DIY Nativity Advent Calendar

If you’ve ever thought of making your own Advent calendar but wondered if it would be too tricky, this is the post for you! Here you can make your own Nativity-themed calendar that can hold candy, small toys, or personalized daily Advent activities.

Crossroads: Tell Me the Story

I grew up in church. For as far back as I can remember, I had Sunday school teachers telling me about Jesus and how much God loves us. My preacher knew who I was and he told me about Jesus too. My mom told me about Jesus and my grandparents told me about Jesus. I knew that I was surrounded by God’s love.

Crossroads: Signs and Wonders

A friend of mine is a Kindergarten teacher. And she became a Kindergarten teacher after God spoke to her. She saw the word “Kindergarten” in big, bold letters in her Bible one day. Afterward, she tried to find it again and couldn’t. One day, though, she was reading something in her Bible and there she saw it.

Crossroads: All Saints’ Day

It’s hard for me to believe that Sunday, October 29, makes two and a half years since my granddad died. Over the past two years, I’ve found myself remembering a lot of things about him: the way he smiled, how he smelled, and all of the memories of the things we did together.

Crossroads: God Is Our Refuge

Last week our devotion was on times when it seems like God isn’t there. This week’s psalm is a reminder to us that God is always there and that God is our refuge.

Crossroads: Where is God?

When I was a child, bad thunderstorms used to terrify me. The rain was okay, but I was very afraid of the thunder and the lightning. Thunderstorms that happened at night were always the worst. There was no way I could sleep during them.

Crossroads: Small

Has nature ever just wowed you? Have you ever felt small when looking at the ocean or the stars? Talk about a time when you felt awed by something in nature.

Connections 10.15.2017: Joy on Tuesday

We’d pack into the Children’s Department Assembly Room like sardines in a can and, if it was summertime, our skin would be about as slick. The girls wore their best dresses and frilly white socks. The boys wore their best shirts and non-frilly white socks. We were a pony-tailed, crew-cut, snaggle-toothed mess of early and prepubescent childhood.

Crossroads: That’s Not Fair!

“That’s not fair!” Growing up with a younger sister sometimes meant that I said “that’s not fair” a good bit. There were times when she got to do things much earlier than I had gotten to do them, or she got her way when I really wanted mine.

Flame: The Calling of Levi with Colored Cards

We’re always trying different ways to tell stories in visual ways, so here is what we tried in our scaled-down summer group (3-11 years old). We told the story of Jesus calling Levi (Luke 5:27-32) using colored pieces of paper to represent the characters.

Crossroads: God Always Finds a Way

Looking back and seeing God’s fingerprints in your life is a lot easier than seeing them in the moment. There are times in my life when things seemed impossible. When I was upset and hurting in the 6th grade when our church fell apart, it seemed impossible that I would ever be happy again.

Crossroads: Following God

I loved to talk when I was a kid. I talked all the time. And at school, there are times when you’re supposed to be quiet. But sometimes I couldn’t help myself and I talked to the people around me. And of course, I got in trouble. I got I’s (needs Improvement) and sometimes U’s (for Unsatisfactory) on my report card for talking.

My Will be Done

In my family of origin and true of others in the South, children are seen and not heard. To be sure, it was more instruction in role expectation than reality. The adults didn’t want to hear the children. Their voices, our voices were devalued, prejudged as needy, juvenile, playful.

Crossroads: Paying Attention

Moses could’ve easily walked on by. After all, a burning bush probably wasn’t that unusual. But when Moses looked at it, he noticed something. The bush was burning but it wasn’t burning up. So he went over and the Lord spoke to him. Moses was paying attention.

Crossroads: God’s Love Is Eternal

David’s psalm is a great reminder that God’s love never fails. God never quits on us. God sees and knows everything about us and still loves us. And when people hear what God has to say, they will sing about the glory of God. Their response will be one full of thanks.

