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2014 Mustard Seed Grant Results

Over the past two years St. John’s developed a program to enrich our ministry and build healthy, spiritually engaging programs for children and youth. With a Mustard Seed Grant, we have made progress toward reaching our goals.                  

Under the supervision of the Vestry and Rector, the Minister of Family Programs, the Junior Warden and several members of the Congregation worked together to create a welcoming and rewarding space for families within our overall community.

From our must-do priorities, we have:

Updated, reorganized, and cleaned our Sunday School, Children’s Chapel and Nursery rooms. We now have space to undertake craft projects, worship in a kid-friendly setting, and allow for the littlest of our visitors to have a safe play space. We have purchased new education materials and are working to improve our resource library.


We have a Youth calendar for staff and helpers. We also send out weekly emails with information about Sunday’s lessons and activities and future events.

All of the adults who work with children have attended the appropriate training.

Our small congregation has very active and inquisitive children. We have hosted several field trip opportunities, but have not been able to logistically manage summer trips. We held a Family Sunday each month during the school year to try to encourage more participation in our programs.

Vacation Bible School for the past two years has been hugely successful. In 2012 a grant from a parishioner supplemented the Mustard Seed Grant to purchase VBS t-shirts for 2012 and 2013 (pictured to the right). We see the shirts on the kids around the community often.

We redesigned and implemented a new Sunday School program. Sundays rotate between lessons and chapel, a service project, and fellowship. Because of the nature of our children and youth, we stepped away from a direct approach to theological reflection and instead focused on interactive lessons.

Because of hectic schedules and logistics, Children’s Chapel was ultimately combined with Sunday School.

The Mustard Seed Grant helped tremendously to reach important goals for our family ministry. What follows is a narrative of our successes and a summary of our total expenditures.

Sunday School Program and Materials

The Grant helped pay for new materials and lesson options. Specifically, we invested in: The Amazing Bible Race series of books. We adapted many of their lessons and activities into Sunday School and Children’s Chapel programs. Resources from the Episcopal Church and other organizations to help the Family Minister design lessons and create engaging activities for the children and youth. Materials and lesson plans for interactive lessons and crafts. Some of these include:

◊ Focus on the history of crosses with crafts.

◊ History of stained glass.

◊ Two different Bible Character Bingo games.

◊ Matching Bible verses to images game.

◊ A “Finding Jesus” scavenger hunt that sent the kids all over the church.

◊ Tin Man craft that shows what is in their heart.

We instituted monthly Family Sundays. After a brief lesson and discussion the children and youth worked together to create something to serve the entire congregation during the fellowship hour. One of the unexpected rewarding aspects of Family Sundays is the anticipation of the entire congregation about what will be on the menu and why it relates to learning about Christianity.


◊ To welcome people back from summer vacations, we hosted a Friendship Sunday where parishioners were encouraged to invite friends and neighbors. We had a moonbounce for the kids (big and small), music played by some of our youth, and a buffet of treats. We had several new families join the festivities.

◊ During Lent we talked about the Northern European Lenten tradition of making pretzels to symbolize arms crossed in prayer and made pretzels to serve the congregation.

◊ For Easter, we made carrot-themed sandwiches (pictured to the right) for a brunch and hosted an Easter Egg Hunt for the congregation and neighborhood. We usually have 1-2 new families attend.

◊ For Pentecost we discussed the Holy Spirit and fire imagery and created an indoor fire table to roast marshmallows to make s’mores.

◊ During Autumn, we talked about church seasons. We went apple picking and made apple treats for the congregation. We also visited a pumpkin patch and then roasted pumpkin seeds for a Family Sunday.

◊ During Advent, we hosted a neighborhood Christmas Pageant. Over the past two years, we have had 4-5 new families participate. Several of these families attend Sunday School sporadically.

◊ At First Communion Sunday, we talked about the significance of bread and wine during the Eucharist. We made grape bread and grape pops for our fellowship celebration.


Confirmation Program Materials 

St. John’s purchased Confirm Not Conform to lead youth through the confirmation process. The grant also allowed us to have a church overnight to conduct study in a fun atmosphere. Three of our young adults completed the program and were confirmed by the Bishop.

First Communion Program Materials

Over the previous two years two children have gone through a program based on This Bread and This Cup to prepare for their First Communion.

Vacation Bible School Materials and Crafts

St. John’s resumed offering Vacation Bible School in 2011. The Mustard Seed Grant helped us expand our lesson materials. In 2012, our theme was Christianity Around the World. We looked at the different church seasons and how they are celebrated around the world with crafts and activities. 8-12 children attended and 1-3 continued to participate in Sunday School sporadically over the next year.

2013’s theme was Super Heroes and Super Heroines of the Bible; we partnered with another parish for the week. As many as 24 children participated in activities to learn about what it takes to be a hero or heroine in the Bible. At the end of the week each participant went home with their own Super Hero/Heroine costume. The outline of the week with lesson plans is attached to this document to provide a better picture of what the week’s activities.


Outreach and Advertising to the Community

Our outreach to the community continues with a monthly service project. Every second Tuesday the youth assemble bagged lunches to deliver to the Bailey’s Crossroads Homeless Shelter. The youth also sell Fair Trade Coffee and other products to support St. John’s and other outreach initiatives.

With the Mustard Seed Grant, we purchased signs to advertise the specifics of Sunday School activities near the St. John’s church sign. We also contribute to the neighborhood newsletter and ensure that our activities are included in the neighborhood calendar. We also send weekly updates about our activities to people who have expressed an interest in the church.

We continue to advertise in local newsletters with money that comes from the general funds of the Church.

Other Worship Activities

Our youth continue to serve as acolytes during our Rite II worship service. We added two new acolytes this past year.



Plans for the Future

We will continue our new tradition of Family Sundays and renew our efforts to involve our youth more actively in the service through readings, interactive presentations and other ways. We especially need to re-engage our older youth as part of the leadership of our church and will seek partnerships with other smaller churches.   

During Lent, we are reaching out to the neighborhood and our congregation as a whole through Lent Madness(a program supported by Forward Movement). We hope that this fun approach to observing Lent will engage and inspire our youth to find fun and joy in their spiritual lives.

We will also look for new and engaging ways to participate in our neighborhood’s scheduled activities, especially the Glencarlyn Neighborhood Day in June.

St. John’s gives great thanks to the Diocese for their investment in the parish through the Mustard Seed Grant. The grant allowed us to set a good foundation for family programs. We are forever grateful.