Tuesday, October 20, 2020

CHRISTMAS: In a Covid World

Christmas services are usually our most attended services of the year, especially those that involve the children. In this time of Covid, people keep asking what others are planning this year. We certainly want it to be as special and a celebration of the birth of our Lord. Here are a few options that I've come up with. 

Christmas by the Children

With technology today it is super easy to take pictures of the children in costumes at home, and just as easy to do video. Give each child a part and have them say it in costume at home. Depending on how many children there are each can have their own part. You can also do a Zoom choir of them singing Christmas songs. 

A really great idea (at least to me) is to have parents take a video of their kids telling the Christmas story. 

Another option: If you'd like to create a special gift for parents, take a few moments to ask kids questions about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and various people or situations in the Bible such as the birth of Christ and compile their answers into a book to give parents for Christmas or as an "end of the year" gift. What a beautiful snapshot of what their kids believe at that moment! Remember not to change any of their answers to make them more entertaining or more humorous. That is not the point. They need to be authentic and you might be surprised at the depth of some of the answers!

Here's a simple sample of what a page in a book might look like but I am positive there are many creative scrapbook loving women in the congregation who would love to help put something like this together.

Christmas on the Road

One year we created the story of Christmas by lining up different places to take photo/video of the kids in costume around the county. We took pics of kids on donkeys, in the country walking on a donkey, shepherds with sheep, in a stable, in a wild garden (arboretum), as angels against the sky, and anything else we could think of to get the kids involved. We even found a place that wasn't too far away that had camels for the wisemen! If there was a scene we couldn't figure out we had the kids create drawings. 

A lot of organization is required for this one, especially on photo shoot day. That's the day when everyone goes to take their photos/videos. Places need to be researched and appointments made, maps and/or directions need to be printed, costumes need to be picked up, etc. 

It was unusual, but so much fun! 

The Old Time Radio Christmas

This year we're doing an Old Time Radio Christmas. I'm writing the script right now and the youth are really excited. The one thing I didn't think about is that they had no idea what an old time radio show was. They hadn't seen anything like it. The reason I'm doing this is so that we don't have to worry about staging, costumes, or memorization and we can get away with fewer rehearsals. Not to mention that many boys have volunteered and are really excited about doing the sound effects. 

Have fun and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Friday, September 25, 2020

YOUTH: Geocaching Prayer Adventure

A couple of years ago I wrote a Prayer Hike for the Environmental Learning Program at Camp Omega in Waterville, MN. Campers were given a map and were to hike to designated places. At that place they would find a Bible verse, an activity, and a prayer. ELP students were given a journal and part of the experience included questions which required a response. Ever since then I've tried to figure out how to provide the same experience for the youth and families at my small church in my small town. There aren't enough contemplative areas nearby to do a meaningful hike. Then a college friend told me she started geocaching and BINGO! An idea was born. What about a Geocaching Prayer Adventure in the time of Covid?

Geocaching is simply using your phone and coordinates to find a cache that's been hidden. It can be posted on your church website or the information can be picked up at the church. 

Here's how to do it: 
  1. Choose your locations carefully. If you're going to use private property make sure you get permission to do so. Do not use transportation hubs as unmarked packages may be considered dangerous and destroyed.
  2. Choose your container carefully. Make sure the lid won't pop off easily if an animal plays with it. Also, make sure it's big enough for everything you need to put in it. Choose a color that helps the container blend in with its surroundings. Don't make them so small that nobody can find them.
  3. Create your cache. Most cache's contain a log book (small notebook), geocaching congratulatory note with directions (sample note), pen/pencil, and perhaps a small trinket to swap. Place items that can be ruined by moisture in a ziplock bag inside the container. Label the outside of the container so that those not participating know not to pick it up and take it with them or throw it away. 
  4. Sample cache. First stop on list (does not have to be done first): 
    1. Bible verse card. (read aloud) What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.  1 Corinthians 14:15 ESV 
    2. Activity. SHARE with your group one thing you do or will do to praise and thank God each morning. Together shout, THANK YOU GOD! 
      JOURNAL (write/answer): How do you think starting your day with a simple prayer thanking and praising God for what He does for you each day will change your day?  
    3. Prayer card. Dear God, we love you and praise you for everything you have done and continue to do for us even though we do not deserve it. We ask that you guide us this night and bring us closer to you for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, Amen. 
    4. Sticker. Add the sticker to your passport/journal. 
    5. Log your name(s) in the log book for the leader to retrieve later. 
  5. Camouflage your cache by using camouflage containers or finding a way to color it so that it blends in with the area in which it will hide. Don't make them too easy for people to find. It ruins the fun and challenge. 
  6. Write down the coordinates! If this is a short-term bit of fun (give your group a couple of weeks to find all your caches) keep a chart or table with written directions of where it is hidden so you can easily retrieve it. 
  7. Participants will need to carry a few things with them in a tote bag or backpack: cell phone with a map app or gps locator, water bottle, writing utensil, prayer journal (pick up at church). 
ENJOY!!

