Sunday Reflection: Beyond Words

Somedays the words don’t make their way to the paper, even though I am still being influenced by this weeks readings.

It is weeks like this that I think of children with their limited vocablaries, those through illness or accident with limited capacity to verbalise or write. Sometimes in our lives our emotions overide our capacity to express ourselves in a verbal or written sense. I know that like me, when words fail, we have other ways of praising, sharing, expressing ourselves.

And 10% of us are dyslexic. I remember my own daughter’s struggle to find God was frustrated by worship material only being available in written format, where Sunday School meant reading aloud from the Bible and then responding to written question. She was not alone, I struggled too in trying to find material that she could relate too. Messy Church has only been around for a decade and though Godly Play has been around for decades, a product of the Berryman’s own search to find a good way of teaching children, especially their own daughter, it was not until after my daughter had walked away from the church that my studies introduced me to this method.

This is one of the reasons I often suggest play, singing, colouring-in, or craft as a response to the RCL readings in this weekly blog. Why I move away from wordsearches, written responses to questions, or private reading when I make suggestions for All-age or Family based worship.

As a teacher, I have always used multi-sense methods of teaching, never one method alone.

Like Godly Play I am influenced by the work of Montessori, but also Steiner, even though I teach and have been educated through the mainstream channels, where more theorists are using multi-sensory models now.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram some of what is below you willl have seen.

Everything was a response to the Bible readings either this week or last week.

They were as much an outpouring of my response as a production for other’s consumption, that is they were my spiritual response. I hope they spark a response in you.

This was my response to Ephesians 6:10-20, every one is putting on protective gear these days, so I extrapolated away from the idea of Roman war attire as appropriate to the time of writing and thought about our present day situation

I created a game board for the same reading. You need to print 2 then cut one up and then match up the protective garment pictures.

At the start of the week, I created some inspiration to bring a spiritual dimension into our 2 hour exercise walks(where I live we are in lockdown due to the rising presence of th COVID-19 infection, delta varient, and the lack of innoculations). This had been inspired by Ephesians 5:15-20. Use the ideas each day to find Biblical references or to spark prayer.


Wendy L.

If you would like to use any of these please acknowledge my work, thank you.


Teaching our Young

I am writing this in Canada, where my snow made family are enjoying the snow thanks to a prize my husband won from Mogul Travel.

As I am not currently allowed to ski, I snow shoe or wander my days away.

In fact I think I pray more on a skiing holiday, not just for my family though there is definitely a rise in requests for protection, but I pray for the people I encounter, I pray for the environment, I just enjoy long conversations with God about a whole heap of things that get pushed out of the way in the everyday.

But that’s not what is on my mind to write about today.

We have a room overlooking one of the ski runs and so from my vantage point I see the children being taught. Some are being taught by the snow school in small groups, the youngest starting out mostly on ski’s not boards. Most of the time the teacher/instructor is in the lead gauging out a path and showing the children where to turn. Others line the group up and ski down the hill a bit, then encourage each in turn to make their way down to the instructor/teachers side.Then there are the parents, usually with a single child in tow, some parents ski behind acting as a barricade, just fare enough away for independence but close enough to reach out in an emergency. Other parents ski with the child between their legs, showing them when to turn and giving comfort as well as guidance. Then there are the young boarders, usually in small groups, all encouraging and egging each other on. This group try new things, they are usually young or pre-teens, and I’ve noticed that when they spill or go down this group, eventually work their way back to their mate to check on them.

It also takes me back to when we first put our kids on ski’s, both were about 3, we taught them some basics, then had them skiing down little slopes or very big moguls, sometimes we were in front, sometimes we skied behind and other times we skied with them firmly wedges between our legs. We frequently went in for hot chocolates. And to warm up little fingers, toes and noses. But long before they were first on “planks” ski’s they had been up to Mt Hotham, where we ski in Australia, regularly since they were born. They were surrounded by other skiers, they heard the stories, knew the terms, One has the most beautiful technique, the other gives all she has got and every run is a race, against herself if no-one else.

