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This RENEWAL topic is collecting worship-related resources on the theme of renewal and recommitment, especially with an eye toward recommitment to attendance and learning in Sunday School.

It includes Baptism-related ideas, celebration ideas, liturgies, and children's sermons.

You are welcome to add your renewal-themed resource or idea here. If you're looking for lessons and background on Jesus' baptism, visit Jesus' Baptism Bible story forum and check here for ideas for teaching about baptism in general.

The celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism is a natural occasion for those previously baptized to renew their promises to God and to the church community. Indeed, the word "sacrament" comes from the Roman (Latin) word meaning "oath of loyalty," "bond," or "pledge" ("sacramentum").

Baptism is also an occasion that reminds us of the promises of God --unending grace and the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Even if a baptism is not taking place, there are times and places where repeating or being reminded of our baptismal vows are a welcome opportunity for renewal. In fact, we live in a time that calls out for renewal and recommitment in Christ's name to the worshiping community and to the servant life. We hope you'll find and add some inspiration here.



Some "baptism renewal" resources & ideas

A list begun by Neil MacQueen at Rotation.org

  • The UMC's Discipleship Ministry has a fresh, language-updated New Service of Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant that all can borrow from. It rephrases the questions usually asked of the parents or person to be baptized so that all can answer. Even if you're NOT United Methodist, the language is worth looking at and the questions are likely similar to what your denomination asks.      (By comparison, my own PCUSA denom has a wordy service that I don't recommend.) Don't forget to check your denomination's "Book of Worship" for baptism renewal resources.
  • Ceremonially use the water in the baptismal font to water a "Promise Plant" at church.
  • Have the kids pot some plants and use the baptism water to grow a "promise" plant.

  • Package the baptismal water in ziploc bags to go home where you can use it to water a plant. Add a label to the bag explaining the idea.  Can you add more water than usual for a "blessing of the water" (so to speak) as a reminder of the growth we are called to? Lots of water imagery in the Bible.
  • Plan a few Water Games to take place after a recommitment service for the kids. Theme them with renewal/water/refresh ideas to reinforce your service or lessons.
  • Encourage parents to discover and celebrate the "birthday" of their child's baptism. You can begin by framing that birth certificate you give them so they don't lose it in a box. If a date is undiscoverable, encourage them to use the first Sunday after January 6, which is the traditional celebration date of Jesus' baptism. Share these celebration ideas from Concordia Publishing.


A Couple of Good Baptism and Water Videos for Kids

Here's an engaging video explaining baptism to children in an ecumenical fashion:

Here's Saddleback Kids' retelling of Jesus' baptism:

This "Water of Life" video from the Bible Project connects the theme of water from Genesis to Jesus.

NOTE:
Different denominations will have different emphasis and practice regarding baptism. Check with your pastor and adjust materials in this topic according to your church's needs.

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Baptism: Opportunities for Renewal and Recommitment

  • Four Children's Sermons About Baptism

  • Notes About Baptism and Renewing One's Baptismal Vows

During times of renewal, baptism is a terrific subject to discuss—and hopefully perform—especially with children present. When you have a baptism scheduled, it's also a good time to do a children's message about it.

That said, several of the following children's sermons could be adapted for use as a classroom demonstration in a lesson about baptism. Adjust accordingly.  I'm also offering my "about baptism" notes for those who want to see my theological context. You're welcome to have another opinion, but I wanted you to see where my children's sermons were coming from.




Be sure to read my "about baptism" notes at the end for some context.

Baptism Children's Sermon 1:   "The Soap and Towel One"

God's saving grace does not expire or diminish over time. And ultimately, it is completely independent of what we do or say. And as you will see in my children's sermon, God's grace in baptism does not depend on the amount of water either!  As always, feel free to adjust my wording to meet with your version of the mystery and your sense of propriety

Context and Preparation. I regularly taught children's sermons "about worship" knowing that some of our parents came from other traditions. Modern Presbyterians do not overly revere the water in the baptismal font. We respect what it represents, but it isn't magic, it's tap water. (We take the same view of the communion bread. Though some not raised in the Reformed tradition might still think it has "transubstantiated" somehow into the actual body of Christ, we honor its symbolic significance without treating it in any superstitious way.) Though Zwingli would be proud of us, we do need to be a teacher about these things lest we create stumbling blocks for others. To me, it's really important to use my playfulness with the kids as a way of getting to the heart of the matter, and not merely for fun. So here we go...

