On Sunday, we launched Digital Strategies for Churches with Kyle Oliver for individual and group learning. This course offers guidelines for churches on reaching out to their congregations and communities online and also on utilizing online resources to help with Christian formation. As we move toward the season of Advent, I suggest that people who are looking for good online resources try The Abundant Life Garden Project. This is a terrific online resource for people who work with children, and it would make a wonderful Advent program.
Produced by Episcopal Relief and Development, the Abundant Life Garden Project is a 5-segment interactive education program oriented around the themes of water, seeds, soil, animals, and harvest. It’s designed for children from ages 4-12, and it can be utilized for different kinds of program, from children’s church to Sunday school to a weekday evening program. It includes a series of prayers specifically oriented toward the Advent season that can be used in children’s church services or simply as a resource for Advent prayers and reflections for each lesson.
Each lesson starts with a reflection question and activity focused on the theme for that day. For example, for the segment on water, the children draw pictures in response to the question, “How do we use water?” Each segment includes activities from which educators can select according to the type of event and the type of class with which they are working. These include child-appropriate prayers and meditations related to the resource in question. They also include stories about individuals and families with whom Episcopal Relief and Development has worked who have lacked access to water, seeds, etc. The stories include optional videos to supplement them and follow-up questions and activities that ask the children to put themselves in these families’ positions.
Different activities can be used in different contexts. For example, one activity from the water segment that would be appropriate to a field trip or camp activity asks children to practice walking a distance of 10-15 minutes with a bucket and bringing back clean water so they can see what it’s like. Another activity, more appropriate for Sunday school, asks children to consider a story from scripture about the gift of water and to do art projects related to that story.
Each segment focuses children’s attention on the great abundance of gifts in God’s world. Each asks children to consider what life would be like if poverty blocked access to that resource and invites them to consider what Christians are doing in the world to give all people access to the great resources of this world. These are ideal messages to give our young ones as we teach them to listen to the voice in the wilderness calling us to prepare the way for Jesus. I encourage anyone who is interested in Christian education to look into this program. Here is an introduction to the program, if you want to learn more about it.
If you are interested in learning more about online resources and the church, check out this preview of Kyle’s class.