Advent

It’s not even December, and my six-year-old is already insisting on a daily countdown to Christmas. As a parent, how can I cultivate a spirit of anticipation and patience in my home? How can I direct my children’s longing – away from the material trappings of the holiday and toward the Christ Child? I want to use the Advent season – the season of waiting – to teach to my children that what we’re waiting for most of all is the coming of Christ and His kingdom.

Here’s a roundup of family resources for Advent:

Little One, We Knew You’d Come by Sally Lloyd Jones

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This Advent offering from Sally Lloyd Jones honors the season of waiting before Christmas. This lovely book will be especially poignant for new or expectant parents.

Advent Wreath

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At BeFree Dover we mark the weeks of Advent with candles lit during our services. In our home, we like to use an advent wreath at the dinner table, and we light it on Sundays. You can make your own (lots of simple ideas on Pinterest!) or purchase one from Etsy. Traditionally the candles signify:

Candle 1. Hope (purple)
Candle 2. Peace (purple)
Candle 3. Joy (rose)
Candle 4. Love (purple)
Candle 5. Christ The Light of the World (white)

Advent Devotional

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Good Dirt: Advent, Christmastide, & Epiphany is the beginning of the Good Dirt devotional series, which provides families with meaningful spiritual exercises for the entire church year.

Music

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Waiting Songs by Rain for Roots features Advent-themed songs that are lyrically simple for children but musically complex for adults.

Coloring

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Illustrated Children’s Ministry is offering an affordable kit with elaborate coloring pages for the whole family, an advent calendar, family devotions, and a build-a-nativity activity.

Nativity Sets

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In DIG we use simple wooden props to tell stories each week. We encourage children to handle the pieces during reflection time, as the Holy Spirit speaks and children ruminate on the story. You can create a similar opportunity at home with a simple wooden nativity like this one. You can set the nativity in a quiet corner of your home so that your children can play and revisit DIG advent stories.

This week in DIG, 11/27

November’s Memory Verse

THIS SUNDAY: Children will have an opportunity to share their memory verse during the service! Be sure to practice at home.

Toddlers-4th Grade: Psalm 37:4-6, Seeds of Purpose, Track 7 – Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

5th-8th Grade: OT Books of the Bible (Minor Prophets) – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Toddlers: Abraham

  • Show your child the night sky and ask her to count the stars. Remind her that Abraham was promised that he’d have as many children as there are stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17).
  • Ask your child, “Have you ever been on a long trip like Abram? What do you think he packed?” Act out packing for a long journey like Abram.
  • Talk about the desert through which Abram and his family traveled to get to the land God promised. What’s it like to travel in a desert and what lives there?

Preschool: Exile and Return

  • I wonder what it was like for the people of God to see the temple torn down and have to leave their home?
  • I wonder what it was like to journey and live in Babylon, a strange land?
  • I wonder why some of the people of God stayed in Babylon?
  • I wonder why some of the people of God returned to their home?

K-1st Grade: God to the Rescue 

  • I wonder why Pharaoh hated God’s people?
  • I wonder why Pharaoh changed his mind and said you can’t go?
  • I wonder who the Rescuer will be that God will send to set the people of God free forever?
  • I wonder why the priests had to wear sacred clothing?
  • I wonder which of the furnishings was the most interesting to you: the lamp, the ark, the altar, the basin, etc.?
  • I wonder why setting up the tabernacle had to be done so carefully?
  • I wonder what it was like when the Glory of the Lord came down on the tabernacle?

This week in DIG, 11/20

November’s Memory Verse

Toddlers-4th Grade: Psalm 37:4-6, Seeds of Purpose, Track 7 – Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

5th-8th Grade: OT Books of the Bible (Minor Prophets) – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Infants

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Toddlers: Abraham

  • Show your child the night sky and ask her to count the stars. Remind her that Abraham was promised that he’d have as many children as there are stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17).
  • Ask your child, “Have you ever been on a long trip like Abram? What do you think he packed?” Act out packing for a long journey like Abram.
  • Talk about the desert through which Abram and his family traveled to get to the land God promised. What’s it like to travel in a desert and what lives there?

