Thursday, March 16, 2017

CONFIRMATION: A New Idea for Old Problems

I would like to propose a new confirmation program and I want to be the one to write the curriculum because those who usually create these things in the LCMS (not sure about other Lutheran denominations) do not do a great job of creating dynamic and meaningful curricula. I'm tired of not stepping on toes, so I'm just putting it out there. I also believe that we do not do an excellent job in educating people of all ages, but that's another issue.

Right now I'm focusing on the problem of confirmation. I won't dig into the issues at this time, but here are a few in a nutshell:

  • Many parents aren't fulfilling their responsibility of training in the home.
  • Parents aren't trained or prepared to teach confirmation.
  • Pastors are not trained how to teach (middle school students or parents)

I propose the following programatic change to address these issues:

  • Parents take a pre-confirmation class going over Luther's Small Catechism and how to teach the faith at home.
  • Daily discussion questions based on the questions in the catechism are sent home every week. 
  • Pastor (who has been trained to teach students that age) teaches 2 year JUNIOR confirmation class as a kick-start to the program. 
  • Pastor and parents meet 4 times a year to discuss how things are going at home, refresh the importance of discussion, life habits, etc.
  • Both parents and students have journals/notebooks to briefly reflect on the topic each week, jot down questions, reflect on highs/lows, etc.
If I really had my way there would be a SENIOR CONFIRMATION the senior year of high school. Each year in high school students should have to complete a benchmark project that makes them think about their faith more deeply, after which they will create a final presentation. Each presentation should answer the questions: What do I believe? Why do I believe it? At the beginning of each year they will study a particular part of the Bible for Sunday Bible study (or if there is a Weds. program) to coincide with a task to be completed such as organizing a church event, a year of specific service inside and outside of the congregation (teach Sunday School all year, visit a nursing home all year, etc.), research the faith journeys of a number of older people in the church to help them see how God works in a life, learn about Lutheran worship and develop a worship service, and prepare a final presentation in an agreed upon format such as an electronic scrapbook, video, slide show, etc. Remember that the point of the final project is to answer the questions: What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Each presentation should include real life examples and scripture. Who would not have a firm foundation after something like this?

Who's willing to try this with me? We'll create the curriculum as we go!!

If you're interested in more thoughts on this, see my previous post: Time for  Paradigm Shift

Monday, March 13, 2017

CONFIRMATION: How Parents Can Help

Parents are the greatest influence in a child's life. They don't need to teach confirmation to be a huge part of the process. (Get a pdf version.) 

How Parents Can Help With Confirmation
  • Pray for your child(ren). Pray for their hearts and their minds to be open to what they hear and learn throughout the process. Pray that God grow their faith and keep them close.
  • Pray with your child(ren). It will have a huge impact on their prayer life and reinforces with them that personal prayer is important. 
  • Attend worship regularly with them. Talk to them about the sermon before they write their response. (You might want to take a few notes on occasion yourself.)
  • Talk to them about your faith and about how having faith affects how you live.
  • Be diligent and supportive in holding them accountable for their memory work. Be sure they repeat it regularly throughout the week so that it truly becomes a part of their memory. (Perhaps make it a family activity that is gone over at dinner every night or every time they get into the car?)
  • Keep track of what they’re learning and ask questions about it. Discussion of the concepts is a huge part of confirming and internalizing what they’ll be learning. 
  • Participate in family discussion questions and be available to answer any questions they might have about your faith. Feel free to contact me if you’re not sure about anything they ask.
  • Participate in adult Bible study. This single activity shows children that you personally find value in learning about God and His Word.
  • Aside from the Holy Spirit, PARENTS are a child’s single greatest influence with regard to faith and whether or not it takes root in their lives.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

LEADERSHIP: Beautiful Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage Certificates

My newest grandson is being baptized in a few weeks and I was looking for a more meaningful certificate for both he and his sponsors. I found some that are absolutely stunning! The beautiful certificates (Baptism, Sponsors, Confirmation, Marriage) are the result of the joint efforts of Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller and Jason Hanson. Bryan is an LCMS pastor at Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, CO, and Jason works as a graphic designer. You can find their beautiful creations at their business website, Wolfson Creative.  

You have to go to their website to see some sample pdf's, but a section sample of the art for the baptismal certificate is below. Check them out!


Friday, March 3, 2017

EDUCATION: The Shack


Image result for the shack
I'm seeing reviews for the movie, The Shack, and most of them talk about how it's not a great movie because it has many Biblical inaccuracies, as well as areas where it speaks to what the Bible doesn't say directly, and fills in with conclusions that have been drawn without consistency with Biblical teachings. Christian reviewers would say, "Don't bother seeing it." I have a different view.

I read the book when it came out because so many people told me how amazing it is/was. True, there are inaccuracies, but there are also little gems where concepts that we all wonder about are explained in a way that makes them easier to understand.

