2023 Christian Home Month: Planning Resources for Congregations & Conferences
By Kevin Johnson
Families: Many Forms, Living Faithfully! Called to Justice
The Christian Home Month resource is for family ministry leaders, ministry teams, and intergenerational leaders in local congregations. It is designed to help local congregations develop and strengthen faith in the home and observe Christian Home Month. Although Christian Home Month is typically celebrated during the month of May, congregations may choose any month of the year to focus on the Christian home and its key role as a center for faith formation.
Our theme for 2023 is “Families Called to Justice.” In the book of Amos, we read, “. . . let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24, NRSV). These words can be both thrilling and terrifying. What is the justice we seek? How do we experience God’s justice? What do we see in the world around us that calls for God’s justice? And as families, what does it mean to be called to justice? For Christians, the simplest way to look at God’s justice is to know that God’s desire is for ALL to be treated as God would treat them.
This approach to understanding justice calls us into active love (another of the quadrennial themes from Christian Home Month), which produces service and results in acts of justice. The idea of being an inclusive church is a church that looks to all people for leadership and ministry and looks at Christian character.
People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is the essence of justice. Christ’s love is shown by doing, but also by being present. The best way to witness to the saving power of Christ in our lives is simply by being transparent and by being vessels through which God’s love, mercy, and grace flow and allow God to convert the heart.
We must be able to see e places in the world that are not of God's “kin-dom,” places of hatred, violence, grief, frustration, and greed. We must see those crowds gathered around the need for justice. And then we must go into those places and be the peace and love of Christ.
A child’s definition of justice is the treatment of others with respect and dignity. In addition, justice requires the presence of peace in every relationship. Justice naturally happens when we approach life and all of God’s creation with an understanding of God’s peace and love.
Think for a minute about what you know about the injustices in the world. In preparing this issue of Christian Home Month, these questions arose:
- Where is justice in the school setting when children who are different in some way are bullied (or even cyberbullied) by their peers?
- Where is justice for those who have been abused and are ignored when they tell their stories?
- Where is justice in a nation where a person can work hard day after day and still not have enough income to support a family?
- Where is justice for families coming into this country who are separated – children from parents – for months and sometimes years at a time?
- Where is justice for older adults who can no longer care for themselves and suffer at the hands of caregivers?
- Where is justice when loved ones have been randomly shot and killed in neighborhood streets, churches, and schools?
These questions are not easy. They are real-life events that families struggle with. They call upon all of us who claim the name Christian to examine our ways of living. They call us to diligently study the scriptures. They call us to talk about justice in our homes, to practice justice in our homes, to take those beliefs outside the walls of our dwelling places, and to extend them to our communities and the entire world.
Take a moment and read Isaiah 1:17 (NRSV)
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed;
defend the orphan;
plead for the widow.
What would justice be like for your family? For your congregation? For the world? Record your thoughts – in words, in pictures, in sounds. Pray for God’s justice to be revealed through our daily lives and in our world.
To begin addressing “Families Called to Justice” in your congregation, the first step is to establish a family ministry team. The first task of the team is to pray for families in the congregation and community. Then team members help the congregation identify ways families in the congregation and community can be engaged in justice. Ask the family ministry team to pray for every family in the church during May (or whichever month you choose for Christian Home Month). Ask them to lead the congregation in prayer throughout the year as a consistent reminder of justice. This team should challenge the congregation to see where God is already acting in the community to advocate for justice.
Let Christian Home Month be the beginning of a year (and beyond) of deepening our understanding of God’s justice and our ability to act for justice. Provide programs, meals, parenting for faith classes, intergenerational worship opportunities, learning activities, and times of prayer for supporting families in their faith journeys. As God intended, the home is a place for living justly with one another and daily practicing the Christian faith.
Called to Justice: Family Devotional Times
Prepare a gathering place for family worship in the home. Create a centerpiece on the table where you eat your meals or in another area of your home where you can gather as a family. Include a candle. Write Hosea 12:6 or another verse of your choice and place the verse next to the candle. Include other items that remind you of God. Add additional items as reminders of being witnesses of justice being lived out in family members’ lives.
During your time of devotion, follow this worship sequence:
Praise: Praise God with a song or start your time together saying, “We praise God.”
Prayer: Use a family prayer or say the Lord’s Prayer. Hold hands as you pray.
