In the beginning...We began by reflecting on the previous year...
We are a partnership of four rural churches, with a church primary school that is catchment for all four parishes.
Special events such as the Crib Service and the annual Teddy Bears picnic had been extremely well attended. (70+ children at the Crib Service and 30+ at the picnic - up from 6 the previous year!)
As well, our pre-school service had a core of families who had been coming along for two or three years and felt comfortable with actually being in the church.
However, numbers at our informal All Age Worship services on Sundays remained low and we realised that it would still be considered too formal by many people. We felt it was time to look at what else we could offer.
PossibilitiesWe considered Messy Church and I went to visit several. There was much we liked about it – the friendliness, the food, the activities and craft that engaged the children.
However, we felt it needed a large team of committed people to work well – and in our small churches it would be hard to find enough people to do this each month.
Also, my background is in Godly Play where the story is told first and the response follows; with Messy Church it seemed as if the response preceded the story. I also felt that without care Messy Church could become children's activities with food rather than the All Age event it is intended to be.
The Cambridge Church Schools Trust had organised several events for primary school children in Cambridge churches. These events had a seasonal theme such as as Lent and Advent.
The children moved in groups around the stations, which each focussed on different aspects of the theme, for example the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness.
They included story telling and reflective, creative activities, including an art response.
I had been involved in "Shed for Lent" (February 2013) and would be taking part in "Path to the Stable" (November 2013) and was keen to see if these could work in our much smaller church with children from our local primary school.
We also wanted to find ways of including other events such as the annual Teddy Bears picnic in our overall plan.
We decided that we wanted to offer a variety of events that could be held at different times and in different venues.
We felt it was important to build up confidence in what we were doing and that to achieve this it would be helpful to have an umbrella "name" and a logo so that people could identify our events and know that it would be appropriate for their children.
We held a brainstorming session with some of our children to choose a "name". Suggestions ranged from "Denizens of Nazareth" to "Lightship" but when one of the children suggested "Footsteps" the name appealed to everyone, perhaps because it connected with the idea of journeying together.
What makes a "Footsteps" event?
The themes and stories are Christian but offer opportunities for everyone to reflect on their own lives and respond in a creative way. They are family friendly but offer opportunities for adults to engage as well as children.
All Footsteps events offer:
Opportunities to be creative
Time/space for prayer, reflection or just to be quiet
So far we are offering three different kind of events:
Informal worship with activities:
In format this service has elements of Godly Play and Messy Church. It begins with gathering – welcome, singing and an opening prayer.
This is followed by the story, which may be told through drama. Response to the story includes a variety of activities (some taken from the Messy Church books) but also opportunities for free response and some stations that have a more adult focus.
We come back together for prayer, singing and blessing. The event finishes with a bring and share tea.
Journeying in the desert: the story of Abraham and Sarah
The Good Samaritan
Hosanna! an event for Palm Sunday
Reflective stations with stories:
This event includes three or four stations set up in different places around the church.
A story is told at each station and the children are given the chance to think about their own experiences and take part in a reflective activity.
This is followed by a craft response and refreshments.
So far these have been based on material used by the Cambridge Church Schools Trust, in their week long creative and interactive events for children in Cambridge primary schools.
Path to the Stable: a journey through Advent: a look at the role of the prophets, John the Baptist and Mary in the Christian story
Beyond the Stable: journeying through Christmas: focussing on the powerful (Herod and the magi), the prayerful (Anna and Simeon,) and the dispossessed (the shepherds) and linking their stories to life today
Lent: Jesus in the Wilderness Empty or full? Fame or trust? Powerful or serving? How should we choose?
Wind and Flame: Pentecost The upper room, fruit of the spirit, the dove - different aspects of the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit
Jesus the King: Stories of the Kingdom The parable of the Pearl, the Mustard Seed and the Great Banquet giving insights into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Summer picnic:This is held outside with a Bible story told through interactive drama. There are different crafts and activities, singing and prayer.
Jonah: Footsteps Summer Picnic