Family, Doctor Who, A well-known Disney character, Jesus.

If children help you to prepare this game for a Christmas party, chat about the way in which John introduced Jesus to the people.


Christmas Eve Crib Service: Why not make and freeze a fish pie for Christmas Eve so that you have time to come to a Crib Service? The service often consists of a story that will engage the children, during which the characters from the nativity are placed in the crib. Afterwards, go and and look at the completed scene! This is what Christmas is all about!


Get ready for Christmas! It’s a great idea to go through cupboards now and make room for all the extra food/packages etc that will need to be stored. (Link this with the idea of John urging people to get rid of ‘rubbish behaviour’ – greed, cheating, lies, – in order to be ready for Jesus!) Stock up now on some bulky essentials, (washing powder, dishwasher tablets, etc) that you won’t want to lug home with the Christmas shop!



Chat about the things that we all do to get ready for Christmas. (For example, shopping, partying, making our Christmas lists.) Now talk about the things that would make God happy. Are they the same?

Dear God,

Thank you for the joy of Christmas. Please help us to get ready for Christmas in a way that would please you. We are sorry for the things we do that make you sad. Please help us to lead better lives and to be ready to welcome you into our hearts this Christmas.





A Crib Service

The Lonely Barn Owl

By Vicki Howie


 CAROL: 36 Once in Royal David’s City (omit vv 3 & 4)

Leader – Introduction to Barney the soft toy Barn Owl*

A narrator – introduction to the story and practice congregational responses

Narr 1: In a dreary old stable in Bethlehem town, there lived a lonely barn owl, his feathers white and brown.

Narr 1: His echoing shelter though ROOMY . . .

ALL: Roomy!

Narr 1: . . . was so GLOOMY . . .

ALL: Gloomy!

Narr 1: . . . that nobody ever set foot through the door – well, apart from the innkeeper bringing fresh straw.

Leader: Is anyone here looking after the innkeeper’s animals, the ox and ass? Yes! I think the innkeeper’s rather busy tonight, so could you lead them up the track to the stable here and put them in their stall?

(The ox and the ass – placed at the lectern and on the piano – are brought forward, shown to the congregation, and placed in the crib)

Narr 2: The lonely barn owl uttered a cry. “If only a light would shine in this stable of mine, perhaps someone would drop by.” But only the ox and the ass nodded heads at the manger.

Narr 2: One afternoon, all was hubbub and commotion in the little town of Bethlehem. Horses neighed . . .

ALL: Neigh, neigh!

Narr 2: Donkeys brayed . . .

ALL: Hee-haw, hee-haw!

Narr 2: Sheep baa-ed . . .

ALL: Baa, baa!

Narr: Goats maa-ed.

ALL: Maa, maa!

Narr 2: And from the street came the pitter-patter of travellers’ feet and the chitter-chatter of voices at the inn.

Joseph: Have you a room for the night?

Mary:    Any shelter will do!

Narr 1: “What’s going on?” asked the barn owl. The ox and ass in their stall did their best to explain it all. “Haven’t you heard? They say a great and heavenly light is coming to shine on the earth tonight.”

Narr 2: “A light! Tonight?” screeched the barn owl. “Then I must hunt for it!” And calling goodbye . . .


Narr 2: . . . he was off and up into the twilit sky. Twit Twoo . . .

ALL: TWIT TWOO! (Barney flies to the communion table.)

Leader: That was a shame, because the barn owl just missed Mary and Joseph. The innkeeper said they could stay the night in his stable because there was no room for them at the busy inn. Is anyone looking after those two travellers who’ve been on such a long journey? Yes?

The figures of Mary and Joseph are shown to the congregation and placed in the Crib.

CAROL: 6 Away in a manger

In the last verse, Barney is brought back from the communion table to the front.