Reading: Read a scripture passage of your choice, a short devotional passage from The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide, or another devotion of your choice.
Reflection: Ask each person to answer these questions: “What was your favorite part of this scripture or devotion? What have you learned from this scripture or devotion? What actions do you think we need to take because of this scripture or devotion?”
Sharing: Each person shares joys, concerns, and prayers for himself/herself and others.
Blessing: End the time together with a blessing. Use a hymn such as the “Doxology” or “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.” Or watch the YouTube video of the worship song “The Blessing,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ55mDL7dA0.
Take a moment to bless each member of the family. Point out where family members have demonstrated acts of justice. Then use a simple dismissal and say together, “God be with you” or “God’s peace surrounds you.” Using a small Chapstick, create the shape of a cross on each family member’s hand while saying these words:
God loves you.
Christ is with you.
The Holy Spirit moves through you.
As you share God’s hope with the world.
Set aside a regular time for sharing fun family activities. You could do the same activity each time (play board games, cook special treats, volunteer as a family in service to others, learn about people who live their lives differently from yours). Each family night could be planned by a different family member, with the activity based on agreed-upon criteria. Try to stress diversity and cultural awareness within the activities.
Count Your Blessings
Remember your blessings, individually and as a family. Eat dinner together as a family. During the past few years, most families have discovered family mealtime has deep meaning and enables families to grow in relationship with one another. Make dinnertime worth the effort. Spend time together and discuss together what each person in the family sees as justice or injustice. Justice is when all of God’s creation (the earth, animals, people) is treated with love and care so that all have what they need. We have injustice when some do not have food or shelter; when the earth and its creatures are harmed; when there is inequality because of culture, ethnicity, religion, economics, or other differences. At dinner each week, go around the table and ask family members to name where they saw or experienced justice. Make a list of these blessings and thank God for these experiences and for being able to share them. Ask God to demonstrate acts of justice in/for others (name the specific people in your life that are seeking justice).
Study Scripture Together
Some of the key scripture passages that mention justice are Psalm 33:5, Psalm 106:3, Proverbs 31:9, Jeremiah 22:3, Amos 5:24, Matthew 7:12, Luke 10:29-37, and Romans 12:15-18. Ask one family member to read the scripture. After family members have heard the scripture, ask them to state what the scripture made them think about related to justice in the world. For a deeper way of hearing the scripture passages, consider Lectio Divina (see https://www.upperroom.org/resources/lectio-divina-praying-the-scriptures).
Post a scripture passage, a line from a hymn or song, an inspirational thought, or a brief prayer in random places around the house. Have each family member take a turn and select a different passage each week. Place the reminder somewhere that all in the family can “find” it.
Buy a spiral notebook of index cards; write a favorite scripture verse, short prayer, or thought for the day on each card. Daily, turn over one of the cards to reveal a scripture verse, short prayer, or thought for the day about justice to read aloud. Illustrate each card.
Family Movie Night
Select a movie to watch as a family that speaks to justice issues. After viewing the film, spend some time processing with open-ended “wonder” questions, such as” “I wonder how the main characters felt when they were/weren’t treated fairly” or “I wonder where you saw the act of justice being acted out in this movie.” A good movie to create family discussion is Ruby Bridges. It can be found on Disney+ and/or DVD. See https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/ruby-bridges/jMLj7URq8aDA and https://www.amazon.com/Ruby-Bridges-Michael-Beach/dp/B0000DZ3EV.
Another excellent source for family discussions is Don’t Forget: A Video Book about Racism and the Kingdom of God (https://www.leanne-hadley.com/don-t-forget-a). Written by Leanne Hadley and illustrated by Leah Barner Foster, this video book also contains downloadable lessons for a deeper theological dive with children around the issues of racism and justice. Spend time together working through this wonderful resource.
Justice for All
This past year, there have been multiple examples of trauma and conflict in society by groups or individuals. Become a family that understands the phrase, “justice for all.” It means loving one another and forgiving those who do not accept us. It means treating others with respect and dignity, combined with the presence of peace in every relationship. Justice naturally happens when we approach life and all of God’s creation with that understanding of God’s peace and love.