Begin by inviting all the kids up to the baptismal font (or whatever you use).

Ask them what they think is "in" there and what we do with the water.

Ask them how they use water at home.

("Cleaning" is what we're looking for so that we can emphasize water as a symbol for the forgiveness of sin, which is like dirt that clings to our hearts and makes us stink.)

Ask: Who here likes to be dirty and stinky !?!

Produce a bar of soap and a towel, then dip the towel in the water, add a bit of soap to the towel, and offer to clean a few kids on their cheek or hand.

Offer a few quips like, "Oh Myrtle, you've got a lot of sin clinging to you, but no worries, God forgives all of it!" and "The amazing thing about baptism is you only need it ONCE. One time being forgiven all your sins by God is enough for the rest of your life!"   Let's see a show of hands how many of you wish you only had to take ONE bath and be clean for the rest of your life!

There was always one kid I would scrub a little longer. God is patient and doesn't give up.

Ask: How many of you remember YOUR baptism? (In a PCUSA church almost no hands will go up.) Say: Well that's a problem because it was a really important event in your life. Your parents and church friends probably carried you up here as a baby (or at another church), the minister announced that you were a Child of God, and sprinkled you with some water to symbolize God's forgiveness of your sins. And everybody there promised to help you become a disciple of Jesus. It was your FOREVER BATH!   But you don't remember it, do you? Well, we're going to take care of that right now.

Then one by one, offer one of two ways to remember their baptism:

(1) I can pour some water down the back of your neck, and it will be wet there for a while as a good reminder that you are God's forgiven child and a member of his family.

(2) I can rub some of this clean-smelling soap on the back of your hand so you can smell your baptism. Your choice!  You can even have both if you like.

As I poured the water and rubbed the soap. I said something like "Child of God, remember your forgiveness bath and keep on growing in Christ."

True story: Most of the kids wanted BOTH the water and soap. You could see them smelling their hands and letting their parents smell their hands when they got back to their seats. And during our fellowship hour they were happy to show me that their shirts were still wet and giggled when I asked "What's that smell? The smell of forgiveness!"



Baptism Children's Sermon #2:  "How Much Water Do You Need?"

(also known as "The Baby Goober Gets Baptized" Children's Sermon)

POV: During Confirmation Classes, we would always have a big discussion about "how much water should the minister use to baptize a person?" and "what happens if the minister MISSES you with the water?" or "how long or how many times should a person be dunked?" And of course, I would always DEMONSTRATE THESE IDEAS WITH WATER.

Minor point???  Not really. In 2021, it was discovered that a priest in Arizona had been using "unapproved" words in his baptism ritual. He said "We baptize you" instead of "I baptize you," which his denomination said invalidated every baptism he had ever done. Of course, that's nutso theology, but I digress.  My point is that DEMONSTRATING something humorous like "accidentally missing the baby with the water" is a terrifically memorable teaching opportunity. Frankly, ANYTHING WITH WATER is a memorable teaching opportunity! And it points out that baptism is what God does, not what we do, not what we say, or how much water we use (or miss with). God never misses. The water is "just" a symbol, not magic. Our words are never as important as God's words. (I have had Confirmands demonstrate this "its not magic words" by pantomiming the words spoken at baptism. Very interesting to see them mime the Trinity!) Even when we are forgiven, we can still sin, still backslide. God's promises can be trusted even if ours cannot be.

I also point out that God doesn't have to be told who to love and forgive. God doesn't have to wait for Sunday or a priest. God doesn't even need water! (See Matthew 3:11 about that.)

So here are the basics of my Baby Goober children's sermon:

Baby Goober was a doll I borrowed from the church nursery and put in a box by the sanctuary steps. When the kids came to the steps, I told them we had a special guest baby who wanted to be baptized today and needed our help. Then I invited Baby Goober to "come out of the box."