Crossroads: Standing Up for Others

Joseph was the favorite son and it seems like he liked to tell on his brothers. So Joseph was a tattletale and the favorite, and his brothers hated him for it. They hated him so much that they plotted to kill him. But Reuben knew how much Joseph meant to his father, and so he stood up for him. Kind of.

Live the Stories: Noah’s Ark

Remind the children of how Adam and Eve made a mistake in last week’s story. That mistake caused the world to be an unhappy place where people didn’t treat God or each other the right way. Begin by asking the children if they know what an ark is. They may respond by stating that an ark is a boat or something that Noah built.

Strangers: A Meditation for Teachers

They walk, run, tumble, and drag into your room on the first day of school—complete strangers. At the beginning of the year they all seem to look alike.

Crossroads: Don’t Give Up

I love learning different languages. I took French for 7 years in high school and college and I absolutely loved it. I knew what I was doing and I was good at it. When I got to seminary, though, I had to take a semester each of Hebrew and Greek. I loved Hebrew and I was good at it.

Crossroads: What Do You Want?

As a child, I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to be famous. I can carry a tune, but I’m not a great singer. But I loved to write songs. A lot of the songs I wrote were about God. I loved to dress up and sing my songs. As I grew up, I stopped writing songs and started grading papers.

Flame: Esther’s Strengthened Heart

Esther showed great love for her people and for her uncle Mordecai, but she also showed that she had a great deal of courage in her heart. Ask the children to think about times when they have needed to show love to others or needed to be brave so they could help others.

Crossroads: The Love of God

When I was a child, I loved singing the hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.” I loved telling people about God and this hymn reflects that. As an adult, it is sometimes harder to tell others about God. I am more worried about what they will think of me or how they will react than I was when I was a child.

Crossroads: Our Bighearted God

When I was in preschool, I had a teacher named Miss June. I loved Miss June. She had a really big heart. She was very sweet. But the thing I loved most about her was that she kept me company when everyone else was taking a nap. I had to do a breathing treatment for my asthma every day after lunch.

Connections 07.02.2017: God Provides

I work for the Jay’s HOPE Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Macon, Georgia, that serves children with cancer. We give meal certificates and gas cards to families who travel for treatment, take care packages and toys to children who are stuck in the hospital, provide a fun playroom where kids can stop by after visiting the chemo clinic…

Crossroads: Roots

Today’s Scripture is all about our roots growing in God’s love. How do you feel about your life’s roots? Have they grown deep in God’s love?

Formations 06.25.2017: A Little Child Will Lead

Margaret Wise Brown transformed children’s literature by bringing new educational theories from the Bank Street School into her stories. She held that children, unlike adults whose understanding of the world made it uninteresting, experienced the world as strange and mysterious.

Crossroads: Sharing Jesus with Others

As a young teenager, I remember telling one of my best friends about Jesus while we were at a slumber party. She was having a hard time and she was crying. Her parents argued a lot and she was worried about what was going to happen. Everyone else was already asleep, and I was doing my best to make her feel better.

Flame: Creation Story Circles

I get really excited by visual ways of telling stories, so I thought I’d make some for us to use. I chose to use cork and paper as we are trying to get away from plastic, if possible!

Crossroads: Ascension

When I went away to college, I only moved to the other side of town. But even though I was still in the same town, my mother still had to leave me at Mercer. After we finished getting my stuff unpacked, there came a time when she had to go and I had to stay. She gave me a big hug and left me.

Crossroads: Never Alone

When I was in the sixth grade, I felt like I didn’t have any friends. Our church was going through a tough time and I didn’t have any friends there. And my best friends at school no longer wanted to be friends with me. I felt very alone.

Crossroads: God Is Our Fortress

There have been many times in my life when it seemed like a storm was raging around me. Sometimes it was because there were actual storms happening that came with tornadoes. In those times, I prayed for God to protect me and keep me safe. I prayed for God to calm my fears and remind me that God is always there with me.

