Friday, December 28, 2012

EDUCATION: Video Interviews


A cool project for youth might be to have them write up some questions regarding faith and walk around the congregation asking people about what they believe.  Not only would it be a great project for the kids for Sunday School but it would be great for the members to have to explain or describe what they feel.

Some questions might be "What do you believe about..."

  • God?
  • The creation of the universe?
  • The Holy Spirit and his place in your life?
  •  Jesus Christ, his life and his death?
  • Sin?
  • The devil?
  • Angels?

If you want to get really creative ask harder questions such as...

  • What is the purpose of confirmation?  
  • Is attending Sunday School and Bible study important to you?  Why
  • Why do you think people go to church?
  • Why should we read the Bible every day? 
  • Why do you think it's important to memorize scripture?
  • What Bible verses do you have memorized?
  • Do you feel comfortable sharing your faith with your friends?  What do you tell them?

A video like this can spark great conversation and if you ask the right questions it can also be used as a tool for the kids to educate the adults in the congregation.  It would be a great tool to use as a youth lead worship service.  Now that's something new and different!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

YOUTH: Cell Phone Contract

When I was growing up my parents always knew what was going on in my life because it was public.  The phone was in the kitchen where everyone could hear your conversation, the tv was in the family room where the family watched it, and the computer, when there finally was one, was my dad's.  Friends came over to our house to hang out where there was an adult present and my mom fed us.  We weren't over scheduled and ate dinner together at the dinner table nearly every night.

It's great to be able to provide all these electronics for our kids but they come with responsibility.  When I take youth on trips there are times when they must have their phones and times when they are not allowed.  If I find they're being used inappropriately I take them away and return them to their parents with an explanation of their inappropriate use.

Cell phones are extremely convenient but sometimes kids...

  • don't seem to have an understanding of the cost of cell phones.
  • don't seem to have an understanding of common courtesy and phone use.
  • are calling each other and texting at all hours of the day and night.
  • are sending sexual pictures of themselves and others.
  • are inappropriately using their phones at school and sometimes during class.
  • are bullying others.
  • do not realize that the actions they take with their phones are NOT private.

Many parents have created their own set of rules and keep a good handle on the household rules regarding phone use but in order to help those parents teach their kids appropriate phone use and responsibility I've created this FAMILY CELL PHONE CONTRACT to help them set appropriate boundaries with their kids.  There are a few rules that won't apply to some families so I left it a Word document so it can be adjusted.  Feel free to share it with the parents of your middle and high school youth and anybody else who might find it beneficial.  Also, if necessary, feel free to adapt it for church use during youth events or trips.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

VOLUNTEERS: ASK! It makes them feel valued!

I admit that I'm most at home in small congregations and my pastor at the small church where I'm a member often expresses his concern about people stepping up as volunteers.

Why is it that nobody in leadership in the congregation, including the pastor, ever asked me to help and do they ask anyone else?  Yes, I offered and he often said yes when I did, but the culture there seems to be "We'd like you to help but we won't ask.  But if you ask we might let you."  Is that the culture at your church too?  If you don't ask people to become part of the community, they will probably remain on the peripheral.  Do you get to know your members and recruit them or just hope they are brave enough to ask if there's something they can do?  Do you send out generic "We need volunteers!" emails and hope somebody bites? Most likely, you won't get volunteers with an invitation like that..

Maybe it's time to look at it from a different perspective.  Ask them to help so they feel valued in the congregation and because you feel they are valuable.

Just once I wanted somebody to say...
  • I could really use your help with...
  • I noticed you're really good at.... would you mind....
  • Do you have any ideas about....
  • Somebody told me you're really great at.... would you mind...
After I would convince somebody to let me try something new the pastor would thank me profusely and I once asked him to stop thanking me because that's not what makes me feel valued.  What makes me feel valued is when somebody notices I have a gift and asks me to share it, and when I'm done, thanks me sincerely and then asks me to do something else.  Again, what makes people feel valued is when somebody notices they have something of value to share and asks them to share it.  ASK!!  (And the more people you ask, the fewer will have to do everything... or feel they're doing everything.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I was just informed of a resource I hadn't found yet.  I love it when that happens!!  It's called and it is an online course that was written by an LCMS pastor (Rev. Thomas F. Fischer) and would be ideal for those who only have a couple of students (1 or 2), have a student with special circumstances who cannot attend class, or need supplemental material.  It is not free.

