Children’s Spirituality

4 Gratitude Practices for Families for Thanksgiving Week (or Any Time!)

As my congregation surely knows, I believe, strongly in the benefits of gratitude and thankfulness. Research supports gratitude’s positive effects on the body, mind, and spirit, and gratitude is something that continues to be studied with lots of funding and fervor.

I keep a gratitude journal, my husband and I list things we’re thankful for on a weekly basis, and we’re working with our children to incorporate gratitude in to our daily lives. Here are some very simple things that your family might try:

gratitudetree1. Gratitude tree… There is a variation of this in Seamless Faith, but the concept is very simple: write things that you’re thankful for and stick them on branches or on a tree outside. I have a very inexpensive printable for this that you can download and  use. Easy peasy and makes a beautiful centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.

2. Gratitude Chain – Write things you are thankful for on strips of paper and make a paper chain.

3. Gratitude Tower – Use Duplo blocks or any other building blocks and make a tower of gratitude, each thing that you’re thankful for can be one block.

4. Simple Prayers of Gratitude – THIS source has 22 great Thanksgiving quotes and prayers from a variety of places. It’s in an annoying “slideshow” format (which I don’t like at all) but the content is very good.

I also curate a Seamless Faith Gratitude Board on Pinterest that you might be interested in checking out! Good ideas, and all of the links have been checked to make sure they are not spam and contain the actual content they say they do!

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Let us Give Thanks!

Introducing: Seamless Faith Videos! #SeamlessFaith #KidMin #Fammin #cmconnect #stumin

So… I’m going to start doing a few videos about some of the practices in Seamless Faith. Most will be about individual faith practices, but some will tackle other topics about faith and family. Planning for future videos to be 3-5 minutes long, but some might be longer or shorter. It’s sort of an experiment! The first video is one I made a few weeks ago, and it’s for Children’s Ministry Leaders and Pastors. It’s a 15 minute “how to” for creating a workshop. If you download the planning guide and watch the video, you should be ready to present a 90 minute workshop with about 90 minutes preparation time. Watch the video, fill out the guide, and voila! In my experience, these workshops are rich times of discussion with families and yield productive conversations without a lot of effort.

 

You probably need at least one copy of Seamless Faith, but if you’re hesitant about whether or not it’s a good resource for your congregation, the Kindle version is $1.99 until the end of September, so grab it on the quick and check it out.

The next video I’ll post is a very simple nighttime practice for preschoolers! Look for it next week!

Family Paschal Candle: Celebrating Easter as a Season, Not Just One Day #seamlessfaith

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This morning 3 year old Clayton said, “Today is Easter Day again! It’s Jesus Day Again!” If I were to guess, he was referring to the joy of yesterday and wanting to repeat it. Butterflies. Candy. Egg hunt. Friends.

I can’t help but reflect on how profound that statement is, theologically. Easter is not just one day, it is a season. Resurrection, in the Christian year is celebrated from Easter day all the way to the day of Pentecost (this year on May 17.) Next year, I think I’ll make a resurrection calendar with activities for each day, but here’s a very simple idea: a Family Paschal Candle.

Family Paschal Candle Tradition:

Designed for All Ages

Time Investment: 15 minutes to make the candle + 1 minute each evening from Easter to Pentecost

Materials:

How To

  1. Place the candle in a jar or bowl and explain to the family that the candle is a special Easter (or Paschal) candle and that it will represent Jesus’ resurrection from Easter day all the way until Pentecost (the day that the Holy Spirit comes to us.)
  2. Every night at dinner, place the Paschal candle in the center of the table and light it saying these words “We light the Easter candle today because we remember that Easter is not just a day, it’s a whole season. Happy Easter!
  3. Continue the practice until the Day of Pentecost, May 24 (don’t worry, there are plenty of Pentecost practices for that day — stay tuned!)

Notes

  • Read more about the history of the paschal candle here, if you are interested.
  • I was inspired to adapt the Paschal candle activity to families from this article. 

Variations 

  • Light the candle in the morning, at breakfast or at bedtime (any time that there is consistent connection with your family)
  • Use a battery operated candle for toddler/baby houses
  • Write your own words to say

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Like this activity? There are 50 more traditions, ceremonies and spiritual practices in my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Life. You can also connect  on Facebook and Pinterest where I link to other resources for family faith and spirituality.