I need to admit that we did better with teaching our children to ski than in establishing life long faith habits.

And this is what I really wanted to write about.

What if anything can we learn about teaching our young.

For one thing Christianity is not always caught it is taught, but teaching involves the everyday moments. It involves hearing the stories, being regular, listening to the enthusiasm of those involved in faith. Some might call this organic.

It involves finding the learning method that suits their age and stage. Erikson’s and Piaget’s theories point us in those directions.

They need space to practice on their own, Montessori’s theories support this observation.

They need to be shown different ways too. Our five learning methods show that we need a spread of different experiences to find our best learning style.

Studies are showing us that this new generation of youth want to be connected to the larger picture, not isolated as a seperate body of learners.

We need to practice our faith at home using multiple methods to help our children find their best faith expressions.

We need to stay connected to faith communities that can encourage us and them.

We need to live our faith, and show them how they can live theirs.

Yes there is a lot to learn from skiing!


Wendy Lewis

Does being Intergenerational mean some topics are off limits?

Looking ahead at the lectionary I noticed there are a few difficult topics coming up in the next few week.

How do we deal with the difficult issues or stories when there are children in the congregation. Do we put the ideas or stories aside and fail to address them because they are not socially acceptable or may be disturbing for some members of the congregation.

Or do we plough on indiscriminately. And what do we do if there are children listening in?  If we do not address, unsavoury issues, unsocial or difficult issues than whose voice will our children be hearing about these topics?

With all the buzz about intergenerational and worshipping with children, do we only deal with the “kid friendly” topics when we are being intergenerational?

Or by discriminating between child and adult friendly topics and ideas are we all ready distorting the concept of intergenerational worship?

With all the talk about protecting our children, surely what they are listening too becomes part of that area of protection.

As is often the case there is no easy or one size fits all answer. Having worked in a fully integrated traditional intergenerational worship situation, my experience has told me that children will hear what interests them, and very successfully screen out the rest of the service. But this does not allow us to discuss all topics freely. We, as adults, also need to be discriminating when we talk with children around us.

We know that children can become desensitised, or stressed easily and it is not in anyone’s interest for that to happen. The age and stage of the child makes a huge difference too in knowing what to say. The under 3’s are learning language and are not ready yet to understand the pro’s and con’s of a situation.

While it may be important that a teenager or young adult has the space to explore new ideas and disturbing content, but never without the consent of their parent or guardian.

Nor do we want our young to feel that morality does not have a faith component.

As we tip toe through this fast running current of ideas and stories, it is difficult not to be splashed by the fallback of opinion surrounding our decisions. We have to be confident that we have not closed doors that should be open or disturbed or distressed unnecessarily, those we need to care for. Being able to explain your reasons is a small outcome for the privilege of sharing deeply our faith, and the rules of conduct and child safety are scaffolding necessary to protect us all and guide our decisions.


Wendy L.

Engaging kids

I’ve been making an effort to travel with my husband both for business and pleasure. Travelling can be hard on a partnership but so can the separations. So a note to those caring for couples that experience separation due to work commitments, there really is no “one size fits all” solution. Both situations have their advantages and disadvantages for the families and those of us caring for this increasingly common situation need to be mindful that caring for a family in the midst of any crisis is what our calling is about. We need to love more, judge less.

But that’s actually not what I feel called to write about. I have taken more interest in the ways that the different countries value and interact with children. Now that I am no longer travelling with children, I have the luxury of observing. How can I judge. I have my fair share of cranky, overtired, out of routine and time zone episodes. Mmm unfortunately I’m not just talking about the children!!

I’m noticing more children’s play area’s in the world’s airports. In Portugal last year I even discovered children’s toilets at a train station. Museums, art galleries and classic arts such as music and theatre are making more effort to engage children in the exhibits or performances. Interactive displays at children’s height has almost become the norm. But I can’t name one church that I have visited lately, either at home or abroad that makes any effort to engage the younger visitor outside of worship services.