Baby Goober did not want to come out of that box. After several entreaties, Baby Goober said  (in my horrible baby ventriloquism voice which delighted the children).  "I am not coming out there."  (Why not?) "Because I don't want to take a bath! I don't want no 'bath-tism.'"

Finally, I coaxed Baby Goober out of the box and carried on a conversation with him that went something like this:

"I'm not getting into that "bath-dismal fountain." (It's called a baptism font.)  "I don't need a bath." (It's a symbol of having a clean heart, that your sins are forgiven and washed away. You are accepted by God.)  "What's a heart? I'm just a baby ya know." (It's your relationship with God. God wants to let you know that nothing can keep you from his love and forgiveness—that God has hold of your heart forever.) "That sounds painful."

"Well how about baptizing one of these big kids here?"  (Sometimes we do, but when we baptize babies, it reminds us that God forgives and accepts us before we can even walk or do anything wrong.)  "Oh I do lots of things wrong." (Like what Baby Goober?)  "Oh, you'll find out when you change my diaper." (Goober! Baptism says God will always love you no matter what.) "I hope so, it's a stinky one."*

Then when we tried to baptize Baby Goober, he dodged about quite a bit and I kept missing him with the water (and hitting the children, of course, several times).  Finally, I got him good and wet, and Goober said "That wasn't so bad."

To finish up, I told Baby Goober that all these kids were now his brothers and sisters in Christ. "Even the weird ones?"  (Yes, even the weird ones.) "Do I have to share my box with them?" (Yep, Christians share.)

"Baptism party in Baby G's box everybody!"  (Okay, thanks Baby G!)

*This line got a lot of laughs and was repeated back to me many times. Glad they remembered the lesson!

Baby Goober reappeared several other times over the year teaching other things. I understand that this kind of playfulness might seem inappropriate to some, but the kids loved Goober sermons, and the parents did too. Adjust as you need.


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Baptism Children's Sermon #3:  "Let's Sprinkle the Congregation"

This children's sermon shares the "refreshing feel" of God's forgiveness on "Baptism Sunday," the first Sunday every year after January 6th (i.e. after Epiphany) when we read about and celebrate Christ's baptism in the River Jordan.

I borrowed this idea from a pastor in Ohio who on Baptism Sunday each year in early January would dip a large evergreen branch into the baptismal font and fling sprinkles of water across the congregation. The adults and kids loved this, and he always made a point of inviting everyone to renew their commitment and let the waters of God's forgiveness bring relief and joy to their lives. Coming at the New Year with its emphasis on resolutions, it was a good tie-in too.

In another church on Baptism Sunday, we put over a dozen rosemary branches to soak in the baptismal font, and after a children's sermon about Jesus' baptism, the kids were invited to sprinkle the congregation. The nice thing about rosemary branches is they hold just enough water to create a light sprinkle. Nobody got soaked. And they smell good.

When the pastor asked for people to "raise their hand if you were missed," quite a few hands went up and the kids made sure those folks got sprinkled. Super memorable, lots of big smiles, and it was a great opportunity to talk about refreshing our commitment at the beginning of the calendar year.

This was in Florida, and one year in the pastor's sermon, she referenced the "COOL MIST ZONES" they had at Disney World. She also referenced lawn sprinklers and ocean spray, cool rains, the heavy dew on the morning grass, and Florida's sudden downpours—all metaphors of the way God's refreshing spirit can enter our lives.  And then we sang "Morning Has Broken." Lots of great metaphors in water.



Baptism Children's Sermon #4: "The Children Help Baptize One of Their Own"

From time to time, even in a Presbyterian church, you'll have the opportunity to baptize one of your Sunday School kids, and that's when this children's sermon is best.

You're going to invite all your kids to join you at the baptismal font and help you baptize the child. If they have siblings, be sure to include them. We called them "the God-brothers-and-sisters" (like the similar "God-parents" label). People loved hearing that.