Narr 1: Now the barn owl saw the golden sun setting over the hilltops of Bethlehem. (A big sun appears from the pulpit) “Oh great and heavenly light, will you come down and shine in my home tonight?” he begged. “Not me!” replied the proud sun, looking down his nose at him. “I am King of the day and must go to shine on countries far away.” And with just a flicker of a smile, he disappeared behind the hills. (The sun disappears)

Narr 2: Now the wispy white moon rose above the hills. (A moon appears from the pulpit) “Oh great and heavenly light, will you come down and shine in my home tonight?” begged the barn owl. “Certainly not!” replied the haughty moon. “I am Queen of the night and must look down from a great height.” And she rose higher still above the hill. (The moon rises before disappearing again.)

Narr 1: As the barn owl swooped low over campfires aglow, he was startled by heavenly things – bright angels with glittering wings. “Don’t be afraid!” they sang. “Guess who’s in the manger!”

CAROL: 51 While shepherds watched

In the last verse, the barn owl is placed close to the crib

Narr 2: Puzzled, the barn owl returned to the town. But as he dived down to the stable he saw, streaming from his own front door, a GLORIOUS beam of light!

Turn on the light for the stable

Light the Christmas candle

Narr 1: Into that golden light he flew, into a mellow, yellow stable he hardly knew. And, there in the manger in the animal’s stall, he found that brightest light of all. A baby boy whose shining face lit the darkest corner of that dreary place! Whoo, whoo?

ALL: Whoo, whoo?

Narr 1: Then on foot (and on hoof and paw), many visitors flocked through the stable door. First came the shepherds from the hillside with their sheep . . .

Richard: Where are the shepherds and their sheep? There! Please could you help them to find their way to the baby in the manger?

(The shepherds and sheep are brought forward from the Lady Chapel, shown to the congregation, and placed in the Crib)

CAROL: 21 Infant holy, infant lowly

Narr 2: And after the shepherds came the wise men with precious gifts, riding on their exotic camels . . .

Vicar: Where are the wise men? Ah, could you be a star and guide them to the Crib?

(The wise men and their camels are brought forward from the altar frontal box, shown to the congregation, and placed in the Crib)

Narr 1: And they all adored the little child . . . Jesus. That’s who!

CAROL: 41 Shepherds left their flocks astraying

Narr 2: “Oh, thank you, tiny heavenly light! You came to shine in my home tonight!” called the barn owl, dancing. Whoo, hoo!

ALL: Whoo, hoo!

Narr 2: So, in a shining bright stable in Bethlehem town, there lived a joyful barn owl, his feathers white and brown!

© Vicki Howie

Blessing of the Crib


Bible reading            John 1:1-14


CAROL: 42 Silent night

Prayers & the Lord’s Prayer

CAROL: 18 Hark! the herald angels sing (“light and life to all he brings”)


* Available from the Barn Owl Trust – www.barnowltrust.org.uk


September:Friends for life!


 Diary of Jonathan, Son of King Saul


 Father in bad mood again today. “Tormented by evil spirit!” Keep out of his way . . .

Still bad. Servants fetch lad from Bethlehem. Brown face. David. Plays the harp to Father. Great! The King feels better! We keep David on! . .

I get chatting to David. He’s about my age. Not shy! Looks after his father’s sheep. Asks me about my success in battle . . .

I talk to David again. Says he’s a warrior, too – he’s killed lions and bears with his hands. Really? But I like him – and so does Father! . .

Crisis! The Philistines threaten our army. Their champion Goliath looking for fight. Nine feet tall . . . INCREDIBLE! DAVID KILLED GOLIATH WITH SLING AND STONE! THE LORD IS WITH OUR YOUNG SHEPHERD!


David is here to stay! I love this guy! We make solemn pact – friends for life. Give him my sword, etc, as sign . . .

Yes! Father gives David high rank in army. Deserves it. Popular with the men – and the ladies!! BUT Father uneasy again. Feels God not with him as before. Horrible bursts of anger . . .

Father truly disturbed today. Wants me to kill David! Why? I warn David to keep away. I speak up for him. Remind Father of all D has done for us. Why kill innocent man, etc? Dad promises D is safe. Feel reassured . . .

David leads our army to victory again! Am I jealous? NO – because I know God is with him . . .