What is the artwork about, how is the stained glass used or what are the stories they’re telling? What are the buildings used for? How do we use them? What happens when people aren’t allowed to wonder around them? Why is the cross like this here and like that in the church down the road? If we fail to engage our youngest visitors, educate or excite them, will the museums and galleries be more significant to people of the future, than our churches have been in previous centuries? Do we really believe these monuments will continue to speak to future generations?

It is not just worship that is changing. How we engage, outreach and treat our faith monuments are also up for review.

Let me know what your church is doing to engage children outside of worship.


Wendy Lewis

What would you place in the craft box?

Today’s thoughts are about a craft box in the worship space for Families, but it could also be of use to families that worship in a service without a Families Ministry.

A trolley or small chest of drawers would be ideal, but it may need a lock or child safety system if small swallowable items, or scissors (if you have scissors find a quality plastic scissor) are to be kept in it.

If possible try to make the materials all age suitable, which may mean not having foam sheets, as they can be bitten into and cause a swallow hazards. Or small buttons or google eyes for the same reason.

Ideally, I would caution against “messy” items in a traditional service, as the clean-up can be time consuming. But on the other hand, if you have a member of the congregation willing to cheerfully help the clean-up it can lead to bonding with the rest of the congregation! Oh Yes, and what a wonderful outcome that could be!


Items I like to put in a craft area are

Coloured and textured papers and boards, (Riot and Officeworks are a good source for these especially when found on special)

Crepe paper ribbon or paper, if possible blue, green, yellow or brown. Crepe paper readily breaks so is easy to extradite small wriggling humans from it if they get a bit wrapped up!.

 Texta’s, for different age levels, ie egg crayons, Thicker texta’s to help grip and positioning for the pre-schoolers. I like Crayola, they are not made in China, they are large enough for a product recall not to be overlooked, and the thing that really wins my loyalty is they really do washoff, all surfaces. During one service, one of our youngest members decided to use herself as the surface, a wonderful expression of her spirituality and easily cleanable so she was no longer a body canvas, when her parents left for lunch with friends straight after church.

Glue sticks, no messy spills, and they stick a treat.

Icy pole sticks,

Spoon shaped timber sticks, (make great people)

Felt squares, pre-sticky felt squares or larger shapes, stiffened felt same colours as mentioned for crepe paper.

Envelopes, different sizes, and colours, including white.

Fabric craft squares Spotlight

Stickers, religious and otherwise.

Paint in sponges and large stamps (available from Riot)

Leaves (from non toxic plants)

Old fashioned timber pegs (no springs)

I don’t like

1) pipecleaners as the ends poke and hurt, and drawing blood during the service does break the worshipping mood.

2) Sticky tape can have sharp edged dispensers, and can be pulled out to great lengths (mummified little ones are also a worship stopper).

3) Bottles of Paint, same issue as for bottles of glue

The main thing is that they are safe, age appropriate materials that are not large mess makers during a traditional service the idea is to worship, not to damage or clean –up.

I remember from my Godly Play training “use quality products the children can tell the difference”

What would you add to this list?





Spiritual Delights or Toy Box tat!

The Back to school ads are on, and that’s my signal to check the toy box at church.

It’s usually been added to by kind people who think that ” that toys in good condition it will keep the kids quiet in Church” NOOOO!!! that’s not what the toy box is for it is a box of toys that will encourage any little ones to express their spiritual selves. Children’s work is play. So a well equiped toy box is important. Everything in there should be clean, cleanable, safe and be able to have an expression in the Word as heard in the service or be a Christian motif.