Preschool: The Temple, a House for God

  • I wonder how it felt to finally live in the land that God promised and to build a house for God?
  • I wonder what the Temple looked like?
  • I wonder who got to help build the Temple and how they did it?
  • I wonder what it felt like to go to the Temple in Jerusalem?

K-1st Grade: God to the Rescue

Younger elementary children continued in the Jesus Storybook Bible with the story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt.

  • I wonder why Pharaoh hated God’s people?
  • I wonder why Pharaoh changed his mind and said you can’t go?
  • I wonder who the Rescuer will be that God will send to set the people of God free forever?
  • I wonder why God gave His people the law?
  • I wonder how His people felt when they received the Ten Commandments?
  • I wonder if they were able to keep His commandments perfectly?
  • I wonder how you feel about keeping God’s commandments?

5-6th Grade: Review

Younger middle schoolers reviewed their fall study of the EFCA’s statement of faith.

  • What have you learned about God and His Church this year?
  • What have you learned about Baptism and Communion?
  • What questions do you still have?

7-8th Grade: Psalm of Confession & Forgiveness, #132

Older middle schoolers wrapped up their three-week study of the Psalms, as part of a year-long exploration of the different literary genres of scripture.

Thanksgiving

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The Discipline of Gratitude

In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. – Henri Nouwen

Each year when the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around, we are reminded of our blessings… and often our negligence in thanking God regularly for them. How can we cultivate the discipline of gratitude in our families?

If awareness is key to developing this discipline, we must create opportunities for awareness in our busy lives. Deuteronomy 6 serves as a reminder to the Israelites of what their Mighty God has accomplished for them, and verses 6-9 emphasize how parents can instruct their children in the ways of God – including the discipline of gratitude and remembrance.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I like to use this passage when I’m brainstorming how to integrate life with God into every aspect of our family’s daily life. Here are some ideas for communally practicing the discipline of gratitude:

When You Sit in Your House

  • At mealtimes, encourage each child to share what they are grateful for from the day. Parents can set an example by thanking God for less obvious blessings, maybe even suffering and the spiritual fruits that come from it.
  • When I’m sitting quietly with the children, I’ll sometimes focus on one small thing – a flickering candle perhaps – and ask the children what blessings can be found in that one small thing. Then we pray and thank the Giver.

When You Walk by the Way

  • When traveling, thank God for safety.
  • When active, thank God for the mobility and health of our bodies.
  • When in nature, thank God for His beauty reflected in all He has created.

When You Lie Down

  • Take advantage of this quiet time at the end of the day to pray with your children. Consider kneeling by the bedside together to emphasize a posture of gratitude.
  • Bedtime books focusing on gratitude can help us end the day with thankful hearts. Be sure to check out this list of excellent resources Jackie compiled last year.

When You Rise

  • In the chaos of the morning routine, finding time for gratitude can be especially challenging. We like to pray on the drive to school. I’ve found that thanking God for whatever weather we’re experiencing – crisp falling leaves, rain that nourishes our earth – can help us all have a more grateful outlook on the day.

On the Doorposts of Your House

  • Create art together to place around your home to prompt gratitude throughout the day. Last year Jackie suggested a Thanksgiving Tree craft that can serve this purpose. A list of fun, helpful art projects and games can be found here.
  • Illustrated scripture verses and family photographs can function as daily reminders of God’s good gifts.

May you and your family be blessed as you grow in gratitude together!

This week in DIG, 11/13

November’s Memory Verse

Toddlers-4th Grade: Psalm 37:4-6, Seeds of Purpose, Track 7 – Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

5th-8th Grade: OT Books of the Bible (Minor Prophets) – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Toddlers: Abraham

  • Show your child the night sky and ask her to count the stars. Remind her that Abraham was promised that he’d have as many children as there are stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17).
  • Ask your child, “Have you ever been on a long trip like Abram? What do you think he packed?” Act out packing for a long journey like Abram.
  • Talk about the desert through which Abram and his family traveled to get to the land God promised. What’s it like to travel in a desert and what lives there?

Preschool: The Promised Land

  • I wonder how the people felt when Joshua told them to get ready to go into the Promised Land?
  • I wonder how it felt when God led them through the water into the Promised Land?
  • I wonder if the People of God were still scared of the giants after they crossed the Jordan River?
  • I wonder what the people of God will do, now that they are in the Promised Land?