Strange – David says King trying to kill him. “What is his crime?” he asks. Know this cannot be true. Father would have told me. David says he’s keeping me in dark because of our friendship. We make a plan. David to hide in archery field while I confront King. If he means D no harm, I’ll go out later and shoot three arrows at target. Then shout to my boy, “Go fetch my arrows. They are on this side of you. Bring them here.” But if father does mean him harm, I’ll shout, “Look, the arrows are beyond you.” That’s D’s sign to flee . . .

I’m trembling. Angry. Spoke to King who flew into rage. Accused me of siding with David, giving him my future throne. “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” I asked. The King hurled his spear at me.

I saw his eyes, full of hate. Now I see, he means to kill David. It’s shameful. Call for my bow . . .

* * *

Feel numb. David is gone. We wept. Thank God he went in peace. We once swore friendship to each other and to each other’s families and we won’t forget that – whatever happens.

Pause for thought: They say that you can never have enough friends. The supposed diary extract above tells the story of the strong relationship between David and Jonathan – an unbroken friendship.

As parents, we want our children to find good friends and also to be a good friend to others. How can we help them to do so? Take time to think back to your own school days. How did great friendships come about and how have you managed to keep them going? Be prepared to pass on these stories.

It’s also great to model being a good friend by communicating our thinking. For example, “I’m meeting Sue for a coffee today – she’s been feeling a bit down recently. Maybe I can cheer her up.” “Ben’s got a job interview tomorrow, so I’m sending him a text to say I’m thinking of him.” We can also model speaking well of our friends, rather than running them down.

It’s interesting that David and Jonathan make a serious promise of friendship before God. It’s a decision they make and stick to, not something that comes and goes according to how they feel – or abandon when the going gets tough.

If children understand the true meaning of friendship, they can better understand the friendship that God offers to us.


 David and Jonathan: Read the diary extract above together about the friendship between these two young men. Wonder about it as follows:

  • I wonder why the King wanted to kill David
  • I wonder who was a good friend in this story
  • I wonder what you think makes someone a good friend

Pizza Party: Invite new school friends round to make pizzas together! You could buy some ready-made bases (or make your own dough) and prepare some tomato sauce in advance by heating tinned tomatoes with a dessertspoon of tomato puree and a pinch of oregano or mixed herbs.

Provide a variety of toppings for your friends to choose from, for example:

Tuna pizza: black olives, capers, tinned tuna fish, sliced onion

Spicy sausage pizza: chopped ham, sliced spicy sausage, sliced pepperoni, grated

     Mozzarella cheese

Courgette pizza: sliced courgette, sliced mushroom, sliced onion, gated cheese

 Lay circles of dough (about 13cm/5 in diameter) on a greased baking tray. Spread the sauce over the bases, leaving a small margin. Add the toppings and bake until bases are golden brown (approx 15-20 mins at 220 C/425 F/ Gas mark 7).


Friendship bracelets: You will need rectangles of white paper, about A5 size; pencils; crayons or felt-tipped pens; sticky tape; scissors

(Each piece of paper makes three bracelets)

Fold the rectangle of paper in half, short edges together, and then in half again (in the same direction). With the short end of the folded paper towards you, draw a circle (for a face or head shape) near the top of the paper. Connect each circle to the long edges of the paper with two lines (rather like a narrow watch strap). Repeat in the middle and bottom.

Cut out each bracelet, taking care not to cut along the folds of the ‘straps’. Open them out and decorate them with your friends. You could draw your own face and those of three friends. Or you could decorate them with pictures of David and Jonathan and some items from the story!

Help each other to fasten them around your wrists with tape. You could even make a long chain of everyone in your class or Sunday Club and hang it up on the wall!


A good friend . . .

Write this heading on a big piece of paper and leave it pinned or taped where family members can write their ideas. For example:

  • Always wants the best for you
  • Tries to understand you . . .
  • Never . . .


‘Friends’ scrapbook: Why not keep a diary, scrapbook or photo album of all the things you do with your friends this year. Write some notes to remind yourself in the future of all the things you are doing together now. Send paper birthday cards and tell your friends how much you appreciate them – or thank them for their support in the past. If you take a good photo of a group of friends, perhaps you could buy a ‘friends’ frame for it and give as a birthday present.