Some of the toy’s in your “toy box” may fit this criteria, but some may have to go. Especially if they are unsafe, (lead paint, asbestos in recalled crayons that were never thrown out, toxic dyes, small pieces that can come off and be put in mouths (swallow hazard)), or can’t be washed. Or make a  loud noise, or covered in building dust from a renovation. Check or

If starting from scratch it might seem like a big outlay, but you are investing in the spiritual development of children, and it can be slowly built up over time. If refreshing your toy box, remember that if you need to throw things out, under Victorian legislation we are responsible for suppling physically safe environments for children. It is not wasteful to keep people safe. If something can not be used to enhance the spiritual development of the child, recycle. Someone will enjoy it.

I’ve made 2 “toy boxes” for congregations. Here is what is generally in them. Let me know what you think I should also add. Let’s get a discussion going.

This is also the list I would recommend to parents as a basis for spiritual play at home.

Soft Toys  make sure they are fully washable and preferably machine dryable

Heart cushion, large and small from IKEA

Small bear with heart on top from Ikea

Sheep from Toy’s r us

Donkey from Toy’s r us

Play food from Ikea, especially the one with fish and loaves.

Timber toys

Nativity set from St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne

Blocks, different shapes and sizes.

Noah’s Ark

Cars from Ikea

Rollar ikea


Plastic Toys

People from Ikea

Boats from Ikea

Animals and Barn from Toy’s r Us

Fabric max 1x1m

Blue from Spotlight

Brown from Spotlight

Yellow from Spotlight

Sheep patterned brushed cotton from Spotlight

White fleece from Spotlight

White shirts for dress ups

Tea towels

Puzzles never small pieces that can be swallowed

Christmas floor puzzle from Korong

Jonah puzzle from Korong

rainbow puzzle


Battery operated candle

Child safe mirror


Village floor rug from Ikeas (great for both a prayer too and play)

Baby Dolls, multicultural baby dolls, not too large, about 15cm max. expensive but good Miniland Baby dolls currently on sale


Epiphany 2 Ideas to share the message in church this Sunday with the 3’s and under

These are suggestions only to help parents engage their children in services that use the Revised Common Lectionary. They can be used by parents or those who help out in small congregations that can not afford to pay Child and Families Ministry. Some congregations use all 4 readings in their services others only two. Prepare a special church bag in advance each week so that you are ready for the rush on Sunday Morning. Read during the Bible readings, Pray during the prayers, Colour, Draw or Craft during the sermon. Remember that little ones will need their own space to move and wiggle, and sit towards the front so they can see what is going on. Craft or drawing or play are for spiritual responses not for a perfectionist piece that can be shown off. 

Remember you have bought your child to worship. Enjoy engaging them in it.

Epiphany 2 John 1:43-51

READ: I could not find a version of this story suitable for this age group either of these Bible storybooks contain a page on choosing and names all 12 disciples.

The Beginner’s Bible Timeless Children’s Stories pp.312-313

OR  The Lion Picture Bible pp.250- 251

DRAW: take some plain paper or let them draw on the pewsheet.

Ask them to draw a picture of themselves and a friend meeting Jesus.

PLAY: Take dolls or soft toys let them play at making friends and creating a friendship group. (This age group is too young to play with other children, but being around other children is important for them to make that next step)


Thank you God,

That I can be your friend too.



1 Samuel 3:1-10

READ:  The Rhyme Bible pp.114-116

DRAW:  this also has the story attached. Just print off both pages and no need for the story book bible suggested above

PLAY: Play listen games;

Chose a word, such as Jesus and ask them to tell you when they hear it in the sermon.

Take a quiet baby rattle or other quiet noise makers (macaroni in a plastic container etc.) and use them during the Hymns to find the rhythm in the music.

PRAY: Speak Lord, I (insert name) am listening?

1 Corinthians: 6:12-20

READ: (this was suggested by As I could not find it in the Australian bookstores I found this You tube version.

This story is about caring about others. An easier read then the Bible version this week.

PLAY: Get out the family toys, group of dolls or soft animals, to play in a group and take care of.

