Weekly Lessons this Fall

We are excited about our weekly lessons for the coming school year!

Every week we’ll release a lesson (on Thursdays — earlier this year, in case you’re planning a Sunday morning class!) on the podcast page and here at tending-the-garden.com!

The weekly lessons will include:

  • a short read-aloud lesson
  • a podcast recording of Elissa & Kristina reading the lesson (in case you’d like to learn in the car!)
  • discussion questions
  • printable worksheets and puzzles

It’s everything you need for Sunday school class, or for a weekly family lesson!

While we previously released lessons on Saturdays, we’ll now be moving that up to Thursdays, to give Sunday school teachers some time to prepare. It’s possible that we’ll be able to send out lessons even earlier, so if you’d like to be on that list, please use the contact form or subscribe to this blog so that we can include you!

We’re also launching a Facebook group where parents and teachers can gather to ask questions, discuss challenges, and crowdsource ideas and inspiration!

We are getting excited about the 2020-2021 church school year, and we can’t wait to get started.

How it works: Virtual Vacation Church Camp on Zoom

This year, we’re all navigating unknown waters in youth ministry! We’re trying new things, and learning to be flexible. Our Virtual Vacation Church Camp can be used in person, but it also works on Zoom (or on similar online conferencing platforms.) Here’s how.

The Virtual Vacation Church Camp offers five days of materials. The five sessions could be scheduled all in one week, or they can be split over time — perhaps they’re five one-day retreats spaced out over the year!

A week before your event begins, send families an email with the following information:

  • Date & time: Ask everyone to come online several minutes before your start time, so that you can let them in from the Zoom “waiting room” (this allows you to admit only those people you know, so that you won’t have surprise strangers popping in to disrupt. That happens.) This also gives people time to fix any unforeseen technical glitches.
  • Link to the Zoom room: You’ll want to use your “personal meeting room” in Zoom. Go to “copy invitation” and then paste that information into an email for your families. (You don’t really need the whole thing — just the “Join Zoom Meeting” link and the password will do.) That link will carry them to your “personal meeting room” any time. (Note: using the personal meeting room allows you to have just the one link for every session, avoiding confusion.) Note that you can add co-hosts to help you manage Zoom throughout the event.
  • PDFs from the day’s PDF packet, asking families to print the worksheets and gather needed materials in advance. You can send the entire PDF, or you can isolate just the pages you want them to have (printable worksheets, recipes, etc.)

The day’s program begins on Zoom. When you’re ready to begin, you can say an Opening Prayer yourself, or play our Opening Prayer video. All videos are played on the shared screen. Here’s how:

  • Download the videos from the vimeo site in advance.
  • Have the videos cued up and ready to go.
  • As host, click “participants” to see a list of the people who are currently online with you. At the bottom of that list, you can use “Mute All” to keep things quiet when you’re showing videos. You can “Unmute” on participant at a time or use “Unmute All” when appropriate.
  • Click the up arrow to the right of “Share Screen”. Choose “one participant can share at a time” and click on “advanced settings” to set your room so that only the host can share their screen.
  • When you’re ready to begin the video, click “Share Screen” and click on the video. When you press play, the whole group should be seeing and hearing the video together on their Zoom screens.

After the opening prayer, you’ll watch the Lesson video on shared screen. After the video, stop sharing your screen, and host a conversation using our Discussion Questions for that lesson. This includes some warm-up questions to get kids participating and then leads into deeper and more meaningful conversation on the topic.

After the discussion, give people a break from Zoom. Families can do the craft project, use the recipe to make a snack, do the printable puzzles and worksheets, etc. This allows the kids to get a break and to have some hands-on content! Families can talk about the lesson as they go (making the parents part of the teaching and encouraging the family to take on religious education).

Later, the group assembles for a second time on Zoom. The afternoon content is lighter than the morning content.

Watch the Saint of the Day video together on Shared Screen, and then the Music Class. Encourage the kids to move around, dancing and singing along.

Finally, every day we have a Zoom game for the whole crowd! Turn off the shared screen and play the game together, to end the day on a fun and sociable note!

Virtual Vacation Church Camp — in the FALL?

We are finding that several parishes are using our Virtual Vacation Church Camp in the Fall! If you don’t have a need for VCC this summer, you might consider this!

The camp is designed to be used in five sessions. Each session features an opening prayer, video lesson, activities & printables, music lesson video, Saint of the Day video, and closing prayer. You could do them over a week this Summer, OR you could use them this Fall! Perhaps your Sunday School is meeting virtually — you can do the program five Sundays in a row, or the first Sunday of every month for five months… or whenever you like.

We designed Rooted in Prayer for maximum flexibility — it can be your summer program, or maybe it’s five days of Sunday School next Fall! May God bless you as you put together a plan for your parish or family this year!

Plans for Fall

Now that we have finished our Virtual Vacation Church Camp, we are thinking about this Fall.

As much as we enjoyed our Virtual Sunday School this Spring, the video lessons were incredibly time-consuming to produce, so we have come up witha more sustainable model for the coming year. We think you’ll like it!

We’ll resume our Tending the Garden of Our Hearts audio podcast, and on this website we’ll be posting downloadable written materials, including a lesson plan to help parents use the podcast as part of an informal lesson at home, as well as a few activity sheets for the kids!

Whether your parish is able to provide Sunday School classes in person or online — or at all — we’ve got you covered at home! You can supplement your parish program and develop your Little Church with these lessons, and if your parish cannot offer it, this will provide the ongoing religious education our children need. (And who are we kidding? We parents are learning too, and we need this!)

So join us this Fall for more of the Tending the Garden of Our Hearts lessons you love, with supplementary materials to make your Little Church a place where we can grow together in faith and love!

Rooted in Prayer — our new Virtual Vacation Church Camp

We are so excited to announce that Tending the Garden of Our Hearts, in partnership with Ancient Faith Ministries, is releasing a Virtual Vacation Church Camp for families and parishes! The camp is a set of videos and written materials, and will be available for download, and will be sold through the Ancient Faith Store beginning June 30.

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The camp’s theme will be Prayer, and we’ll be exploring many aspects of prayer with the kids. What is prayer? Why do we pray? How does one pray? Are there many ways to pray? And of course, it’s Vacation Church Camp, so it will have plenty of fun activities and games as well!

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