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Fall and Winter Church Year Celebrations at Home

Holy Week of 2020 was … different. It came at the end of a Lenten season that seemed about five years long, thanks to the chaotic and ever-changing coronavirus pandemic. By the time Holy Week rolled around, my family had been in quarantine for a month, and there was no end in sight. My husband, a pastor, had been working nonstop during that month, trying to keep the congregation connected to worship and learning opportunities. But Holy Week was going to be an entirely different kind of challenge.

How could he and the rest of the ministry team help congregation members learn and grow in faith if they weren’t going to be together during the holiest of weeks? Usually, we’d gather together for worship and other special events on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, and then Easter Sunday’s festival celebration. This year, we were all sequestered at home, scattered and isolated.

Teaching the Twelve Apostles: Thaddaeus

Compared to others like Peter or Judas, we read little of this apostle. Therefore, this month I’ll present Thaddaeus related to his context. There is much we can learn from the events that took place where Thaddaeus was present.

God’s Plan and Purpose for Youth

There is an existential crisis among our youth. That is not to say that such a crisis is sudden, or even new, to this young generation. In many ways, this crisis is at the root of the many challenges and fears facing our country today. Beyond the political and cultural crises—even deeper than the genetic code of the coronavirus—there is a deep yearning to have a purpose in a world that seems to suggest there is none. The world might suggest such a reality, but nothing is further from the truth. Paul says that God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing … even as He chose us in Him before the foundation” of the cosmos to be “holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:3–4).

Ways to Support Church Families without Using Zoom

Many areas around the United States are cautiously reopening following months of city- and state-mandated quarantines during the coronavirus outbreak. Congregations, their pastors, and church workers are struggling to find the right balance between enthusiastically welcoming people back to in-person worship and education programs, providing programs that adhere to local health requirements and ordinances, and offering ongoing support for individuals and families who simply can’t return in-person just yet. It’s a tough balancing act, and much patience and grace are needed as we figure out what things like Sunday School and confirmation and youth group continue to look like during a pandemic.

Spiritual Care for Students Delaying Dreams

How long is your list of cancellations this year? Each month of 2020 seems to try to bring back one thing we lost and also takes away something many of us were looking forward to. A majority of my day is spent helping high school students who are transitioning to college. One of the most disappointing pieces of news that I have to deliver over and over again is telling a student that he or she waited too long to take advantage of an opportunity. Yes, deadlines are clearly stated, but additionally, some things “run out” if you do not jump on them quickly enough. In my job, this happens most often when classes fill up, when dorms reach capacity, or when scholarship money is used up. As if these missed opportunities were not difficult enough, many students in 2020 are also encountering cancellations from the world as well—through no direct fault of their own. We struggle in this together.

Teaching the Twelve Apostles: Bartholomew

There is relatively little we know for certain regarding Bartholomew, other than his inclusion with the list of the twelve disciples. His name is the combination of two Hebrew words, “bar(son)” and “Talmai.” As it was common for sons to carry their father’s name, it's likely his father’s name was Talmai. “Bar” is part of other Biblical names. Examples include, Barabbas (son of the father), Barnabas (son of encouragement) and Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus).

There is some thought that Bartholomew is also Nathanael, who is mentioned in the Gospel of John. This is good reason to assume this. In the first three Gospels, what are called the synoptic Gospels, Bartholomew is listed closely with Philip. As you will read below, Philip finds Nathanael upon encountering Jesus. These common connections to Philip suggest Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person. We will proceed under this assumption.

Distance Learning: Daily Routines to Save Your Sanity

Many families are beginning this new school year with some version of distance learning taking place in their homes. How can we make this challenging situation a little bit easier for busy parents and help encourage our kids to grow in their faith at the same time? Here are a few ideas to help you set a daily routine for your distance learners!

Jesus: Our Normal This School Year

This fall will be full of muffled sounds. The voices of our students will be muffled by the masks they wear. Teachers in face shields will project even more than usual to get their points across. Socially distant lunchtimes may prove themselves to be more quiet—or possibly louder! Professional development and faculty meetings via Zoom where administrators and teachers remain on mute only until ready and allowed to speak may continue as the norm for a while. Staff, faculty, and students returning to campuses nationwide will be separated by glass shields and assigned seating. Our class time, work time, and downtime will continue to look different.

A New Kind of Sunday School

Excitement is in the air. You can feel the anticipation of kids getting ready for school, the sigh of relief from parents that they may get a small break now, and the flutter of teachers’ hearts (and stomachs) as they prepare for another school year. Or is it the sensation of tension you feel? The nervousness of kids getting ready for their first day back or maybe even the anxiety and stress of teachers and parents alike? This year, it seems to be a bit of both worlds, excitement and anxiety. It’s the unknown of what teaching and learning during this pandemic will feel like and how it will unfold in the following months. So what will your Sunday School look like this fall? There are several options to satisfy the unique needs of your students and families. Let’s take a look.

Anxiety and the Pandemic: How Teachers and Administrators Can Cope as School Reopens

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed school teachers and administrators in the unenviable position of making extraordinarily complex decisions with incomplete and changing scientific data, clashing public health and political leadership and threats, extremely caring but concerned parents, anxious children, and potentially competing personal priorities—protecting their livelihood and preserving their own health and wellness while caring for our children.