Bedtime meditation: Remind children that when God made the world, he wanted to be good friends with us. Chat quietly about all the things he did for us (giving us plenty of food, a beautiful world, trusting us to look after his world, etc). Ask children to close their eyes and use their imaginations as they listen, answering the questions in silence . . .


(Speak slowly and quietly) Imagine you’re standing in a beautiful garden with God. He smiles at you and asks you to walk with him through his garden. As you walk, he seems to match his steps with yours, so that he is always by your side. The sun’s just setting. What colour are the clouds? He points out some trees with fruit on them. What kind of fruit hangs on the branches? Now you come down to some water. Is it a lake, or a river? Is the water flowing fast or still? What reflections can you see in the water? A bird flies down to the water’s edge. What’s it like? Now God beckons and a horse comes trotting up to make friends with you.

You walk on together and God asks you about your day. What do you tell him? You chat together happily – what are you chatting about?

Now you are both quiet, but it doesn’t matter at all because you feel quite at ease – with a good friend you can be happy whether you are talking or just being quiet together.


Prayer time: Thank God for particular friends or ask him to help us find friends. Ask how we can give them support. Thank God for sending Jesus to be our friend forever.

Vicki Howie








 Let’s get creative!

The Story of Creation (Based on Genesis 1-2:3)

A story poem to read aloud, mime and join in the repetitions!

In the beginning, there was nothing. (Show empty hands) So God made the heavens and the earth. “Let there be light!” said God. And light appeared!

That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the land. But there was nothing growing on it. “Let all kinds of plants grow on the earth!” said God. And they did! There were trees and bushes, fruit and vegetables and colourful flowers. (Mime growing up, spreading branches)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sky. But there was nothing shining in it! “Let there be lights in the sky!” said God. And there were! There were brilliant suns, glowing moons, spinning planets and twinkling stars. (Wiggle fingers like twinkling stars, spin like planets)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the sea. But there was nothing swimming in it. “Let the sea be filled with all sorts of sea creatures!” said God. And it was! There were crabs and dolphins, turtles, fish and sea-horses all swimming through the water. (Mime swimming, diving, floating)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the air. But there was nothing flying through it. “Let there be birds!” said God. And there were! The air was filled with birds. There were swallows and parrots, eagles and owls all flying and swooping and hovering (mime flying, swooping, hovering)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

God made the jungle. He made forests, fields and gardens. But there was nothing moving through it. “Let there be animals!” said God. And there were! There were big animals and tiny creatures. There were wild animals and friendly pets. (Mime crawling, galloping, stalking, trotting)

   “That’s good!” said God. “That’s very good!”

So God made the world. But there was no-one to look after it. No-one special to share all it’s joys. “Let there be a man and a woman!” said God. And there were! And soon the world was filled with families – Mums and Dads, boys and girls, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles. They sowed seeds, they made music, sang and danced, they made clay pots and carved wood . . . (mime different activities) . . . and God was very pleased – especially when they made time to walk and talk with him!

“That’s WONDERFUL!” said God. “That’s REALLY wonderful!”

And God was so pleased with all that he had made, that he stopped work for a rest and to bless and enjoy it all!


Pause for thought: Take time to read the story above and the Creation story in Genesis 1-2:2 on which it is based. The Bible story, written over two thousand years ago, is not meant to tell us how the world was made – scientists do not know for certain today. In fact, the writer probably believed that the earth was a flat disc mounted on pillars, with water beneath and above the great dome of the sky. What interested him was not how this happened but why – and he makes it clear that it was at the will of God and not by accident.

The writer was a devout member of a community which saw the seventh day not only as a day of rest from work, but as one on which to gather for worship, prayer and seeking the will of God – in other words a chance for recreation in a profound way. In his great hymn of Creation, he sees the working week as a reflection of the great creative acts of God who, on the seventh day, rests and refreshes himself, content with a job well done!