Monday, September 14, 2020

FAMILY: Tea Time with Jesus

My niece decided to homeschool her 3 young girls this year instead of have them do online learning. It's a brave choice and a lot of work. To introduce them to poetry she started having Tea Time with Poetry once a week. What a great idea!! It made me think, what about Tea Time with Jesus? What if, once a week or even once a month Moms sat down with their girls and had Tea Time with Jesus? They could take time to connect (What's God doing in your life?), read scripture, talk about it, pray, and Mom could share her faith. They could go to a coffee shop, meet with a family friends or extended family members and talk about life and Jesus while drinking tea and eating biscuits or something. If you can't do it weekly, make it a special monthly event that they never want to miss. It'll strengthen their faith and their relationships. Moms will find that their girls are more calm and face life with greater courage and confidence.

What about the boys? Boys need time with their dads to learn how to be strong, faith-filled, God-fearing men who have a strong desire to lead their family. They could do tea time too, but they can also go out for burgers or a beverage of their choice. Call it Food and Faith or something more clever. They too can pray, talk about where God is in their lives, read scripture and talk about it.

Your older kids may be resistant at first, but if you're firm and keep going, don't let them make excuses and let them off the hook, it'll be one of the things they'll talk about their whole adult lives. Know that God will work in their hearts if you don't give up.

What if you don't have kids? Treat yourself! Choose a quiet place where you can sit down and talk to God with a hot cup of tea, iced tea, or another beverage of your choice and a special treat that you only have during this time with God, reading His word. Reconnecting. Refocusing. Reminding yourself of your purpose. Reinvigorating your life. 

 




Wednesday, September 2, 2020

EDUCATION: Sing the Faith

I just discovered a great YouTube resource to help kids memorize the Small Catechism. It's called Sing the Faith. Check it out below. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

SPIRITUAL LIFE: Daily Bible Reading - It's About a Habit

A habit is a developed or acquired pattern of behavior and humans are creatures of habit. It’s how our brains work. The brain is our most amazing and complex organ. “The more often you perform an action or behave a certain way, the more it gets physically wired into your brain” (Oppong, 2018).

Good and bad habits are developed in the same way; repetition. The brain, however, doesn’t know good habits from bad. “Habits are the brains internal drivers” (Oppong, 2018), which is why new habits can be difficult to start – there is no history of repetition; and why old habits are difficult to break – there is a history of repetition. 

Think about your day or year. We develop morning habits and bedtime habits. We develop schedules and routines at work or at school. We typically celebrate holidays in the same way each year and call them traditions. How we react to certain situations is also learned behavior that’s been repeated over time. Going to church is a habit (that was broken for us due to Covid-19 and may be difficult for some to get back into) and we can make reading the Bible regularly a habit as well.

So, how do we start a new habit of reading the Bible?
Tip 1: Pray about it. Ask the Spirit of God (whose whole purpose is things like this) to support and encourage you in this challenge and to bring you new and deeper understanding of God’s word. NEVER underestimate the power of prayer, especially for something like this. 

Tip 2:
Recognize that you’re going to have to consciously think about doing it a number of times to make and strengthen those brain connections until the pattern is developed. Put your Bible in a place where you have to look at it every day and read in that place. Please, make it a place where you will have the fewest distractions.