Emergency Children’s Sermons – Volume II

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I think children’s messages are best when they are very, very simple. Rather than a sermon or an object lesson, I think it’s a great moment for children to connect with their pastor or children’s leaders, and practice faith together. Here are five “emergency” (read: last minute. It happens. I know) sermons that you might try. They are stripped down and super simple. At first glance you might think they are too simple. I assure you they are not. The most basic moments can sometimes be the most powerful.

1. Teacup Prayer: This takes very little preparation. Watch the YouTube video HERE a couple of times and learn it. When children come forward, talk about how a lot of times we think the way to pray is with our hands folded and eyes closed, but we can also learn to pray with our whole bodies. Ask the entire congregation to join with you on this one.

2. Tower of Gratitude: Requires some sort of blocks ( blocks, wooden blocks, I like the big cardboard blocks) – Talk about the importance of gratitude and being thankful. Invite each child to put a block on the tower and say one thing that he or she is thankful for (either aloud or silently in his or her heart.)

3. Bubble Prayers: Requires a bottle of bubbles. Tell everyone that when you blow bubble prayers, you breathe in the breath of your prayer (a request, or a thanksgiving or a confession) and then breathe out into the bubbles as a visible sign that God hears our prayers. Let everyone have an opportunity to blow bubbles and watch their prayers being released.

4. Teach a Bible Verse with Hand Motions: Just like the teacup prayer, this takes a few times of practicing and memorizing for the pastor or leader and then simply teach it to the children (and entire congregation!) during the children’s message. Love this example from Deuteronomy 6:5 

5. Read a Psalm line by line and have children repeat each line: 

Try Psalm 100 or Psalm 148 (both in the easy to read version)

Did you enjoy these easy children’s moment ideas? Check out volume 1 here.

The Confirmation Project: Guest Post by Katie Douglass, Co Director of the Confirmation Project

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Traci’s Note: One of the things that always seems strange to me in the protestant tradition is that of confirmation. If done right, I think confirmation can be a rich time where young people grow to understand their faith and their role in it. Many times, though, students report confirmation as a time where they are asked to “jump through hoops,” or are “kicked out of the church.”  It makes me sad and angry to hear stories of young people who are experiencing a normal part of faith development — questioning — and are then made to feel unwelcome in the church. I don’t believe the church should get rid of confirmation, but I do think it needs some serious evaluation and discussion.

Enter the confirmation project. The confirmation project, co directed by Katie Douglass and Richard Osmer is an academic study of confirmation. I can’t tell you what they’ve found yet because, well, they’re still finding it. Read a little from Katie below and if you are interested in participating in the survey, please get in touch with them via http://www.theconfirmationproject.com  I’ll keep you posted on their findings. This research is important to how we pass on faith to our kids!  

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Katherine M. Douglass, Co-director of The Confirmation Project

Princeton Theological Seminary

December 2, 2014

Thanks for inviting me to share a guest blog post on your website Traci. Like you, I want to help parents and ministry leaders encourage growth in the faith of youth and their families. Confirmation is one of those traditional practices in the church that is meant to do just that. I currently co-direct a research project called The Confirmation Project with Richard Osmer that is aimed at discovering how congregations practice confirmation and equivalent practices. We are interested to discover how participation in confirmation intensifies faith in youth and integrates them into the body of Christ, the church.

For this project we are only studying five mainline Protestant congregations that practice infant baptism: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Methodist Church. Through the survey and site visits we hope to hear from youth, parents, volunteers, mentors, and ministry leaders.

Every church in these five denominations is invited to participate. If your church has not received an email invitation, you can request one through the “Contact Us” link at our website. http://www.theconfirmationproject.com

The survey takes 15-20 minutes to complete and asks questions about what people believe, their involvement in the church, their interest in various topics, and what they think the point of confirmation is. The parent and leader survey ask many similar questions and, in a more detailed way, about how confirmation is conducted.

Some confirmation programs happen all year and some happen in the spring. Because of this we are keeping the survey open for almost all of the year (fall 2014-spring 2015). The goal is to have youth, parents, and ministry leaders take the survey at the beginning and at the end of confirmation. We are interested in seeing how participating in confirmation brings about spiritual formation in youth.