Spend time talking about the hard issues found in the news today. Read together stories from the media; then ask, “How would God want us to act in this situation? What would ‘justice for all’ look like in this situation?” As a family, decide what actions you might take to demonstrate justice and compassion to others. Discuss whether it is easy to seek justice. Why is practicing justice and compassion with others difficult work? Remind your family that they are not alone. We do not "do justice and love kindness" alone. We can live this life only as we "walk humbly with God." This is the key to understanding and appropriating this way of life. It is what we do with God while walking with God. God is our constant companion on this journey. The more we walk with God, the more we demonstrate justice for all.
Conversations Around the Table (or at any time)
- Tell about an act of justice you’ve heard about in the news and talk about why you think it is important.
- Name someone who prays for you. Why do you think this person prays for you?
- Tell about something you’ve seen this week that you feel was unjust. Explain why you feel it was unjust.
- Where did you see someone taking care of God’s earth this week? What did they do?
- Tell about something you saw in nature that made you glad for God’s creation.
- Who are the people you feel sorry for? Why? What could you do to help them?
Finish the Sentence
Another way to create a conversation is to play a simple game of “finishing the sentence.” Complete one of these sentences (or create your own) to describe acts of justice and compassion found in your life:
God is with me when . . .
A person I know who cares for those who are hungry is . . .
My favorite story Jesus told about how we should act is . . .
The best time I have ever had working for justice is . . .
If I preached a sermon about justice, I would say . . .
I like to be with my family when we . . .
Intentional Acts of Kindness (and Compassion)
Wonder together as a family what is meant by the phrase, “intentional acts of kindness.” Does this include acts of justice and compassion? Read Matthew 25:31-46 together as a family. What does “being a sheep” mean to you? What does “being a goat” mean to you? What are some differences in the characteristics of each? Discuss “sheepish behavior” and intentional acts of kindness and compassion for the world within your family.
- Which “intentional act of kindness” expresses for you a good example of offering compassion to others?
- What word or action would you use with each family member to show justice and compassion for all?
- When someone is hurting or treated unfairly, describe a compassionate way to respond to that person’s needs.
- Describe a time you’ve experienced compassion/justice at church— in a small group, worship, on retreat, or during a special program.
Identify people in your community who need to experience compassion (someone who has just lost a family member, someone struggling in school, someone new to your community, someone who can no longer drive a car, someone who is sick, someone who just lost a job, someone who is fighting with another). Come up with a compassion plan for those neighbors that you named. Be intentional in transforming the language of justice and compassion into action!
Prayer for Christian Home Month Families
Gracious God, who created all of humankind and showed to us the importance of relationships with one another, we commend to your care all the families of this congregation, community, and world. We pray that each home may be a home where love is felt. We pray for homes where, instead of love, hurt, abuse, and suffering abide. We pray for children, youth, and adults, recognizing the importance of and the gift of every age as we grow. May your grace be present to all. Grant us wisdom to know where there is no love, courage to act out of love and compassion for others, and peace to trust in your grace. Help us to live so that acts of justice, compassion, and love for others are shown in the ways we live together. We give you thanks for offering so many examples of compassion and justice from the Bible for a better world during these difficult days. There is no greater example than Jesus. And it is in the name of Christ’s precious and strong name, we pray. Amen
FAMILY COVENANT FOR LIVING JUSTLY
Create a covenant together as you promise to grow together as a family living justly. Every month, take time to ask, “How have we lived into our covenant and the promise of love, forgiveness, acceptance, truthfulness, growth, and witness to others?”
Celebrate how you have lived justly with one another. Then make any changes that might be needed for the next month.
This covenant will be in effect from ______________________ (beginning date) to ______________________ (ending date).
So that our family may promote justice as we learn to live in this world together, we promise one another to:
1. Spend time eating, playing, and praying together.
2. Listen with respect to what one another has to say and speak our minds without yelling or blaming.
3. Explore actions that promote justice for the environment as part of being God’s stewards. Determine what our family can do, such as recycling, planting trees, visiting a nature center, and eliminating the use of plastic in our home.
4. Learn about hunger. Do a day of service together at our local food bank or community garden.
5. Seek out stories of justice at church, in the news, on the internet, at school, at work, and at home. Once a week at family dinner, talk together about what we have learned.
6. Educate our family about justice issues in our church and community and together write two letters to officials in local, state, or national government. Write one letter to an official who has worked for justice to thank and praise that person. Write another letter to an official, asking him/her to take action for justice in an area of concern in the community.
