Renewal for the Journey: practical suggestions for beginning a new First Day School year

Religious Education

Melinda Wenner Bradley serves as the clerk of the Children’s Spiritual Life Committee and the Faith and Play Working Group. She is an accredited trainer for Godly Play ®, has taught First Day School at her meeting as well as history at a Quaker middle school for many years. In this story she shares some of the concrete touchstones she uses: worship, welcome, communicate and engage in multigenerational community.

While renewal and revival might not be the first things that come to mind when we think of the autumn season, for Friends beginning their religious education year autumn does bring these opportunities. Here are some suggestions for preparing hearts and minds (and glue sticks):

Gather with your religious education/First Day School committee for planning and to worship together. Work as a committee to create a calendar of topics and lessons, and to discuss and provide feedback to one another about your individual plans.

Attend to your materials, shelves, and art supplies. Is your classroom space ready to welcome children? Have you refreshed art supplies and made room for ongoing work to be stored? If you use Godly Play® and Faith & Play™ stories, have you checked story baskets and boxes to be sure each story has its materials and nothing is missing or damaged? (I find that doing this “check up” for my classroom is a wonderful way to reconnect with stories I might not have told in some time!)

Consider how you will communicate to families about this year’s program. Will you send monthly or weekly notices or calendars? Will you provide after each lesson a slip of paper for parents that describes the week’s lesson? What tools can you provide for them at home, as the lesson continues to be explored and wondered about by their children? Would it be helpful to do an orientation for parents to see the FDS space and discuss expectations?

Consider how you will communicate with the meeting community about this year’s program. Would a multigenerational experience be welcomed?

In addition to the preparations we can do now to begin in the fall, I find that making space in my week to prepare intentionally for Sunday morning with the children is essential not only for each lesson and for the children, but for my own growth and nurture. Not only am I more present to the needs of the circle of children, but I am renewed in my own journey with this Spirit-led work.