This study was inspired by a research project happening in Europe. In some European countries, like Finland, confirmation was something almost everyone participated in (over 80 percent of youth!), however, it did not result in high levels of congregational participation (only 2-3 percent of Finns attend church weekly.) In other countries, like Austria, only 10 percent of youth participate in confirmation, however, those who do are much more likely to be regular members of congregations. This study also showed that confirmation gives youth the opportunity to volunteers in ways that are otherwise inaccessible to them. Their study was very well received and as a result they have been awarded further funding to conduct two more waves of the study.

From talking with ministers and pastors early in our research we are interested in knowing if there is agreement between parents, youth, and ministers as to what “confirmation” actually is. If what we heard from the ministers is correct, there is quite a big disparity between what people think this practice is.

We also believe that we will see a higher correlation between participating in confirmation and being an active church-goer. In the US, congregations seem to have higher levels of retention than in Europe anyway, however, we have a hunch that “believing” and “belonging” will go together (i.e. when youth are convicted about their beliefs, they will be more likely to see these beliefs as part of their identity as a Christian, to belong to a church).

Our goal for this project is to help ministers grow in their awareness of what this practice can or could look like. Many ministers we have talked with feel like they are at a loss as to what they are supposed to be doing.  Many, although not all, feel frustrated that despite their efforts to help youth “confirm” their faith, they are seeing this function as the final graduation for youth out of the church. Some have seen great fruit from their confirmation ministry – and through our site visits, we plan to share these stories. I am hopeful that through our research, we will be able to help those frustrated ministry leaders have the resources they need to change confirmation into a practice that integrates youth into the body of Christ and intensifies their faith.

5 Simple Spiritual Practices for Advent (for individuals or families)

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More and more, advent feels like lent to me: a time of darkness and waiting and preparation. The older I get, the less I am attracted to the hyperactive frenzy that our culture tries to impose on us during advent and Christmas. I’m starting to relish advent as a time to snuggle in, sit in the darkness and gaze at flickering lights. Though it doesn’t seem to be the image on TV, I think advent can be a time of shadows, of yearning, and of waiting. Here are 5 spiritual practices you might want to do this advent either by yourself or with your family or community. Give them a try!

1. Word a day creative challenge. (Photo challenge, art challenge, journal challenge). This one is easy. For each day in December (from the 1st to the 25th) meditate on a word and what God might be telling you through that word. Take a photo to represent it, paint or draw or create something. Do it together as a family, a community, or on your own. My congregation is doing this as a photo challenge this year and posting their photos online. I think I might do some paintings this year, too. Make up your own words, or use these:

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2. Gratitude paper chain – Make a paper chain throughout advent (use blue or purple pieces of paper for a liturgical connection or use the traditional green and red). Each day write one thing you are thankful for and put it on your chain. On Christmas morning, put the chain on your Christmas tree or hang it in your home.

3. Advent Poetry/Devotional Reading – Find a book of advent poems or readings and read one each evening in the darkness or in the early morning. Suggestions: Luci Shaw, Accompanied by Angels or the Anglican resource Love Came Down or Chalice Press’ lovely (and inexpensive!) Partners in Prayer. It’s not too late for any of these! They’re all available in e-formats, or get them by mail and just wait a few days to start.

4. Color Your Way Through Advent – Coloring pages. Coloring is not just for kids, you know. Check out these fantastic daily coloring pages produced by Ann Voskamp, author of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

5. Adopt an Advent “Fast” – We usually think of fasting as something that happens during lent. We “give up” something sometimes as a sacrifice or a symbol of repentance and returning to God. In the frenetic “more more more” of our culture during this season, it’s a great idea for people of faith to adopt a “less, less, less” approach. Fast from buying (what would that look like?) or fast from busyness. Perhaps you are able to give up one weekly (or daily) meeting during advent in order to listen to God’s voice and prepare for Christ to be born anew.

Happy Advent!

Like these? Check out my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life which has ceremonies and traditions for families in addition to a variety of spiritual practices. Available at Chalice Press or Amazon.

