July 16, 2019

Belonging with Purpose: VBS: To Mars and Beyond!

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

This Bible verse is what drove our VBS program forward this year. The idea that God’s love and power is limitless and is constantly at work within each of us is the point we tried to make clear to the children who participated in the St. Stephen’s 2019 VBS week. Through songs, games, crafts and conversation the children were reminded that we are Jesus’ hands and feet on earth – our kindness, helpfulness and compassion are what reflects our love for God out into the world. When most children think of summer they think of the beach, ice cream, playgrounds, and barbeques. For the children attending our VBS program (who visited from far and wide) we hope that summer also has come to mean Vacation Bible School. Each summer the theme changes, but the message remains the same. This year the theme was To Mars and Beyond – a fitting theme as we asked the kids to “Explore where God’s Power Can Take You!” During our week together, we celebrated God’s love in a way that is fun, loud and many times messy! The children practiced songs that they would later perform for friends and family at the end of the week, they glued, colored and painted crafts to remind them of God’s love, they played games that encouraged them to work together and make fun memories, and they watched videos that told stories of other children who needed God’s love at different times in their lives. By the end of the week, with the songs we learned forever fixed in our heads and the crafts tucked safely in bags to be brought home, the children were smiling so brightly as they came away with a new found understanding of how God’s love knows no bounds!

Sara Armstrong

Please join our VBS Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/StStephensVBS/) for updates, photos and videos from past VBS weeks. Thank you to the parishioners at St. Stephen’s, our wonderful VBS volunteers and parents for all your love and support!

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May 30, 2018

Discovering Faith

If I could help families speak to their children about God in a kid-friendly, age-appropriate way, then maybe they wouldn’t have to try so hard to understand on their own.

Discovering Faith by Sara Armstrong

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

Growing up, I would go to church every Sunday with my mother. I’d sit in my seat and feel completely uncomfortable and out of place. The words during the service just didn’t make sense to me. They seemed to be a completely different language – in my defense, some of the service was in Latin, so it wasn’t just me. I could never wrap my little brain around the point of it all. Why did we go to church? I knew it was to worship God and to pray to God and to show our love and to ask for forgiveness from sins. That’s what my mother had told me. All I really knew for myself was that we were expected to go to church because it’s just what we did. For a long time, that was good enough for me.

When I had my two beautiful children, I remembered my own experience as a child. How confusing and frustrating it was to be brought to church each week and not get it. To go to church only to spend my time there, not mindfully growing in God, but counting the seconds until Coffee Hour and snacks. I was determined to make the experience different for my children. Before church each week, I’d read to them from a Children’s Bible. I’d lay out the stories in a way they could understand. I’d explain the different parts of the service, answer their questions as best I could and listen to their thoughts and ideas about the different topics – I always think of my daughter (who was 5 at the time) confidently stating, “If Jesus were a food I don’t think he’d be bread, I think he’d be cupcakes. Everybody loves cupcakes!”

When I began coordinating the Children’s Ministry at St. Stephen’s, I had one goal in mind. If I could help families speak to their children about God in a kid-friendly, age-appropriate way, then maybe they wouldn’t have to try so hard to understand on their own. Maybe these children would want to learn and would want to be a part of everything. Maybe, somehow, I could help make church a meaningful experience for even the smallest of our parishioners.

Earlier this year, a wonderful coincidence happened. A lesson appeared in our syllabus at Church School about Baptism. It just happened that on the same day we were to learn about Baptism, there was to be an actual, real-life Baptism at church! I felt like God was saying, “Teach the children, and then show the children.” As a large group, the children first learned about why we get Baptized and how it means you are becoming a part of God’s family. We also talked about how you are also becoming a part of the Church family. We talked about how each of us has an important job to do. We need to love and support everyone in our church. We then went through a pretend Baptism. The children got to pour water over the head of a baby doll and say a prayer. We talked about the significance of each moment of what was happening. We then walked over to church and the children gathered in the hallway next to the altar. They peeked around and watched quietly while a new baby was welcomed into our Church family. My heart was completely full as they all smiled and looked at each other knowingly as the service continued.

If there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that I will always do my best to make sure our children are given the tools they need, in the way that they need them, to grow in their relationship with God and to know how loved and supported they are at St. Stephen’s.

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