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Gather Us In - Tools for Forming Families Icebreakers, Social & Service Activities, Events, Rituals & Prayer

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Icebreakers, Social & Service Activities, Events, Rituals & Prayer
Gather Us In - Tools for Forming Families

Also available in Print + eResource edition

Bring families of all ages and backgrounds together through play, learning, and prayer! If you're looking to strengthen your parish community—to encourage families to work and play together while sharing and living out their faith—the tools in this resource will make it easy. This extensive toolkit offers a wealth of fun and thought-provoking suggestions for jump-starting the process, drawn from Kathleen O'Connell Chesto's decades of experience leading whole family catechesis.

You will find great ideas and guidance, such as:

  • Icebreakers for learning names or for filling your space with loud animal noises.
  • Seasonal social activities, such as "Potluck Scripture" meals, "Liturgical Tablecloth" events, Mardi Gras parties (with or without pancakes), and "Family Drive-In" movies.
  • Seasonal service activities, such as garage/tag sales, litter hikes, Valentine's Day activities with shut-ins or at convalescent homes, and Advent letter-writing.
  • Family day events, such as "Saints Alive," celebrating the holiness of family life, and a "Sacrament Scavenger Hunt."
  • Rituals and prayer services, including a ritual for starting the school year and a "Celebration of Mercy."
  • A session and prayer experience on forming and celebrating a Covenant, which can be used to kick off a new catechetical year or pastoral program.

The resource is divided into four sections:

Part 1: Icebreakers

This section includes engaging games for learning names, getting to know one another better, and learning to work and play together. These games have been used successfully with Scouts, PTA’s, youth ministry programs, 4-H, and various catechetical programs and retreats.

Part 2: Social & Service Ideas

This section is made up of simple ideas and suggestions for social and service activities, divided according to the seasons of the year. Many are germs of ideas meant to jumpstart a brainstorming process in your own parish on how you can provide opportunities for families to play with one another, and to reach out in service to their communities.

Part 3: Family Day Events

The “family days” in this section are not really “days” but activities approximately two to three hours in length. In “family days,” an idea is worked out completely for the coordinator. The time and materials needed, the purpose of the activity, the appropriate season, directions for the experience, and any prayer involved are all clearly explained. These activities can be done as they are presented, combined with service and social ideas from the first section, or rounded out with prayer experiences from the final section.

Part 4: Rituals & Prayer Services

The fourth section contains rituals, prayer services, and tools for forming and celebrating Covenants. It begins with a reflection on the use of symbol in the development of ritual prayer and directions for making and using specific symbols within a group.  The remainder of the section is comprised of rituals, divided into four sets. Rituals in the first set celebrate general themes, seasons, and ideas, with directions for using a concrete symbol.  The second set of rituals focuses on the more specific themes represented by the symbols described earlier and are cross-referenced with these symbols for easier use. The third set offers more extensive prayer services. The final set includes sessions and prayer experiences to help groups develop, commit to, and celebrate a Covenant.  While many of the rituals were designed for beginning and closing meetings or classes, most can be expanded into prayer services that stand alone.

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This is a downloadable, reproducible product sold with a lifetime parish or school license. Please read the full license terms below.

Product License

This reproducible eResource is sold with a lifetime license for use within a parish, school, or diocesan office. You are allowed to make unlimited copies for use within your own community. You may also email these to members of your team or participants in your program. If you serve more than one parish or school, each should purchase its own license. You may not post our eResources to any web site without explicit permission to do so. Please contact us if you have any questions. Thank you for cooperating with our honor system regarding our product licenses.

Format: eResource
Product code: GUC501
Dimensions: 8½" x 11"
Length: 152 pages
The Pastoral Center
Written by Kathleen O'Connell Chesto


Dr. Kathleen O'Connell Chesto is a well-known author and speaker on family spirituality who draws on her many experiences as a wife and mother. She holds a doctor of ministry degree from Hartford Seminary and a master of arts in religious studies from St. Joseph College in West Hartford.

View all resources by Kathleen O'Connell Chesto