A More Colorful Children’s Sermon: A Q&A with Rev. Adam Walker Cleaveland

A More Colorful Children’s Sermon: A Q&A with Rev. Adam Walker Cleaveland November 9, 2015
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Advent Coloring Sheets from Illustrated Children’s Moments

If you’re one of those pastors (or parishioners!) who dreads the “Children’s Moment” during worship, artist and Rev. Adam Walker Cleaveland has just made your Sunday morning a whole lot better. His brand new Illustrated Children’s Moments, a series of illustrations based on the lectionary for use in church, Sunday school and all week long, will help you to “tell the story” with your children in an engaging and memorable way. I caught up with Adam this week to ask him about this new resource for kids and how long he’s been doodling the lectionary.

Tell us more about your Illustrated Children’s Moments.

Illustrated Children’s Moments are fun and unique illustrations that I create based on the lectionary. Right now, I’m in the middle of preparation for An Illustrated Advent, but when I am able to do the illustrations on a regular basis, I try to create one for the Narrative Lectionary and one for the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the week. I create an illustration, write a very short leader’s guide for it, and that is what people will use to craft their Children’s Moment or Sermon. I send the illustrations in a variety of file formats, so customers can print it out in color, or in black and white and make it a coloring sheet for the kids, or people can use them as bulletin covers.

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Your illustrations are fantastic! How do you describe your artistic style? Have you always been an artist?

Thanks! I was recently visiting my parents, and my mom had me look through a lot of boxes of “stuff” she’s saved for me. In those boxes, I found bank receipts from 1984 that had little pictures of monkeys that I had drawn on them. Now, I don’t think they were worth saving for 30+ years, but it was fun to see. I drew all the time as a kid, took a calligraphy class with my mom, took a few drawing classes and couldn’t get enough of it.

And then my family got a computer when I was a freshman in high school. And then we got the internet. And I really didn’t pick up a pen and paper again to draw until a few years ago.

As for my style – that is something that is still evolving for sure. Sometimes the people I draw are more realistic looking – other times they are more cartoonish. There are definitely some artists whose style I really like; some of those are Tommy Kane, Mattias AdolfssonLisa Congdon and Paul Soupiset.

What inspired you to create these illustrations? And who are you creating them for? 

I’ve never liked Children’s Moments during worship. I always thought they were poorly done – either using kids as entertainment for the rest of the congregation, or giving them an object lesson that really just goes over their heads and doesn’t make any sense. A seminary professor I had, Rodger Nishioka, always just said “Just tell the story!” There isn’t any need to come up with any creative or funny…just share the stories with the kids.

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More liturgical churches that use the lectionary are probably my primary target audience for this product, but soon, I will begin accumulating a good library of illustrations for biblical stories, so other churches could still find the illustrations and use them.

When I used them in the last church I served, I made sure to print out a nice copy of the illustration so that each kid could go home with one. The feedback I heard from parents was that their kids would talk about the story throughout the week, they’d remember the story better.

How do you imagine churches using these in worship or other times?

Many will use the illustrations for the time they bring the children up front during the service. Others might find ways to use them in their Sunday School classes to accompany lessons or to turn them into coloring sheets for the kids. I’ve also seen many churches using the illustrations for their bulletins, or taking some of my coloring pages and putting them in the bulletins for adults and kids to color.

You have a particular new series for Advent.  Tell us about that and what your hope is for those.

For Advent, there are two products that we have. First, An Illustrated Advent: Engaging Activities for the Season, is our main product. There is a Church Edition and a Family Edition, and both will include different, but complimentary, content. Some examples of the content include Illustrated Children’s Moments, coloring sheets for the story of Jesus’ birth, worship activity sheets for kids, devotionals for families to do together, Flat Wise Men (think Flat Stanley meets Elf on the Shelf!), Advent Activity Calendars and more!

Churches will be able to buy the Church Edition, and then they will receive a coupon code that they can give the families at their churches for 25% off the Family Edition.

PeaceAnd then we have our Advent Coloring Sheets and Posters. I’ve created 5 Advent-themed coloring sheets with different words in the middle of each one: Hope, Joy, Peace, Love and Emmanuel. They are beautiful, intricate designs that both children and adults will love coloring in. We’ll have 8.5×11 coloring sheets available on November 16 (when these products will all launch) but right now, we have pre-orders available for our 4’ x 3’ posters. These are amazing to see unrolled and to see a group of kids all around, coloring and having good conversations.

The coloring posters will be perfect for churches who want to have coloring stations during worship in Advent, for preschools to have a fun coloring activity, for youth groups, Sunday School classes, families to do together over the holidays, Advent Fairs and churches that want intergenerational Advent activities. The great thing is that when they’re done being colored – you have 5 gigantic pieces of art that your community or family can use to decorate your church or home.

What’s been the reaction so far to the product, from kids? And from adults?

A few days ago, I had to setup the pre-ordering option for the posters, because people were seeing photos around social media of the posters being colored by kids and lots of people were asking, “Where can I order these? I want them now!” The reaction from both kids and adults has been very, very positive about the coloring sheets.

As I’ve used the Illustrated Children’s Moments in worship with kids, I’ve found that they really connect with the illustrations. Many people have been using them over the past couple months, and I’ve heard nothing but really great feedback.

What are you working on next?

As soon as the Advent materials are done, I’ll begin working on the Lent/Easter materials. I’ll want to hear feedback from folks who use An Illustrated Advent, but my hope is to offer An Illustrated Lent, which will be available in January for purchase. I’m also going to be at the 2016 Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators Annual Event in Chicago in January (January 27-30), and will have a table setup for Illustrated Children’s Moments and look forward to sharing more about this resource and hearing what people are looking for and what would be most helpful.

Each Illustrated Children’s Moment comes with original pen and ink artwork (in both black and white and color versions) in a cartoon-style designed to be fun for children. The illustrations can be photocopied and given to children to take home, but can also be used as bulletin covers/inserts, coloring sheets, graphics for e-newsletters, worship slides and more.

Visit Illustrated Children’s Moments at http://www.illustratedchildrensmoments.com and Adam’s new illustration site at awcillustrations.com.


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