The Bible passage sees man in a privileged position, able to run the world but accountable to its Creator. He is made in God’s image and is therefore capable of great things, with the freedom to respond to God.

The summer holidays are a great opportunity for us to delight in the natural world around us and to encourage our children to do the same. We can help them to create memories and family traditions that will give them pleasure in years to come and which they in turn may introduce to their own families!


The Creation story: Read the story above out loud while other members of the family do the mimes. Wonder about it together, as follows:

  • I wonder if you could leave out anything that God made and it would make no difference to the world
  • I wonder which part of the story you like the best
  • I wonder how we can look after God’s world
  • I wonder why God rested after all his work


Recreation time for Mums and Dads! As a busy parent, it’s easy to feel we are simply “Emma’s Mum” or “Ben’s Dad”! The more relaxed summer months may be a good time to resume an enjoyable interest or therapeutic hobby dropped through lack of time. Arm yourself with the right equipment (water-colours, walking map, maintained bike, yoga mat, etc) and put aside some time to “recreate” your own identity! If personal prayer time has been short, perhaps now is the time to refresh it!


Recreation time for kids! During the summer holidays, encourage children to find new hobbies for relaxation both now and for their future benefit. For inspiration, you could:

  • Visit a craft store such as Hobbycraft for ideas and supplies
  • Visit a good bookshop or a library. Search for books that inspire, for example a book on how to draw/make origami animals or a storybook about an animal by Michael Morpurgo
  • Invest in a book of 365 poems for children and start reading one every day
  • Have a look in the supermarket for “creation-themed” sugar cake decorations, such as stars, butterflies or carrots (for carrot cake!)


On a car journey: On a long car journey, play the alphabet game, with each person naming something that God has made starting with A,B,C, etc. For example, Alligator, Berries, Corn, Daisy . . . You could do the same thing with names of people and countries, for example, Andrew, Belgium, Christopher, Denmark . . .


Put on a good show! Perhaps children could get together with friends to perform the Creation story above. Instead (or as well as) the mimes, they could draw and paint stars, animals, sea-creatures etc as props to be brought out of a box at the appropriate moments in the story. They could have some regular craft and rehearsal sessions.

Why not perform this to family and friends? Everyone could bring some themed refreshments (star biscuits, butterfly cakes, tuna rolls, etc) to serve afterwards. You could ask for donations to a favourite charity or towards the mission of your church!


Plants: Give children a small bed or container to dig over or look after during the summer. If you have a flower press, experiment to see which flowers press the best. Alternatively, wrap them in tissue and put between the pages of a heavy book. Once pressed, use them to make greetings cards.

Visit a garden centre to plant up a herb pot or small alpine garden in a container.


The National Trust: Look out for some fun family days out at local NT properties. In the south-east, for example, at Emmetts Garden, there’s a family trail from Sat 1 Jul – Sun 3 Sep (10am-4pm) and there’s a performance of Wind in the Willows on Thurs 31 Aug at 4pm. At Chartwell, there’s a “Winston and other animals” family trail over the summer and at Sheffield Park and Garden you can enjoy a night under canvas at a wild camping weekend (Fri 7 and Sat 8 Jul). Cook on the campfire and enjoy a spot of stargazing.

For these and other events, visit nationaltrust.org.uk/southeastevents


Fabulous Fruit Lollies! Make some refreshing fruit lollies! Put 50g (2 oz) each of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries into a saucepan together with 1 ½ tablespoons icing sugar (sieved). Cook over a gentle heat for a short while until the fruit is soft. Puree and sieve, then stir in one 150g (5 oz) pot raspberry yoghurt. Pour into 4 ice-lolly moulds and freeze.


Prayer: In the story of Creation, God rested on the seventh day. As a way of making Sunday special, have a time of family prayer and thanksgiving for the summer holidays. Talk about the things that each person has enjoyed over the past week before each one says a simple one-line prayer thanking God. Finish by thanking God for our wonderful world and for giving us the gift of time to enjoy it.







