Tuesday, October 3, 2017

CONFIRMATION: How to Give/Take Notes

When I was in confirmation the only notes I took were the doodles on the sides of the pages of my catechism. "What? You mean you weren't completely engaged in the important information?" No. My pastor sat in a chair or stood by a podium and spoke for an hour or so and asked questions nobody really answered.

Recent studies have shown that students learn more when taking their own notes by hand. What does this mean? Using computers, tablets, or recording devices for note taking does not increase learning. Putting notes in handouts and handing them out, does not increase learning.

What does that mean for confirmation? It means that having students take notes is a good learning tool for better long-term comprehension and should be used by confirmation educators. It also keeps students engaged. Students who take notes by hand out-perform those who use technology in responding to conceptual questions. The problem is that most pastors don't expect note-taking and, believe it or not, most middle school students do not know how to take notes. Note-taking is a skill that is expected, but not taught in many schools today. The only people who think taking notes using a computer is better are people who sell computers.

How can you help students take good notes? 

  • Give each student a notebook at the beginning of the year. They should be able to use the same notebook for every year of confirmation. I recommend the composition notebooks that are not spiral so the pages are not easily removable. Put a big name sticker on the front of each one.
  • Develop some short-hand symbols for students to use when taking notes for those words that you use often. For example, Israelites = I, Disciples = D, 10 Commandments = 10C, Old and New Testaments = OT or NT, etc.
  • Remind students often that taking notes is not a exercise in writing down everything you say. 
  • Learn about graphic organizers (a visual display that demonstrates relationships between facts, concepts, or ideas). Sample 1 (Abraham) - Sample 2 (10 Commandments) - Sample 3 (6 Chief Parts)
  • Give periodic notes quizzes. These are short 3-5 question quizzes for which students use their notes to find answers. 
  • Play review games and let students use their notes to show them the value of re-reading them. 
  • Use clues or cue words to help students know when you're saying something they should write down. I used to tell my students, "If I write - you write." If you write while they do, you won't feel impatient waiting.
  • If you use slides, students will copy them down... without thinking about what they are writing. They will also stop listening while they write so stop speaking while they're writing. I often said, "Can I go on?" Give outlines and expect them to fill in the details on their own. Give them time to write definitions in their own words. 
  • Take a moment to ask a quick comprehension question about what they just wrote down. 
  • Either collect or look at notes once in a while and put a sticker or something on them to show that you've seen them and approve.
These are just a few things that can be done to help students take notes. It may seem a bit complicated at first, but the more you practice these things the better you will get at doing them. Remember, you're teaching them the most important thing they will ever learn. Do it well! 

Find other great teaching information in The Art of Teaching Confirmation.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

EDUCATION: Luther's Prayers Bookmarks and the Reformation's 500th Anniversary

As we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year we are focusing more closely on what it and Martin Luther did for all believers. I love Luther's prayers. One night I decided to start saying them more often and didn't want to get out of bed to find my catechism. I wanted a bookmark so that they would be readily accessible and couldn't find them anywhere. So, as I usually do, I created some. With the anniversary coming up I have been approached to sell them. So, here they are. If you want to give them to your congregation as a part of the celebration, don't wait too long to order them.

Sold in groups of 25. Quantities can be changed at checkout.

Bookmark Options

Monday, September 18, 2017

EDUCATION: The Bible Project

Yesterday we started a new season of Bible study at church and before we just jumped in and started reading, the pastor is taking some time to teach us about the Bible itself. Sometimes background information about the history of the Bible itself, its writers, the Israelites and their culture, and the language it's written in can make all the difference. We looked at a video resource that is great for people of all ages. Ok, well, maybe not preschoolers or young elementary age children as the vocabulary might be a challenge, but everybody else. It's called The Bible Project and the videos can be found on YouTube or on their own website. I don't know who is writing all the episodes but it's nondenominational so, as with every unknown resource, preview the videos before showing them to make sure they're compatible with your church's beliefs.

Of course, when it comes to the Bible, it's best for people to read it themselves and not just listen to somebody summarize it, so do not use this as a substitute for reading. This is especially true for kids, however, sometimes it helps them to have an overview of what's going on if the reading is challenging. This can be true even at the middle school level. So, if you're using a Bible reading plan for confirmation, some of these may be helpful. The videos are broken up into categories: Series, Themes, Old Testament, and New Testament.

How to Read the Bible - Information to help you read the Bible with greater understanding.
Torah - First five books of the Old Testament about God's covenant with the Israelites.
Gospel - Retells the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.
Wisdom - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job
Shema (Word Studies) - The shema is a prayer the Jews have prayed for thousands of years. This is a look at the meanings of the words from that prayer.

Themes:  The Covenants, Day of the Lord, Gospel of the Kingdom, Heaven and Earth, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Image of God, The Law, The Messiah, Sacrifice and Atonement, Public Reading of Scripture

Here is the first video in the How to Read the Bible Series.

Monday, September 11, 2017

OUTREACH: Social Media Posts

A lot of churches are writing creative blurbs, publishing quotes, and sharing scripture on social media. Society today is all about marketing and many churches, it seems, have jumped on the bandwagon. The problem is that there's a lot out there that it is false or wrong. Some of the issues are:

Scripture out of context. 
1 Corinthians 15:57 actually says,  "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Hmmm...

False Doctrine
There is no biblical reference here, but that's because there is no place in the Bible where we are promised that if we survive unfairness or tough times that we will be rewarded with double the stuff we had before.

Incorrect References 
Psalm 34:7 actually says, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them." The correct reference is Psalm 37:4.