(All family members sign the covenant.)
Congregational Activities for Christian Home Month
- For congregational planners, reprint the “Family Devotional Times” material in your church newsletter or place it on your website. List one suggestion a month. Ask families who followed the suggestions to write about their experience (or tell you about it). Create a “We Did It!” column in your newsletter or on your website and feature what those families did in following through with the suggestions.
- Plan a family fun time at church. Include a meal. Ask families to bring relief supplies needed by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and assemble kits to be delivered at one of the UMCOR Depots. For instructions, contact your annual conference office, or go to umcmission.org and search for UMCOR relief supplies.
- Encourage families to adopt the “Family Covenant for Justice” and carry out the practices for at least a month. Suggest a starting day for all in the congregation who want to participate. As part of worship, ask those who intend to live with the covenant to stand. Pray for the families. On the ending date, ask all families who lived with the covenant to stand. Recognize each family by name and join in singing the “Doxology” or “The Blessing” to voice everyone’s thanks to God for their efforts.
Called to Justice: Retreat Model
Planning for the Retreat
1. The congregation prays for the retreat, the participating families, and the coordinating team.
2. A retreat planning team is created that is made up of six to eight people from the congregation. This team should be equally knowledgeable in online technology (just in case you need to shift the retreat to that format) and in-person leadership.
3. The retreat team meets and plans the retreat:
- Chooses a weekend to offer the retreat. If the location is not the church, the venue should be secured. Locate the closest United Methodist camping and retreat center and inquire about their facilities. See umcrm.camp.
- Decides on the retreat schedule, including times for prayer and worship.
- Prepares a budget.
- Designs a flyer that includes a registration form and information about fees, dates, and location.
- Recruits leaders. Provides Safer Sanctuary training for all leaders involved with the event.
- Plans all food menus and suggestions, while adhering to guidelines about food allergies.
- Creates an offering opportunity for an organization in the community that helps families in need.
- Promotes the retreat using social media, including the church website and Facebook page.
4. Someone from the team prepares information and distributes it through the church newsletter, e-newsletters, worship bulletins, bulletin boards, and other avenues in the congregation. Registration for the location may be needed and completed for those families attending the retreat.
5. The team collects the following supplies: songbooks/sheets; Bibles; books (see the list of recommended books below); board games; sports equipment; a bag of miscellaneous items (e.g., painters’ tape, a box of tissues, car keys; hula hoop, basketball, running shoes, toothbrush, a roll of toilet paper, towel, spatula, hat, etc.); one posterboard per small group; markers; writing paper; magazines; scissors; glue; Play-Doh; chenille sticks.
4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Registration
6:30 – 7:00 p.m. Dinner (A served meal or bring-your-own-supper)
7:15 – 7:30 p.m. Gathering Time
Share announcements and opening prayer. Sing familiar camp songs, favorite hymns, and praise choruses. Explain the theme of justice to the group. Use examples that those of all ages can understand.
7:40 – 8:15 p.m.
Divide participants into “family” groups of four to six people (mixing up actual family members with others in the congregation. This will encourage an intergenerational approach). Have a bag of miscellaneous items available and let each group choose one item. Instruct all participants that each family group gets the next thirty minutes to prepare a short commercial that should be no longer than ninety seconds. The commercial must advertise the object the family chose and must be on the theme of justice.
8:15 – 9:00 p.m.
Have the participants present the commercials. Have emcees (whom you have recruited ahead of time) guide the groups through presenting their family commercials. At the conclusion, ask the total group to list some keywords or phrases they heard that help us focus on justice. End with a prayer, using the words or phrases lifted by the group.
9:30 – 10:00 p.m. Snack and Game Time
Share snacks. Have board games available, music to listen to, and other activities for all ages. If the setting allows, have a campfire or take a flashlight walk.
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 – 9:30 a.m. Morning Worship
Lead the group in singing, scripture, and prayer. Begin a responsive prayer by inviting each participant to recite a verse about “justice.” Encourage participants to memorize those verses. Each time a participant recites a verse, the group will respond with “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). This encourages everyone to reflect/meditate on each verse recited.