A Father’s Day story for the young



Ready: Here’s a multi-sensory story to celebrate Father’s Day. It’s based on the Bible story of the Prodigal Son. The story ends with a party, so you might like to provide some party plates, cups, and straws for refreshments both to ‘play’ the story and to celebrate the occasion. Some chocolate coins would also link with the story.

When the children arrive, let them play with a toy farm that includes pigs, or toy shops/money tills.


Teddy: Use Teddy to introduce the idea that sometimes we need to say sorry for making others sad. Teddy could even play the part of the boy in the story!


Go: You’re ready to show that God is our loving Father, always ready to forgive us and to let us start all over again whenever we are truly sorry.


The story basket: Pack a basket with some multi-sensory props for the children to experience during the story, such as: a boy doll with an item of clothing, a small drawstring bag or purse with coins to jingle in it, a toy pig, a container of mud, some pieces of raw swede, paper party hats for everyone.


Story-telling tips: The finger rhyme, Two little dickey birds sitting on a wall, provides a good “way in” to the story:

Two little dickey birds sitting on a wall, (hold up index fingers)

One named Peter, (wiggle one finger)

One named Paul, (wiggle other finger)

Fly away Peter, (take first finger behind back)

Fly away Paul, (take other finger behind back)

Come back Peter, (bring first finger back)

Come back Paul! (bring other finger back).


Welcome: Hello, everybody! How are you feeling today? I’m sorry to say that Teddy’s feeling very cross. I wonder why? (Teddy appears to whisper in your ear.) Oh, he says he just woke up feeling cross!

Well, we all feel like that sometimes. We fold our arms . . . (encourage everyone to fold arms), we stamp our feet . . . (encourage everyone to stamp feet) and when someone asks us to do something, we shout “No!”. . . (encourage everyone to shout “No!”) Oh, dear! That makes our Mums and Dads feel sad and we need to say sorry! Here’s a song about saying sorry! Can you join in?


SONG: (To the tune of Morningtown Ride, sung by The Seekers)

Sometimes I am naughty,

And that makes you feel sad,

But if I say “I’m sorry!”

We can hug and all feel glad! (Repeat)


Who likes getting a bear hug? Yes! Well, Jesus told a story about a boy who got a great big hug from his Dad when he wasn’t expecting it! Listen!


Storyteller: (Show doll) One morning, a boy woke up feeling as angry as a lion shut in a cage. He sprang out of bed and got dressed . . . (dress doll)

Then he paced up and down, up and down . . . (walk doll)

Out of the window, he could see his father and his big brother working hard on the farm.

“Hurry up!” they called. “Come and help us with the work!”

The boy didn’t want to. So he folded his arms . . . (all fold arms), stamped his foot . . . (all stamp feet), and shouted “No!” . . . (all shout “No!”) That wasn’t very kind, was it?


Storyteller: Then the boy marched outside and spoke rudely to his father.

“I’m a big boy now,” he said. “Give me some money! I’m going to leave home.”

Well, the father loved his boy very much. But he let him go.

“Here’s your money,” he said, sadly . . . (show money bag)

“Take care. I’m going to miss you.” He held out his arms to give his boy a hug . . . (hold out your arms) but the boy just walked away, jingling his moneybag . . . (let children hear the money jingling in the bag)


Storyteller: At last he reached a busy town. In the market there were lots of exciting things to buy.

“Hooray!” he said. “I’ve got all this money to spend! Listen!” . . . (jingle bag again)

So he dipped into the bag over . . . and over . . . and over again . . . (give coins from bag to helpers) until . . .

Listen! . . . (shake empty bag) No sound! The bag was empty!

Soon the boy’s tummy was empty too! . . . (rub your tummy)

“I’m hungry!” he said. “But I haven’t got any money left to buy food. I’d better get a job.”


Storyteller: Well, someone gave him a job looking after their pigs (show pig) . . . can you smell the mud in the pigs’ field? . . . (invite children to smell mud!) Pooh! But no-one gave him any food.

