For seven years, Family and Children’s Ministries, housed in Disciples Home Missions (DHM), has developed an annual “Light a Candle with Children” prayer vigil. This program helps Disciples congregations and families prayerfully prepare for Children’s Sabbath, an interfaith program started by the Children’s Defense Fund.
Children’s Sabbath is traditionally celebrated on the third weekend of October, and Family and Children’s Ministries’ usually provide resources for the four preceding weeks. This year, Children’s Sabbath is the weekend of Sunday, Oct. 21, and weekly resources will begin with the week of Sept. 24.
Minister of Family and Children’s Ministries Rev. Dr. Olivia Bryan Updegrove says that the program’s evolution from a vigil for children into a vigil with children is important because “Lighting a Candle with Children involves them in our worship traditions and faith and teaches them. It also allows children to teach us, instead of providing different activities that separate us by age group.”
Moreover, Updegrove says, the goal of this program is to provide resources that families, congregations, and individuals can use, both at church and at home, during this special period and beyond.
“Faith is more important at home than anywhere else,” she says, but there is a difference between activities that entertain children and youth, and those that engage them in worship and scripture, providing them with opportunities to grapple with difficult topics and ask big questions.
“A lot of people are looking for ways to develop faith in their homes,” Updegrove explains.” The Light a Candle with Children resources provide “a simple way to engage visually, and through technology, with your family at home throughout the year.”
Resources from previous years’ prayer vigils are available online, so families, youth groups, and congregations can access them any time. The Children’s Defense Fund’s website also provides a variety of resources for congregations and families.
Additionally, the Family and Children’s Ministries team has made an effort to include multiple voices in these resources, which also include video, coloring pages, reading materials, and more, so there is something for every age and learning style.
These two ministries inform each other, she says, because she can explore and experience programs like Children Worship and Wonder from all sides.
When her calls intersect, she becomes even more assured that children are important members of our faith communities and need to be treated as such.
“Children aren’t the church of tomorrow — they’re the church today. We can’t deal with issues for them; we have to work through issues with them. If we’re going to work together, they have to know who we are, and we need to find ways to build authentic relationships with them.”