Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Childrens Sabbath

I was given this poster by a friend I met in Australia.

“Anonymous” asked about Children’s Sabbath in the comments for October 14th.  That is a good question.  I’m replying here rather than in the comments for that day both in the hope that more people will be alerted to this rich possibility and also to give everyone some lead time to plan and think ahead.  It is still possible to at least add a Children’s Sabbath stream to worship in mid-October, even to plan a day built around those issues.

Children’s Sabbath is a weekend when worship gatherings focused on the needs of all of the nation's children are encouraged in all faith traditions by The Children’s Defense Fund, a nationally based American non-profit whose goal is “to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start on life.” The Children’s Sabbath is generally held the third full weekend in October, but congregations are free to celebrate it when it fits their schedule.  For that reason many in the United Methodist denomination hold Children’s Sabbath’s on the second weekend of the month.

This is not like a “children’s Sunday” in which the children of a congregation take leadership in planning and leading worship in order to learn more about worship and for the congregation to give them attention.  Instead this Sunday is focused on the justice needs of children of the whole world. 

The children of the congregation may be involved in two ways:
1.      By their presence, they remind the rest of the congregation of all the children of the world.
2.     They are taught to be aware of the needs of other children, both those they encounter every day and those around the world they see on television.

There are lots of ways to pursue these goals:
1.     Include children in the visible leadership of worship on this day.  (This is probably not a day for the children to shape the content of or write parts of worship.)  Older children can read a scripture reading.  A children’s class or choir can sing a song.  Children can serve with adults as ushers and greeters.  Children can serve as acolytes. 

2.     Children can draw pictures that can be turned into bulletin covers and/or banners or projected art.  They might be asked to illustrate the Biblical texts or the hymns for the day.  Or, if they have been exploring the needs of some children, they could draw pictures of children in those situations.

3.     Tell the stories of groups in your congregation who are working on behalf of children.  Honor specific people describing what they do for children in need.
4.      Have a collection of something for children with a specific need, e.g. new underwear for children at the homeless shelter (call it “Undie Sunday”), stuffed animals to be given children as they are taken into foster care.  Explain to children and their families in advance what is needed and why it is needed.  Encourage children and parents to shop together for their contribution.

That is a starter list.  Go to National Observance of Children's Sabbath Manual  for 200 on-line pages of very specific ideas and prepared parts of worship for services of many faiths worshiping separately and for multi-faith community services. 

Anonymous, this is more than you asked for.  I suspect you already know all about the Children’s Sabbath and are mainly interested in ways to tie this Sunday to the lectionary texts for that day.  I will think about that as I work on the texts for October 21 later this week.  But you mentioned Oct 13 rather than the 21st- a Methodist perhaps???  So, I took a brief look at the texts already posted for October 13th. 

      1. There are unfortunately lots of very young children who live the life of Job.  Below are some story books that explore their worlds.  Any of these stories could be read or retold in worship.   All are available on and were available at my public library.

A Shelter in Our Car, by Monica Gunning
A little girl and her mother cope with living in their car
Changing Places: A Kids’ View of Shelter Living, Margie Chalofsky
A collection of brief statements from children living in shelters
Fly Away Home, Eve Bunting
Description of life of a father and son living in a large airport
Someplace to Go, Maria Testa
The daily after-school schedule of a older boy who lives at a shelter
2. Saint Nicholas, by Ann Tompert, which I cite as a way of talking about use of money in the gospel, is a good fit to Children’s Sabbath since Nicholas uses his wealth to care for poor children.  

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