In the service of baptism, I gave the kids a pitcher of water and let several of them pour it into the font. I also let a child hold the lid to the font, another hold the towel which we provided the minister to dry their hands afterward, and one of them held the hymnbook which had the words of baptism that the minister used. When it came time for the prayer for the child or baby, we had all the children place their hand on the child's shoulders (a laying on of hands), and in the case of a baby we did this with, the kids held on to the baby's feet and dress.

We also asked the gathered children a QUESTION similar to the one we asked the parents:

Do you promise to be a friend to ___________. To watch out for him as he grows up, to help keep ______ safe?

If so, will all the children please say "We Will!"

Do you promise to share the good news about Jesus with _____ and always make him feel welcome here in God's house?

If so, will all the children please say "We Will!"

After I put the water on the child or baby's head, I then turned and "tapped" a wet finger to the forehead of every child. No words, just big smiles. Not a rebaptism, but a reminder.

At the end of the sacrament, I turned to the congregation and motioned to all the children gathered at the font and said,"To such belongs the Kingdom of God." It was a fitting end and also a reminder to those who might still wonder if having children help was appropriate. The congregation loved this "group" approach, and the parents of the child being baptized loved it, too.

In a different version of this children's sermon during a family retreat, we invited ALL the members present to come forward, dip their finger very lightly in the font, and then touch the baby's head.  We also invited them to offer their own short promise to "Clare Rose" to help her grow up to know Jesus. Of course, I had arranged this in advance with the parents of the baby. They loved the idea as did all the participants.   Most memorable baptism ever. (I'm looking for my photo of this and will post it soon.)

Note: My denomination requires baptisms to be pre-approved, which this was (and several members of Session were in attendance on the retreat). They also require we baptize with water using the Trinitarian formula ("in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"), and in worship in the presence of the congregation, which we did.



Neil's Notes About Baptism and Renewal

For the person being baptized, baptism is about repentance, grace, and committing to the journey of "new life" in Christ—which includes joining with the family of God. For the family and congregation of the person being baptized, baptism is a vivid reminder of these good things and an opportunity to renew our commitment.  And of course, it is so much more! Feel free to elaborate as you need.

For some time, now, most Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholic denominations have recognized the "validity" of each other's Sacrament of Baptism, and forbid the practice of "re-baptism" or any suggestion of it. Instead, these many denominations encourage and have resources for the "renewal of" or "recommitment to" one's baptismal vows.

The reason for this broad modern agreement about "no re-baptism is to be practiced" largely has to do with a literal reading of Ephesians 4:4-5 where the word "one" is hard to miss:

"...there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6

The Roman Catholic and Reformed branches of the Church even put their mutual acceptance in writing, and the Orthodox and Anglicans agree. That said, like the "Anabaptists" of old, today's "Baptist" churches tend to only recognize "believers" baptism by immersion, and will require a new church member to be rebaptized if they were previously only baptized as an infant in another denomination. As well, there are "fringe" churches and denominations whose baptismal sacrament is not recognized by the major denominations mainly because those fringe churches also have other theological unorthodoxies. If you are curious, here's a list of whose Sacrament of Baptism is "valid" according to the R.C. Church.

The case for infant baptism is two-fold. Reformed, Orthodox, and Catholic traditions point to Acts 11:14 where Peter baptized Cornelius' "entire household" (read: "entire family"). And Luther, Calvin, and most of the early Church Fathers (like Augustine) understood infant baptism to be a profound sign of the unmerited nature of God's grace. And I like to mention that there's very little difference between a newborn and an adult when it comes to all we don't know or understand about God. Sometimes it's enough to just "be still" or "be quiet" or "let go" rather than pretend we have it all figured out (see the possible definitions of "be still, be quiet, let go" in Ps 46:10).  Babies are a living example of our complete dependence on God.

Just like there's no "one right way to baptize," there's no one lesson or children's sermon that can explain it all. I've officiated at 20+ baptisms, done at least a dozen different children's sermons about baptism, and taught many Sunday School and Confirmation lessons about it, and I'm still learning and discovering the joy and mystery of it.