“Oh, no!” he said. “I’m so cold and hungry that I could eat the pigs’ dinner!” Would you like to taste the pig’s dinner? . . . (offer some swede!) It’s not very nice, is it! Poor boy! So he gave himself a hug . . . (all hug themselves) and he stamped his feet to keep warm . . . (all stamp feet) and then he whispered “No!” . . . (All whisper “No!”)

“No more being rude and unkind! I’m going to go home and say sorry to my father.” What was he going to say? (all say, “I’m sorry!”) That’s better!


Storyteller: So the boy turned back towards home . . . (turn doll back) But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming and what do you think he did? He RAN to give him a great big hug! Shall we do that? . . . (Encourage the children to move a short distance from their carers) . . . Then one two three . . . (The children run back for a hug!) Shall we do that again? . . .

“Oh, Dad,” cried the boy. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry I made you sad!”

“It’s all right!” said his father kindly. “Pooh! You’re a bit smelly, though! Lets find you some clean clothes and then we’ll have a party!” . . . (Hand out some party hats)

Storyteller: When the boy’s big brother came in from working on the farm, would you believe it, he folded his arms . . . and stamped his foot . . . and shouted “No! . . . No party for that lazy boy! I’m the one who’s been working hard!”

“Oh, don’t be like that!” begged the father. “You see, I was very sad when your brother went away. But now I’m happy because he came back to say sorry.”



I expect they had a wonderful party, don’t you? Jesus says that God has a party whenever we say sorry! HOORAY!

Just before our party, let’s say another finger rhyme together:


Two boys working on a farm one day, (hold up index fingers)

One was rude and ran away, (take one hand behind back)

He came back (bring hand back) and his Daddy said “Hooray!

I’m so glad you’re home to stay!” (Link index fingers)


And now let’s put our hands together for a prayer:


Dear Father God,

Sometimes we do things that make you sad.

Please help us to say “sorry”.

Thank you that you are just like the Dad in the story, always ready to forgive us and let us start all over again.










APRIL: Faith in the family activities for Easter

Story: The Resilience of Jesus

 God was delighted with his world, but not with the behaviour of his children. They were doing the one thing he’d asked them not to – deciding for themselves what was right and wrong. Soon his ‘clever’ children had stopped listening to their heavenly father. Instead they kidded themselves that it was fine to steal, to make war, to ignore the hungry, to pollute the rivers . . . Like straying sheep, they went their own way!

But God still loved his children. So much so, that he planned to send his own son Jesus into the world, a kindly shepherd who would gather his flock into the fold. Jesus would even pay the price for people’s mistakes by dying on a cross. But that would not be the end . . .

From the word go, it was not an easy life for Jesus. God gave him loving parents. But they were far from home when Mary gave birth and Jesus was born in a poor stable. Then they had to flee from cruel Herod. Refugees! But his childhood in Nazareth was peaceful, learning useful building skills from Joseph.

God provided Jesus with an older cousin John who prepared everyone to listen to his message about living God’s way – the way of kindness. But no sooner had he been baptised, than he was tempted by the Devil. Tempted to use his God- given talents for his own power and pleasure. His utter determination to do God’s will enabled him to resist and he voiced this in words of Scripture that he knew by heart.

At least the Devil recognized Jesus as the Son of God! Many people did not – especially those in his own town of Nazareth, where he was rejected. He was often criticized and questioned in a hostile manner but he parried with a question of his own to make others think. His close friends were a support and he taught them to love their enemies and to do good to those who hated them.

Even his best friends did not understand his real mission – especially when he revealed that he would suffer and be killed. But he resolutely set out for Jerusalem, saying, “I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day . . .”

What a welcome there was for Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday! But within a week, the same crowd was demanding his death. He was betrayed by Judas, arrested, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, disowned by Peter and nailed to a cross on Good Friday. He died.

But he was victorious over death and on Easter Day he rose again. He had fulfilled his purpose to heal man’s broken relationship with God.

Pause for thought: There is no getting away from the fact that life is full of ups and downs. We all need a certain amount of resilience or toughness, to be able to survive the bad times and to provide the capacity to bounce back again afterwards.

