Cinnamon-Scented Discipleship: Curating Art in Children’s Ministry

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Known, Loved, Not Alone

At Restoration Anglican Church in Arlington, VA, this distillation of the Gospel—known, loved, not alone—permeates all aspects of children’s ministry. It’s on small group leaders’ T-shirts, printed with whimsical illustrations on stickers to take home, and echoed in every lesson. Kids are repeatedly reminded: God knows you (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:1-4). He is crazy about you (John 10:11). He goes with you everywhere (John 14:16, 26). It’s said along with the sign of the cross and used to explore the Trinity with young disciples. It’s also connected to cinnamon-scented play dough.

Louise Brooks—known throughout her church as Miss Louise—is the director of kids’ small groups at Restoration. And the cinnamon play dough is just one way she engages the hands and imaginations of the children in her church. God’s love is like the cinnamon, you see. The more time we spend in his love, the more thoroughly it works itself through us. It soon permeates everything we do.

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As a public school teacher, Miss Louise saw how effective learning was when it could be differentiated in the classroom to resonate with students and meet their individual needs. She applies that approach to her role at Restoration, delighting in every individual involved in the lively ministry and wondering what might resonate with each of them. That delight translates into a prayerful curation of creative experiences.

Beauty as Invitation

Beads and a Booklet

There are Sunday morning crafts, of course, but the creative engagement reaches beyond this tried-and-true staple of children’s ministry. Miss Louise believes God creates beautiful things, and beauty is an invitation into relationship. She wants the kids in her church family to know that, too. So last Advent, when a chunky wooden bead project with a devotional booklet for learning the Apostles’ Creed was sent home, Miss Louise wrapped the learning tool in organza and tied it with a satin ribbon.

“Is that for me?” came the wide-eyed question when she placed it into little hands. It struck that resonance with children as they carried the package home gingerly. It was a lovely token from a church family who values them—an invitation into Christ’s love.

Cross-shaped art project from Restoration Anglican Church.
The fabric cross art project from Restoration Anglican Church.

The Fabric Passion Cross

Other kids do not care about the organza. Miss Louise wants to reach them too. For them, she thinks of process art, projects that give physical learners a way to engage with what they’re hearing. On Good Friday, for example, Miss Louise gave each child a white strip of cloth at a special Stations of the Cross. As they passed through Christ’s final steps leading up to the crucifixion, they tore holes through their material with a hammer and nails. Then they painted it red and dipped it in vinegar. Finally, they rubbed crushed spices into the fabric.

The children held, heard, saw, and smelled these experiences, connecting holistically to the Lord in his passion. Then they wove the many pieces of cloth together into a cross, displayed in the hallway for the whole church to see. The result, unlike pretty organza bags, was tattered, stained, and striking—another invitation into Christ’s love.

This invitation to relationship through the arts reaches beyond the walls of the church building. Miss Louise builds a Spotify playlist throughout the church year to connect the musical worship on Sunday to everyday family life. She collects works of fine art to display as a timeline of the biblical narrative, adding new images each week. She shares her favorite picture books during regular story time at a nearby park and produces Pray & Ponder, a podcast for families to explore faith and Scripture from a place of wonder.

A Global Anglican Priority

Ministry to young people is one of the top priorities listed in the Kigali Commitment for the upcoming decade. Anglicans throughout the globe have dedicated themselves to ministering to kids in a way “that instructs them in the Word of the Lord, disciples them to maturity in Christ and equips them for a lifetime of Christian service.” Art as discipleship, prayerfully curated and lovingly offered, fits seamlessly into this vision. And our rich Anglican heritage lends itself to creative engagement in so many ways. The ribbons that go home in different liturgical seasons match the colors on the altar cloths. Kids notice that. The order of service and Scripture lessons speak the same truths across different ages. What Miss Louise and the team of volunteer leaders do in kids’ small groups downstairs connects to what is happening upstairs in the sanctuary at Restoration—and to the wider Anglican Church.

Discipling children this way, through imagination and creativity, works. It works for adults, too, because we are people of the Incarnation. Christ came to redeem our whole selves: minds, hearts, hands, and senses. Miss Louise hopes that, years from now, a graduate of the children’s ministry at Restoration will walk down the street, smell cinnamon, and suddenly remember God’s great love. Such a hope flows naturally from the deep and distinctively Anglican form of sacramental worship, which itself requires the engagement of our creativity, imagination, and physical selves. God’s grace reaches depths beyond our understanding through the sacraments and permeates our physical and spiritual existence, filling our lives with the scent of his presence.

Jump In

For projects and ideas on creative expressions of our faith in the home and family, see Ashely Wallace’s articles on The Liturgical Home and her book, The Liturgical Home: Advent. Also, tune into Restoration’s podcast and explore God’s Word with awe and wonder at Pray & Ponder.


Cover image and other photos by Louise Brooks at Restoration Anglican Church.

Published on

September 29, 2023

Author

Elizabeth Demmon

Elizabeth Demmon is a writer and musician who grew up in the Anglican tradition. She is married to Mike, an Anglican priest and U.S. Army chaplain, and together they have three children.

View more from Elizabeth Demmon

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