By Lyn Baker, Director of Family Ministry at All Saints Dallas

Effectively working with children and families requires an understanding of the stages of child development and family dynamics, as well as of the essentials of the faith. The following resources may provide some helpful ideas for where to begin or how to move this important ministry to the next level.

Books

The Spiritual Guidance of Children by Jerome Berryman

Written by the founder of the Godly Play method, this book casts a vision for religious education as spiritual guidance. Dr. Berryman traces the development of Godly Play and challenges the next generation to adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the future.

The Religious Potential of the Child by Sofia Cavalletti

Sofia Cavalletti, who studied with Maria Montessori in Rome, was instrumental in incorporating the Montessori method into the spiritual formation of children. Jerome Berryman studied with Ms. Cavalletti in Italy and brought her approach to the United States.

Sustainable Children’s Ministry: From Last-Minute Scrambling to Long-Term Solutions by Mark DeVries and Annette Safstrom

This is an excellent resource on the nuts and bolts of running an effective children’s ministry. If you are beginning and/or growing a children’s ministry, start here.

Generation to Generation by Edwin Friedman

This time-tested work by family therapist and rabbi Dr. Edwin Friedman applies the concepts of systemic family therapy to the emotional life of congregations. The author demonstrates how understanding family system dynamics can help clergy and lay leaders navigate challenges and opportunities more effectively.

A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman

This classic book on the nature of family systems and how they inform not only families but congregations is a seminal work in the field. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The book provides insights into leadership roles of all kinds, from CEOs to parents to clergy and lay leaders. His emphasis on maturity, stamina and taking personal responsibility for unpopular but important decisions provides valuable and inspiring wisdom for children’s ministry and beyond.

Curriculum and Teaching Resources

The Gospel Project for Kids

Over the course of three years, this curriculum leads children through Scripture chronologically, helping them understand God’s unified, Christ-centered story of redemption. Through it, kids learn key doctrines, see how the Old and New Testaments fit together and are equipped to apply each lesson. Additional resources are available, including charming and engaging three-minute videos that capture the message in summary form.

Godly Play 

Based on the research and practice of author and educator Rev. Dr. Jerome Berryman, the Godly Play approach to spiritual formation uses a Montessori-style, hands-on approach to learning. This approach requires a significant commitment of time from volunteers and a leader who is deeply dedicated. It is most effective with children up to the age of 6.

Children Worship & Wonder

Worship and Wonder is also a Montessori-style, hands-on approach to spiritual formation for children. It uses the four-fold order of worship to help children deepen their relationship with God. Based around a storytelling format, it invites them into God’s stories and gives them tools to participate in his bigger story.

Hearts Alive 

With materials for preschool through upper elementary, the Hearts Alive curriculum covers the entire Bible in three years, based on the liturgical cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. Lessons incorporate a wide variety of activities to engage children’s imagination and emotion while introducing them to God’s Word and the story of salvation. This is an excellent approach for churches that want to emphasize the cycle of the liturgical year.

The Jesus Storybook Bible Curriculum

Based on The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, this 44-lesson curriculum reveals Jesus at the center of each story from God’s Word. Lloyd-Jones is uniquely gifted at drawing out the essence of a story and presenting it in a doctrinally neutral way. Thus, the Jesus Storybook Bible curriculum is useful for both Catholic and Protestant congregations. This kit includes activities, memory verses, handouts and more, all designed to invite kids into the greatest of all adventures, following Christ.

Lyn Baker serves as Director of Family Ministries at All Saints Dallas. With a deep love for children and God’s never-ending story, Lyn tries to communicate these eternal truths using ordinary, everyday objects from her ordinary, everyday life.