CRAFT/COLOUR: Prepare in Advance Create a paper doll chain,

or buy one from the Reject shop, Officeworks or Riot for your child to colour.

Get them to create different people. Ask them who they want to include in God’s family or maybe point out some people in the congregation they could draw, (emphasis the point that we are part of God’s group and we all need to care about ourselves. This age group are still separating and developing an individual persona. They do understand being a part of something, ie Mum, a family.)

PRAY: Father God

I need to care (hug themselves) for me

Because I’m part of God’s family (arms out wide as if giving a group hug)


Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18.

You might like to read the book or ebook When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner.



Read from the Beginners Bible NiRV

And ask them after each verse if the words make them happy or sad. Make happy or sad faces too.

Draw Sad face

Draw Happy face

Being Intentional with the 3’s and under

I had an interesting discussion with someone this week about the need or otherwise for any program or form of learning to help the 3’s and under to make sense of the worship experience. Their view was that all that was needed was a welcoming community. This was the only thing we agreed on.

But is it enough.

My biological children learnt to sit quietly and eat a packet of sultana’s through the sermon.They sat in a very welcoming community, it was not enough. I failed at that time to understand that they needed further instructions on what we were doing, they needed further engagement with the different aspects of worship, as well as the opportunity to express themselves.

Having been influenced by Robbie Castleman’s book Parenting in the Pew, along with my studies in children’s learning and spiritual development. I feel that a little extra guidance on behalf of the parents of the 3’s and under goes a long way in helping them to grow into worshippers instead of grow out of worship.

During my time at Wesley Church Melbourne I had the opportunity to put this understanding to the test, and started to deliberately create a program to help the parents/guardians of the 3’s and under further guide their youngsters. I did this because I could not find an appropriate lectionary based program for this age group.

A child does not just decide at three that it is old enough to start paying attention, that awareness comes gradually and with the normal stages of development. We know that to read requires many hours of being read to, and so I extrapolated that to worship requires many hours of repetition and practice too.

What I did notice was that those children that were regularly in church ( ie 2/3 weeks per month), had as they grew, a greater understanding of the worship experience and could express themselves age appropriately better than those who didn’t. So was just being present enough?

No, while we sat at the back of the church, roamed free and ate or were played with to keep quiet, they were learning other skills such as socialisation, parental domination, fine motor skills. Would moving them to the front where they  could see more make a difference? yes it did. But they were not understanding what was going on. They were not practising the fundamentals of bible reading, of praying, of the ecclesiastic calendar, of singing, of being quiet so others can listen, of responding to what was happening around them.

Our children got communion, every fortnight they would participate with the adults and through their behaviours and use of terminology it was clear that they got it. How could I help them to get the rest of the service? By slowly giving them the opportunity to practice and build up their skill set too. So that’s what I did. Created a program to help the 3’s and under start to practice the basics of worship during a traditional service.

Have you had experience with this age group too? What has worked and hasn’t. Please let me know.

Then stay tuned each Tuesday as I share my suggestions for helping the 3’s and under participate in a traditional RCL service.







welcome to the cross in my backyard

Welcome. This is a blog for Christian parents and those who are concerned about the faith formation of children.

Over time you will find a comment on a weekly issue. My aim is to address issues with an Aussie voice and understanding, but the major concern will foremost be the faith formation of the child.

I will publish a suggestion sheet each week for helping parents of the three’s and under connect with the Revised Common Lectionary Readings.

I believe that children, even the youngest are able to participate fully in worship, even in a traditional setting. When I worked at Wesley church Melbourne, (and at the time of writing this I was still employed there) we had children worshipping alongside adults in their own way, at their own pace in a traditional worship situation.

I believe that parents need a little extra help in knowing how to confidently share their faith with their children in a worship service.

I also don’t want this to be my own voice and will appreciate helpful feedback and interaction.

You will find a supporting facebook page at The Cross in My Backyard. This is a space for world wide discussion on issues related to children and families and worship, but filtered so that it supports an Australian environment.