I checked out some of the lessons and there's a LOT of good information but there's also a LOT of reading and it is not interactive at all, nor are there many images.  There are quizzes at the end of each unit that are primarily multiple choice and true/false so they do not get past the information recall stage.  There are some class discussion pages that do include a few questions for reflection but in my "hard to please" opinion as a professional educator, not enough for me to feel they're really thinking about the material.  You might want to add some.

BUT, as I said, this site would be good if you only have a few students or students with special circumstances.  You could use it to have them preview a lesson before class discussion, you could have them work at home and come in once a week where you could have a discussion where you have the opportunity to shape their understanding and can press them for reflection.  Remember that it's in the discussion that kids learn most, not in the recall of facts.  You need to make them and sometimes help them reflect on what they're learning!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

CONFIRMATION: Why do people treat it like graduation?

Last week I was talking with a group of pastors about confirmation instruction and one of them asked why people treat it like it's graduation.  The only response I could think of is to ask, "Why do WE treat it like it's graduation?"  We put the kids in a white robe, slap a flower on them, make them write a "final" paper, pass a test, and/or give them an oral exam.  What about that doesn't scream graduation?  Even the wording in the Rite of Confirmation sounds like, "Woo hoo!  You're done!"

Why have we done it like that for so long?  An older pastor reminded me of my grandpa and the many, many people like him.  He was born in the early 1900's and like many people in his class, went to school through the 8th grade and then got a job.  He became a pattern maker.  If people were completing their formal education at that time it makes sense that they needed to complete their religious education by then as well.  Of course, the world changed and for some reason, the church didn't.

The question is... what do we do now?  First, if we don't want confirmation to be the end of something we need to stop treating it like it is.  Second, if we want it to be the beginning or middle of something we need to define what that is and make some changes.

Here's something to think about.

  • Confirmation is the confirming of faith that was begun at baptism and a confession of that faith which, hopefully, does not end at age 13.  This makes confirmation the early middle of one's faith journey.
  • If faith growth is on-going then should there be or can there be other traditions added at other stages in life?  What might those look like?
  • Should we start inviting kids we confirm back after high school for a new tradition before they now graduate and take their faith into the "real" world whether it's off to further education or out into the workplace? 
  • We receive faith at baptism, confirm it in 8th grade, and learn to be missional through high school?  Perhaps we start a new "sending" tradition at high school graduation that focuses on their ability to state what they believe in their own words.  There are any number of creative ways this could be presented to a congregation.
What do you think?

Monday, December 10, 2012

SERVICE: Mission Trips in Your Own Backyard

Matthew 9:37-38
Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Mission trips are great!  We take kids somewhere with the purpose of giving them the opportunity of sharing Jesus by serving those in need or sharing the Word with those who have not heard BUT what we often overlook is the need for that same mission in our own backyard, in the neighborhood around our church, in our town or county.

And I wonder sometimes if we may be conditioning our kids (and some adults) to think we do service EVENTS and mission TRIPS.  Of course, they're fun and can be great mountain top experiences but what we really want to instill in our people, adults and youth, is that service is an attitude, that we serve people every day, that the mission (purpose) of sharing Jesus is not something we do on a special trip but in our lives every day.  Jesus is just as powerful in our lives every day as He is on a trip or during an event.  Sometimes we can fall into the trap of how going on a trip or participating in an event makes us feel and not that we are to do these things for Jesus and not for ourselves and how it makes us feel.

In order to do that we need some ideas of how/where we can help.  Take a group and try one of these in your own backyard.  Find out if there are any projects that may take more than a few days and plan a local "trip," develop an ongoing relationship with them, or just help out once in a while.  Make yourselves known in the community.