Another problem I've seen is no mention of God, Jesus, or the Bible. If you're marketing an event at your church, you mention the name of the church. If you're trying to strike up a conversation about faith, you point to God, Jesus, faith, the Bible, etc. These examples come from congregations trying to have a media presence.
Can you see a problem with them?

This one looks like great self-help advice. Perhaps it came from Oprah or another talk show helper. You would never know it came from a church, which church, or if it is scripture. The truth is, it's not about YOU. If you want to change your life, you need to follow Christ. He will lead you down the right path.

This one is true. God, the Father, loves us SO much. But then it says that he "just dropped everything that he was doing to tell you so." He dropped everything he was doing? What was he doing? This just doesn't make sense. God loves us far more than taking a moment while watching his favorite tv show or gardening to tell us. He loves us so much that he gave is one and only Son to die for our sins. How about just saying that?

If my pastor asked me to share these I would not. I would, however, share something that points to my church (which will point someone to Christ), to my Bible (which will point someone to Christ), or anything that simply points to Christ.

My whole point is that if you want your members to share something on their social media sites, make it something worth sharing. Something worth sharing POINTS TO CHRIST! You're sharing so that you might have a conversation. About what? About God, who sent His Son, to die for all our sins. Share that!!

Friday, July 21, 2017

CONFIRMATION: New and Updated Free Forms!

Vehicle Visor Bible Verse
I recently updated the free forms that I give away when I give Confirmation workshops. You'll find them under the CONFIRMATION tab. Also, I hope you've already started to update your confirmation curriculum for next year. You can view all the confirmation posts if you use the quick link VIEW POSTS BY CATEGORY at the right. Lots of resources in those 69 posts from cool ideas about memorizing (like the vehicle visor Bible verse shown) to having a better discipline plan or how parents can help.

Teach them well, friends. It's the most important thing they'll ever learn!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CHRISTMAS: Amateur Gingerbread or Cereal Treat Nativity Contest

Being the middle of July, we're getting close to fall, which means we're getting close to Christmas. I posted before about two things I'd like to bring together. People seem to love making gingerbread houses, but they're sometimes a challenge for kids, so I posted on making Christmas cereal treat churches as a silent auction fundraiser. (You can see my attempt below.) I also posted on having a Nativity on Parade, an idea I love as I love seeing everybody's nativity scenes when I visit them. What a cool Advent evening event that could be!

Today I want to bring them together and think it would be a great idea to open up a gingerbread church or nativity contest to the community.

Rice Krispie Church (mine)
Obviously I'm not going to be winning any Christmas baking contest any time soon, but it was fun!

Gingerbread Nativity

Rice Krispie Nativity

Here are some practical ideas or options for your event:
  • Have age categories. (Adult or 18+ years, Teen or 13-17 years, Youth or 9-12 years)
  • Allow teams or partners.
  • Everything (except the base) must be edible. 
  • All structures will be tasted and hopefully eaten with coffee/milk and joy after the competition. 
  • Judge entries on overall appearance, originality and creativity, difficulty or complexity, and taste. Who wants a beautiful gingerbread nobody can eat? 
  • Have forms so everybody can vote, a specific group that will vote anonymously, or both! 
  • Have two categories: gingerbread and/or cereal treats. 
  • Have free beverages and other baked goods (maybe for sale - the youth could make some money). 
  • Combine it with a homemade ornament sale.
  • Get to know your neighbors!!! 
  • Make it fun! Don't make it so serious or formal that people forget to laugh at themselves and each other. Share the joy of the season!

Always be sure to invite the community to an event like this and don't forget to have the pastor share the gospel story for why we celebrate the birth that inspired all these lovely edible treats before the winners are announced.  After the winners are announced, EAT THEM!

Yum! I'm really feeling in the spirit now!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SERVICE: Backyard Mission

Summer, the season of youth trips, mission trips, and servant events. Everybody is taking a group out of the country for a great mountain top experience. What fun! We had a great time and we helped!

Yes, but what are we missing in our own backyard? Do we see the needs of those who live across the street from our homes and the church? Those who live around the block? Do we even know their names? Are we so busy doing service overseas that we don't do it in our own backyard because it's not so exciting or because it's so much more difficult to get volunteers to do it?

Start a Backyard Mission

Every congregation should have a Backyard Mission. What's that? It's getting to know and helping your neighbors. If your church is in a neighborhood, do you know the names of the neighbors across the street? Do you know their needs? Have you prayed for them? Have you introduced yourself?

My suggestion is that for a week in the summer, make it a big deal to have groups go around the neighborhood and see if there's something you can do to help them. Then turn it into an ongoing project, not just something you do once a year. After all, how much money does it take to take a group of people overseas to help and how much more further would that money go to help in your own backyard. Try one or all of these:

  • Pray for your neighbor.
  • Fix up a yard.
  • Paint a room or a house.
  • Do a walk around food drive for the local food shelf. 
  • Do a walk around sock drive to prepare for the winter months.
  • Clean up trash in a local park.
  • See what you can do at a local homeless shelter.
  • Work in a community garden.
  • Build a Men's Servant Team.
  • Develop a continuing relationship with a local retirement or nursing home. (They don't just need you at Christmas!)

Make your church known in the community as a church that doesn't just talk about Jesus' love inside the walls, but shows it outside the walls and into your own backyard. Don't show that you only do service in other countries and then come back all pumped up to share your great experience when those around you may be needing that energy and your help. Jesus didn't set up a tent and try to get people to come to him. He went out. We need to go out too... into our neighborhoods and then the rest of the world.

I posted on this subject before here.