Gathering together for faith formation is difficult in this time of the Covid pandemic. It is overwhelming to tackle the revamping of faith formation activities in order to make them be 100% Covid safe. However, it is important to rise to the challenge and offer at least offer at least one structured covid safe faith formation activity a month at your site. Home-based faith formation instruction by itself is just not enough. It needs to supplemented with scheduled in person activities at church. Church is about the community gathering, learning, and supporting each other in our call to live the Gospel. Our churches ares important places to experience the sacred presence of God.
These monthly suggestions can be offered in Covid safe formats. Requiring masks will be dependant on state and CDC guidelines. Some activities can easily be hosted outside with physical distancing in place. Other are inside activities that are either composed of physically distanced stations or scheduled by staggered time slots over a generous window of time. For all activities, there is minimal sharing of supplies by participants. This helps ensure a low need for worry about the proper procedures for the sanitization of spaces and supplies.
Friendly Reminders and Fun Incentives are key!
Participation is key to success. Make sure you market your events in your church bulletin. For effective communication directly to families, send out a reminder email 2 weeks before with a sign-up. Follow-up with a final reminder 2 days in advance. Parents often do not take action until the deadline is staring them in the face.
Carrots help reel in more takers. Some incentives ideas are:
- first people to sign up earn a showcase photo in the bulletin, on your website or on your social media pages showing their participation
- participants get entered in a drawing for gift certificates
- participants earn chances at a fun event: dunking youth minister at a dunk tank, throwing whip cream pies at church staff, etc.
September: Creation Story Outdoor Stations
Format: Self-guided outdoor stations for a drop-in family experience
Use your outdoor space! Make 8 different stations spread out across your outdoor church site. At the first 7 stations, post the creation story scripture for a particular creation day . Feel free to print the pages from the Creation Story lesson plan book. Make sure to laminate the scripture to make it withstand the elements. At the last station, ask families to find the coolest nature object and add it to a table display or take a picture and submit to faith formation director by email or social media. Allow families a whole week to drop by and experience the stations.
A great extension of this activity can be the integration of The Kindness Rock Project (TKRP). Ask families to paint small rocks with inspirational saying to leave on your church grounds. When a rock is discovered, it can be taken if it inspires you or it can be shared with a friend. My city community has been doing this project in our parks and walkways during Covid. The rocks are very moving.
October: Blessing of the Beasts
Format: Outdoor socially distanced event
Invite families to bring all critters that walk, creep, run, fly, slim or slither to a Blessing of the Beasts around the Feast of St. Francis on October 4. Hold the event outdoors with everyone bringing their own chairs. The blessing can be a simple ceremony with Scripture and hymns. Ask a parishioner to dress as St. Francis of Assisi and read The Canticle of Creation. At the conclusion, do individual blessings of each animal with holy water. Provide small treats for the 4 legged friends who come.
November: Saint’s Wax Museum
Format: Facilitated stations physically distanced throughout the church property
In honor of All Saint’s Day on November 1, host a Saint’s Wax Museum event. Ask 6 to 8 teens or adults to dress as their favorite Saint. Our church has a bunch of costumes from Christmas pageant programs that can be easily adapted for a Saint costume. This simplifies the preparation since no one has to make a costume from scratch.
Spread the costumed Saints throughout the building or in outdoor spaces. Provide the participants with a small map detailing the list of Saints to visit. When participants visit a Saint, have the Saint come to life and talks about his/her life and why he/she was canonized.
December: Christmas Symbols Scavenger hunt
Format: Self-guided Indoor stations physically spread throughout the church building as a drop in activity
To help give the focus of Christmas back to birth of Christ, setup a Christmas Symbols Scavenger hunt. Spread 12 different Christmas symbols across 12 different locations and allow the families to do a self-guided tour. Leave a description with each symbol providing details on how the object helps us realize the true meaning of Christmas. At the last station, show a statue of Santa kneeling in front of baby Jesus for an impactful finish. All details can be found in the Christmas Symbols Scavenger Hunt post.
For this activity to be Covid-safe, spread out the attendance by one of these options: having participants reserve a specific time slot on-line or hosting it open house style over the course of the week. If you would like to have families complete the scavenger hunt in their homes, email them this easy Virtual Christmas scavenger hunt activity.