Crossroads: Staying Connected

I have always loved wisteria. I know that it’s a parasite, but it has always been beautiful to me. One of my favorite parts of driving to my grandparents’ house as a kid was driving past the beautiful wisteria growing in a patch of trees.

Crossroads: Recognizing Jesus

Jesus tends to break into our lives in unexpected ways. Maybe for you, it’s the bully of the school doing something nice for someone else. Maybe it’s the popular kid sitting with an outcast at lunch. However it is, Jesus usually works through surprising people.

Crossroads: Don’t Be Afraid

The disciples were afraid. Jesus had been arrested and killed because of who he was. And the disciples were afraid that they, too, would be arrested and killed because they followed Jesus. So they hid, locking the doors and hoping people would forget about them.

Crossroads: Waiting

The Israelites were waiting and watching for God. They were waiting for the Messiah to come, and with him, redemption. They waited for thousands of years, waiting and watching for God to arrive. And then, all of sudden, God was among them, in the form of Jesus.

Crossroads: My Shepherd

Most of the time, I associate this well-known psalm with funerals. I don’t like to read it because it brings to mind sadness and pain. And yet, this psalm is all about peace. It is also about being treasured.

Crossroads: Awestruck

Have you ever been awestruck by something? Perhaps a sight that took your breath away? For me, those times come most often when I am standing on top of a mountain, gazing out into the distance at the creation God has formed. Depending on the season, creation is either lush and green, or alive with color, or waiting in the darkness to spring back to life.

Flame: Pipe Cleaner Intercessions

I love the versatility of pipe cleaners and children seem to feel the same! They are great for playing with and they are also great for praying with.

Crossroads: Guilty

When I was in the first grade, I couldn’t seem to keep my mouth shut. I wanted to tell everyone everything all of the time. So being asked to be quiet wasn’t easy for me. One day we had a fire drill at school and our teacher instructed us to walk quietly outside. Honestly, I tried.

Crossroads: Anger and Words

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” How many times did we say this to someone growing up? How many times have you heard it before? When I said this as a kid, it was because someone had said something hurtful and mean to me, and I said it to cover up the fact that those words did hurt.

Crossroads: This Little Light of Mine

When we accept Jesus, we become a light for God. Our lives change because of Jesus. When we listen to God, we are kinder to others and we show them how much God loves them. In this way, we are a light. It’s kind of like we’re all walking around with candles.

Crossroads: I Am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I didn’t always feel pretty as a teenager. I went through the usual gawky teen phase, with braces and acne and glasses. There were times when I wished that I looked like someone else.

Crossroads: Fishers of People

Has anyone ever said to you, “Stop what you’re doing and follow me?” That’s not quite how I became a children’s minister, but it’s close. From the time I was a young teen, I knew that I wanted to be an accountant. I was good with numbers, and people who like numbers tend to be accountants.

Flame: God Protects Me

This activity, based on Psalm 139, comes in two parts—a game and a craft—and is best for children between ages five and eight.

Crossroads: God Hears Us

I had a tough year when I was in the sixth grade. One of the hardest parts, though, was not having any close friends at school. I prayed and I prayed for God to help me. And God heard my prayers.

Crossroads: The Lighthouse to the Nations

My mother loves lighthouses. She loves to collect them and she loves to visit them. So when I was growing up, every time we went to the beach, we tried to find a lighthouse.

Crossroads: The Majesty of God

Talk about where you see/feel the majesty of God. Maybe for you it’s when you’re staring at the ocean and you realize how amazing God is. Or maybe it’s looking out over the mountains. Or perhaps you felt the majesty of God when your children were born. Or maybe it’s when you look up at the skies and see all of the stars.

Crossroads: The Christ Candle

Merry Christmas! In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we have explored what each group was waiting for. Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus and, as we celebrate, we remember that Jesus waited for just the right time to enter the world.