Tip 3: Predict the obstacles that the great liar may put in your path to success and find ways around them. If your kids need you at a particular time in the morning or evening, don’t choose that time as your reading time. Don’t try to wake up earlier to read if you’re not a morning person and will hit that snooze for 10 more minutes. If you use public transportation use a Bible app and read while you ride.

Tip 4: Getting started is the hardest part. Nobody runs a marathon without working up to it. Don’t start reading a difficult book like one of the Major Prophets or Revelation. These are difficult to read and you will find yourself frustrated. Find a reading program that starts with shorter verses that can be read easily. Whatever list you're going to use, print it out and keep it in your Bible.

Tip 5: Embrace the process and pat yourself on the back each time you succeed. Thanks be to God! 

Tip 6: If you miss a day don’t think you’ve failed and should just stop. It’s just one day and tomorrow is another day. You haven’t failed unless you quit.

Tip 7: Find a reading buddy and hold each other accountable. Be honest about your progress. Text each other every day to ask what each of you learned from or thought about the reading. Encourage each other to continue even if you miss a day or two. 
Research done by the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that about 54% of people who vowed to change a habit through a New Year resolution failed within six months. Don’t be that person! Enthusiasm at the beginning is common. Commitment is the challenge. You can do this and it will absolutely change your attitude and perspective of life, strengthen your faith, and encourage you daily!

References:

Norcross, J. C., Mrykalo, M. S., & Blagys, M. D. (2002). Auld lang Syne:
 Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year's resolvers and nonresolvers [Abstract]. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 397-405. doi:10.1002/jclp.1151

Oppong, T. (2018, June 15). The Neuroscience of Change: How to Train Your Brain to Create Better Habits. Retrieved August 29, 2020, from https://medium.com/swlh/to-break-bad-habits-you-really-have-to-change-your-brain-the-neuroscience-of-change-da735de9afdf


Monday, August 17, 2020

RALLY SUNDAY: Church Family Feud docs

 We're planning on playing Church Family Feud on Sunday School rally day and people were asking about it on Facebook. It wouldn't let me upload the files so I'm going to put them here. The game template was created by rusnakcreative.com and it's fabulous! I just changed the titles by adding the word CHURCH. Make sure that when you download it that you also download the Fast Money template. 

I created a google form to do a survey of church questions and put it on Facebook and that worked great, though I have a feeling a lot of people who responded haven't seen the game. 

If you want to see how mine ended up I uploaded it to my Google drive and you can check it out here. It's super easy to use and I can't wait to try. It's going to be so much fun!

Monday, July 13, 2020

CONFIRMATION: Online Final Exam

This year,due to the disruption of Covid-19, we ended up creating a final exam for the students to take online. We wanted ot use Google Forms and had a few concerns though: 
  1. We only had the 8th graders for one year and didn't know what they learned from the previous pastor, so there are parts of the test that were simplified.
  2. We chose to have them test at home, but knowing kids, wanted to make sure they didn't test on their own, so we sent each test to a parent email with very direct instructions. 
  3. We wanted the test to be timed and to count any instances that students left the site because it would be more difficult for them to look elsewhere for online help. We used timify.me for this and it worked very well. 
  4. We didn't want it to be too long, but also wanted it to be comprehensive. 
As an educator, what I've noticed working with pastors is that they more often ask questions to illicit information, especially from confirmands. They want their students to be able to recite back what they've memorized, which may be why so many still like a questioning night. I prefer there's a deeper understanding and finding out what they are thinking just as much as what facts they can recite back. Some will say that if they get it in their head/heart that they'll carry it with them, which is true, if they truly memorize it, reviewing it over time and not just once one week in a span of a 2 year course. 

It's easy and really beneficial to add answers to the simple questions so that they grade themselves, but you will want to look at the short and longer responses. If you add short answers you may find that the program expects them to match a little too closely to grade them well. I've shortened the number of questions in a couple of sections because we didn't teach those and didn't want to penalize students for past teachers. Look at the test via this link. 

Remember: when kids are working online it's on the honor system. We can remind in instructions and ask parents to oversee, but we'll never know what happens. If there's a little cheating going on, it's not the end of the world. After you grade each test (you can add comments) you can let students see their results and send an email to parents (check the email at the beginning of the exam). I simply let a couple of students know that the pastor would be contacting them before the service.  

 Take a peek below.