January: Epiphany Home Blessing Kits
Format: Indoor activity with a large group facilitator (or have families pick up prepared kits)
The feast of the Epiphany in January is a wonderful celebration of the visit of the Magi to baby Jesus. This occasion is often celebrated by the “chalking of the doors” blessing which is a centuries old tradition practiced throughout the world. Encourage families to adopt this practice by giving them an opportunity to make a Epiphany Home Blessing kit out of chalk, cardboard placard, string, holy water, and a special Epiphany prayer booklet. The C + M + B in the chalked message stand for the 3 wise men: Caspar, Malchior, and Balthazar. The plus signs represent the cross of Jesus.
Begin the event as a socially distanced large group in your worship space. Have a facilitator read this Epiphany story from Free Bible Images on a big screen to the entire group and then demonstrate how to make a kit. Provide each family unit with a separate table to assemble their kit. If you prefer to handout prepared kits to the families instead of gathering in person, the Epiphany Blessing kit activity at Look to Him and Be Radiant gives wonderful details on how to create one in a bag. The activity includes a printable booklet with songs, Scripture and prayer.
February: Sacrament Scavenger hunt
Format: Self-guided exploration activity offered during a generous window or have families sign up for staggered slots
To allow some self-discovery on the seven Sacraments, host a Sacrament Scavenger Hunt Open House. Ask families to simply walking through the worship space, the sacristy and the common areas, to find things used in or relating to the Sacraments. Together they will experience together a deeper understanding of why these signs and symbols are such a big part of our faith.
Look To Him and Be Radiant has a couple of perfect recording sheet(s) that can be used. For family groups, offer the sheet that has a check-list of specific items to find. Allow parents of younger children to just focus on the symbols for the Sacraments of Baptism, Communion, and Reconciliation.
As an extension, ask families to take pictures of objects they find and submit then social media. In Instagram if they tag your church in the photo and use a unique hashtag (for examples #sacramentsymbols), the pictures can be quickly seen by a simple search of the hashtag.
March: Stations of the Cross
Format: Outdoor activity stations or traditional indoor activity with staggered time slots
Lent needs to be a time to reflect on Jesus sacrifice and Stations of the Cross are a perfect way for families to do that together.
Reflective guides are a must!
Please see my post on prayerful guides for Stations of the Cross that are geared to children.
- For lower elementary, use this simple 2 page Stations of the Cross Guide for Children that can be printed 2 sided on one sheet to paper.
- For upper elementary, this Stations of the Cross for Children Booklet is powerful. The parent can read the “The Way of Jesus” part and a child can read the “Our Way to Jesus” part.
- For digital reading, use my on-line Google slide version.
- For teens, The Stations of the Cross for Teens from Archdiocese of Winnipeg is quite good; it enables teens to directly apply the Stations to their lives.
Easy Ways to Make Outdoor Stations:
I have a post dedicated on how to quickly setup up Outdoor Stations of the Cross. One option is setting out symbolic representations of each event using common everyday objects. Another option is to buy some inexpensive outdoor aluminum Stations of the Cross Plates.
April: Pentecost Eggs
Format: Indoor activity with a large group facilitator
When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost it fired them up to go out and preach the Gospel. In order to instill families to think about the power of the Holy Spirit, have them transform plastic Easter eggs into Pentecost eggs. Pentecost eggs contain a Pentecostal flame, and a note with a small service project to be done, and some candy. These eggs are taken home and to be given to family members, friends, and/or neighbors.
Start the event by reading the story of Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-12 ) in family units or together as a socially distanced large group. To make the Pentecost eggs more fun, consider asking families to leave some of the Pentecost eggs they create in a basket for other families to take home so that they experience a surprise “assigned”service project.
If you are looking for alternative Pentecost activity that can be done completely at home, consider offering a home Virtual Pentecost Scavenger Hunt.
May: Flower Planting & Virgin Mary Blessing for Mother’s Day
Format: Outdoor drop-in activity
Invite families to plant flowers in a special church garden in honor of the Virgin Mary and all of the special women in their lives. If your church already has a Mary statue in place then that could be the perfect spot! Prep the garden area by some light hoeing. Ask families to bring their own annuals and trowels for planting.
Leave copies of prayers to Mary for families to read together. For an additional touch, allow families to write their own prayers and messages to those women in their lives they may be planting in honor. An easy way to do this is to utilize a nearby sidewalk. Leave some sidewalk chalk (along with hand sanitizer) so families can write personal messages.