Formation, Family, and Faith5

When you sit down at the dinner table, can you imagine anything life-changing happening? Or is it a rush of hurry up and eat your vegetables? That’s the way it was at our house.  We have a five-year-old and a two-year-old and we know that the older they get, the harder it will be to get them around our table for even fifteen minutes. So we decided to make it a priority right now, that they wouldn’t want to live without.

Now granted – it is nowhere perfect, and some nights go better than others.  But each night, we try to let the “Faith5” model guide our dinner time.  Some families do this at bedtime, others in the car, but we found that dinner works best for us – mostly because our two-year-old son is strapped into his booster seat, and our 5-year-old daughter isn’t distracted by other things.

So we get everything on the table, strap in D, and clear H’s crafts off to one side of the table. We go around and share our highs and lows – the best parts of our day, and the worst.  Sounds simple – but this is how we learn from each other what is important to us, and how it affects us. It teaches our kids turn taking, and listening – because they will need this information later in the ritual. Our young talker is just now starting to chime in and understand – what was the best thing today D? “Doh” (Play dough).  For H it might be gym class, or special mommy time. The bad stuff? For H it was not being included in a game. For D it was “no do” (He couldn’t have his pacifier all day). For us, we don’t hide our mess with them.  My worst part of the day was someone ignoring me. For my husband, it was a co-worker gossiping.  Our best parts of our day usually are about family or friends, or getting to help someone, or perhaps each other. How precious are these things for our children to hear? We all struggle, and we all have things to celebrate and be grateful for.

Next we recite our Bible memory verse for the week.  Yep. Little kids can memorize scripture.  There are tons of kid-appropriate, and easy, verses for kids to memorize.  If we get tired of that, we go to the take-home sheet from Sunday School for ideas on faith-talk.  Then we “talk about it” or apply the verse or topic to our highs and lows – uh oh, did you pay attention? They did – H will remind me that our verse talking about patience would be helpful in dealing with people who ignored me. I can encourage my husband with the verse.  Or we can celebrate D’s love of play dough, with all of the ways God blesses us. This is both a time for encouragement, and loving challenge.

Then we each take turns adding to a prayer. We all have to say something, but it’s never a battle. The heart felt prayers of your children are priceless. We pray for our highs and lows, and those we know who are in need of grace.  Our son always prays for one family member who really needs prayer – how would he know he needs it? He’s only two right? But you’d be amazed at the transformation that is happening in that member’s life right now.  He knows and his prayers are being heard.

Lastly we say “God bless you” to each other, by name, looking each other in the eyes.

Can you imagine doing this ritual every night? How would it change your family dynamic? How would it form authentic faith in your family?

We’ve skipped nights. We went a whole week once without doing this in the past year.  They felt empty once we learned to appreciate this ritual.  Some nights end with food on the floor, and us sighing, well maybe tomorrow it will go better.  But more nights than most, my husband and I are left speechless at the table at how God is working in our family.  Give it a try!

  1. Highs and Lows
  2. Scripture
  3. Talk about it – application
  4. Prayer
  5. Bless each other.

For more support, and to read to companion book, visit www.

Pastor Carrie Antczak,   United Methodist Church of Berea


Working with Older Adults

So you’ve been asked to work with the older adults in your church or community.   Kids are fun, but who wants to work with older adults who may be older than your parents or grandparents?    Aren’t they always sick or upset with something?      There are lots you can do with kids, but what can I do with senior adults?

I started senior exercise in a former church.    You may be asking what this has to do with spiritual formation and why in a church?       We always started with sharing joys and concerns.    I used simple stretching exercises from the National Institute of Aging     We did lots of balance exercises and we walked in the sanctuary or in the halls of the church.    We closed with a lectio divina and a prayer.      Our group became a support for each other.    We checked up on folks who did not attend.  And we prayed for each other.

I’ve learned volumes from working with senior adults, but the most important lesson that I’ve learned is to listen and learn.

Rev. Linda McCowen

Retired deacon

Lenten Devotional Calendars

As we move into Lent, a great gift has been shared with us by Rev. Kathy Wadsley, a deacon friend who has served here in East Ohio with us.  She has created coloring calendars for Lent Year B that we are able to print off and use for free.  These coloring calendars are available at  Click on the link and it will take you there.   Thank You , Kathy, for the wonderful gift!

Cyber-bullying Resources

In the Resource Packet for Safe Sanctuaries provided by the conference, it is suggested in the social media section to provide training on cyber-bullying. It is stated:

“We shall not engage in, encourage or condone cyber-bullying. Every children’s ministry and youth ministry group, and adult volunteer training session is encouraged to include in its teaching a session on the types and consequences of cyber-bullying, including how to identify it and how to report it.”

Our Media Center has some good resources to help accomplish this task. I will highlight a few here, but there are several more you may want to preview.

Cyber Bully published by Landmark Media, Inc.
Cyber Bully exposes the most epic struggle in the digital age. By exploring the complicated dynamics behind cyber bullying, Cyber Bully describes the impact and outcomes of advanced technology and human nature in a lawless, new social frontier. Told through the stories of victims, bullies, and experts, Cyber Bully reaches past the headlines to describe what makes cyber bullying a threat to our national and global social fabric.