7 Reasons Family Dinner is Worth Fighting for & Resources to Make it Happen

family dinner

Last week there was an article posted on Slate called “Let’s Stop Idolizing The Home Cooked Family Dinner.” The basic premise of the article is this: a research study published by two sociologists from North Carolina State University points to evidence that the stress of putting together family meals is not worth the tradeoff and that we (as a culture) should stop idolizing/perpetuating the “stereotype” that family meals are necessary and important. How can I put this delicately? I call bull poo-poo on this article. Let me be clear — the challenges to making family dinners happen are real. The stress for women to “do it all” is unimaginable but the way to deal with these stresses is absolutely not to do away with family dinners, in my opinion. Family mealtimes are beneficial to children and families on just about every indicator available. See research here, here, and here,  — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I don’t have a research study, but I do have lots of stories from people who eat dinner together, as well as the experience of the family in which I was raised and the growing family I’m shepherding with my partner in crime, Elias. Here are seven reasons I think family dinner is worth fighting for.

1. It forces a disciplined schedule – If we can’t find an hour (more like 40 minutes, start to finish) to sit down together on a regular basis, something is off. We’re over scheduled and we have to fix it. Sure there are days when we can’t all do it –of course there are. I know that as my kids get older and sports and school activities and lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) creep into the schedule, it’ll be even harder to find that time to get everyone together. All the more reason to make it happen.  It’s hard, hard work, and I see families having to guard their calendars like ninjas to make it happen, but they do.

2. It’s a time for connection and conversation – Let me tell you, dinner conversation in our house is pretty dull right now, especially if Elias or I is absent from the table and it’s just one of us with the boys. “Hey, boys, what else starts with the letter ‘A?” Then there’s the ever popular “What are you going to do tomorrow?” conversation with a 2 and 3 year old. Enthralling. Except not really. I look forward to days when our conversations will be more complex and I really really cherish memories of my family conversations at the dinner table when I was growing up, though I am pretty sure I didn’t really value them at the time.

3. It’s a great time to pass on faith and values to children – Of the 50 family faith practices in my book, five of them can be practiced right a the dinner table, and a good many more (if not all) can be talked about at the dinner table. That doesn’t even include blessings over the meal, reading sacred stories after dinner is over or other traditional faith practices. Even families who don’t identify with a particular faith tradition can appreciate that the dinner table offers a moment for reflection about the day and about the choices that day had to offer.

4. It provides structure – Not just for kids — for everyone. We need routines, all of us, because this world is hard.

5. It forces us to look our family members in the face – I heard this great interview of poet Marie Howe awhile ago. She was talking about how the number one face she peered into over the course of a day was the face of her phone. This is true of so many of us. Screens, phones, computers, iPads. We need a consistent time, every day, (or as many as we can manage) where we put our screens away and look our family members in the face.

6. It’s the time for individual families to do their own thaaaang. What is your family about? Are you silly? Do you tell jokes? Do you sing together? Do you have a crazy game? Family dinner is when you can practice it/do it/celebrate it/live it. Family dinner is where cultures and traditions can be explored and celebrated, too. Do it your way.

If you’re still with me, I’m guessing you either already have a practice of family dinner or you’re thinking about beefing it up or starting it. I want to share as many resources as I can so that it might be successful. As I mentioned, my family is young, so I’m going to be pointing to some resources from others as well as what’s been working for my family so far.

1. Lower your expectations – The article I referenced at the very beginning is valuable for this warning — parents (and especially women) are so pressured to do too much, be too much, do it all, be perfect. Scrambled eggs and tortillas is a legitimate menu in our household. Ditto fried egg sandwiches, Mac & Cheese from the box, bean and cheese tostadas and pancakes. Sometimes I make fancy food (that the boys usually like less than the aforementioned options) many times we eat very simple, very inexpensive food.

2. Make a Plan – I’m not a fan of planning and lists, but I work hard on this for family meals because if I didn’t, it would come completely unglued. I think it’s probably of very little value to share my system because I would imagine that everyone would need their own system that works for them, but for what it’s worth, here’s what I do:

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– On the inside of my cabinet I have a running list of literally every possible thing we could have for dinner. (Read: things I know how to cook that we all like to eat.) It’s divided up into categories: chicken, meat, eggs, soups, grains, and other.

