Jesus' Family Tree

Sometimes, having an art education can be a problem when choosing books for your kids. There are many fine storybooks out there, but there are also many so-so offerings with overly simplistic storylines and color

palettes that include only primary colors.

And then there are the picture books of Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert. Clever and beautifully illustrated with cut and torn paper, they are a treat for kids and the adults who read with them.

All in the Family

Here’s an idea for a church family tree visual that fits nicely with “Skeletons in the Closet” by Sharon Veltema (p. 34).

The visual is constructed of 6 x 9-inch cards (made of watercolor paper or cardstock) stitched together. First, decide on the overall size of the visual, making sure to estimate carefully the number of people you think will get involved and keeping in mind that things tend to look really small when shown in a large space.

Purchase watercolor paper or cardstock that will take watercolor or ink well. Cut the paper into as many 6 x 9 cards as you have participants. With painter’s tape, tape the cards together on the back to make one large sheet. Number the cards so that, once painted, they can be reassembled again in order.

Carefully turn the combined sheet over and with pencil, draw a tree shape with smooth flowing lines.

Once you’re satisfied with the tree shape, pull the tape off and split up the cards. Distribute them to members of your church, young and old, and ask them to write their names, along with the names of family members or friends, in pencil along the lines you’ve already penciled on the cards.

Meanwhile, prepare the “leaf stock.” Using various shades of green watercolor, paint in large swaths and splatters across large pieces of watercolor paper. Later, you’ll cut out leaf shapes and glue to the assembled cards to make a tree form—just like Lois Ehlert would!

You could have participants use marker for their names, but having one or two people brush over the pencil lines with dark brown watercolor or ink will give the tree a more uniform look.

Once the brush lines are dry, stitch the cards together in order using white string. Painting the cards separately and then assembling them reinforces the idea that these cards are parts contributing to a whole—but that’s a sermon I’ll resist!

To finish, attach the leaves. If you must, attach ornaments made using the same process you used to make the leaves.

An alternative to stringing the cards together is to use double-sided tape to tape them to a board or wall in stages over a number of weeks to slowly complete the final picture.

The Ehlert-like leaves give this design visual oomph but it’s the concept of us being adopted into Jesus’ family tree that make this worth the administrative hassle it’s sure to be.

Dean Heetderks is a member of Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Cutlerville, Michigan, and art director of Reformed Worship. Show and tell him about your experiences at

Reformed Worship 97 © September 2010, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.