K-1st Grade: The Forgiving Prince

  • I wonder how it feels to be treated unfairly.
  • I wonder how Joseph felt in prison.
  • I wonder if it is hard to forgive.
  • I wonder how Joseph might be like Jesus?
  • I wonder why the Israelites forgot so quickly what God had done for them by delivering them from Egypt?
  • I wonder why the People of God cared so much about what food they ate?
  • I wonder what manna looked like?
  • I wonder what the Isrealites learned about God by seeing Him provide manna?

5-6th Grade: What is communion?

Younger middle schoolers continued their study of the EFCA’s statement of faith, focusing on the ordinance of communion.

  • How do you think communion shows us a picture of the gospel?
  • How does communion remind you of Christ’s death? His coming?
  • What is it like for you to participate in communion?

7-8th Grade: Psalm of Lament, #143

Older middle schoolers began a brief three-week study of the Psalms, as part of a year-long exploration of the different literary genres of scripture.

This week in DIG, 11/6

November’s Memory Verse

Toddlers-4th Grade: Psalm 37:4-6, Seeds of Purpose, Track 7 – Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

5th-8th Grade: OT Books of the Bible (Minor Prophets) – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Infants

Toddlers: Abraham

  • Show your child the night sky and ask her to count the stars. Remind her that Abraham was promised that he’d have as many children as there are stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17).
  • Ask your child, “Have you ever been on a long trip like Abram? What do you think he packed?” Act out packing for a long journey like Abram.
  • Talk about the desert through which Abram and his family traveled to get to the land God promised. What’s it like to travel in a desert and what lives there?

Preschool: The Ark and a Tent for God

This semester preschoolers are looking at stories from the Old Testament that display the arc of God’s redemptive story, with this week’s focus on the tabernacle. You can reinforce this lesson by showing your child pictures of a life size tabernacle model.

  • I wonder how it feels to come so close to something as precious as the ark?
  • I wonder how the incense and smoke helped the People of God get ready to be close to the ark and close to God?
  • I wonder how you get ready to be close to God?
  • I wonder how it feels to be close to God?

K-1st Grade: The Forgiving Prince

Younger elementary children continued in the Jesus Storybook Bible with the story of Joseph.

  • I wonder how it feels to be treated unfairly.
  • I wonder how Joseph felt in prison.
  • I wonder if it is hard to forgive.
  • I wonder how Joseph might be like Jesus?
  • I wonder why the eldest son of each Egyptian family had to die?
  • I wonder why the lamb had to be perfect?
  • I wonder why the Egyptians helped the people of God leave Egypt?
  • I wonder how the people of Israel felt as they were leaving Egypt?

5-6th Grade: What is baptism?

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5th & 6th graders have fun memorizing the books of the Old Testament

Younger middle schoolers continued their study of the EFCA’s statement of faith, focusing on the ordinance of baptism.

  • How do you think baptism shows us a picture of the gospel?
  • What is it like for you to watch others be baptized?
  • Would you be interested in being baptized at some point?

7-8th Grade: Psalm of Praise, #145

Older middle schoolers began a brief three-week study of the Psalms, as part of a year-long exploration of the different literary genres of scripture.

Our Gardeners

You may not realize that a talented team of “Gardeners” are behind the scenes in DIG, faithfully training teachers, organizing classrooms, and providing wisdom and leadership for our children’s ministry. The next time you see one of these people, be sure to thank them for their contribution to our DIG program at BeFree!

Infant Room Gardener

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Name: Amy Mathews
Profession: Stay-at-home mom to my three kids
What she loves to do: 
I like to try new craft projects (jack-of-all-trades, master of none!) and catch up on sleep. I love to spend time with family and friends, especially over a game.
Why she loves DIG: 
I love DIG because the volunteers are passionate about teaching kids the joys of the gospel.