– Once every week or 10 days – sometimes as many as two weeks, I go through and pick one (or two) things from the list that I am going to make based on how busy the weeks is, what’s on sale, what we feel like and what we haven’t eaten in a long time.

– Off the plan of what we’re going to eat, I make a list based on what we have in the house.

I put the plan of what we’re going to eat on a piece of paper on the side of the fridge (now a fancy whiteboard — ooooh! Fancy!)

I cross off the meals as we eat them. I used to plan what we would eat on which day (Monday: Meatloaf, Tuesday, Pancakes, etc.) I stopped doing that because sometimes I would have planned something complicated on a day I was exhausted and sometimes we had so many leftovers in the fridge I wanted to have a “leftovers” night. I know lots of people who do plan what they have for the specific days, though. I used to save the papers with the weekly plans so I could repeat them, but  that morphed into the master list of all the meal options.

– Another handy thing that I do is post all of the things that we eat all the time on the inside of a different cabinet so I’m not forever checking recipes on the internet or in books. I just folded a paper into eight so there are eight little squares and each time I looked up something I had looked up a million times I wrote it down. Over time the paper grew into another and it’s really handy. One of these days I’m going to type it out all pretty and fancy like. Today is not that day.

There are many, many, systems apps and ideas for other ways to do family dinners, I couldn’t even begin to list them all. A few resources that are worth it, I think:

Once a month meals – I love this in concept – I don’t have the ability or brain capacity to make it happen. Our meals are also way simpler than the meals on this site.

Dinner: A Love Story – Great Blog, Haven’t read the book, but it’s on my to read list.

The Family Dinner – This book was inspiring. The only critique I have of it was that it seemed to prescriptive and limiting in the way it thought that family meals have to be done. I think each family needs to find their own way and have their own rules and systems. What worked for the author wouldn’t necessarily work in my family. Still, I agree with the general premise.

Of course Seamless Faith has loads of ideas and a general philosophy that gels with everything I’m talking about here. One of the practices is “The Sacred Meal”. Sign up if you haven’t already! 

What’s your favorite memory of a family meal, either from long ago, or recently?

 

 

 

 

 

Do Little Girls and Little Boys Need Different Bibles?

One of the things that I’m keenly aware of as a recently published author on spiritual practices for families is how I’m now part of the world of Christian marketing. As I’ve written about before, I believe only people can be described as Christian. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “Christian music” or “Christian books” or “Christian art.” There’s only music, books and art by and for Christian people. As much as marketers try and label everything from breath mints to financial services as “Christian,” what they’re trying to do is get Christian people to buy their products which may or may not be any better or different than products by so called “secular” retailers.

My desire to write and publish Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life was born out of a desire that I think most Christian parents share: to connect with our children, pass on our values and provide meaningful ways to practice our faith together. Since its release, I’ve been interested in other books and products that I might be able to recommend to readers of Seamless Faith. I perked up whenever I find a new book, CD or game aimed at helping families practice their faith together. Enter the Little Girls Bible Storybook for Mothers and Daughters and the Little Boys Bible Storybook for Mothers and Sons:

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Suffice it to say, I have a few concerns about these products, but I’ll focus on the two most troubling:

First, in a world where every single product marketed to children is gender specific, it makes me cringe to see a Bible storybook following this trend. In the introduction to the Little Boys Bible Storybook, the author even explains that raising boys and girls are different and that the little boys storybook is more “rough and tumble” than the little girls Bible. I think this is extremely problematic thinking. While my boys may or may not be more active than their girl classmates and friends, the faith that I want to share with them is a faith where gentleness and kindness are of utmost importance. Similarly, I want the girls I minister to (I don’t have daughters) to know that they are free to be strong like Queen Esther and trailblazers like the Daughters of Zelophehad. Incidentally, the story about Queen Esther in the Little Girls Storybook Bible is “Esther Wins a Beauty Contest.” This fact made me simultaneously laugh out loud and and want to cry. What is the message we want to send our little girls?

The second problem I have with the Little Girls and Little Boys Storybook Bible is that both products are marketed to mothers only. Though I’m certain the authors would agree that fathers, grandparents, stepparents and other family members have an important role in sharing faith, the fact that the title of the work is “for mothers and sons” and “for mothers and daughters” implies that it’s the mother’s job to pass on these stories. I much prefer a model whereby the whole family is involved in sharing faith together, and I know many families do too.