9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Ask the participants to reassemble in the same “family groups” as the previous night. Provide a Bible, markers, paper, and a piece of posterboard for each group. Ask each group to read Amos 5:24. After they have had time to read the scripture, ask each group to talk about what would make “justice” flow in their community. What would need to change? What would need to continue to happen? Make a list of these items. Next to each item, ask the group to list agencies or places that address each of the issues of justice the group has raised. Ask each group to find pictures in magazines (that have been provided to the groups) that would show what is needed to make each item on their list “just” in the community. For instance, if “not everyone has enough food” is listed, the group could add pictures of food to the posterboard. If they can’t find the pictures they need, encourage them to have group members draw what they think is needed on the posterboard.
10:30 – 11:00 a.m. Break
11:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Distribute hymnals or songbooks to each group. Give them fifteen minutes to locate a hymn or song that talks about justice. Ask them to rehearse the song so that they can teach it to the total group. (Coordinate someone from each group that can help with “reading” music.).Call the groups together and invite the family groups to share their posters and teach their song to everyone.
Noon – 1:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 – 3:30 p.m. Play “I Spy on Campgrounds.”
Go on a family walk on the grounds of the retreat location. If the location is your church, pay particular attention to the area nearby. Point out things you notice for the first time. Spice it up with a game of “I Spy.” While families are walking, have them look for items from the list below. Take photos with a phone camera to share with the retreat families later in the evening.
I Spy Checklist:
- Something flying in the sky
- A nut
- An insect
- Something blue
- A clover
- Water (lake, creek, pool, puddle)
- A smooth stone
- Something red
- Another person with the same brand of shoes as you
- Something with a wheel
- A bird
- A telephone line/pole
- Something white
- A critter with four legs
- Flowers blooming
- A sign other than a stop sign
- A flagpole
- Something that reminds you of living justly with compassion.
Afternoon Fun. Encourage naps, renewal time, or nature time. Provide walking/hiking trail maps, recreational/sports equipment, and arts and crafts materials.
3:30 – 5:30 Movie and conversation.
Watch the Disney movie Ruby Bridges together, but make sure your church has an appropriate license for viewing movies. (The Church Video License® provides legal coverage for churches and organizations to publicly show motion pictures and movie scenes. See https://us.ccli.com/what-we-provide/church-video-license-screenvue.) Provide popcorn and snacks for everyone.
(Movie synopsis). This movie is based on the true story of Ruby Bridges and her experience at six years old as the first black girl to attend an all-white school in New Orleans that was resistant to carrying out the desegregation law. It is an emotional and intense movie and has some disturbing scenes of yelling and name-calling that may make this difficult for young children to watch. However, this is also a powerful movie to begin or continue conversations with kids about the history of racism in the United States and the ongoing experiences of racism that continue today. There is also a strong Christian message and faith in Jesus depicted in the story.
After viewing the film, spend some time processing with questions to spark conversation, such as:
Which of the characters did you like best? Why?
Which of the characters did you like least? Why?
What feelings did you experience in this movie?
Do you think Ruby’s parents made the right decision to send her to an all-white school, especially given the insults, name calling, and yelling she experienced every day? Why or why not?
What do you think gave Ruby courage each day to walk through the crowds?
In one scene, Ruby runs back down to the crowds and seems to say something to the crowds, but we later learn that she was praying for them. Her daily prayer is, “Please God, forgive these people because even if they say those mean things, they don’t know what they’re doing. So, you can forgive them just like you did those folks a long time ago when they said terrible things about you.” I wonder about your thoughts on that scene from the movie.
What do you learn about Ruby’s faith?
I wonder where you saw justice and compassion in this movie.
What other questions do you have after watching this movie?
Ruby Bridges can be found on Disney+ and/or DVD (https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/ruby-bridges/jMLj7URq8aDA and https://www.amazon.com/Ruby-Bridges-Michael-Beach/dp/B0000DZ3EV).
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Dinner
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Reading and Activity
Read to the group the children’s picture book, God’s Dream, written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Ask each family group to gather. Distribute chenille sticks, Play-Doh, or art materials. Ask individuals within the groups to form a symbol that visually shows a view of God’s dream. Encourage group members to help one another in remembering images or words from the book that seemed most important to them.
7:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Gather the groups together and allow each family group to share the symbols they created.