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Celebrating Everyone's Baptism Birthday

Concordia Publishing has a bunch of good ideas for celebrating the "birthday" of a child's baptism. These could also be used for a church-wide day of celebrating. There are good suggestions for things you can do at home too, like taking a "cross walk" around your neighborhood.

seashellwaterfireWhen to celebrate everyone's baptism?
As mentioned in a previous post, Jesus' Baptism is celebrated on the first Sunday AFTER Three Kings Day (Epiphany), which is the first Sunday after January 6th every year. It comes on the heels of the tradition of "New Year's Resolutions" too, so that's a natural thematic fit.

The Day of Pentecost is another option for celebrating our "baptism birthdays." Pentecost is the baptism of the Church by the Holy Spirit and is often called "the birthday of the Church." Of course, this is a springtime date.

The biblical connection between baptism, Jesus' baptism, and Pentecost can be found in the words of John the Baptist:

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

[I once heard a great sermon about water baptism "being only the beginning of our baptism." —that the baptism by Spirit and Fire were yet to come and happen throughout a person's life.]

Baptism Shell Soap Project

The seashell is an ancient symbol of baptism, and shells make a great mold for quick-setting "melt and pour" soap making. You can also buy silicone shell molds. It is a great take-home reminder about baptism, and something the kids could give to the congregation as well.

Here's a video of DiY "melt and pour" soap making. It takes about 2 to 4 hours to harden this type of soap. Lots of DiY "melt and pour" soap suggestions are online. Here's one that has all you need to know, including a supply list and instructions.

You could mix the colors into one shell soap or make different colored shells or make different shapes to represent the symbols of water and fire and spirit.

There are other similar videos. Keep in mind that this is the "melt and pour" type of soap that is easier to work with and hardens quicker.

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A Service of Recommitment

The following seven commitments to renewal are based on Thom Rainer's list which originally appeared in Charisma magazine. The suggested worship service presentation is Rotation.org's and the seven commitments have been adapted with a more personal tone. An example of what each commitment might entail is included with an indented "♦"  and can serve as a point of discussion between the pastor and presenters. A pastor could also write them out for readers. Some of these "7" thematically overlap, and each could be taken in a different direction. Your call. There's also nothing magic about having "7" of them.  Adjust as you like.

Suggested Worship Presentation:

Recommitment is more compelling and powerful when it is personal, specific, and publicly shared, especially in a worship context. Think of these as testimonies.

You will invite a group of people to prepare to speak during the service on these seven commitments --each person addressing one or two for no more than 30 seconds. The pastor will help them prepare. The speakers may share an example of something in their life that their commitment will address, but they should understand that they are also a "stand-in" for those worshiping with them, and that their words should strike a chord with others. Brevity is important.

  • The people assigned to each "commitment" should represent different ages and cohorts in the congregation, including children and youth.
  • Each person should speak for no more than 30 seconds.
  • They may share how they plan to specifically implement their commitment in their life, being careful not to embarrass members of their family.
  • At the end of the seven recommitments, other members may be asked to stand or come forward who want to make one or more of those same commitments.
  • Adapt and adjust as you like.


The Seven Commitments

1. I commit to making a difference in the lives of people in need.

♦ To be more empathetic toward other people's struggles, to listen to what others have to say even if it makes me feel uncomfortable, and to help them in some tangible personal way. It's easy to be indifferent, but Christ calls us to engage, not disengage.

2. I commit myself to a renewed attitude of patience and kindness.

♦ Not only toward others, but toward myself. God help me to forgive my past, as well as the wrongs I haven't let go of. Make me slow to speak and type!

3. I commit myself to being more grateful.

♦ To not only count blessings and point out blessings, but to stop listening to the naysayers, nitpickers, and dooms-dayers, and instead, look for God's beauty and light in the world.

4. I commit myself to being an example Christ's love to people I disagree with.

♦ A love that is slow to anger, faithful, and non-judgmental. A love that forgets the past, heals in the present, and is hopeful about the future.

5. I commit to putting people ahead of activities.

♦ To view every encounter, meeting, and calendar event as an opportunity to share some love and maybe lift a burden.