For those looking for a great storybook bible for boys and girls, moms and dads (and everyone in between) I recommend

The Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu.

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What do you think? Does the Little Girls Storybook Bible for Mothers and Daughters and the Little Boys Storybook Bible for Mothers and Sons serve a purpose, or are there some real problems here that need to be addressed? 

 

 

 

Traci Smith is author of Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life which was published earlier this year by Chalice Press. You can sign up for her monthly email newsletter with practical faith tips for families here

Birthday Blessing: A Simple Tradition

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I can’t believe my little guys are two and three already! It really is true that the days are long and the years are short. In the book, I have a birthday tradition that is fabulous and it allows children to think about others on their birthday. This birthday blessing idea, though, is one of the things that ended up on the edit reel. Maybe I’ll but something like it if I do a second book, but I wanted to share it here in honor of Clayton and Sam’s second and third birthdays, respectively. It’s really simple. Just choose a time of the day and say this blessing (or your own variation) to your child. I think as the children grow older, we’ll tell them the remarkable stories of their births and then conclude with this blessing. It’s a simple way to remind your children how important they are and acknowledge the gifts God has given.

A Birthday Blessing 

________, Today you turned __ years old. I give thanks to God for another year of life and give you this blessing: May you always know that your mama and your papa love you. May you always know that your friends and family love you. May you always know that God and Jesus and the Spirit love you. This year, may you have peace in your heart, rest in your mind, and health in your body. May you have these things not only today, your birthday, but every day of your life. Amen.

 

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A Mary Carol: A Delightful Christmas Pageant by Katherine Willis Pershey

Mary and Joseph Ride to the Templesharefaith

I’m delighted to be reviewing Katherine Willis Pershey’s new Christmas Pageant A Mary Carol written for small to medium sized congregations. I’ll get to all of the reasons I love this pageant, but first, a little about the author.

Katherine Willis is Associate Minister of First Congregational Church of Western Springs, IL (A few train stops over from where I grew up!) She is also author of Any Day A Beautiful Change: A Memoir of Faith and Family, published by Chalice Press in 2012. She writes beautifully and from the heart. Check out the book or her blog!

Ok, on to A Mary Carol. So much to love about this Christmas pageant.  Before we get to the gushing, let me just say: I received a copy of this script for free so I could give my honest review. No other compensation was received for writing this post. I say this 1., because of the FCC, but 2. Because the gushing is going to make it sound like I was bribed or paid or something… it’s really just that great. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. Here are five reasons I love it:

1. It’s written to be played by adults, youth or both. Rare, in my experience, is the Christmas pageant that is interesting enough for adults to enjoy and simple enough for children to present. To me this is the hugest selling point of A Mary Carol. If my congregation were presenting this, I’d absolutely advise it be done as an intergenerational play. How great would it be to get the adults and children together in presenting this story?

2. It’s not fussy – Seriously, don’t we all have enough to do at Advent without hunting down a zillion props or harassing our congregation members to sew special costumes? The cast of characters is traditional (more on that in a minute) so most churches will have the costumes lying around. There are a few props, but nothing that can’t come together in a couple of emails and a phone call. Done.

3. Refreshing, but traditional – This is another balance that is hard to achieve, in my opinion. We want the basic story to be told in Christmas pageants, but we want to present this really familiar story in refreshing and new ways. It’s hard to make something new without it turning corny or far removed from the original story. This pageant isn’t at all corny or far removed. The storyline focuses on the the night of the Annunciation, and Mary has the opportunity to learn about who Jesus is from the past (oh! Isaiah is a character in this script. What?! It’s awesome.) the present and future.

4. It’s funny – Not *groan* funny a lighthearted “I love this!” funny.

5. It’s a good value. Ten dollars and you can make as many copies as you need for your congregation. Seriously? Ten bucks. You can get it here.

Thank you, Katherine, for allowing me to review your lovely work. It is truly a gift to churches who are looking for something “just right” for their church this Christmas.

(Oh, if you’re wondering why I’m reviewing a Christmas Pageant in June, it’s because, well, summertime is when many of us start planning this stuff. It’s true!)