8:00 – 8:15 p.m. Break
8:15 – 8:45 p.m. Prayers
Lead the group in sharing and praying about their joys and concerns. Ask for volunteers to name a song, a scripture verse, or something they have seen this day (share the photos from the “I Spy” activity earlier in the afternoon) that helped them understand God’s justice and how we can share God’s justice with others. Lead the group in sharing and praying about their joys and concerns. Recite again, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) with scripture verse recall. Ask those who wish to name a song, a second scripture verse, or something they have seen this day that helped them understand God’s justice and how they can share God’s justice with others.
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Breakfast
9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Closing worship.
The retreat leadership team can lead a planned worship service or use experiences from the weekend for a time of music, prayer, and praise.
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Clean up and journey home.
Christian Home Month Planning Calendar
May 2023 – April 2024
Carry out plans made for celebrating the Christian home. Ask families to bring to the church pictures and written statements about how they participate in acts of justice at home and in their communities. Use these to create a bulletin board and (with permission) posts on your church’s Facebook page and/or Instagram account, as well as newsletter and Sunday bulletin items. Recognize women in the congregation who are mothers in families and mothers in faith. Honor graduates of high school and college with prayer in worship. Invite graduates to write a statement about what the church has meant to them as they have grown. Publish these statements in your church newsletter or another church publication.
Recognize men in the congregation who are fathers in families and fathers in faith. Create a social media devotional guide for families to use on vacation or at home. Include scripture, meditations, and prayers. Allow church members to contribute by sharing their stories of random acts of kindness. Carry out plans for “Peace with Justice Sunday.” Use the resources found at https://www.umc.org/en/content/peace-with-justice-sunday-ministry-article.
Reach out to your community with a service project that allows families to help people who continue to be affected by the economy. Plan a fix-up day at church and invite families to help with projects of beautification for the church and the church grounds. Host a movie under the stars night on the church grounds for families in your community. Select a movie that addresses injustice and presents ways to be involved in justice in the world. Ask church members to bring school supplies that can be donated to local schools for families who cannot afford to buy supplies for their children. Recruit a leader and set up a brief summer adult study of Enough Revised Edition: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity by Adam Hamilton.
Celebrate the end of summer with an ice cream social. Pray in worship for teachers and for students as they begin a new school year. Have a “back to school” Sunday and invite all students to bring their backpacks to worship. Bless the backpacks, students, and teachers as they begin a new school year. Create a caring card ministry and deliver cards to a local hospital or nursing care facility. Hold a parenting class on It Takes a Church to Raise a Parent by Rachel Turner to help parents and grandparents reflect on their spiritual lives and how they guide their children. (For a more significant dive into equipping parents, take the online course.)
Celebrate Grandparents Day on September 10 by hosting a dinner and honoring the older adults in the church. Involve the children and youth in serving dinner, providing entertainment, and visiting with the older adults.
Celebrate the Children's Sabbath on the third weekend of October. Use resources provided by Children’s Defense Fund at childrensdefense.org. Sponsor a “trunk or treat” or fall festival in your community. Invite church members to decorate their cars, park in the church parking lot, and distribute treats. Offer a free hot dog/chili dinner beforehand. Include activities and service opportunities for children, youth, and adults. Get information on what supplies are needed by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Challenge families to bring in supplies and put together kits needed for addressing emergencies.
Provide a bulletin insert with prayers for families to use in celebrating Thanksgiving. Plan needed resources for celebrating Advent and Christmas in the home. Provide a list of places needing volunteers that would welcome families volunteering together to help those who are without food and shelter during the holiday. Participate in Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child. Fill a shoebox (or two) with love to neighbors around the world. National Collection Week is November 14- 21. See samaritanspurse.org.
Offer an online Advent workshop for families. Invite individuals to bring to the church one Advent/Christmas decoration they use in their home and talk about why this is important to them (during children’s moments in worship). Provide a devotional guide for lighting the Advent wreath and praying together at home. Invite families to create Chrismons to hang in the Hanging of the Greens service at church or at home on their family tree.
If you haven’t yet used the “Family Covenant for Justice,” invite families to do so as a New Year’s Resolution. Publish a list of "beat the winter doldrums" ideas. Include such ideas as playing a board game with the family; telling one another stories of ancestors; having a star-gazing night; picking a favorite Bible story and acting it out.