Toddler Room Gardeners

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Name: Shawn Campbell
Profession: Anesthesiologist at Frisbie Memorial Hospital and Director of Anesthesia at Skyhaven Surgical Center
What he loves to do:
First and foremost, I love spending time with my family – with 4 kids and 2 dogs, there’s never a dull moment! I also have a passion for outdoor/macro photography and have enjoyed doing all of the DIG Celebration photos and videos for the past several years. When chilling at home, I can often be found grilling (charcoal only!) or firing-up my smoker for pulled pork, ribs, and beer-can chicken! And when I get a chance to go hiking or backpacking with the boys, I won’t pass it up!
Why he loves DIG: 
I love spending time with kids. The innocence they display and their amazement for the world around them is something that we as adults take for granted. I enjoy seeing their excitement at new things and answering questions that may seem simple, but that have such profound implications for them. Their wholehearted acceptance and love for Christ is something that we can all learn from, and having an opportunity to play a part in their growing faith is an honor.
Name: Maranda Campbell
Profession: Stay at Home mom and Masters in Education Student
What she loves to do: 
With four active kids at home I don’t have much time for hobbies, but if I do find spare time I love to read and make crafts. As a family, we love to be outside hiking.
Why she loves DIG:
I love DIG because it makes the children feel that their walk with God is important and special. Being the gardener of the toddler room, I love to see the transition that takes place in the kids from the beginning where they are shy and timid, sometimes crying to then later in the year they are all smiles and come right in to play! As a mom I felt good about being in the service for my own walk with God when I knew my kids were having fun as well. I love that I can help provide that for the other families in our church.

Preschool Gardener

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Name: Gina Henker
Profession: DIG Director and mom of three
What she loves to do:
I love embroidery, outdoor activities, literature and the arts. I’m a trivia nerd and love learning about anything. Best of all, though, is time spent with my children; whether it’s reading aloud or taking a hike, exploring a museum or staging a musical in the living room, being with my children is the highlight of every day.
Why she loves DIG:
DIG provides children (and the adults who lead them) with a rich, contemplative space for worship. I have personally grown to better recognize the voice of my Shepherd by worshipping with children in the preschool room, and DIG has given me a more robust understanding of what the Kingdom of God is really like and how to enter it as a child does. I’ve also watched my children grow to approach God with more wonder, love, and gratitude as they’ve gotten to know Him better through DIG. I’m so grateful for this ministry and the volunteers who reflect the heart of Jesus for children in our church.

K-1st Grade Gardener

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Name: Courtney Sessler
Profession: Kindergarten Teacher
What she loves to do:
I enjoy running, hiking in the White Mountains, cooking and spending time with my family.
Why she loves DIG:
I love having the opportunity to worship with young children. Being invited to join them in seeing the gospel from the perspective of a 5, 6, or 7 year old is something that I consider a gift. The stories and approach to children’s worship in DIG is purposeful and at the same time allows space for discovery and wonder. The children’s insight and questions about scripture can be both profound and refreshing (and funny at times!) From time to time I am able to catch glimpses of the Lord shaping their hearts as they learn more about Him-and that is such a privilege!

2-4th Grade Gardener

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Name: Lindsay Healey
Profession: Speech Language Pathologist
What she loves to do:
I enjoy running, hiking, reading, and am attempting to learn to knit.  My favorite past time, however, is spending time with my husband, Randy, and three children, Jenni, Maddie and Jacob.
Why she loves DIG:
I really enjoy the way our DIG program is structured, in that children are encouraged to seek God and experience Him in their own way during our reflection time.  I’m amazed and blessed by their insightful comments and questions.

5-6th Grade Gardener

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Name: Eric Sessler
Profession: GM, Eastern Marketing Services (Portsmouth)
What he loves to do:  
I love to spend time with my wife and children. I also enjoy hiking, running, sports, drawing, and time with friends.
Why he loves DIG:
Since the beginning, I have always been so impressed with DIG – the mission, values and the thoughtfulness put into every class. In DIG, we want every child to have an opportunity to hear about Jesus in a way that inspires interest and wonder. Similarly, kids are given the space to personally respond to the God who loves them and made them. Our church is blessed to have a program like DIG for our children!

7-8th Grade Gardener

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Name: Mallory LeDuc
Profession: Wife 🙂
What she loves to do:
I love to dance, exercise, read, and learn. And, when there isn’t snow on the ground, I love to play outdoor games.
Why she loves DIG:
I love DIG because getting to know kids has always been a huge passion of mine. Developing relationships with younger boys and girls brings me opportunities to minister, teach, and serve — and that brings me great joy.