As a Christian educator, I suggest that pastors make this book (or the movie, when it becomes available to the general public) an adult or teen Bible study. I strongly recommend it be a teen Bible study. Why? Because, we need to challenge them. We need to allow them to ask questions. We should not say, "Don't read it." We say instead, "Read it with a critical eye." Read it with them and challenge them to find the inaccuracies. We NEED to teach them to do that on their own so that when they come across these things throughout their lives, their red flags pop up where they should. Ask them: 
  • Where are the Biblical inaccuracies? 
  • Where are the doctrinal untruths? 
  • What strikes you as being wrong here? 
  • What about this particular part of the book is biblically right or wrong?
  • Is there anything here that seems wrong, but you're not sure why?
  • How can we take what's good from this and throw the chaff to the wind?
As Lutherans we have a tendency to tell people not to see it or not to read it instead of teaching them to do so with a filter. We don't give them or strengthen their filter. That's one of our biggest problems, telling people "It's wrong. Don't bother reading/watching it." I say, do it. Read it. Watch it. Do it together. Teach them to take what's good and throw away the chaff. It's important that they learn to think and see false teachings on their own. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

EDUCATION: Rethinking How We Teach in the Church (BPM Phoenix)

Last Friday, February 25, 2017, I gave a presentation at the Best Practices for Ministry conference at Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix. It was a fantastic conference and I feel blessed to have been able to present. My information was well received and I promised I would put it on my website, so here it is!

TITLE: Rethinking How We Teach in the Church

In the presentation I talk about the 2 elephants we don't seem to want to see in the LCMS and why they're a problem.
  1. Church workers (especially pastors) aren't taught to teach.
  2. Current available curricula may be doctrinally correct, but is not educationally effective.
What are we doing wrong? You can hear the whole presentation in 2 parts or just look at the slides in pdf format.

If you, your circuit, or your district are interested in having me in for a workshop, please contact me through this website. We teach the most important thing anybody will hear/learn. Let's do it better! And let's demand better curricula.

RETHINKING HOW WE TEACH IN THE CHURCH










Saturday, February 11, 2017

EDUCATION: Bible/World Timeline Resources

When teaching kids (and adults) about the Bible, especially when reading the Old Testament, visuals help. Actually, pictures always increase learning because we remember more when we can attach a picture to words. When I was young my dad had a Bible history timeline that fascinated me because it connected Old Testament events with what was going on in the rest of the world, for example, Daniel lived at the same time as Confucius and Buddha. Dad had this one from Rose Publishing that I found on Amazon.com for about $4. It's not tall, but stretches out and is also available on CD  (about $40) in the form of PowerPoint slides. Actually, Rose Publishing has a number of great resources for Bible maps


There's also another one I've seen recently called the Amazing Bible Timeline. It's a large poster (37" x 45") and is in a circular format. Right now it also comes with a few bonus items: 1) Interactive Maps of the Holy Land that can be downloaded, and 2) Digital Amazing Bible Timeline that is also downloadable for projecting in larger rooms or classes. It's all for about $20 and is worth checking out. I don't know how long the bonuses will be available. 
Bible Timeline
This is the only photo I could find that
shows the whole timeline well.
These can all be used for middle or high school Bible study, adult Bible study, and even would be very beneficial for a sermon. Don't forget the power of visuals in sermons

Friday, February 3, 2017

H.S. YOUTH: Great Faith Sharing Projects

I forgot that I'd made these videos and found them today when I was looking at my YouTube channel (more math videos than anything so don't get too excited). Anyway, kids love creating videos and we need to have them express what they believe in different ways so they become uber comfortable with it; comfortable enough to be able to freely share it. My standard church education goal is to have everybody be able to answer two questions without hesitation.
  1. What do you believe? 
  2. Why do you believe it?
I also want them to be as biblically literate as possible and this is one more way for them to become more familiar with what it says and be able to share it in their own words. You can choose any topic or story, but it can't be completely direct from the Bible. They can and should add a few verses to support what they believe, but it needs to be in their own words.

WARNING! Be careful about your choice of music if you upload your videos to YouTube or elsewhere on the internet. There are copyright laws about using other people's music and YouTube is good at noticing those kinds of things. If you need some public domain photos use Pixabay or Wikimedia Commons, but be careful with Wikimedia. Not everything there is public domain.

Here are a few different video creating/editing tools (but you might be surprised to find that many of your youth already make their own videos):

Windows Movie Maker (only PC)
iMovie (only Apple)
Wondershare Filmora
Stupeflix
Lightworks

Video Samples

This one is a sample of how they can create something simple to share the Bible and show that they have an understanding of it. They can choose something from the old or new testaments. I used Screen-cast-o-matic for this one because I used it to create math videos and it's familiar to me. Obviously my art skills are stellar! It was easy to create using a PowerPoint background and stick figures. Sometimes the simpler you make it the easier it is to tell the story! HINT: Let the kids take the time to storyboard their projects and show them to you before they start.




This one is a straight forward slide show I created on Stupeflix.com. It was simple enough to use, but I didn't like the music they had so I took a song from YouTube and added it after it was uploaded. At least I was sure the song was public domain. HINT:  Have kids add photos of themselves or their friends too. They can even write a script and have their friends help.