Stop Bullying with Mike Hall
Bullies bully because they feel a lack of control, most often because of what is happening to them, or around them, at home. They take frustration out on others. This is when bullying often gets physical. Or, they feel superior to others. These are the kids who use social media to bully. They may call it “making fun,” but it isn’t. There are two ways to respond that aren’t good. First, you can retreat into yourself, get lonely, depressed. Or, you can become angry, get violent, “give them what’s coming.” Make them feel as bad as you do. Don’t!!
Instead, Mike Hall teaches kids “The Four C’s”…. How to remain Calm, Get Connected, Become Confident, and Learn to Compliment the Bully. These lessons are invaluable and have changed the lives of kids!!
Mike Hall speaks to about two hundred audiences of kids each year on the topic of bullies and bullying. He is a nationally recognized expert in the field with twenty years of experience as a mentor and coach. Visit his website at

Contact Susan in the Media Center to take a look.

Discipleship Survey for Children

From the moment I first learned about Phil Maynard’s Discipleship Survey, I was excited about the possibilities this resource could mean for our congregation. During an All in Worship Sunday at my church, my pastor had planned to introduce the Discipleship Survey to our congregation and allow them time to complete the survey during worship. All in Worship Sundays at Faith UMC are special Sundays where children and youth remain in worship so that all ages can experience worship together. I didn’t want children to feel left out of this worship experience so I created a special discipleship survey just for them.

The Discipleship Survey for Young Kids encourages children to draw a picture that is representative of each area of discipleship.

The Discipleship Survey for Kids encourages older children and youth to reflect on each area of discipleship in their own way while encouraging them to be intentional about growing in their discipleship.

The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our baptismal covenant empowers us to surround our children and youth with a community of love and prayer so that they may grow in their service to others and be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life. Imagine how teaching our children to live and grow in each of these areas of discipleship will equip them at a young age with a strong and lasting foundation that they can build on throughout their lives.

I see God at work in the hearts of children in so many ways. I wonder what adults can learn about discipleship through the eyes of our children. Engaging persons of all ages in the discipleship process can only enrich our faith journey and growth as vital congregations.


Kathy Schmucker, Spiritual Formation Director at Faith United Methodist Church, North Canton, Ohio


A printable PDF version of both versions of the Discipleship Survey for Kids can be found at

Learn more about East Ohio UMC Discipleship Survey resources at

Learn more about Phil Maynard’s Membership to Discipleship resources at

Sibshop – a Great Outreach!

“Thank you so much, he had a great time! I think it is just perfect
and exactly what he needs right now!”


A quote from a recent e-mail, sent from a grateful parent of a child who attended his first Sibshop earlier this year and is a regular attendee now.  Our Green Sibshop, as well as the hundreds of Sibshops across this country and the world, provides brothers and sisters of children with special needs an opportunity to meet other siblings in a relaxed, recreational and safe setting.  Our group came into being in June of 2016, and we are pleased to share that our program grows each month as we continue to welcome new children from all over our area.

Through the generosity of Greensburg United Methodist Church, we have the use of an area of the building that is perfect for our once a month events — plenty of room for crafts, active games and lots of fun.  We currently are reaching out to kids in 3rd through 6th grade.  Our growth has been slow but steady, and at this time we are serving approximately a dozen children, with room for more, of course.  Our events are always on a Saturdays from 10:30 to 1:30, lunch is provided, and there is no charge.

These kids don’t take long to form bonds with one another, to relax, and have a good time.  We always include an opportunity for some discussion activities.  This can happen informally while making a yummy food craft (we just made applesauce at our October event) or in a planned activity designed to encourage participants to reflect on their experiences with their siblings with special needs, if they choose to.  These opportunities to share help produce a feeling among the boys and girls that they are not alone in this life experience.

Most of all, we have fun!  And that’s really what a Sibshop is all about.  For registration information, please visit or You may also call the church office at (330) 896-1936.

Halloween- Is Candy Sinful?

When I was a kid, churches loved Halloween and its parties. But it’s not quite so simple these days, with some merely ignoring the holiday, others calling it evil, and others embracing it either directly or indirectly with a “Harvest Party” approach. But as followers of Jesus and as church leaders engaged in our communities– especially when we have a hand in children’s ministries– it’s kinda hard to ignore Halloween! So what do we do with it?

Colossians 3: 17 summarizes the whole chapter that’s a great discussion on using all facets of life for ministry: “EVERYTHING you say or do, then, should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.” So is candy and the fun of Halloween sinful, or can it be used as a tool for ministry? Even if we just embrace the smiling scarecrows, pumpkins, corn stalks and corn mazes, and have the kids dress up as their favorite superheroes, perhaps we can also use the time as a Big Invitation.

Almost as dependable as death and taxes, author Kim Wier notes of Halloween: “It’s the only time of year that neighbors come knocking on our door. What a wonderful opportunity to make our home a place of hospitality.” Or, what a wonderful opportunity to reflect the joy and grace of a life in Christ for those who may never see that joy at any other time of year!
I’m not much of one for handing out religious tracts to everyone who knocks on the door. But with the abundance of church life where we can build relationships and offer Jesus in powerful ways in the weeks and months following Halloween, maybe it could be a time to hand out a smile, a warm handshake, and invitations to coming events along with the candy to those who come for a visit. Here are some links to more reflections and scripture for followers of Jesus on Halloween as you consider the season:

Dr. Jim Lewis, campus minister, Army Chaplain, author, researcher in spirituality and wellness