Have a daddy-daughter dance the Friday before Valentine’s Day for the entire community. Celebrate marriage ministries on the Sunday nearest Valentine’s Day. Recognize anniversaries, engagements, and milestones in the lives of couples in the congregation. Plan a justice dinner and fellowship time. Use the children’s book, The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. Divide attendees into groups. Ask each group to create a poster or banner. Offer a pancake meal to families the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday or encourage families to have pancakes at home. Observe Ash Wednesday on February 14. Remind families that Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and a time of study and self-denial. As a guide, use the “Coins for Lent” calendar (search on umcdiscipleship.org) to collect coins throughout the Lenten season. Once collected, offer the money to support an organization or project you identified before the collection of coins. Use Lent resources found on umcdiscipleship.org.
Begin plans for celebrating Christian Home Month in May. Host a mother-son tea and get-together for the community. Plan a family (or church family) spring break retreat at one of the United Methodist church camps and retreat centers. For more information and list of locations visit the UMCRM website, umcrm.camp. Offer a churchwide study on prayer and together write prayers that focus on justice in our homes, communities, and world. Print these in your church bulletin; include them in your church newsletter; and post them on social media.
Easter is March 31. Can you believe it? Celebrate Easter in new creative ways, such as creating a flower cross. Make a large cross covered with chicken wire. Invite families to bring Easter flowers from their yards or gardens to church (or provide flowers at church). Encourage everyone to place the flowers on the cross, using the chicken wire to hold the flowers in place. Place the flowered cross outside for the community to see as a sign of God’s love celebrated at Easter.
Begin plans for observing Christian Home Month in worship. Ask families to post photos to social media about how they have sought “justice for all” at home and in their communities. Welcome spring. Hold a family workday at church. Invite those of all ages to come and clean areas of the church that might not have been cleaned for a while. Sort through toys and supplies in the nursery and children’s ministries areas of the church, removing those that are broken or no longer useable.
Observe Earth Day on April 22. Join with others in your community to demonstrate God’s love with creation care. Creation care is an essential part of discipleship. Raise your family’s awareness of our responsibility to care for God’s creation. Use the book, Climate Hero Handbook: How Kids Can Defend, Protect, and Restore the Planet by Jessica Gamache and Jennifer Manley Rogers to learn more about creation care.
Begin preparation for observing Christian Home Month 2024: Families Called to Hope.
 Scripture quotations unless noted otherwise are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Families Called to Justice: Worship Service Resources
The following helps are suggested for use in worship for celebrating Christian Home Sunday. For additional resources, use The United Methodist Book of Worship.
Call to Worship
Leader: Beloved of God, let us sing praises to the one who created us and redeems us, uniting us as a family in Christ!
People: We will praise the Lord as long as we live! We will sing praises to God our whole life long!
Leader: We gather to celebrate families who create homes where justice and mercy live side-by-side, providing a haven for family, friends, and strangers and a fountain of kindness and good news that flows into their communities.
People: We give thanks to God for families who speak out against injustice and tend the wounds of their neighbors and neighborhoods.
Leader: We gather to pray for families who struggle under the weight of unfair treatment, who are without communities of care and are thirsting for shelter, provision, love, and kindness.
People: We pray that God’s kin-dom will come on earth as it is in heaven and that we would answer God’s call to embrace those who suffer and are alone with the loving arms of Christian family.
ALL: Come, let us worship, trusting in God’s love and mercy. Amen.
(Choose hymns that best fit your worship service.)
- “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” 103, The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH)
- “Lord, You Give the Great Commission,” 584, UMH
- “We Shall Overcome,” 533, UMH
- “We Are Called,” 2172, The Faith We Sing (TFWS)
- “What Does the Lord Require of You,” 2174, TFWS
- “Sent Out in Jesus’ Name,” 2184, TFWS
- “The Family Prayer Song,” 2188, TFWS
- “View the Present Through the Promise,” 3048, Worship & Song (W&S)
- “A Place at the Table,” 3149, Worship and Song
Lectionary readings for the day may be used, or you may choose from the following:
- Old Testament: Micah 6:6-8
- Psalter: Psalm 146
- Gospel: Matthew 25:31-40
- Epistle: 1 John 3:17-18
Prayer for Families
“For Courage to Do Justice,” United Methodist Hymnal, 456
“Bread and Justice,” United Methodist Hymnal, 639
Gracious God, who created all of humankind and showed us the importance of relationships with one another, we commend to your care all the families of this congregation, community, and world. We pray that each home may be a home where justice and mercy reside. We pray for homes where fairness and mutual care do not exist – where there is danger, violence, and harmful words. We pray for families who struggle because of lack of opportunity, lack of jobs, and lack of fair treatment in their daily lives. We pray for children, youth, and adults, recognizing the gift and importance of every age as we grow. May your grace be present in all the stages of our lives. Grant us wisdom to seek your justice in our homes, communities, and world. Grant us courage to speak out when we encounter injustice. Grant us hope for those times when we search for love all around us, and all we find are hurtful language and deeds. Remind us, O God, of your caring presence surrounding us and guiding us each day to live and love as children of God wherever we go with whomever we meet. We pray, always reminded of your love for us through your son, Jesus. Amen.