  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Homeless Shelters
  • Drug Rehabilitation Shelters
  • Veteran's Homes
  • Halfway Houses 
  • Food Shelves and organizations like Loaves and Fishes
  • Senior Citizen Homes
  • Special Olympics

It's great to serve but even those who don't know Christ serve.  The point of a mission trip is not only to serve but to share.  Make sure you teach your volunteers to talk about their faith and their relationship with Jesus!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

EDUCATION: Book & Movie Review Websites

Many parents are concerned about popular books or movies and it's not always easy to find out information about them outside of their marketing campaigns or what Hollywood puts out.  So, if you want to check out a movie or book (or other media type) before you let your kids see it, read it, or listen to it, check out one or two of these:

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

LEADERSHIP: Men's Ministry Ideas

1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

Does every church need a men's ministry?  YES!  But men do not want to sit around and make crafts or chat about their feelings and share recipes.  They do need to study the Bible and they want to have some fun.  Some of the things I've seen around just for the men are:


Men's Breakfast Bible Study or Men's Morning Bible Study
A lot of churches do this because it seems to work for a lot of men.  Options might be to have a study every week and/or once a month or quarterly have a guest speaker.  Some guys may not come every week but might come for the guest speakers so be prepared to be flexible.  You can meet at church and allow them to bring food or at a local establishment.

Burgers and Bibles - a night out for the guys to get a burger and have a Bible study.

Meat and Potatoes - ladies can have wine and cheese at somebody's house and men can have meat on the grill and a Bible study.

Some things don't work if they're every week but some do.  You have to know the guys in the congregation.  I'm not sure (since I'm not a man) but some suggested topics might be what true masculinity is, defining success, dealing with guilt or feeling guilty for not living up to expectations, male sexuality, working toward a healthy marriage, being a man of integrity in the workplace, what being a leader looks like at home, at church, and in the world, the evil we do and the good we don't do, the prayer of a man, and God's purpose in my life.  A survey is always a good idea for topic suggestions.  Then again, study the Bible itself and not a topic.

OTHER IDEAS for FELLOWSHIP (Men want to have some fun!)

Sports Ministry - We all know most guys love to play sports and they like to remain active so start a church co-rec team for basketball, softball, bowling, or whatever.

Golfing - Put some foursomes together.  Many pastors love to golf and a lot of talking and bonding goes on traveling from hole to hole.  Come up with questions to ponder every hole or two.

Fantasy Football - I wouldn't recommend serious gambling but it sure would bring some guys together.

Picnic Pranks - My dad was always the first one to do something unexpected at the church picnic.  The one I'll never forget is the huge sling shot he made to shoot water balloons a long distance.  We were at the park and he had two 2x4's connected to a bucket with thick rubber straps.  We LOVED chasing after those balloons!

Men like to do manly things to serve together - everybody get together to help fix widow Marshall's deck or anything else some shut-ins might need.  Of course, it can't be looked at as one more thing on a "honey do" list.  I don't want to clean somebody's house but if a group of women got together one Saturday afternoon to help clean the houses of shut-ins I'd be in!

Focus on the Bible and the church's mission.  Plan ahead so they know what's going on and stress that they DO NOT have to make a full year commitment.  Having shorter studies with good attendance beats a long study with dwindling attendance.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

CONFIRMATION: Memorizing Books of the Bible

I was talking to pastors recently about teaching confirmation and while it appears that most confirmation programs include memorizing the books of the Bible, they're not exactly a fun thing to memorize so here are a few options.

Sometimes having a picture helps so I created a bookshelf worksheet to help the kids who learn better visually organize them in their minds

I also created a set of Books of the Bible cards.  The cards are simple but can be used to help kids put the books in order if they learn better by doing.  Be sure to print them off on good card stock if you want them to last.

There are also a number of songs I found on YouTube that may help those that are auditory learners.  This first one has a nice, easy to remember tune.

This one is professionally done by the group GO FISH but it may be a little harder to remember the tune.

There are about 20 different versions on YouTube so if these don't tickle your fancy do a search and find something that fits your taste a little better.  Sing away!!