6. I commit myself to de-cluttering my calendar and activities so that I have more room for what really matters.

♦ This can include having more time for rest, healthy pursuits, and being more mentally, emotionally, and physically available to others.  It can mean finding time for study.

7. I commit myself to growing my personal relationship with God through prayer.

♦ To seek a more personal and heartfelt relationship with Jesus Christ so that I can be a more effective disciple in the world, and enjoy more fully God's healing and guiding presence in my life.




Alternatively, you could substitute the Fruits of the Spirit as things you want to recommit to. Lots of possibilities.

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

For a good teaching explanation of each fruit, read Rotation.org's Bible Background on Galatians 5:22-23.

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I really like the suggested service of recommitment above!

There are some good suggestions there already. One more I would add would be to back off (or turn down) the social media usage.   (A hard one for me! ) Either item 5 or 6 could be adapted to include it. Or it could be its own item:

I commit to setting aside my phone and other technology and actively focusing on the people and/or projects around me.

♦ Prioritize demanding activities over passive consumption; focus online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value

digitalMinimalismHere is a book that several friends have highly recommended (I have added it to my reading list ) that supports this recommitment: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newpert.

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Blessing of the School Backpacks

Blessing of the Sunday School Rooms and Supplies

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These two ideas are similar and there's no reason you can't do both or combine them.

  1. Nothing symbolizes a student's expectations for the new school year better than the bag or backpack that he or she will carry with her every day. Consider inviting the students to bring their backpacks to worship before the start of a new school year, and have the congregation pray for their learning as well as their safety in the coming year. (Don't forget to pray for the teachers and administrators, too!)

  2. Then... "piggyback" on the backpack theme with a discussion and blessing of the supplies, rooms, teachers, and students about to start a new season of learning in our Sunday School. Compare the importance of learning God's Word and God's Values with learning math and reading. They're all important and a person is incomplete without them.

Bless the teachers. Bless the supplies. Bless the Rooms, Bless the kids

This "blessing" can be done in worship, or could be done as a "parade" after worship through the rooms and end up in Fellowship Hall for cake. The pastor could lead this parade of blessing by sprinkling baptismal water in each room and on the marchers as a symbol of our promise to raise up children in the way they should go. You could even include a little bit of incense or the smell of fresh baked bread saying that our brain associates good smells with good places and memories and we pray that learning here will be a delight to the Holy Spirit and to our kids!

Planning for a Blessing of the Backpacks and Supplies

Some things you can do...

  • Begin announcing several weeks in advance so that students will bring their backpacks to worship on a specific Sunday.  (Those who forget can still go to the front of the sanctuary to be blessed with the other children.)
  • Give the children a bag tag or some sort as a physical reminder of the congregations' support and prayers for them as well as God's presence with them throughout the school year. You may also choose to supply each student with something from your church, like a church pen, to remind them of their church when they're in school.
  • Depending on your congregation's demographics, you may want to consider supplying your students with backpacks already loaded with supplies. Or collect backpacks and pray over them, and donate them to the local food bank or some other community organization that supports families having trouble making ends meet.
  • Include the Great Commission in your liturgy as a reminder to students (and the congregation) that they are called to GO into the world in Jesus' name with healing and love, and that world includes their school world.
  • Include a traditional or contemporary Christian song that will enliven and inspire the congregation and kids to GO into the world, knowing that Jesus is with them always, as promised. Micah Tyler's "Never Been a Moment" (that I was not loved by you) is a good place to start.

An Offering of Learning Supplies

This idea is based on the "Birthday presents for the church" idea found in our Pentecost ideas forum. The congregation buys supplies for the Sunday School by picking a 'tag' off of a board or tree and then bringing it wrapped in newspaper to a certain Sunday service. The kids in the children's sermon unwrap the gifts and the pastor makes some encouraging comments about each gift to drum up excitement for the impending restart or recommitment to Sunday School.

Construction paper, markers, glue, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Bibles, Bible maps, new toys for the nursery, a rug, ---whatever supplies your program needs. You can even put a teacher in a gift box that the kids unwrap!

The kids offer their time and promise their best learning attitude.

Here are some sample prayers and liturgies from other churches and ministries to help you write your own:

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