A Litany for Families
Leader: Gracious God, you created us to dwell in community. We thank you for the witness of families throughout the Bible who help us know we do not have to be perfect to receive your love.
People: Help us remember the witness of the scriptures, O God.
Leader: You created us to follow the vision of your kin-dom where all are included and all needs are met.
People: Help us recall your words of justice and mercy, O God.
Leader: You gave us Jesus to teach us how to live in community with one another, not with violence nor with hatred, but with equality and love.
People: Help us follow the path that Jesus shows us, O God.
Leader: You created us to act in ways that help those around us know the true meaning of justice, mercy, and truth.
People: Help us live as your just, merciful, and truth-telling people, O God.
Leader: For all families, bless us in our lifelong quest to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
People: Hear our prayer, O God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
For additional resources, The United Methodist Book of Worship contains prayers for the blessings of people at important times through the lifespan, as well as worship suggestions for the Festival of the Christian Home and for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Additional Resources/Recommended Reading
Climate Hero Handbook: How Kids Can Defend, Protect, and Restore the Planet by Jennifer Manley Rogers and Jessica Gamaché ( (United Methodist General Board of Higher Education, 2022).
Friends Around the World Activity Book by Compassion International, illustrated by Jacob Souva (Tyndale House, 2019).
God’s Dream by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carleton Abrams; illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Candlewick, 2008).
The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007).
My Little Golden Book About Martin Luther King Jr. by Bonnie Bader, author; Sue Cornelison, illustrator (Little Golden Book, 2018).
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin (Magination Press, 2019).
Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence by Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins; illustrated by Keith Henry Brown (Magination Press. 2021).
This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges (Delacorte Press, 2020).
This article shares other children’s book recommendations: https://www.umcjustice.org/news-and-stories/how-children-s-books-start-conversations-about-social-justice-1310.
UMCJustice.org Sacred Worth book list: https://www.umcjustice.org/sacred-worth-books.
Everyday Disciples: Covenant Discipleship with Youth by Chris Wilterdink (Discipleship Resources, 2016).
A Time to Break Silence: The Essential Works of Martin Luther King, Jr., for Students by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Beacon, 2013).
Disciples Making Disciples: A Guide for Covenant Discipleship Groups and Class Leaders by Steven W. Manskar (Discipleship Resources, 2016).
Enough, Revised and Updated: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity by Adam Hamilton (Abingdon, 2012).
Growing With: Every Parent’s Guide to Helping Teenagers and Young Adults Thrive in Their Faith, Family, and Future by Kara Powell (Baker Books, 2019).
Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell (Baker Books, 2016).
It Takes a Church to Raise a Parent by Rachel Turner (BRF: The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2018).
The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice by Henri Nouwen (Orbis, 2002).
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story by Martin Luther King, Jr.; Introduction by Clayborne Carson (Beacon Press, 2010).
Wondering: About the Bible with Children by Elizabeth Caldwell (Abingdon, 2020).
Rev. Kevin Johnson is the Director, Children’s Ministries for Congregational Vitality & Intentional Discipleship at Discipleship Ministries. Kevin’s hero Fred Rogers suggests that we, “listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them. Think of the children first.” This quote defines Rev. Kev’s approach to ministry. Kevin, an ordained elder of the Kentucky Annual Conference, has over fifteen years of ministry experience in which he has thought of the children first. Prior to ministry, Kevin worked with children in the hospital setting and in group homes for emotionally and physically abused children.