Throughout his life and particularly at the end of it, Jesus suffered more than most (see the Bible story above). Knowing that he had to face death on the cross, he nevertheless resolutely set out for Jerusalem to do his Father’s will. Along the way, he faced temptation, rejection of his ministry, threats, betrayal, mocking, insults, he was spat upon, flogged and was killed. He survived it all, even conquering death itself for our sakes.

Children today face a particularly insidious problem in the form of online pressures and bullying. This can be constant since iphones go with them everywhere and parents may not be aware of what is happening. In our competitive world, there is also the pressure to succeed in all sorts of subjects and activities set against a background of complicated family set ups.

So how can we help our children to build reservoirs of strength to draw upon? Perhaps we can ensure that they have a positive view of themselves by being generous with praise. At the baptism of Jesus, and at the start of his ministry, Jesus heard God say to him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” We need to show too that our love is not conditional upon achievement, but that they are loved for themselves.

Jesus surrounded himself with a group of close friends. We can encourage our children to join in with others, perhaps at one of our church groups, and we can welcome their friends into our homes. In such groups they can learn to share problems and support one another.

We know that Jesus often withdrew to a lonely place to pray. Again, we can build quiet times (without phones!) into our hectic lives giving our children the space to think and pray, and allowing them the chance to get things back into perspective.

Psychologists say that resilient people have a sense of purpose, making realistic plans and sticking to them. They are flexible enough to embrace change and are able to maintain a hopeful outlook despite what is going on. Here are a few family activities for Easter that might encourage resilience!

Sweet and sour recipe: Prepare an easy family meal using a ready-made sweet and sour sauce from the supermarket. Put any phones away and read the story above together. As you eat, chat about the sweet and sour aspects of Jesus’ life on earth.

What do family members find easy or difficult in their lives today? Share how you each deal with these things. Do people agree that a problem shared is a problem halved?

Ups and downs: Start playing some easy board games, such as Snakes and Ladders or Ludo, with young children to get them used to set-backs. At first, they may be upset at having to move a counter backwards on the board. But persevere and demonstrate a light-hearted attitude yourself at moving your own counter back.

The good news and the bad news: Play this game on a car journey or a long walk. One person starts a story about a character setting out to achieve a goal, but unfortunately . . . they run into a problem. The next person takes over the story, saying fortunately . . . and then provides a solution until unfortunately . . . etc. Keep the mini-story going for several minutes until the character achieves their goal and it is someone else’s turn to start a new story.

No gain without pain: It can be useful to learn to think positively about things we have to do but may not look forward to! For example, on the way to the dentist, chat about:

  • What would happen if we did not have our teeth checked
  • Modern dentistry methods as opposed to earlier ones
  • The short time in the dentist’s chair compared to the year!

Can everyone think up some positive thoughts about a cold, rainy day in the Easter holidays, an exam, a boring chore, etc!

What did we all gain from the pain Jesus suffered on Good Friday?

How do I look? Make a regular habit of complimenting children on their natural good looks, especially when they are least expecting it! “Your hair looks such a beautiful colour in the sunshine,” etc! When teenagers are getting ready for a party, you could say things like, “I know its fun to wear a bit of makeup, but with your beautiful eyes/lips/cheekbones, you really you don’t need it!” Give them confidence as they set off. “Wow! You look like a film star!”

Try to give young children the words they need to deal with run-of-the-mill hurtful comments from others. For instance, “If I were you, I’d tell him/her to go to Specsavers!” “Well, if they are going to say that sort of thing, I should think you ought to say, ‘[name], I’ve had enough of you for the moment’ and walk away.”

A home for bees and bugs: Help the mini-beasts in your garden to be resilient by making them a home. As a family activity, build a stack with various unwanted materials such as wooden pallets (good as a base), bricks (to keep the structure together), old terracotta plant pots, etc. Stuff the layers with bamboo canes, twigs, straw, moss and pinecones. Build in semi-shade and cover with something to keep the rain out, such as roof tiles. Mini-beasts will help keep pests away and also pollinate, helping your garden to be fruitful!