Christian Education for Children and Youth
St. Thomas joyfully celebrates children welcoming all families to our open and affirming congregation. Through our Christian education programs at St. Thomas we rejoice in the diversity of God’s creation: our church, kids, teachers, parents and babysitters, reflect a wide array of ages, economic, religious, cultural, ethnic, racial backgrounds, abilities and family structures–all gathered to explore our faith in a safe, fun, creative and friendly environment. All of our regular programs are free of charge, and scholarships are available as needed for special activities and trips.
At St. Thomas, children of all ages are always welcome in worship and encouraged to actively participate in all aspects of church life from acolyting, to community service, to teaching Sunday School. There’s also plenty of time for fellowship to encourage our kids to develop meaningful relationships with their peers and grown-up members of the congregation. St. Thomas strives to be a special place for our children, to provide our young members with a lifelong spiritual foundation–a place where seekers, searchers and doubters of all ages are welcome and encouraged in their faith. Our central goal is to help our children understand for themselves what it means to follow Jesus.
St. Thomas, and the Episcopal Church, take seriously our responsibilities to love and protect children. To this end, St. Thomas regularly hosts, for all its clergy, staff, babysitters and Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, the Episcopal Church’s Safeguarding God’s Children program, a workshop designed to protect children and youth from abuse.
To serve our children, youth and families, St. Thomas offers a number of age-appropriate programs for toddlers, elementary school students, teenagers and young adults:
Second Sundays — Kids in Church. A monthly opportunity for children of all ages to join fully in communal worship with our families and the whole congregation at 10 am (September through June). At St. Thomas, children are always welcome in church because we firmly believe the best way to learn how to worship is to take part in it. There is no Sunday School or Junior Youth Group on Second Sundays, and though we always offer nursery during the school year, we specially welcome children of all ages in church on Second Sundays.
Nursery is offered weekly during our 10 am service, with drop-off beginning at 9:30 am during our Sunday School year (calendar). Nursery is appropriate for our youngest members, from a few months old through about age 4. Our nursery offers a welcoming and affirming place in which to begin a lifelong exploration of God’s love. It is located in Heathcote Hall’s upstairs playroom. The nursery is regularly staffed with a combination of two or three experienced adult babysitters and junior babysitters; and we can bring in additional coverage as needed. Many Sundays, our toddlers hear a Bible story emphasizing God’s love and are offered a special opportunity for a story-related response, from dress-up, to coloring, to drumming. The rest of the time children are closely supervised in unstructured play. So we can keep our youngest members comfortable, we ask parents to please bring a bottle, diapers and a change of clothes for their child. Upon arrival in the nursery, parents will be asked to sign in their children, and to let us know if there are any allergies or other issues we need to know about. Separation issues? We are happy to work with parents and children. And parents are always welcome in our nursery
Sunday School is a special place to grow in God’s love, focusing on the teachings and examples of Jesus as guided by the Gospel. Sunday School is offered most Sundays from September through June (see church calendar for up-to-date schedule, calendar) Drop-off begins at 9:30 am; the daily Bible lesson begins promptly at 9:45 am, followed by a fun opportunity to respond to the lesson. Each year, we custom build our curriculum to meet the needs and interests of this group that spans kindergarten through 4th grade, by offering a very popular Lego Bible study program, Building Faith Brick by Brick, crafts, cooking and service projects. For example, we studied prayer over the course of a recent Lenten season, in a special program inspired by Anne Lamott’s book, Help Thanks Wow. We also keep favorite St. Thomas Sunday School traditions, like celebrating Kings’ Day by baking Galette des Rois for the whole parish to enjoy. St. Thomas’ children are always welcome in church, and each week, when Sunday School ends around 10:30 am, children are escorted to the “big church” to join their parents and the rest of the congregation for the Eucharist. Children also enjoy the fellowship of our weekly coffee hour.
Junior Youth Group meets in our Heathcote Hall boardroom most Sundays during the school year at 9:45 am, calendar. This group is offered for kids in grades 5-8. Under the leadership of a dedicated team of volunteer teachers, the JYG explores foundational theology through a series of amusing and thought-provoking videos and activities, after which they join the congregation for the Eucharist. In addition, Junior Youth Group offers special field trips, community service and other activities to build a tight-knit and mutually supportive community of younger teenagers.
Senior Youth are encouraged to participate fully in the life of the congregation. St. Thomas offers a wide variety of service programs, as well as special clergy-led activities for older teens, like dinners and discussion groups organized in response to the particular interests and needs expressed by our high school students.
Confirmation class, open to high school students, will be convened for intensive exploration and discernment in the months leading up to the next Bishop’s visit, probably in 2017.
Children’s Choir, under the direction of our Director of Music, Eric Milnes, will launch this fall. Liturgical music is integral to our worship and the children’s choir seeks to provide an opportunity for elementary and middle school-aged children to experience a variety of sacred music traditions. Children’s Choir will meet for short rehearsals in Heathcote Hall at about 11:30 am on the first and third Sundays each month, consult the calendar for meeting dates, calendar. The Children’s Choir will present a musical selection at Second Sunday services. Please note that regular attendance at rehearsals is expected of Children’s Choir members.
Special Activities for Junior and Senior Youth include events like themed overnights at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, volunteer work at the World Vision warehouse facility in the Bronx, a community Christmas gift-making workshop for young children, creating and staffing a children’s booth at the Christmas fair, the weeklong Episcopal Youth Conference at Incarnation camp, a screening of the acclaimed film, I’m not racist….am I?, as well as meals out and opportunities to socialize. These activities can provide opportunities for our teenagers to ask the big, existential questions that characterize this stage of development, and for us to provide direction as they search for what resonates for them spiritually.
From baptisms, to backpack blessings, to graduation send-offs, St. Thomas seeks to meet the spiritual needs of our children, to help them grow, as they grow up, in Christ each day. Please join us!
Questions? Interested in registering your child? Contact our Director of Children’s Christian Education, Kate Beeby, firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Thomas welcomes all families to our open and affirming congregation. Our church offers children, from infants to young adults, a lifelong spiritual foundation–a place where the youngest seekers, searchers and doubters are welcome and encouraged in their faith. This fall, our programs start September 11 at 10:00 am with our new Second Sunday worship and back-to-school backpack blessings. Sunday School and Junior Youth Group begins this fall on September 18 at 9:30 am.